By Sue Botos
Note: This is the second part 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 Spots 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 Spots recipients can be found at www.westlife.northcoastnow.com.
When it comes to gardens, Claire Pildner feels function is just as important as form.
“The yard has to work for us,” Pildner said, during a recent tour of her Thompson Circle yard, noting the vegetable plants tucked among the flowers.
For eight years, Pildner and her husband, Gary, have reworked the plantings surrounding their L-shaped 1960s- to 1970s-era bungalow, making it a neighborhood standout, with flower beds bordering the driveway to the sidewalk. Even the area behind the garage holds a treasure, with a garden featuring a flower-decked, old-fashioned bicycle sculpture slipped behind the rear wall. Window boxes also overflow on each of the home’s sills.
“I’ve always been a gardener. My mom instilled it in me,” Pildner remarked. She added that she was bitten by the gardening bug at an early age, despite her family’s frequent moves. “We were an Air Force family, but we planted a garden wherever we went,” she recalled.
Noting the birds flitting through the plantings, Pildner said she welcomed wildlife to her oasis, but admitted she had “mixed emotions” about deer, which can mean trouble to gardens as they snack on tender shoots.
“Anyone can do this. It doesn’t take much money,” she said, referring to the fact that perennials, which come back each year, can be divided to create new plants. Often fellow gardeners can exchange these cuttings, introducing a new plant or two to their collections. But her green thumb also coaxes back some petunias, usually an annual that does not survive winter in colder regions, in her backyard window boxes.
What it does take is patience, when it comes to gardening. Pildner said there is usually a three-year wait before the full effect of a plant is seen. “The first year, it sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps,” she stated.
Pildner said she gets most of her inspiration from taking walks through her neighborhood. “That way you can see how much room plantings will take. You also get a sense of what grows well in the area and how it will look with your house,” she noted. Reading labels on plants is also necessary to get information regarding shade or sun preference, and how well it will last through northern Ohio winters.
She added that her husband also enjoys gardening and helps out with everyday tasks like watering and weeding.
Aside from reading books, magazines and online information, Pildner also recommends talking to fellow gardeners about their successes and failures. “You’re going to make some mistakes,” she added.
When she is not toiling away in her yard, Pildner is a vice president at KeyBank. She hopes someday to spend more time in her yard, as well as cultivate the green thumbs of potential gardeners.
“I think it would be cool to go to school and talk to kids about gardening when I retire,” she stated.