Gardener Story: Judith Bontempo

Ohio City

Judy and Jim Bontempo’s garden is like a piece of heaven in the city. Neat stone paths lead from one beautiful space to another. The temperature drops many degrees when one enters the cool lush passages and increases when entering sunny open vegetable garden. Beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers, statues and objects abound.

Judy and Jim grew up in Ohio City but spent many years in New Jersey where Jim was employed as an emergency planner in a nuclear power plant. When Jim retired nine years ago they moved back to Cleveland and bought their present home, which was built in 1910, from Judy’s parents. Originally there were five homes on the property. Jim and Judy live in the middle home, the house on Bridge Avenue is a double rental and they created their huge vegetable garden this year where three houses had previously been raized.  Jim built the raised vegetable beds that contain broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, strawberries to name just a few of the vegetables they have planted.  Judy has a passion for “rescuing” plants, shrubs and trees from nurseries and nurturing them back to health. Several evergreen trees she has rescued are planted in this area. Jim also built plant boxes for perennial flowers to take advantage of the full sun.

The path from the Bridge Avenue entrance meanders between narrow spaces next to the house and opens on to larger garden “rooms” which are filled with flowering trees and shrubs. There are water features and seating areas in each of the “rooms”.  Judy plants all her trees and shrubs in large containers which need to be watered by hand daily. A weeping cherry was the first tree she planted followed by Japanese maples, rhododendruns and camillias. Hostas that have never been divided are to be found throughout the garden. The water features include a three tiered fountain and a large pond with a waterfall. The sound of water is heard throughout this gorgeous garden. Statues of cats peep out from under plants and sit gracefully on stone walls. Judy and Jim enjoy watching robins bathing in the waterfall as they sit in a mosquito netted enclosure close to the pond. They also have seen many hummingbirds and butterflies visiting their garden. This garden is a “feast for the eyes” as it contains numerous objects of interest on the walls and in hidden spaces the gardens. Visit and enjoy!