Always give a plant a chance

South Toledo woman brightens up the neighborhood with garden

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    A foxglove plant in her backyard.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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  • Carol Ann Erford and her dog Scrappy.
    Carol Ann Erford and her dog Scrappy.

    Carol Ann Erford lives in a part of South Toledo that’s still suffering from the 2008 recession. The 799-square-foot, two-bedroom, 1925 home she bought as a single mom 25 years ago for $42,000 would bring about half that now, she said.

    She’s heartened to see homeowners making improvements here and there, and she knows many of her neighbors. Over the years, most of her grass has been traded for an array of plants ranging from hydrangeas to petite prairie smoke, a North American native.

    PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see more photos of Carol’‍s garden.

    Garden specs:

    The tree lawn (strip between sidewalk and street) is brimming with plants, as is most of the front lawn, both sides of the house, and the fenced-in back yard, about 40-by-40-feet.

    A foxglove plant in her backyard.
    A foxglove plant in her backyard.

    When did you start gardening? I was the oldest of seven growing up in South Toledo. I’d watch my mother when I was small. She grew flowers and was very impatient so did not like taking the time to teach. My grandparents had a farm near Lyons and most of my aunts and uncles were farmers. My grandmother had a very nice, large garden next to her house and I always remember the hollyhocks in front of the chicken coop. I love hollyhocks, and a few popped up at the side of my house this spring. She had 11 kids, and when I was growing up, we spent a little bit of time helping her.

    When I began gardening I planted annuals, now I just put in a few flats of annuals of something like coleus and New Guineau impatiens.

    What do you grow? I will try anything; if I like it I’ll give it a try. And I’ll take whatever anybody gives me. Some work out, some die. I have full sun on one side of the backyard where I’ve planted roses, black raspberries, sedums, and clematis. The shadier side with moister, more acidic soil has foxglove, hydrangea, spiderwort, azalea (the first thing I put in 25 years ago), turtleheads, calla lilies (I dig the bulbs in fall and store them in the basement. I also overwinter begonias and lantana).

    In front are heirloom yellow iris, hundreds of grape hyacinth, and a kousa dogwood. A native-plant area along one side of the house includes prairie cone flower, bergamot, prairie smoke, along with nonnatives such as rose bushes and zebra grass. I’ve come to like hostas and have all different varieties, most from friends. Several sedums. My neighbor and I share honeysuckle and clematis over the fence. Gladiolas and a few veggies and herbs.

    Favorite plants:

    The dappled willow; it can get very tall but you can trim it any time of year and it just keeps growing, a very pretty bush especially when it drapes. Almost ready to bloom are my sea holly and baby’s breath.

     A red lily among white dianthus.
    A red lily among white dianthus.

    Give us a tip:

    I always give a plant a chance, and if it doesn’t do too well, I move it. When my hydrangeas were in a sunny area, the leaves were sun-scalded. I moved it and it’s flourishing. It took three moves for the delphinium until they found their spot near the foxgloves. I moved bleeding heart in two or three places but didn’t have luck with it.

    Hours spent gardening per week:

    In the spring, an average of 10. In the summer, depending on the weeds, a couple hours.

    Annual expense:

    Anywhere from $200 to $300 -- more than I can afford, but it’s always worth it. I love and volunteer at the spring and fall Toledo Plant Exchange and also assist with Put-In-Bay’s spring plant exchange. This, and garden tours, give me new ideas to take home and try.


    I can’t be out in the heat for very long so most of my efforts are in spring and early summer when I reap the results.

    What are you proud of?

    My garden. Everybody sees the front and in the neighborhood I’m known as the garden lady. I love to give people a glimpse of what I call my secret garden in back.

    What do you get out of gardening?

    I love to sit on my back porch eating breakfast and looking out at the flowers and the birds that stop by. Although I’m in the middle of town, with my privacy fence it feels like I am out in the country enjoying the lay of the land. I also love giving away pieces of anything people might want.

    Contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com and 419-724-6075.