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Home of the Month: 10626 Tavistock Drive

When she was growing up in Bulgaria, Milena Mulay’s family grew many of the vegetables and fruits that they ate.

“We had a villa with a big garden and grew everything: tomatoes, peppers, onions,” recalled Milena.

Her family even grew enough grapes to make their own wine. She tried to grow those same vegetables and plants in Florida with limited success, but has – through trial and error, gardening groups and classes – begun to find plants that will do well here.

“Everything is a work in progress but we have a nice corner lot with room to experiment and move plants around. I am part of a gardening club on Facebook,” she added.

As part of the club, Milena has been able to take tours of members’ gardens. “There are so many people out there who love gardening and are willing to share their knowledge. You learn about many different plants.”

Milena has found another good resource in the Hillsborough County Cooperative Extension Service. She attended a workshop on composting, received a free compost bin, and now has compost made from dry leaves, vegetables and newspapers that she uses to fertilize and nourish her plants. She received a free rain barrel at another workshop and is looking for the right place to store it in her yard to take advantage of summer storms.

The Fords resident has instilled her love for gardening and conservation in her children. “The kids come out and help pull weeds. My son has always been obsessed with recycling and saving. One year he asked that we stop buying a live Christmas tree because he did not like the thought of the tree being cut down. We bought one in a pot and used it until it got too big for our house.”

Now the tree is a part of their backyard landscape. In fact the Mulay’s yard is full of family memories. One lovely lily started as a seed discovered by her son and daughter, who planted it to see what it would become. Other plants were given to her by neighbors.

“We are constantly checking to see how things are growing and if they aren’t doing well, we move them to a different location,” she observed.
Milena has a knack for finding the right place for the right plant. She has a huge vinca plant that reseeds itself and grows bigger each year. One dwarf oyster plant rescued from the corner of her backyard has now spread and become a colorful, sturdy groundcover for her front flowerbeds. She has also had success with taking baby plants from her lemongrass, bromeliad, aloe and cactus plants.

“This is the third version of our landscaping since we’ve lived here. Every year we try new plants,” she said.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Dwarf Oyster Plant

The Dwarf Oyster Plant is a popular groundcover with green and purple leaves. It likes part sun and part shade. It does well under palm trees and works well as a border plant.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 11830 Easthampton Drive

Len and Judi Mortensen are happy to share their love of nature and the environment with others.

Judi has given plants to friends she met at gardening lectures and Len has taken butterfly chrysalis and empty praying mantis egg cases to show his science students. Their children love plants and being outdoors just like them and now they are cultivating a new generation’s appreciation for plants, bugs, and birds.

Explaining why she painted her rain barrel, Judi points to her next-door neighbors’ windows and said, “Those are my neighbors’ kids’ windows. I didn’t want them to have to look at a plain ugly rain barrel.”

She goes on to say that she also has plans to add some new bird feeders to attract more birds for the four children to watch.

Judi’s neighbor and mom to the four young nature lovers appreciates all of Judi’s efforts. She was the one who nominated her for yard of the month, “Ms. Judi is always sharing her nature gifts with my kids,” said Carmen Longnecker. “She will let them go on 'flower hunts' in her backyard and they can pick flowers to keep. They all like to look out my daughter's window as Ms. Judi’s bird feeder is right outside and we usually hear the birds there. In the past she has brought over many interesting bugs as my two older kids love looking at them in the microscope. It is really nice to have such a knowledgeable gardener as a neighbor.”

In addition to feeders for birds, Judi has plants like milkweed, pipe vine, and parsley to attract butterflies. One of the most impressive plants in her back yard is an orchid tree that started as a stick that someone gave to her 14 years ago. It is now taller than her house and covered in purple blooms.

Agapanthus, Easter lilies, ginger, and Florida tickseed bloom in another flowerbed which Judi plans to make self-maintaining.

Inside her lanai dozens of orchids are in bloom surrounded by pots of succulents. The orchids are easy to care for, but she warn anyone who starts buying orchids. “They become addictive,” cautioned Judi.

The Mortensens have changed their front yard landscaping four times during the 16 years they’ve lived in their home in The Shires. Judi says she’s visited every nursery in the area over the years but the most recent front yard landscaping design was done by Citrus Park Nursery and includes begonias, Florida hostas, ixora, and jasmine. Judi said they needed to change their landscaping in part because towering oak trees in their front yard have started to block some of the sun their yard receives.

“They take great care of their yard and it looks beautiful,” said Longnecker. “You don't get to see such a variety of flowers and plants in your everyday yards.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Orchids

Orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants with about 28,000 different species. Vanda and epidendrum are two types that do well in hot and humid weather.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 12311 Ashville Drive

March’s Home of the Month won high praise from Keswick Forest Voting Member Brian Loudermilk, who brought it to WOW’s attention. 

Loudermilk said of Denis and Debbie Simard’s yard, “While many neighbors hire someone to do their lawn maintenance and landscaping (me included), Denis is constantly outside trimming, cutting, and making constant improvements to his property. His tireless effort truly pays off.”

The Simards met 44 years ago when Debbie, an Ohio native, was a student in Quebec City in Canada. Denis took a chance that she would understand his French when he asked her to dance and the two have been together since.

After a visit to Florida one winter Denis said he talked constantly for four years about moving to Florida before relocating to the warmer climate. While he enjoyed gardening in Canada, he enjoys it even more now in Florida.

The Simards choose plants and flowers that are low maintenance but give them year-round color. Twice a year they change their flowering plants – poinsettias in the winter and torenias in the summer. They stay on top of overall maintenance by spending a couple of hours every week working in their yard. “There is always something to do but I have always enjoyed being outdoors,” said Denis, who has a background in Biology. “I do a lot of self-educating and research. I change the fertilizer based on the type of problems that need to be taken care of.”

One pest the Simards did not count on when they first moved into their home were voracious armadillos. “One year we trapped 100 armadillos,” said Denis. “I would catch them in the trap and then take them away to release them.”

“Some of our neighbors said we were just catching the same ones,” said Debbie, “so we marked them before we released them and it was never the same armadillo coming back.”

Denis determined that the problem was that his yard was a grub buffet for the hungry creatures. “The insects smell so good to them. Their sense of smell is so keen that they can smell the grubs from yards away. Once we took care of the grub problem, the armadillos stopped coming to our yard.”

The Simards said they do get a lot of compliments from neighbors about their yard. They enjoy meeting and talking to passing folks when they are outside. “We do everything ourselves so it is nice to be acknowledged.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Dracaena

Dracaenas can fit nicely into narrow spaces and add height to a garden. The plant comes in many different varieties and can handle full sun. They grow fast and are easy to maintain. The Simards say the plant also sprouts very easily. Some can grow up to 20 feet tall.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10037 Brompton Drive

When Richard and Mary Beach lived in Odessa, they often came to Westchase to enjoy the area.

So when they saw a house on the cove of West Park Village’s Brompton Drive, they jumped at the opportunity to live in a neighborhood they already loved. Shortly after moving in to their home, however, they realized the yard had a drainage problem. “There was a severe slope from the house to the conservation area. After the rainy season, rain had washed all of the grass away,” said Richard. “It was hard to walk on.”

“It was not safe to walk there at night,” said Mary.

The two wanted livable outdoor space for themselves and their 12-year-old cockapoo, Meco, but like most front yards in West Park Village, theirs is small and their backyard is mostly pool and patio. So they began to research and look for a solution for their soggy, muddy side yard. Fortunately they did not have to look far. Inspired by their neighbor’s landscaping and retention wall, they decided to do the same.

They called the Westchase Community Development District (CDD), whose staff inspected the property to ensure the Beachs’ solution would not cause problems for other residents or CDD-owned wetlands. After acquiring the necessary approvals, the Beaches hired Green Thumb Nursery to handle the project and improve their overall landscaping, which, at the time, consisted of the home’s original plants.

It took 20-yards of dirt to build up the side yard. But now thanks to the retention wall and a bit of tree pruning, the area is a safe place for Meco to take a night time walk as well as new useable space where the couple can enjoy their beautiful conservation view, where they have seen possums, raccoons and all types of birds.

Green Thumb planted an additional bed to the side of the house with the same plants and flowers as the front flower beds. They also made recommendations for the overall landscaping. “Green Thumb was great to work with,” said Mary. “We wanted to add color and plants that were low maintenance and they gave us that as well as instructions on how to care for everything.” 

The new beds include Eugenia plants, which have been trimmed into elegant topiaries that frame the front entrance. Meanwhile paintbrush crotons, blue daze and pentas provide year round color, and enough room still exists to plant seasonal annuals.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Blue Daze

Because it grows low and spreads easily, Blue Daze is a good ground cover and does very well in Florida. It is extremely drought tolerant and produces small colorful flowers year round.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10538 Green Springs Drive

Mandy Matthews recently redid the flowerbeds at her home in The Greens.

With the help of her good friend Roy, who took classes at Hillsborough Community College in Ornamental Horticulture after retiring from his job as a U.S. Marshal, they completely renovated and revitalized the landscaping around her home.

They created more distinct lines for borders, pruned overgrown hibiscus, moved plants, added a palm tree, and removed moss from plants. Roy says that if allowed to spread, the moss can suck all the nutrients out of a plant and it will eventually die.

Due to her aversion to snakes and worms, Mandy insisted that the flowerbeds have open space so she could see any of the pesky critters lying in wait for an unsuspecting gardener. She also ensured her favorite color, pink, was included in the design. Mexican petunias, lantana, and a variety of impatiens add the pop of pink she loves. “It is a very peaceful color and makes me happy,” she said.

Mandy’s daughters pitched in on the garden remodeling by adding a terraced plant box in her backyard next to the pool, complete with more pink flowers and a fun statue of a family of raccoons. Now the scenic view is one she enjoys even more.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Mandy has lived in Westchase for 17 years. She says she enjoys gardening for herself and loves her new landscaping. An added bonus of the plants she chose is that they are all drought resistant and do not require a lot of care other than occasional pruning. During the re-design she had irrigation tubes installed to water her hanging baskets so that they are also worry-free and always beautiful and blooming.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

SunPatiens/Impatiens

Great for a bedding plant or in a large container, impatiens come in many different colors and varieties. SunPatiens are a great choice for year-round color. Heat and humidity don’t bother them and they can grow up to 24” tall and 36” wide. Although an annual, they will bloom as long it doesn’t get too cold.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10306 Abbotsford Dr.

“Judi has lived here over 17 years and her house is impeccable,” Abbotsford Voting Member Ralph Caputo said of his neighbor, Judi Giusti.

Caputo nominated Giusti’s house for WOW’s Home of the Month. “She works on it every day and it shows. She's a wonderful neighbor,” he added.

Giusti has completely changed the landscaping of the flowerbeds at her Abbotsford home twice during the 17 years she’s lived there. Currently willowy Italian Cypress, neatly trimmed boxwoods, curly foxtail ferns, and curvy palm trees frame the entrance to her home.

While Giusti relies on neighbor Matt, owner of Green Blades Lawn Care, for weekly maintenance of her lawn, she enjoys working outside on a regular basis herself, “I like getting out and being outside in the yard. It is a good time to meet and talk to neighbors who are walking by.”

A massage therapist and aesthetician, Giusti believes in using environmentally friendly products without harsh chemicals. She makes her own lotions and lip balms with all natural ingredients and does the same for her yard. “I don’t want anything to kill my plants or shrubs. For weed killer I use one gallon of vinegar, mixed with half cup of salt, and one teaspoon of Dawn dish washing liquid. I mix it in a sprayer bottle and spray on the weeds in the flower beds as well as the ones that come up on the sidewalk and driveway and it is really quite effective.”

Giusti always makes sure she has some fresh herbs growing to use in her cooking and grows cherry tomatoes during the spring months. Although currently home to a toad, Giusti says she gets one pineapple a year from the plant that she started from a pineapple top. “I had cut the top off a pineapple I bought at Whole Foods and did not want to throw it away so I stuck it in a pot. About once a year I get a new pineapple. They are small but very sweet.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Foxtail Fern

This versatile plant does well in almost all soil conditions, is drought tolerant once established, and is a great border plant for a flowerbed. It will grow best in a lightly shaded area that does not receive full afternoon sun. Happy gardening!

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10301 Marchmont Court

Butterflies flutter around the Perron family’s backyard throughout the year, fish swim in the pond, and hungry birds visit their bird feeders.

It wasn’t quite so idyllic when they moved into their Village Green home in 2007. “The backyard was a huge mess,” said Steve Perron. “Everything was overgrown and there was about a foot of sludge at the bottom of the pond.”

By the time he and his wife Sarah were finished shoveling sludge and clearing out overgrown plants and weeds, the pond and waterfall glistened and there was only one plant from the original landscaping.

Now their yard is a Westchase wildlife haven for bugs, birds and kids. “I grew up on 10 acres of land in New Hampshire,” said Steve. “I can’t give my kids that in Westchase. This is as close as I can get.”

The kids have made their own additions to the backyard including a fairy house, a fort, and butterflies. When daughter Annabelle was in Kindergarten, her teacher at Westchase Elementary taught the children about the lifecycle of caterpillars and butterflies, gave each student a milkweed plant, and sparked a butterfly obsession, which her little brother Levi now shares. Annabelle planted the milkweed in her backyard paradise and now each year monarch butterflies converge on the backyard to lay their eggs – so many in fact that each year they end up buying new milkweed plants to feed them. Sarah estimates that they have about 25 butterflies that hatch each year.

Another regular visitor to their backyard is an egret that shows up each spring. “He comes once a year for about a week and a half,” said Steve. “The first year he ate all of the expensive koi fish we had in the pond, but since then I’ve learned to buy the 62-cent goldfish at the pet store and have been trying to give them more places to hide.”

Know a Westchase home that should be featured as our Home of the Month? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Milkweed

Milkweed is a good nectar source of both bees and butterflies and is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat. The plants are easy to grow and may spread easily. There are more than 20 varieties that are native to Florida. 

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10403 Springrose Dr.

When Roberto Cruz and Fred Pekala moved into their Glenfield home 22 years ago, their yard was a blank slate.

The two were inspired by the landscape and design of South Beach and set out to replicate the sleek look in their own yard. Now they have a lush, low-fuss tropical retreat. The two have even found a way to stay on top of their home maintenance by scheduling an annual spring cleaning that includes trimming the trees, adding mulch to flower beds, and power washing the house, sidewalks and driveway. “We found that if we make it an annual event in March or April and take care of all the maintenance at one time, we are able to enjoy our house and yard the rest of the year,” said Pekala.

To get their tropical oasis Cruz and Pekala included a variety of shrubs, palm trees, and annuals that stay green throughout the year. Fourteen elegant and stately Queen Palm Trees surround their home with shorter Robellini Palms to add variety. Cruz and Pekala have planted Schilling’s Dwarf Holly, Trinette Variegated Schefflera, Podocarpus and Variegated Ginger Lily around their home and pool. Topiaries flank the entranceway. While both men enjoy gardening, they say they like the fact that their yard does not require a lot of maintenance.

In 2002 Cruz and Pekala added extra flair to their yard’s beautiful landscape with the addition of outdoor lighting. The strategically placed lights to enhance the beauty of their palm trees; they have the extra benefit of adding security to their home. Cruz and Pekala say that Estivo’s Lawn Service installed the lighting for them and also helps them maintain their yard on a regular basis.

Know a Westchase home that should be featured as our Home of the Month? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 12031 Wandsworth Dr.

Praising her lawn’s crisp, clean appearance, Radcliffe’s Keith Heinemann nominated the yard of his neighbor, Mary Rocereto, for WOW’s Home of the Month. 

Heinemann credited Rocereto for all the hard work she does on her lawn and garden: planting flowers, mulching the garden beds, trimming trees and pruning shrubs. Rocereto said that it has taken her 20 years to get her yard in the shape it is in and that the project is a continuous one. “Four years ago I started adding borders around our pool and changing and updating our landscape in the front. I add to it as I have time and based on how the plants grow.”

A native of Kansas, Rocereto lived in eight different cities before building a home in Radcliffe two decades ago. Rocereto said that her mother was a great gardener and that she did have some early success growing tomatoes one time in Kansas. Overall, Rocereto observed she likes the end result of gardening better than the process. Fortunately for her, most of the plants that have caught her eye are ones that thrive in Florida’s tropical weather. When she does have a question about plant care, she relies on Green Thumb Nursery on Sheldon Road for their expert advice.

Some of her favorite plants in her garden include Mexican Petunia, which began as a small plant but has spread and flourished in the front flowerbed. Colorful impatiens add pops of color to the tidy landscape. One side of the house is lined with butterfly bush and Mexican firebrush that attract bees and butterflies. The other side hosts a collection of different-hued hibiscus plants that attract (not-so-welcome) deer. Best of all for Rocereto and her neighbors, most of the plants bloom throughout the summer months, providing plenty of blooms to admire.
 
Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10009 Brompton Drive

From the street the first things you notice about the Hoornstra family’s yard are its tall Traveler Palms.

“We planted those when we first moved in,” said Jean Hoornstra. “At the time they were only about five feet tall.”

Now the well-kept, tropical palms tower above the two-story garage.

The Hoornstras are the original owners of their West Park Village home, which they purchased in 2000. Many of the home’s original plants have grown and flourished under Jean’s care. She started with two Mexican Petunias 16 years ago but the prolific plants have multiplied and spread. She has been able to use them to border the front flowerbeds and add color in the back.

While the palms and the petunias are lovely, the real attraction of the Hoornstra’s yard is the pond and waterfall they installed shortly after they moved in to their home. As you get closer to the pond, you’re greeted by koi fish looking for food. “Whenever they see a shadow come near, they know they are about to get fed,” Jean said.

Jean added they started out with three fish. Now there are about 20 – all different sizes and colors: bright gold, black, white and speckled.

Most of the plants in Jean’s yard are low maintenance and she said they have a great yard person, Mitch Ramirez, whom they count on for overall upkeep. She said the most difficult part of maintaining her flowerbeds is the weeds that pop up. She added, however, that her granddaughter is a big help with those. Her granddaughter is following in her grandmother’s gardening footsteps. She has her own collection of cactus and succulents displayed on the cozy patio.

Impatiens, daylilies, geraniums and chrysanthemums add color throughout the yard and lights set the mood at night for gathering together with friends and family to enjoy spending some time outside.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10012 Seymour Way

After a year in their new home, Dave and Elizabeth Keough decided the time was right to revamp and spruce up the flowerbeds surrounding their house.

“We had the landscapers pull out all of the old plants and shrubs and replace them with flowers and plants suited for Florida. They also extended the beds and added sprinklers,” said Elizabeth.

An Ohio native, Elizabeth missed the bulbs and flowers that flourished in her home state but has found ones, through trial and error, that will survive and bloom in Florida’s hot, humid weather – amaryllis, blood orchids, Crinum lily and blue flag irises.

In addition to more blooms, the Keoughs wanted a more tropical look for their landscape and a yard that was easy to care for. They say that they only have to trim and fertilize their current plants occasionally. Variegated jasmine provides a nice ground cover under a large Sycamore tree. Agapanthus and ixoria provide fun flowers and a pop of color throughout the year. Gardenias perfume the air and Hawaiian Thai and croton plants add year-round color, visual interest and foliage.

Another thing Elizabeth misses from Ohio is growing vegetables, but she is attempting to grow them in Florida. Last year she did not have much success so this year she is trying a different tactic – a raised bed from BJ’s Wholesale Club. It has room for about 8-10 plants, a reservoir for water, and a water indicator to let her know when the water is running low. “Our landscape person thought that the poor quality of the soil might be the reason tomato plants did not grow well,” she said about the one sunny spot in her yard.

Elizabeth is hoping if the plants do well in this one spot that is not shaded by large trees, that she can redo the bed with new nutrient rich soil and hopefully have a vegetable garden that will give her a taste reminiscent of the homegrown vegetables she grew in Ohio. 

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 9903 Woodbay

Larry Bedgood had plants at his first apartment before he had furniture.

The Woodbay resident has always loved flowers, plants and working in the yard. “I had knee surgery at 18 and have had hip replacement and spine surgery. I work in my yard about 10 hours a week. It keeps me moving in the right direction and is a chance to get outside. I love working in the yard.”

There are thousands of flowers in Larry’s yard. Some like the hibiscus, birds of paradise, salvia, and canna lilies are perennials; others like the sunpatiens and petunias are annuals that Larry changes based on the season.

While Larry’s yard is beautiful and colorful, it’s not just there for looks. During certain parts of the year, multiple milkweed plants provide a place for hundreds of butterflies to lay their eggs and food for their caterpillars. “I’ve had thousands of butterflies in my yard at one time,” said Bedgood.

Nominated for Home of the Month by one of his former neighbors who said she always enjoyed looking at the flowers in his yard when she lived across the street from him, Larry’s yard has also been written about previously in WOW and was featured on News Channel 8.

Larry believes in sharing his flowers and plants with family and friends. Each day his wife gets a bouquet of flowers and when his White Ginger Lily is in bloom, he’ll put one in her car every morning. Larry has given palms, bulbs and clippings to neighbors and he’s even willing to share with the younger ones. “The children in our neighborhood love this yard. They’ll come by and ask if they can make a bouquet for themselves.”

Larry uses a 6-6-6 fertilizer to give his plants and flowers the nutrients they need and suggests that when buying plants to be sure to look at the label. “If the plants aren’t grown in Florida, they will not do well here,” he cautioned.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10724 Ayrshire Drive

When Mark and Mercedes Motzer decided to update their landscaping five years ago, they wanted something with more curb appeal that would be easy to maintain.

“We are the second owners of this home,” Mercedes said. “When we bought this house in 2002, much of the landscaping was the original builder landscaping. Five years ago, we added a pool and decided that we would improve the landscaping at the same time. We worked with Tropical Landscape Design in Land O’ Lakes. We presented our designs and list of plants to the Modifications Committee before we began making any changes.”

“We drove around and looked at a lot of houses to get ideas of what we liked,” said Mark.

The Motzers said that all of the plants they choose are very hardy – they haven’t had to replace anything in six years. The Motzers have a beautiful Knock Out Rose topiary in their yard and stunning Drift Rose plants as ground cover. Both plants were developed to be disease resistant and adaptable to various types of soil. And unlike with other roses, you don’t have to dead head their blooms. They fall off when they start to die.

The African Iris plants the Motzers have in their yard are another great plant for Florida since they can tolerate standing water as well as drought conditions. Some of the other plants that the Motzers say have done well in their yard include Mondo Grass, Ligustrum and Viburnum.

In addition to being hardy, the plants are also easy to maintain. “I like to get outside and do yard work,” Mark said. “It is a stress relief but I don’t have a green thumb. I only have to cut and edge our yard and prune three or four times a year. Mercedes adds plants and flowers occasionally and maintains the topiaries.”

“We wanted non-traditional landscaping,” Mercedes said. “We told the landscape designer that we wanted curved lines and asked them to add river rocks. The river rocks are a great natural element that adds visual interest to the landscaping but they have also helped prevent mulch from draining out into the yard. We love the variety of plants in our yard. And we love coming out here to enjoy it. The neighbors think some thing is wrong if they don’t see Mark outside.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10703 Ayrshire Drive

When Toni Germinario and her family moved into their home in The Shires 20 years ago, it was the fourth house to be built on Ayrshire Dr.

For 18 years the landscaping stayed the same as when the moved in – nice, but standard builder landscaping. But when Germinario had to stop working due to a medical disability, she found that she had a lot of free time on her hands and not much interest in anything. “When I stopped working, I lost a bit of my purpose. There were days when I didn’t want to leave the house. I tried volunteering for a few places but nothing kept my interest. One day I was having lunch with a friend who said that she spent eight hours a day in her garden and I thought maybe I could try it.”

Germinario started pruning a little each day and then planting flowers or plants that she liked. “I don’t have a green thumb. I’ve killed a lot of plants. I like Lowe’s because they have a money back guarantee.”

As she planted and added to her garden, Germinaro began to find it very therapeutic and relaxing. Now, in addition to the original shrubs, her front flowerbeds have wild flowers, hibiscus, and crotons. She adds more color to her garden retreat with hanging baskets of impatiens, caladiums, and even has some sea oat to remind her of her favorite place – the beach.

Germinaro said that when she began her gardening project she spent up to three hours a day in the garden but now only has to spend about an hour. She laid a brick border by herself and has added a fountain and bird feeders. “I divide the flower beds in the front and the back into sections and each week one section gets my full attention. I look forward to coming out here each day.”

“I wanted to make this a therapeutic space. I’ve filled it with things that make me happy. Now neighbors come by and say how great it looks and that is wonderful to hear.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 12008 Wandsworth Dr.

The flowers in Emma Diaz’s yard have names like Fragrant Cloud, Purple Passion, Double Delight, Hot Cocoa, Veteran’s Honor, and Pope John II.

Growing roses in Tampa isn’t easy but Diaz has managed to coax beautiful blooms and fragrant flowers out of the rose bushes in her front yard in Radcliffe. She even has a wild rose bush in her backyard that is almost as tall as her family’s house.

“You really have to work with the roses,” said Diaz. “You have to dead head them every week. The soil here is not very good for them. You also have to be diligent about looking for bugs year round.”

Diaz’s love of roses began at her childhood home in Puerto Rico, where her parents always had roses in their garden. After moving to Atlanta, she started her own rose garden at her first home there. A few years after her family and she moved to Westchase, she began cultivating a rose oasis here. At one time there were 20 rose bushes in her yard, but this summer 10 died because of too much rain. Despite losing half of her flowers, Diaz is committed to coaxing buds and blooms out of these delicate, yet temperamental plants.

As she replaces the bushes that she lost, she is hoping roses bought at Hardings Nursery will be more resilient. The new roses are grafted to a Fortuniana root ball, which is a native Florida rose. Roses grafted to the Fortuniana root ball are reported to be resistant to nematode (worm) damage and well suited for the Florida’s sandy soil.

The back yard of the Diaz family home is a tropical paradise filled with delicate Brassavola and Dendrobium orchids, tropical Amazon Lily, and sweet smelling Angel’s Trumpet. Diaz says she regularly checks the bargain bin at Lowe’s for new plants and only wishes she had a bigger yard so she could plant more flowers.

By Marcy Sanford

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Home of the Month: 9611 Gretna Green Drive

One of William Burkett and Lynne Schaefer’s neighbors nominated their Greens yard and home for December’s Home of the Month.

The neighbor remarked that Burkett and Schaefer have significantly improved the home’s curb appeal since they moved in a year ago.

Burkett agreed that the couple has put in a lot of work this past year to clean up and improve their new home. “Before the outside colors of the house were very dull. There was not much landscaping, the shrubs were overgrown, and you could not even see the front porch. Now we have people walk by and compliment us on our home all the time.”

Burkett added, “Tampa Bay Nursery and Landscaping in Odessa really helped us pick out the right plants. Now that we have the plants in, they are very low maintenance. We only have to trim them back occasionally.”

The couple added blue daze and bottlebrush ferns to provide ground cover while also adding color and texture to the front flowerbeds. Burkett built flower boxes for the front porch and the geraniums in them provide a pop of color and make the new house colors stand out.

“It was a fairly easy process to change the paint color,” says Burkett. “My wife has a very good eye for design. She went to the Modifications Committee and brought back samples and picked the new colors from those. Before the house was very muted but now the stonework and pillars really stand out. We really like the combination for the house colors.”

The couple, who moved to Westchase from Westlake, Ohio, said they are lucky to have found their new home. “We were both born and raised in Ohio,” says Burkett. “This was a big move for us. I was transferred here with JP Morgan Chase. My lovely wife Lynne retired from the Cleveland Clinic after 40 years as a surgical nurse so this has really been an adjustment for her but she has found some very close friends in Westchase.”

Burkett concluded, “We love Westchase.”

By Marcy Sanford

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Home of the Month: 10125 Belgrave Rd

A certain amount of pressure comes with living on a corner lot in Westchase.

While it can be nice to have more yard than most of your neighbors, you also have the pressure of creating a landscape that conforms to Westchase aesthetics. If you also happen to live on the roundabout in West Park Village, you have the added pressure of every resident on your side of the neighborhood driving past your yard daily.

When Nick and Julie Krovich moved into their home in West Park Village two and a half years ago, the landscaping was overgrown and tired. The Tampa natives wanted to revive their front flowerbeds and completely redesign their side yard. They turned to a landscape company they trusted, one that has also done some work for Disney properties – family owned and operated KTLS.

“They had designed our landscaping at other houses,” says Julie. “So we knew they would do great work.”

The once bare side yard is now a delightful show of color and shape. The croton plants provide year round color and beautiful pentas, bottlebrush shrubs, and bovine plants ensure that something is always blooming and attracting butterflies.

Even the trees are elegant in this West Park Village yard, which features well-maintained crepe myrtles and Little Gem magnolias. The Little Gem magnolia is an especially good choice for Westchase yards as it does not need a lot of space to grow, is easy to maintain, and is tolerant of most weather conditions. Also known as the dwarf Southern magnolia, this compact, evergreen tree grows slowly but will produce beautiful, fragrant magnolia blooms when it’s only 2 to 3 years old.

The Krovichs say they like all the colors in their yard and that there is always something in bloom. Julie especially likes the peace lilies and the hooded nun orchids. Once these unique orchids are established, they are easy to maintain and will produce flowers that last for about a month.

By Marcy Sanford

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Home of the Month: 9515 Greenpointe Dr.

Amanda and Bryan Buffinton have slowly made changes to their yard since they moved into their home in The Greens two years ago.

“When we first moved in, our view in the front was blocked. You couldn’t see anything from the front door or the porch,” said Bryan.

“After checking to make sure it was OK, we removed a tree that was overtaking the yard. We replaced it with a bird-of-paradise plant from our backyard. The bird-of-paradise has thrived in its new home and has doubled in size just in the past six months.”

The tropical feel of the Buffinton’s yard continues with a robellini palm tree with four trunks instead of the typical 3. “I’ve been told that it is unusual for them to have four trunks,” said Bryan.

Robellini palm trees are a great choice for smaller yards because they are very slow growing palm trees. The tallest that a robellini palm tree will grow is to 12 feet. The robellini palm is a nice way to give a yard a traditional Florida feel without taking up a lot of room.

All of the plants in the Buffintons’ yard do very well in Florida’s weather, including crotons that provide year-round color, a large Hawaiian red ti plant that adds a dash of purple plumage, and colorful, tropical ixora, which blooms year round. “The deer also love our plants,” says Bryan. “They come right up to our front door and eat our shrubs.”

Bryan said that by far his favorite part of their house is the large sliding door that opens out to their lanai. “Behind the lanai is conservation area. Since we’ve lived here, we’ve let the plants grow closer to the lanai and now we have a very private, tropical-feeling backyard. The previous owners put lights in place back here and the first night we turned them on, it was a complete surprise for us. We were amazed with the dramatic feel the lights give to the backyard at night.”

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

By Marcy Sanford

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Home of the Month: 9501 Greenpointe Dr.

Gardening is a family affair for Matt Gibson.

“My mother always had beautiful gardens and my brother grows much of the food he uses at his Italian restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. He plants 100 tomato plants a year,” Gibson said.

This native Kentuckian and his wife, Jami, don’t have room for 100 tomato plants in their Greenpointe yard. They have, however, made room for rosemary, chives, basil and parsley. The herbs are tucked amid their tropical landscaping in the backyard while colorful flowers and shrubs brighten the front of their home.

“We were walking around our neighborhood one day admiring different yards and when we got home, we thought ours lacked color,” said Matt. “The only plants that were here were the green shrubs and palm trees.”

The Gibsons decided to make some changes. “All of the plants we added have done very well. Everything blooms year round and we haven’t had to replace anything.”

The Gibsons added elegant canna lilies to one flowerbed. Later, they tossed the deadheaded flowers into their backyard and were rewarded with several new plants growing outside their lanai. Lantana, crotons, and pentas also provide year round color to the front beds. Matt said bees are attracted to the salvia plant’s long, curly, purple blooms and the neighborhood deer love the dwarf umbrella tree.

The Gibsons have several bird feeders to attract wildlife to their backyard, which overlooks a conservation area. Matt said their most regular visitor is a raccoon they’ve named George Cooney.

Foxtail and pygmy date palms add to the landscaping’s tropical feel. Matt said that while the large crepe myrtle tree overflowing with pink and white blooms requires regular pruning, the palms only require pruning a few times a year.

Matt credited their lawn service with helping his family keep their yard looking great. “We use an organic lawn service and keep our sprinklers well maintained.”

All the Gibsons’ hard work has paid off with a beautiful front yard and peaceful tropical backyard oasis for this growing family to enjoy.

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10613 Gretna Green Drive

Patrick Storch’s father inspired his love of gardening.

“He was always working in the yard and planting trees,” said Storch, who owns this month’s Home of the Month, located in Brentford. “I still have one of the plants he gave me in 1997, a staghorn fern. It was a small clipping when he gave it to me.  It has moved with us to three different homes.”

Patrick and his wife, Catherine, look for gardening inspiration when they are travelling. They are always looking for new and unique plants. Their yard is home to plumeria they brought back as a souvenir of a trip to Hawaii and Italian cypress that they fell in love with while in Italy. “When we first moved into our home 20 years ago, none of these plants were here,” said Catherine. “We planted everything on our own. We have birds of paradise that started as tiny plants but are now taller than our lanai.”

Most of the Storches’ plants require little water and thrive in the Florida sun. Even these Florida natives, however, have had to learn what works through trial and error. “When we had a freeze several years ago, we had to replace a lot of our plants.”

Now the bright and lively garden always has something in bloom. Some of the Storches’ favorite plants are their bottlebrush shrubs with delicate flowers, colorful ti plants, curly croton, and silvery, gray dusty miller.

Patrick said that while they enjoy gardening and used to handle everything on their own, within the past few years they’ve started relying on a service to help them out.

As beautiful as the Storches’ front yard is, they have something completely unexpected in their back yard – a stunning, expanse of lawn that gently slopes to a conservation area that looks like something you’d find in a well maintained state park. None of the Storches’ neighbors have fences. Looking from one end to the next, one can imagine how much fun this area of The Fords must be for the children who live here – and how relaxing it is for their parents. “I come out here with a cup coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night,” said Catherine. “We’ve seen deer, otters, bobcats, and wild birds. It’s very peaceful.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

By Marcy Sanford

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Home of the Month: 10713 Tavistock Drive

Home of the Month: 10713 Tavistock Drive

This month WOW launches a new feature – Westchase Home of the Month.

We want to honor and recognize Westchase homes with outstanding landscaping and curb appeal. While our initial picks were suggested by Westchase Voting Members, we welcome our readers’ nominations (see below). 

The home of Antonio and Eugenia Zambrano in Chelmsford caught our eye in early March, even before spring blooms had begun to sprout.

The Zambrano family’s yard offers a beautiful, eye-catching mix of native flowers and plants. Family gardener Eugenia has a knack for finding and reusing plants from many different sources. When they moved here 10 years ago from Kentucky, Eugenia brought a toad lily plant with her and has since relied on friends and neighbors to help fill out her tropical paradise. “I have plants given to me by neighbors when they were thinning out their flower beds. One friend who has a construction company called me to save some plants that were going to be bulldozed. Some of my larger plants in the front came from cuttings from plants at Westchase Elementary.”

Under Eugenia’s care, small cuttings have flourished and flowered, like the white bird of paradise that is as tall as her house.

The lush garden is full of cooper leaf, Chinese lanterns, passion flower, variegated agave, porter weed, and several different types of bromeliad. “I like the bromeliads because they do not require a lot of care and are beautiful. Some people think they attract mosquitos but we’ve never had any problems.”

Eugenia relies on crown of thorns to provide year round color and said that it will spread and fill up an area quickly.

“It took me a few years to adjust to gardening in Florida,” said the New Jersey native. “But now our yard does not require a lot of work, just occasional pruning and cleaning up two to three times a year. Many of our plants are native so we don’t have to worry about watering them. I enjoy going to events at the USF botanic garden to learn more about they types of plants and flowers that thrive here.”

Happy gardening! And please remember to run changes to your yard and home exterior by the Modifications Committee first.

Know a Westchase home that should be featured in our Home of the Month column? Please send its street address to Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

By Marcy Sanford

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