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A Master's Touch

Chris, Tony, and Kyle Storch-Dolcelli enjoy a Japanese x Florida garden. The landscaping complements the Japanese style of the house.

Chris Storch and her family moved to Land O'Lakes in 2001 from New Jersey. She has been Vice President of the Pasco County Master Gardeners Association for the past two years, a position of added importance since their director passed away and it took 18 months to find a replacement. "Vivian Harris trained and inspired me," she says with regret for her friends death.

"Back in October 2003," she says, "I participated in my first Master Gardeners' plant sale after just graduating from the course. I returned home with 40 plants and two kittens. This was the turning point in my learning about Florida-Friendly Gardening. Sitting in a classroom once a week for three months is one thing, but getting my hands dirty, figuring out wet/dry, sun/shade, etc. would prove to be the continuing education part. All the MG's and Gardeners I have met over the past three years that have been so ready to share their knowledge and experiences that it has been terrific!"

The Japanese house where Chris Storch, Tony Dolcelli and their son Kyle live is surrounded by pines, oaks, and magnolias and gardens she has developed with the simplicity and feeling of a Japanese garden/ Florida style.

The impression is one of peaceful beauty with both restraint and a few charming touches of reality.

"The woodchip piles just arrived," says Chris Storch. One can hardly apologize for such richness in spite of the timing.

Three rainbarrels catch what they can at three different spots around the house.

A visitor notices first the sounds of bubbling water beside the sliding entrance door and from the girl- with-a-fish fountain at the corner of the house, the excellent landscaping and lush lawn.

Jasmine and coral honeysuckle bloom on the chainlink fence, lined with green fabric that separates the property from the road.

This vegetable garden is small but productive. Kyle especially likes to eat the sugar pod peas that climb the fence.

The first garden on the high and dry side of the driveway is fenced and raised with telephone pole-size wood with vegetables growing on the fence: watermelon and cantaloupe vines in bloom, sugar pod peas still bearing in late May and carrots. Kyle, almost 7, eats the peas right off the vine. A compost pile hides behind the garden.

The next garden is a triangle edged with tree trunks and centered with a white Iceberg floribunda rose bush in full bloom and sunflowers promising great color to come. "Also in there are two bushes of Rose "La Marne". They are hardy heritage roses that didn't even blink when I moved them from the back yard into that bed," Storch says.

Another garden is a mulched sitting area surround by chunks of marble, with slabs of marble at the entrance and on the seat of the bench. A white-flowered butterfly bush echos the color. Pandorea jasminoides 'Bower Plant' vine is starting up the trellis at the entrance. Behind the bench is the Norfolk Island Pine that has been their Christmas tree for the last few years. Potted plants abound throughout the garden.

Kyle's play area has the greenest grass, birdhouses, a Don Juan red rose over the rainbarrel, and adjoins a sitting and eating area with a Japanese theme on the other side, both close to the kitchen windows.

They went to a garage sale one day and found 1300 bricks and 27 chunks of this marble and spent the next few days digging it out and brining it home. The bricks now form walks around the house.

Beside the driveway are two important signs: Certified Florida Garden indicating waterwise and planet friendly practices here, and Garden Angel on duty.

"This is our dry side," Storch says. "All of the area along the fence was badly overgrown until our uncle, 70 years old and with a pacemaker, came to visit over Christmas and helped us clear it all." There is still a great deal of privacy, with only intermittent views of the elegant yard adjacent. Storch has made friends with all of her gardening neighbors.

"The low side of the driveway is our wet area. Once the rains start it will flood about halfway up, so we have to be very careful what we plant there," Tony says.

The property covers 1.60 acres and is about 185 feet by 400 feet deep. You don't even notice the new above ground pool until you walk beyond the house and Kyle's play area.