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by Monica Brandies

 

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An Ideal Setting


This very double or many petaled camellia is the deepest red of the collection. There are many shrubs with variations of pinks, white, and stripes.

Six years ago Liane and Norris Brown bought a lovely house on three acres with a pond included at the back.

"At first we were foster parents and didn't have much time to garden," says Liane. "The last two years that has changed. I'd work out there all day every day if I could." She does work nearly a full day every week, though not always in the summer. But she tries to keep up and takes her scissors or pruners every time she goes out.

Thirty or forty years ago at least 15 acres along this road in the rural Seffner/Dover area belonged to a man who taught agriculture at Brandon High. He planted camellias and azaleas around the base of all the live oak trees. When he retired, he sold much of his land in 3 acre lots and all the buyers inherited his plantings.

"I've counted 115 camellias and 15 fruit trees on our property," Brown says. She has not yet joined the Camellia Society but has a book on camellias and has been reading and pruning along with other gardening chores.

"My husband has a commercial mower and does all the mowing," she says.

Their house sits back from road behind a woodland of oaks and magnolias with an understory of the azaleas, camellias then impatiens and wide swathes of fern.

"We had 10 trees taken out right before the 2004 hurricanes and lost 4 more in the storms," she says. "The yard is much more open and sunny than it was before, but the camellias seem to be doing even better as a result."

There is a good bit of sun around the house where a herb garden borders the driveway. In back there is a patio and screened pool enclosure and another patio outside the enclosure where they grill beside a blooming camellia at least 8 ft tall. Some of the camellias are small trees.

The back yard is again like an open woodland with many treasured plants, both native and exotic. There is one stand of fern where they suspect foxes have a den. Wildlife abounds here. They have seen a bobcat and coyotes passing through. A large black water bird we think was an anhinga sunned itself on a log by the pond.

"A pair of bald eagles are often here and owls. A pair of red shouldered hawks nest here and the babies follow me around the garden when they are learning to fly," she says. "We also had to have an 80 pound yellow jacket nest removed. It was in the ground, but we discovered it before anyone was stung because when they all came home in the evening it looked like a tornado."


Liane Brown and her friend Debbie Bradley on one of the brideges over the pond.

Nevertheless, her garden would never have been discovered by the public except for her friend Debbie Bradley, whose son is also sometimes hired to help.

"When I was teaching my children about the Ten Commandments," says Bradley, "I tried to explain 'covet'. I don't think I ever coveted anything except Liane's yard."

Actually there is more a sharing of a beautiful place, a feeling that seems to extend to the whole neighborhood. While there are quite a few cypress trees around the pond whose knees are a challenge to the lawn mower, the land opens even more at the back of all these properties and the pond winds in and out among them for perhaps half a mile. The two bridges that cross it are accessible to all.

"My son hooked a very small alligator when he was fishing once, but we haven't seen any lately," Brown says. The neighbors share in the cost of a pond service to keep the pond in good condition. Some had tremendous tree damage from the 2004 storms, but it has all been removed by now, and walking around the pond is like living in a park.

One man scattered birdseed beyond the pond and there were all sorts of sunflowers that summer. There is a banana planting in one yard and a group of palms, tall to small, that are quite impressive. Ever changing, ever beautiful, the Brown's yard and their neighborhood of natural beauty is quite amazing.


Bringing the camellias indoors and arranging them throughout the house is one of the things Liane enjoys most.
 

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