Tuesday, Oct 23, 2018
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Personal growth in professional gardening

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    Diane Virani prunes a bush in the yard of a home on Shamley Green. Ms. Virani runs a one person gardening business.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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  • feagardenKnee

    Diane Virani, in knee pads and surrounded by trimmings of the trade, spends her days outdoors instead of inside an office.

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    Diane Virani cleans debris from a bed in the yard of a home on Shamley Green. ‘I’m just an outdoors person,’ Mrs. Virani says of trading in her office job and becoming a full-time personal gardener.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Diane Virani’s first career kept her in an office with no windows. In her new career, the 60-year-old Sylvania Township woman has no need for them in her cleaning business.

Mrs. Virani sweeps and makes beds under a blue sky and an often blazing sun. It’s a second bloom for her, and it’s all for the love of green.

And it isn’t the color of money that keeps her energies and passions high.

“I wanted to get out of the office job. I’m just an outdoors person. It’s in my genetics,” she said.

Mrs. Virani said her life bloomed when she and her family moved to the area from Canada, in 2000. At that time, she decided to do away with office walls and turn her hobby into something more, taking a landscape design program at Owens Technical College and becoming a master gardener.

“Owens opened my eyes up. Here I thought I knew everything about plants. I knew nothing,” Mrs. Virani said.

Her career too took a second bloom when she turned her hobby into Second Bloom, a garden maintenance company she began in 2007. She does all the work for her 35 active clients, and except for some mulching help from her husband, Nazim, she has no employees. Her supervisor is that particular customer.

That includes weeding — which is not her favorite thing to do — watering, sweeping, pruning back perennials, mulching, spring and fall cleaning, designing, and installing. She does not climb trees.

“I do the things they don’t want to do themselves. I’m like a housekeeper for the outside,” Mrs. Virani said. “I’ll do anything my clients ask.”

But not always without questions. In fact, that’s what led to her branch out on her own. She worked for a landscaping company, but she quickly became unhappy.

“While I was pruning I’d see plant problems. I couldn’t ask questions without going through layers of people. It drove me nuts,” she said. And she got stuck with weeding. Lots of it.

Her name soon was passed among members of a bridge club, and she decided it would be easy to go out on her own.

“I’m a second pair of eyes,” she said.

When those eyes see root rot or an insect infestation, or any other signs of trouble, she can talk directly to her client and offer her suggestions. “I try to teach them,” she said.

Those lessons can include a gentle lesson about over watering, which is one of her pet peeves, or not placing a tree next to a neighbor’s fence, or not overplanting, or suggesting a client downsize their garden into something simpler and easier to maintain.

“Most of my customers are mature, and they’ve planted all this stuff maybe 10 years ago,” Mrs. Virani said. “But some still want their English gardens.”

Ultimately, she said, it’s her job to do what they want.

“When I come, [the garden] is already there,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of my job is maintenance.”

Her mantra is “right plant, right place,” which simply means that before you go out to buy a plant, make sure the spot you have in mind will give that plant the best chance to grow and flourish as well as make the maintenance go easier.

And that will save money in the end, she said.

Retail garden centers stock plants in full flower, colorful and fragrant blooms that people are drawn to as bees are to blossoms, she said. The flowers don’t last, and if they are planted in clay instead of sandy soil or in full shade when the plant needs sun, the whole plant dies, leaving a frustrated homeowner who just spent a lot of green on something that is green no longer.

Greenery is often overlooked, she said, because once the flowers bloom and fade, as they do, you are left with just that, a green plant. Mrs. Virani said she recommends shoppers gauge the color, shape, and texture. Remember too, she advised, that when you get a plant it’s usually small. But it will grow. Keep that in mind when you plant that tree or burning bush, she said, because as it grows it could impede a favored view or invade your neighbor’s space, which means pruning and trimming, or in other words, a lot of work.

That is where her services come in, and sometimes she said, it’s not a lot of fun, especially in the hot summer.

The exercise she gets outside is gym membership, she said, and most importantly, it’s satisfying to look at a clean and organized garden and face a happy client.

“My clients are the best,” she said, adding that she has a waiting list of people who want her services.

Like Connie Barron-Smith of Maumee, whose home was built in the 1860s and is on 2½ lots. “I always look forward to coming home, and I’m always amazed at the magic she’s worked. ”

Ms. Barron-Smith and Mrs. Virani became master gardeners together, and Ms. Barron-Smith became familiar with Mrs. Virani's depth of knowledge and her passion, “And she was very willing to do the things I didn’t want to do.”

Not only does Mrs. Virani take care of the mulching and watering of the plants that try to reflect the era in which her home was built — peonies, fox glove, delphinium, viburnum, lots of hydrangea, climatis, day lillies, tons of hosta — Mrs. Virani uses her knowledge to solve problems.

“She’s been helpful in trying to get a diagnosis either through the extension office, and she also helps me when I’m looking to do a woody ornamental plant in a certain location. She does the research.

“I think over time she has become even more knowledgeable; she takes what she’s learned in one place and applies it to the other.”

Ms. Barron-Smith also employs a larger landscaping firm to do the bigger projects, but there are things that a larger company can’t do that Mrs. Virani, or others who run a smaller gardening company can.

Larger companies work under time constraints because of employees and other issues. But Mrs. Virani works on an on-call basis.

Right now Mrs. Virani says she has a waiting list of clients who want her services.

“My customers and I have such a good relationship, it’s like a blank card. I go to do the job for as long as it takes,” Mrs. Virani said.

Contact Heather Denniss at: hdenniss@theblade.com.

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