By Sue Botos
Note: This is the third in a series of three stories profiling Rocky River gardeners whose yards have been recognized by the Rocky River Beautification Committee as 2013 Bright Spots. While not a contest, the Bright Spot program acknowledges residents who are nominated by their neighbors for putting the time and effort into their front yards to give their neighborhoods extra curb appeal. A full list of Bright Spot recipients can be found at www.westlife.northcoastnow.com.
Erie Road, in Rocky River, defines the word neighborhood. With its older brick-and wood-sided homes, some dating back to the early 1930s, it’s not unusual to find people working in their wide front yards, greeting neighbors as they pass by pushing baby strollers or walking dogs.
One resident likely to be out in her yard is Christa Lokiec.
“Everyone looks out for each other,” said Lokiec during a recent tour of her Bright Spots-nominated garden. She added that it’s not unusual for the homes on her street to stay in families for many years. For example, her in-laws purchased the Lokiecs’ ivy-covered brick colonial in 1979 from the original owner when her husband, Benjamin, was a toddler. Now passed to the next generation, son Fitz has his dad’s old bedroom. The original drawings of the house, built in 1935, adorn a hallway wall.
“This gives me purpose. It’s instant gratification, although the neighbors would say it’s endless work,” said Lokiec of the Williamsburg-inspired yard, complete with a colonial-style backyard fence, built by her father-in-law. She added that maintenance of the fence repairs and construction of the window boxes are her husband’s contributions, as well as trimming the ivy.
“We get up on the ladder and trim it with scissors about every five weeks,” said Lokiec, who scoffed at the common gardener’s belief that ivy causes mortar to disintegrate. “It’s been here since the house was built,” she said, pointing out the massive stems. While they have sometimes considered doing away with the ivy, Lokiec said that she and her husband always reconsider, despite the upkeep. “It’s a love-hate relationship because it is messy, but we love it,” she stated, adding that it adds some insulation.
When it comes to routine yardwork, however, Lokiec does it all – even lawn mowing. “I just love being outside,” the substitute teacher said. She added that English country is her favorite garden motif.
A self-taught gardener, Lokiec reads anything she can find on the subject, including books, blogs and magazines. She began experimenting at the family’s first home on Lake Road in Bay Village, and her interest grew from there. But she warns that what looks good in a picture or even another yard may not translate well. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” she stated.
As for plants, Lokiec recommended Dean’s Greenhouse in Westlake. “I’ve learned that their flowers last longer and do better,” she noted, adding that once plants are in the ground, the job is not over. “You need to prune, water and feed your plants weekly,” she advised. In addition, she conserves soil by keeping it in covered containers in the garage over the winter. Tree trimming is an important job so that the taller plants don’t prevent the smaller ones from getting sunlight.
Container gardening is also a feature of Lokiecs’ yard. One of her newest additions is a morning glory vine in a large pot on the front porch, which she is training to cover the railing. “I hope to have the whole rail in bloom,” she stated.
Above all, Lokiec advised would-be gardeners to just get out and get their hands dirty. “Don’t be afraid to work hard, and do the work yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the garden center,” she added.