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Texas native brings gardening enthusiasm to Westlake in Bloom contest

A pond created by Carol Stephens is a central feature of her Westlake in Bloom award-winning backyard.

By KEVIN KELLEY
WESTLAKE

Carol Stephens believes Northeast Ohio gardeners are more enthusiastic than those who live in the South because they only have a limited number of months to enjoy the hobby.

A native of the Houston area, Stephens compared gardening to boating as a hobby that’s appreciated more by those who are deprived of it during the winter.

There should be no doubt about Stephens’ enthusiasm about gardening, as she won the Lu Walter Best in Bloom Award at the 2017 Westlake in Bloom gardening contest. Stephens entered the residential large yard landscaping category. She not only received the first-place award in that category but also won the top award named after the late past president of the Westlake Garden Club.

Stephens and her husband, Al, a retired attorney, met while attending college in Texas. They moved to Cleveland for his job and built their Riviera Lane house 24 years ago. She said Cleveland is very underrated. “It’s like a big little city,” she said.

She joked that Al is not allowed in the garden area except to admire her work.

“He wouldn’t know what to do anyway,” she said.

Stephens first entered Westlake in Bloom in the water feature category a decade ago after personally digging out a pond that includes goldfish and frogs. She received the third-place prize. Stephens later entered in the entire yard category and received second-place recognition.

The retired BP America employee entered again this year because she believed her yard was the nicest it’s ever been.

Carol Stephens, the Westlake in Bloom best in show winner, next to a hydrangia in the backyard of her Riviera Lane home.

Stephens attributes her success this year to the fact she treated the entire yard last year with Sweet Peet, a brand of organic mulch. She also used cocoa shells, a byproduct of processing cocoa beans. The cocoa shells are not as heavy as regular mulch and easier to spread, she said, but they are more expensive.

But Stephens said she’s reluctant to give extensive gardening advice, explaining she’s not an expert.

“I just know what I like based on the way the plants look,” she said.

“Hostas are my absolute favorite,” Stephens said, adding she has more than 200 of the shade-tolerant plant. She likes that it comes in different colors and can be intermingled with other plants.

A red canna lily plant draws the eyes at the pond. A Japanese maple tree is the highlight of a backyard island garden. Another is in the front yard, along with a weeping cherry tree.

Stephens said her one regret is introducing the chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata). She now cannot get get rid of the invasive species that easily spreads.

“But it’s pretty,” she said.

 

 

 

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