Ellie Viviano s back lawn saw its demise after her tour of Italy eight years ago.
Beauty is so much a part of the Italians lives, says Ms. Viviano, of South Toledo. There s nowhere that you look that s not a picture. I wanted my yard to look like that.
Her paintings of Italy are inside her cozy, contemporary ranch-style home off Heatherdowns Boulevard. And in the 85-by-65-foot yard, the grass has gone the way of ancient Rome, replaced by scores of perennials in a kaleidoscope of color, texture, height, and shape.
Ms. Viviano will be honored today in the Toledo Botanical Garden s Gardens Galore contest with first place in the perennial category. The contest experienced a healthy growth spurt this year with 52 entries; in its three previous years it drew a total of 55 entries.
Bordered by tall pines and with a mix of sun and shade, Ms. Viviano s yard is bellissimo from early spring to late fall. I worship out there, she says.
She makes liberal use of dark cocoa-bean mulch (easy to spread and nutritious for the soil, she notes) and stepping stones (around which creep aromatic orange and lemon thyme). She has several iris and daylily beds.
Native plants include trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, marsh milkweed, joe pye weed, and turtle head. Herbs in large pots and a small, raised vegetable bed feed her other love cooking.
Everything I plant has to have a smell, she says. I also plant for the birds.
Award for overall best garden went to Christine and Don Helvey, who are aiming for privacy, beauty, and wildlife at their idyllic windswept acre on the Maumee River in Rossford s Eagle Point Colony.
Mrs. Helvey began gardening when she purchased her first home at the age of 18. This garden is from all the learning and experimenting and studying I ve done, she says.
Since buying the property four summers ago, the Helveys have installed a curvilinear wrought-iron fence, a stone patio with a pond, an irrigation system using water pumped from the river, and a 42-foot-long swimming pool surrounded by tall pines and lilacs that bloom in several colors. They ve bought trees, bushes, perennials, 3,000 tulips, and have had beds dug. Four 100-year-old elms are cared for by a tree service.
Mr. Helvey figures they ve invested about $100,000 in outdoor beauty. Having created a gorgeous environment, they find they spend more time at home.
Just being outside, getting my hands in the dirt, the soil, is how he explains his love of gardening. He tends 30 Knock Out rose bushes near the river bank. Ms. Helvey applies acumen from years as an interior designer/decorative painter to spaces such as a dragon s-eye pine tree with its variegated needles, under which she s tucked a chartreuse sweet-potato vine, and for punch, lavender-colored cat mint and a deep-blue morning glory. A little blue peacock garden art adds whimsy.
Her large acrylic paintings (to which she applies a hard, water-based varnish) hang on the sides of the house. One, a charcoal-black/plum/green painting of tall, purple allium, ferns, European wild ginger, and hostas hangs above a woodland bed in which grows all of the same.
A lot of love s gone into this place, she says.
Merle Peoples and Jonathan Parsons have dubbed their West Toledo home Story Book Place, an apt moniker despite a side yard that butts up against a freeway wall along I-475 and a back garden that faces busy Sherbrooke Road at the overpass.
Created over a dozen years, it is part fairy tale, part jungle.
They took first in the community-garden category for creating beauty that can be enjoyed by passersby on Sherbrooke and a block east on Northwood Avenue. The sumptuous portion along Sherbrooke belongs to the city, and in addition to planting the garden, they fertilize and mow the grass.
Against the freeway wall, they purchased a couple of vacant lots and received permission from the Ohio Department of Transportation to plant. Some of the vines can be seen from the highway.
And in the spirit of community, they distributed leaflets a few years ago, inviting neighbors to an open house of the gardens.
Thousands of plants are patch-worked with vegetables: there are bonsai trees and the rich foliage of bull s blood beets, brilliant zinnias and smooth white eggplant, delphinium and red cabbage, orange cosmos and dinosaur kale. They count five stunning tri-colored beeches.
An old washtub bursts with coral cannas; the huge leaves streaked with tones ranging from peach to burgundy are as beautiful as their late-blooming flowers.
In the morning when the sun shines, they re like stained-glass panels, says Mr. Peoples.
Mr. Peoples gardened on and off for the 22 years he s lived here, but when Mr. Parsons retired from his teaching job in Michigan and moved in a dozen years ago, things skyrocketed. Friends helped them haul trucks full of bonsai trees, perennials, and about 30 loads of old bricks they fashioned into a mosaic driveway, paths, and patios. They built a fanciful tool shed and added a cozy outdoor room to the garage, doing all the work themselves.
We re gleaners, says Mr. Parsons. It s a polite term for compulsive junkers.
Best overall: Christine and Don Helvey; second place, Nancy and Marv Robon. Theme garden: Norma Stark; second place, Joyce Swartz. Community garden: Merle Peoples and Jonathan Parsons; second, Richard and Barbara Perry. Business garden: Wardell s; second, Franciscan Center. Perennial garden: Ellie Viviano; second, Tom and Ruth Mossing. Shade garden: Dick and Shelly Walinski; second, Judy Frey. Annual garden: Jennifer Yoder tied with Peggy Brown; second, Neree Emmons. Water garden: Krista Havill; second, Richard and Cherry Beroski.
Does your garden win kudos? To enter next year s Toledo Botanical Garden contest, take pictures of your garden now to include with your 2007 entry. Information: 419-936-2986.
Contact Tahree Lane at:email@example.com 419-724-6075.