Some gardeners are taken by a particular plant such as dahlias or daylilies. Others grow tomatoes and herbs to fill the cupboard with salsa or pasta sauce. Some keep detailed maps, photos, and lists of every plant they buy and note its growing characteristics. Still others garden to build community or to donate vegetables to a soup kitchen.
David Lemon is an attorney to appellate Judge Thomas Osowick, and spends 10 to 20 hours a week as president of the 500-home Ragan Woods-Hawthorne Hills Neighborhood Association he founded. Previously, he was a housing and real-estate attorney for the city of Toledo. He’s volunteered on several civic boards, raised money for nonprofit groups, and hosts large fundraisers and neighborhood parties. He and Jeff Sullivan, partners for 22 years, share the home on a ravine: huge living-room windows look out on an arboreal canopy, as does a deck that runs the length of the house.
The 1974, 2,572-square-foot brick home, a Don Scholz design, is surrounded by a riot of flowers and statuary that he tends for a simple reason: they make him happy.
Garden dimensions: lot is about ¾ acre with 12 irregular gardens, including the perimeter of the house, plots on the front lawn, inside the gated courtyard at the front yard, around a small pergola, and the large lower patio.
When did you start gardening? When we moved in 10 years ago. It was a great house and a great lot and I could see the potential. The original landscaping was still here with huge bushes and a courtyard so overgrown there was just a narrow path to the door. We didn’t realize the courtyard was as large as it is.
To open up the backyard and hillside that goes down to Swan Creek and a pond, I had several hundred saplings removed. We back up to 100 wooded acres that’s been donated to the Metroparks of the Toledo Area by the Belt and Anderson families. We love watching the behavior of wild turkeys, deer, herons, and other birds. Before the current homes were built, there were horse farms here and it was part of Adams Township. And long ago, there was an Indian village along Swan Creek in what‘s now Ragan Woods.
I also weed and trim at some of the neighborhood entry points on either side of the former Southwyck Mall, such as Cheyenne and Brownstone boulevards. The neighborhood association has a beautification project each year for which I raise money, then we hire Northwest Lawn and Landscape to do the plantings and maintenance (the owners live in the neighborhood). In addition, several cul de sacs are planted and tended by neighbors.
What do you grow? I wanted to create a park-like setting with bright, happy colors that last throughout the growing season, so I incorporate a wide variety of perennials and annuals: Virginia bluebells, verbena, dianthus, sedums, calla lilies, hyacinth, coreopsis sunfire, concord grape spiderwort, coleus, daisies, several varieties of Knock Out rose bushes, pansies, Asiatic lilies, English ivy.
Deer haven’t eaten my Autumn Joy sedum and don’t eat boxwoods of which I have about a dozen that I prune into circular forms every two weeks. Deer can’t get into the courtyard where I have hostas, miniature Japanese maple, Blue Arrow grass, lots of flowers, and a Savannah Bird Girl statue (made famous when it appeared on the cover of the 1994 bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). I have garden art, some with a meditation theme, some whimsical like the meditating rabbit, a giant cement acorn, and an oversized, painted snail, and about a dozen bird baths.
Favorite plant: The elegant calla lily. I have it in deep red, yellow, and gold. If they’re planted in a protected area, such as near the house, they seem to survive the winter. [They can also be dug up and stored in a cool place over winter.]
Hours spent gardening per week: 15.
Annual expense: $2,500.
Challenges: Preventing my gardens from being used as a buffet dinner by all the deer, rabbits,and other wildlife. I no longer have hostas because deer eat them like candy. Every two weeks, I spray all the beds with Deer Off, which takes about 20-30 minutes and is effective. I go through six to eight bottles a season.
I’m proud of: The joy that my gardens provide to strangers. People walking, hiking, or jogging past will sometimes stop and ask for permission to take pictures.
What do you get out of gardening? It is extremely soothing and provides continual relaxation and serenity. It helps me enjoy nature. Gardens inspire creativity. And if you sit and listen, the wind in the trees, the birds, and bullfrogs creates its own wildlife symphony.