A relaxing and rewarding endeavor for Westmoreland couple

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  • Steve Gola, right, and Robert Beckwith at their home in Toledo.
    Steve Gola, right, and Robert Beckwith at their home in Toledo.

    Name: Robert Beckwith, college English teacher/golf coach, and Steven Gola, pharmaceutical distribution, living in the historic Westmoreland neighborhood near Parkside Boulevard and Bancroft Street.

    Garden specs: Backyard is approximately 40-by-50 feet. It includes three seating areas, including a gazebo.

    When did you start gardening: Robert: 10 years ago, when we bought a home in Scottsdale, Ariz. that had a lot of native plants: cactus varieties, yucca, aloe, lantana, bougainvillea, pygmy palms, mock orange. I decided to prune plants into geometric shapes and clipped ficus into a 12-to-15-foot-tall Arc de Triomphe. When we were moving to Toledo, I had a five-foot-tall topiary bush in a pot that I was not going to give up so I threw it in the moving truck and I drove really fast. It’s doing well. Steven: I tend to the vegetables and herbs and can tomatoes and peppers grown in raised beds. Growing up in West Virginia, my parents had a large garden and put up vegetables. It was my job to pull weeds. It was fun.

    What do you grow? Trees, bushes, Knock Out roses, ornamentals, 32 pots and flower boxes, 24 roma tomatoes, cubanelle (sweet) and habanero (hot) peppers, kale, red onions, salad greens, herbs.

    PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view more pictures from the garden

    Favorite plant: Curry herb (it’s new, smells like curry, and looks like rosemary) and our Japanese maples. Robert: I prune the maples from underneath with various tools, including scissors, leaf by leaf.

    A covered patio.
    A covered patio.

    Garden tip: We fertilize everything with Knock Out rose food. Steven: We’ve been told that putting a disposable diaper in a coconut-fiber liner in a hanging-basket retains moisture. Also, when we built the waterfall, we glued gravel pebbles with silicone on to a Pebble Tec liner for a natural look, and use chlorinated water for easy care.

    Hours spent gardening per week: Steven: Two. I’m not allowed to mow or prune. Robert: About 10. Much more initially. We moved back to Toledo because of our aging parents and looked at 30 houses before buying this in 2006, fixing it up on trips back, and moving from Arizona in 2009. The yard was all grass and trees. We had a huge pine and a dying ash tree taken down and the yard leveled. We did everything ourselves except the cement patio, which is tinted and stamped to look like textured tiles. For a couple of months, we played around with different designs, knowing it had to have two elements: a vegetable garden and a fenced area for Baby Dog and Lucy (miniature pinschers, also known as min pins ). We recycled everything we could, including rocks and pavers, and dug up bulbs, perennials, and many hostas and stashed them in the back until we were ready to incorporate them in the design. There are three outdoor seating areas, including a large rectangular gazebo built by Steve and my father. They also built a tool shed onto the garage.

    Annual expense: About $1,000 for black mulch, grass seed, annuals, vegetables, fertilizer, and lights. We’ve installed irrigation and a sprinkler system, underground wires, and uplighting for the ornamental trees, columns, and waterfall.

    Challenges: Robert: Keeping everything pristine.

    What are you proud of? Steven: That we did this together, the design and all of the work except the concrete and the putting green which was professionally installed. Robert: The putting green is under a messy magnolia tree but it’s easy to clean up with a leaf blower or broom. I’m proud of Steven who tolerates my hyper-meticulousness! Also, we entertain weekly for friends, family, and people who just stop over or bring their parents to see the yard. We always offer them something to drink. We have two to three big parties each season with 60 to 70 people, including the annual party for the Westmoreland association. Steven does most of the cooking.

    What we get out of gardening: Steven: I find it relaxing and rewarding, and from the vegetable-garden perspective, you can eat all you grow. Robert: We let neighbors pick what they want. And it’s therapeutic. As an instructor at the University of Toledo and Owens Community College, I can always count on my onions, beets, and potatoes to keep me ‘rooted.’

    To see a video and more pictures of the Beckwith/Gola garden, go to toledoblade.com/gardening.