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by Monica Brandies


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Garden Club Tour Is Great Inspiration

It was the Plant City Garden Club's 11th annual Garden Tour. Somehow I had missed the others and only heard of this one by word of mouth. But these people really know how to do a tour and theirs had been declared the best in the state the last two years. Next year they promised to let me know early so I can let you know.

The tour ran from 10 am until 3 pm and I bought ticket # 347 shortly after noon. I had to work in my own garden that morning in preparation for its opening this weekend and last. Tickets were on sale at the Depot in the park on North Palmer Street just south of US92 and east of downtown Plant City. The ticket consisted of a flyer with a map and all the information you needed. The tour itself would be well worth the $10, but was even more so since the proceeds will go to their scholarship fund for Plant City High School Students. There were also some plants for sale at very reasonable prices at the Depot.

The brick home of Ray and Patti Brownlee is on a corner lot in the historic district and has a pool, two outdoor eating areas and four sitting areas counting the porch.

The first garden belonged to Ray and Patti Brownlee and surrounded their brick home on a corner lot in the historic district. A wrought iron fence on one side and the front and a cement and brick wall on the other side and back set off the plantings. This garden is extremely colorful. Adjoining the house and pool in the back and connecting to the garage is an outdoor room with sitting and eating areas that are as attractive as they are functional.

At that other corner of the back yard is an even more elegant sitting room and kitchen making use of the property wall on two sides and open on the others, with a roof above, a fireplace, and all the comforts of home with detachment. The whole garden is a great place for entertaining, for family, or for sneaking off by oneself for an afternoon with a book.

The property is quite small but not crowded. Colorful beds are narrow, well edged and mulched. "I'm out there every day," says Ray Brownlee, the gardener. "I just enjoy being outside." They've lived in this house for 20 years and not a single thing is overgrown. Along the street side of the house is a small garden with a statue and a fountain.

Jimmie Dan and Karen Robinson, realtors, own the second home and the front gardens have minimal lawn, reflecting the era in which the home was built but also the waterwise principles that we all honor as necessary today. None of the gardens shown had large lawn areas and some had hardly any at all.

The focal point of this back garden is a playhouse, complete with a sleeping loft, with architecture and gardens both similar to the main house, where a large screened back porch gives the adults a place to play or rest also.

When the plantation style home next store came up for sale, the Robinson's daughter and her family, Ben and Kerri Knox and their three children bought it and moved in. In Plant City, grandchildren living next door is not unusual. The backyards adjoin. The Knox's garden includes a shady patio and outdoor cooking area and a large basketball court. Between the house and the garage a breezeway connects both and is bordered by small gardens with a bubbling fountain just beyond. Clear to the roof of this two story house, a Schefflera plant is thriving in the shade of an oak. A wrought iron fence surrounds the front porch with matching benches and copper pots of bright blooming begonias.

Although the heat of summer had hardly abated a bit, all of these gardens were perfectly groomed, neat as could be, and all plants thriving. I hadn't realized before that plumbago always looks good but especially against a wood fence or wall. I knew but saw again how several plants of the same color and kind make a much better visual impact that a grand mix and how echoes of colors and architectural touches really set off a scene. I came home to work harder, and I will enjoy remembering those gardens for a long time. I'll tell you about the other three gardens on the tour another week.

Jimmie Dan's and Karen Robinson's home includes both front and a large screened back porch and a large back yard. Left: They built this playhouse for their grandchildren and made it look like a smaller version of the house, complete with its own little fence and garden. Right: When the house next door came up for sale, their children and grandchildren moved into this plantation style home.