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Eva Vass's Garden on the Lake Shore Is Ideal

Eva Vass enjoys her Knock Out roses.

When Frank and Eva Vass first came to Miami from Hungary at the time of the 1956 revolution, it was not easy to adjust to a new country and a new climate at the same time.

Gardening helped. Eva had studied and worked in forestry management in Hungary where any tree that was cut down was quickly replaced by hand planting.

She joined a garden club in Miami and was a member for 35 years. "It was warmer there in the winter but cooler in the summer," she says, "because of the crosswinds. Still it seemed very hot that first summer when I was large with child and we had no A/C.

"When we got our first house, it was surrounded by 23 pine trees and I was happy to be in the woods again," she says. After Andrew hit, they had only garden damage, but went three weeks without electricity while she cooked on an outdoor grill.

One of her daughters now lives next door in north Brandon on the shore of Mango Lake, an ideal setting where they have lived for seven years. Her son-in-law keeps both lawns in great shape and they take care of one another's plants while one is away. If both families are away, neighbors help. One year they brought all her plants into the house to save them from a hurricane.

Eva Vass was asked to join the Temple Terrace Garden Club and has been a very active member for seven years now. She often takes cuttings of her plants and shares as many as 24 per meeting with other members. She also share plants with the Mango School Garden where her daughter is a teacher.

Vass has taken courses at the Extension Office on composting twice so she could get two compost piles, one for the finished compost and one that is working. She also took the rain barrel workshop and has a closed rain barrel with a faucet for irrigation.

This variegated rubber plant captures the morning sun and reflects light in the shaded part of the garden.

The lake is directly behind the house and a canal runs up the other side of the V-shaped back garden. A deck over the water at the point has both a wide swing and a bench around the trunk of the large oak tree.

One of the neighbors owns a convenience store and brings home extra bread to feed the ducks and other birds every evening. It is a pleasant place and time to work in this lovely garden and Vass does not mind the heat much anymore. The breeze off the lake takes care of most of the mosquitoes. She has a great many other birds and butterflies also.

"There were just the four large trees here when we came," she says. "I planted those three cypress trees. My daughter was worried that they'd block the view, but as they grow I will prune away the lower branches so we can still see the lake."

The screened in pool is one of those that is a focal point from the front door and through the glass doors of the family room and the kitchen windows.

A group of containers plants surrounds a statue of St. Francis, who is a special friend since Frank was named for him and now they also belong to St. Francis parish in Seffner. This group of plants includes a red flowered and leaved dragon wing begonia that blooms constantly year round. It is one of Eva's favorite plants.

"I take all the weeds and extra plants from my garden and throw them down near the bank where I let the grasses, shrubs, cannas, and wild plants grow to control erosion. We have lost about four feet of shore and don't want to lose any more," Vass says.

There is a Temple orange and a pink grapefruit tree, a wide selection of bromeliads in the shade of the trees, also impatiens that come up everywhere the light is right and bloom abundantly. Orchids hang from several of the trees and a few are always blooming. Torenias self seed in the wet soil around the front porch and she starts new roses from cuttings stuck right in the ground. "They keep the cats from scratching there and if I get two plants from five cuttings, I am happy," she says. "The garden is good therapy."

This group of plants surrounding St. Francis includes a red flowered and leaved dragon wing begonia (far left in front) that blooms constantly year round. This deck marks the corner of the garden and is an ideal place to sit and rest.

Eva Vass surrounds plants like the four o'clocks with grass so the mowing and pruning keep them in check as long as they aren't the kind that send out too many seedlings.