Note: This is the first 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 neighborhood extra curb appeal. A full list of Bright Spots recipients can be found at www.rrcity.com. and www.westlife.northcoastnow.com.
By Sue Botos
When Rocky River resident Susan Lambert gets a midnight idea for her garden, she sometimes can’t wait until morning to try it out.
“I’m known as the nocturnal gardener. I like to garden in the dark, especially on weekends,” Lambert revealed during a recent interview on the patio in front of her Parklane Drive home. “I get excited about what I want to do and I get up at about 3:30. I have most of my stuff done and I’m having my coffee before most people are up. That’s one of the hallmarks of my style.”
Another of Lambert’s signatures is diving into a project headfirst, whether at work as an accountant or at home – the more challenging the better. The Minnesota native said she bought her bungalow 12 years ago from the original owner, who was 91 and had done little with the home, which featured metal awnings and overgrown trees.
“I love to transform things,” Lambert stated. Her home now boasts a decorative pergola in place of the outdated, room-darkening awnings, and a patio, accented by large planters, which replaced a neglected landscaping bed.
“It draws a lot of cool birds,” she said, noting the hummingbird in search of nectar, and yellow birds on the sunflowers.
As the only gardener in her family, Lambert began cultivating what she calls her “lifelong passion” as a child by willingly doing yardwork. “My sister used to laugh when I volunteered to mow the lawn, but she didn’t argue with me,” Lambert recalled.
Lambert said she gets a lot of her inspiration from TV shows such as HGTV’s “Curb Appeal” and just from taking walks and looking at other gardens. She added she has helped friends and neighbors with their yards and also indoor decor projects.
“In the winter I do some indoor planting,” Lambert said, explaining that her inside work doesn’t come close to her outdoor gardens. Although her front yard earned her a Bright Spots sign, Lambert says that she spends about 80 percent of her gardening time in the backyard. This serene retreat features trimmed hedges and statues.
Good plants are one of the keys to Lambert’s growing success, but she added that “rescues” from the back shelves of garden centers can often be coaxed back to life. However, nothing replaces a good dose of TLC. “It takes a lot of care. You can tell people who love their gardens; they reflect a lot of passion and care,” she stated, adding that it was important to respect the plants.
Even when living in a rental home after first arriving in Rocky River, Lambert shared her love of gardening as well as projects. “It was a mess,” she recalled. She said the homeowner offered to deduct part of her rent if she gave the yard a face-lift, which she gladly did. Although she gets attached to her plants, Lambert said she would leave some of her signature work behind if she moved from her current home, just as she did at the rental property. “It belongs here,” she stated.
Lambert said she tries to stick to organic soil conditioners like Sweet Peet, even though weeding takes up a good portion of her six hours a week in the yard. “It’s a labor of love,” she said, advising any would-be gardeners, “Make sure you have time to keep it up. Love what you are doing.”