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Simple, Natural, and Neat

The entry to the Crawford home is colorful with cosmos and cannas.

Two years ago, Allen Crawford got a packet of cosmos seeds and spread them in his front yard. Ever since, it has most often been a sea of gold. By planting them in a large mass, at least large for a small yard, they make a wonderful visual impact, enough to pull a gardener's car around the corner and stop it in front of the house.

Though cosmos are old fashioned annuals, and short lived at that, they drop their seeds and come right back again all year long. There are two main kinds. Cosmos bipinnatus grow 2 to 5 feet tall, are the best type for bouquets, and come in soft tones of violet, rose, or white, and also magenta. The foliage is ferny. Shorter types need no staking. There are many beautiful varieties.

But it is the Cosmos sulphureus with the vibrant colors of gold, orange, and fiery red. All of them are smaller of flower and shorter. The ones in the Crawford yard are about 18 inches tall, strong and straight, quite double in flower, and sunshine yellow/orange. Apparently they are also early flowering. Both times I saw them, in August and in November, they seemed to be at their peak of bloom.

While the cosmos are the present show stoppers, it is obvious that Dee and Allen Crawford always have had an interesting garden. He works for the railroad and is a native Floridian, raised in Thonotosassa as one of ten siblings. Their garden was important for food as well as for beauty.

Allen Crawford examines one of several hoya blossoms on his hanging plants.

"I'm not too wild about grass," he says. There is only a small area of turf in the front yard, none in the back. Right along the street a planting of tall purple ruellias beside a deep maroon crepe myrtle is also quite striking. So are the cannas that surround the plot of cosmos.

A post and rail fence is covered with fragrant Japanese honeysuckle. Toward the front a planting of white lantana spreads around and climbs among the spokes of an old iron wheel that leans against a tree. In the back corner there is a planting of bromeliads beneath and around a small tree.

Along the walk to the entrance is a bog garden surrounded by happy frog statues beneath a dogwood tree that is heavy with flower buds for spring. On the other side of the walk a white stone bench and potted plants lead the eye to the door.

Dee, who raises lovebirds and makes beautiful quilts, comes from the West Virginia mountains. Both Crawfords have the natural friendliness of down home people. The entire yard as well as the inside of the house is neat as a pin, even when writer's come unexpectedly (which this one very seldom does.)

Dee Crawford holds a baby bird she has raised from an egg. "Anyone who talks about 'eating like a bird' has never fed one," she says.

"Anyone who talks about 'eating like a bird' has never fed one," Dee says. She had ten baby lovebirds from three hatchings of eggs this year and is still feeding three of them by hand, every four hours except at night. The birds in their cages are a focal point of the pool area.

"Everywhere we go we bring back plants," says Allen. They also take plants and seeds to their relatives near and far. "We never throw away plants," he says.

Allen and their son can build anything, and have put in the wall that holds the pool screening, the three sections of water garden and water fall in the back yard and the open potting shed where he also does metal work. All of these are surrounded and supporting a wonderful collection of plants including many succulents, hanging hoyas of several kinds, and a small citrus grove right inside the gate to the backyard.

"We don't do a lot of watering, and what we do, we do by hand," Allen says. "I use a little cow manure and detergent for bugs, but mostly the garden takes care of itself except for a lot of weeding."

They recycle everything they can as compost or mulch. A huge and single eggplant was loaded with fruit in the back corner and vegetables were sprouting. A neighbor's tree had gone down on the far side of the house and Allen is turning it into firewood. It has opened a new section to the sun, so new things will soon be growing there. And the Crawfords will enjoy both the process and the wonderful beauty and bounty it brings.

These golden cosmos, started from seed two years ago,
brighten their front yard much of the year.

Purple ruellias grow easily, bloom much, and
are easy to control in this parkway planting.