Bloom Town

We've stopped traffic to catch a glimpse, walked our dogs to get a closer view and yes, we've even gone as far as to take a snapshot or two. Behind every picture perfect yard is the homeowner to make it happen. We talked to five green thumbs about the sec
Gerry and Silvia Weber
Lake Avenue, Lakewood

People love to stop and smell the flowers at this center-hall French Colonial home. "Our garden is known far and wide," says Silvia Spotts-Weber.
She and her husband, Gerry, lent their artistic touches to the home about 10 years ago when they combined households with Sylvia's mother, Margaret, and sister Nancy Spotts, both avid gardeners.

Silvia and Gerry designed a Southern-inspired layout filled with colorful perennials and annual gardens in the front of their house that surround a red brick walkway and striking, flower-filled stone urns, which draw visitors' attention to the new circular porch.

Silvia has won more than a dozen Cleveland Botanical Garden awards, and she and Gerry were honored with a preservation award for their Lakewood business, Weber Architecture. The family was also featured in Better Homes and Gardens for their Lake Avenue home.

However, one of their most prized possessions is stone and adorned with whiskers. "We love •Puss in Boots,' " says Sylvia, referring to the cat sculpture the couple found at a Cincinnati Botanical Garden show three years ago. He's been a hit with Lakewood locals ever since. Families often stop with their kids just to visit. "Those kids are going to remember that their whole life," Sylvia muses.
Paul and Allison Kicher
Ridgehurst Drive, Wickliffe

Paul Kicher used to get his kicks from playing baseball. Today, he hits home runs with his award-winning impatiens, daffodils and

"He said he wanted something to help him relax," explains his wife, Allison. Paul's takeover of the gardening responsibilities started small and simple. 

"I decided rather than having mulch put in I would have flowers put in and they would grow above the weeds," he says.

His practical solution to a common problem didn't stop there. Paul found gardening so enjoyable he started developing new projects. He added a koi pond to the backyard, planted more flower beds and created a stone border around the house. Not long after, he received a card from Wickliffe's Beautification Committee. "It said, •Hey, we just wanted to notice your effort,' " recalls Paul. "I thought that was pretty cool, so each year I would add more flowers and probably plant 12 to 14 trays."  

Even though Kicher has good taste in flowers, he still gets advice from two assistants — his daughters Mackenzie, 7, and Payton, 3.
Mackenzie says she loves to "pick the flowers" for her mom. Mackenzie's choice of pink impatiens, Payton's mini-gardening tools, and dad's muscle created the 2006 Keep Wickliffe Beautiful, Ward 4, Yard of the Year.

And that calls for a beer for Dad — brewed from Paul's homegrown hops, of course.

Pesky visitors: The neighbors aren't the only admirers of his yard. Paul says the koi pond is "a seafood buffet for blue heron." Luckily, he says, the fish are now too big to eat.

Al and Martha Mainelis
Jennifer Drive, Twinsburg

When Martha Mainelis isn't singing, you're likely to find her working in her garden. The singer and her husband, Al, an electrical engineer, built their home with a Victorian theme. The couple worked with builders to create a wraparound porch and installed a gazebo and curved pathway in the yard.

When it came time to design a garden that complemented the home, the couple went to a nursery and chose vibrant flowers in pinks, blues and purples. Daylilies, coneflowers and spirea bushes with pink and white flowers were planted along the front of their yard.

Twinsburg city officials eventually took notice of their efforts, sending a letter the following year thanking them. The neighbors were just as impressed.

"When I had garage sales, people would say, •Oh my god, your house is so beautiful. It looks like you should be sitting on your front porch sipping on mint julep,' " says Martha. Now, she wants to extend that feel. 

"I have a lot more work to do," she adds. "We have yet to add railings across the front, ferns and hanging plants. I want it to be a place where you can just sit out on the rocking chair and relax."

Start from scratch: Not only did this couple build their home from the bottom up, they had to create their yard as well. "We had no trees, no flowers, no bushes," says Martha.
Bob and Helen Porter
Detroit Road, Westlake

Nine years ago, Bob and Helen Porter fell in love — with a 150-year-old home. But the relationship wasn't easy at first. The home lacked running water, renovations were vital, and the yard was in disarray. Still, the Porters didn't mind.

The hidden gem was their ticket to the simpler life they were fond of as teenagers in the '50s. "It's a real old-fashioned neighborhood," says Bob. "Everyone knows everybody."

During their first spring season in the home, the couple discovered a variety of plant and flower species growing in the yard. "We had one plant here that grew to be almost a tree," Bob recalls. "When one of the horticulturists came in, she knew it right away," Helen recalls. "He said it grew on the cliffs of Madagascar."

As the Porters began cleaning up the yard, ivy, sweet woodruff, hosta, periwinkle and poppies started to bloom for the first time in years. They even uncovered an old brick patio, which they updated and surrounded with evergreens and impatiens — leaving a serene spot to sit outside.

The couple then added their own touches. Bob, an architect, installed a pond, and Helen planted daylilies and tulips.

Helen receives mail from appreciative fans who love the garden. But, at times, admirers can get a little too excited. "I get a little bit alarmed," Helen says. "I'll be sitting here and see somebody walk by the window."
A lavish event: Last summer, the Porters hosted a Beck Center fund-raiser in their backyard garden, harpist included. "It was just like a Southern party," Helen says.
Dale and Lisa Liccardi
Springside Oval, Brecksville

Dale and Lisa Liccardi never expected the call telling them the city's beautification committee had nominated them for an award. But seeing photos of their one-acre residence, it comes as no shock the couple ended up taking the prize for "best curb appeal."

While building their French country home two years ago, the Liccardis already knew how they wanted their garden to look. They wanted a small water feature by the home's front entrance and, because it was located on a corner lot, they wanted the home to have the finished look of two landscaped front yards.

Eight flower beds filled with irises, black-eyed Susans and perennials surround the home, and a small pebble pond with a waterfall rests in the middle of one of the front flower beds, accentuating the home's stone facade.

Passing by, it's hard to miss the gorgeous brick flower bed filled with lavender and daylilies. And Dale and Lisa couldn't be any more pleased with the final result.

"I love sitting in the back patio looking at the flowers in bloom or walking in the front and smelling the lavender: It's for our own enjoyment," Lisa says.

To this day, the couple still doesn't know who nominated their garden as one of the city's best. "We'd like to know • to thank them," Lisa adds. "It was an honor."

Quick tip: Lisa encourages the good old "trial and error" technique for finding the spot where a particular plant will grow best. "Move them around," she says. "Find the best place for them."
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