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Queen of Her Garden

Linda Goldstein pauses in front of the heart-shaped pool her husband built for her as a surprise for her when she was away four days as a stewardess for Eastern Airlines.

Linda Goldstein gardens with glamour. She can't help it. She has spent her working life as a model, a winner of many beauty pageants, and a flight attendant. Ironically she is also very down to earth, a dig-in-and-do-it gardener who recycles and shares everything she can.

She rides her bike around the neighborhood the day before trash collection to check out what is available and has come home loaded down with many a treasure. "I pick up and salvage so many plants that just want a drink of water," she says. "People don't know what they are throwing away."

She also picks up other things that she uses creatively in her garden. A set of porch pedestals now hold container plants along a path in her garden. Decorative chairs without a seat get repaired to hold plants. She even found a bird bath someone was throwing away.

When a friend told her about a building in Ybor City that was giving away old bricks, she made twenty trips in her Cadillac to bring them home and used them for the patio and walks in her backyard. She did all of that brick laying herself and that is no simple job.

She is also very good with a paint brush. Signs around the garden are sure to make one smile. Her paints also brighten up the shade and give added interest to the plants. An old wash tub that was once belonged to an aunt who has since passed away is now brightly painted and holds cast iron plants by the back fence. A sign pointing to the sitting area in the back corner says, "A garden is a friend you can visit anytime."

You can tell the minute you get near her house that a gardener and plant collector lives here.

You can tell the minute you get near her house that a gardener and plant collector lives there. She does still have a very small area of grass in the font yard surrounded by hundreds of more interesting plants including angel wing begonias that are have flower stems taller than most people. The lower part of a long-gone tree wraps it cut off arms around a huge lipstick bromeliad and begonias hang at various levels down the trunk.

"One of my neighbors calls my yard controlled chaos," she says. "I like things to grow as free as God created them. I always have room for more plants. I just hang them around and stack them up."

It is true the garden is full to the brim and layered with thriving plants of every kind. Most are shade tolerant since there is an impressive canopy of live water oak, golden rain, pine, Drake elm and other trees.

"I have a container shade garden because the ground is already so full of roots that you can't dig another hole," she says. But it is amazingly neat with a mulch of leaves around all the in-ground plants, stepping stones and edging along all the walks.

The focal point of the backyard is a heart-shaped sauna that her husband Jacob put in as a surprise once when she was away on a four day trip. They have one daughter, Rachel, and a back corner of the garden is designated as Rachel's Hideaway. Orchids hang in one tree and most always bloom for Linda's birthday in August. That is always when someone gives her a box of slow release fertilizer and she feeds the garden. She waters most by hose or with a portable sprinkler she moves around on her watering day.

Linda Goldstein is the 5th generation of an old Brandon family. Her grandparents, Ida and John Tullis, had a dairy farm where Sterling Ranch is now and she has family pictures that include Providence Road when it was paved with only dirt.

"My mother, Adele Herndon, lives within walking distance of me on property that has been in the family for 110 years since my great-grandmother's day," she says. And all of them were good gardeners and hard workers.

When Linda Goldstein was flying and based in Miami, she lived in the Coconut Grove area and when she moved back to this house 20 years ago, she created her own mini Coconut Grove in her yard. It gives her much happiness. "I don't work in my garden," she says. "I play." It also gives many others pleasure as she shares her plants and takes bouquets to the nursing homes often. She has some flowers every day of the years and says, "Flowers are God's autograph on the world. He laughs in flowers."

Bird feeders and garden art add interest to the many plants.

Left: Lipstick bromeliads are growing in the arms of a tree that was cut down, and begonias hang further down the remaining trunk.