When Charles and Jennifer Closshey designed their house and garden in Plant City 22 years ago, they wanted to bring the outside indoors with a special view from every window of the gardens, woods and Walden Lake. They have definitely succeeded.
With its tall columns, their house would be outstanding in any setting. It’s seen only partially from the road behind a woodland and has gardens all along the road and up the driveway. It’s quite spectacular. The acre-and-a-half property is wide, and the front garden deeper than the back but from any angle caring for it seems a huge endeavor.
“Surely there’s a full time gardener here,” I thought. Better yet, I learned there’s an amazing couple – the owners themselves. Jennifer grew up on a strawberry farm and spent time with her dad, who taught her that plants thrive on care, fertilizer and love. Charles has a deep love for nature and all of God’s creatures. Some 30 years ago, they started a plant nursery and raised more than five million plants before they sold it.
They planned this house and gardens together. The entrance to the driveway has plenty of color at the edge of a woodland. The other side of the driveway overlooks a retention pond that appears to be a more like a small lake in late summer. A blue heron stood on the side for quite a while and later walked through the water.
Along the way to the house a statue is lightly embraced by a pinwheel jasmine planted behind it. Behind that, in the center of a large front garden, is an area of trees. While grass won’t grow in the deep shade, using mulch as ground cover is a good choice.
The driveway circles in front of the house and is surrounded by gardens, old fashioned lights that appear throughout and hundreds of caladiums. In the winter when the caladiums go dormant, the Clossheys bring in winter annuals for color. Petunias and salvias are some of Jennifer’s favorites. She really enjoys the winter look of more mulch that reflects a time of rest for the garden.
The north side of the yard is extensive and marked with lawn areas and more bright gardens with the retention pond as a background.
Turning into the back garden there’s a fairly large bit of lawn, and the caladiums continue right up to the pool and screened enclosure. Not far back is a public walkway along the lake. Several walkers passed through while I took photos. What a wonderful, quiet way to share a garden.
Jennifer enjoys taking her tea cup and walking through the gardens early in the morning, while birds are feeding and dew is still on the leaves. The special stillness of that time of day speaks of the promise and opportunity that day will bring.
Today’s pick is the variegated hibiscus with red, green and white leaves and deep red flowers, certainly the most colorful shrub I’ve ever seen. And the color is constant. Jennifer started it from a cutting she took in Sarasota. She doesn’t know its official name but calls it lovely. It doesn’t bloom as much as some hibiscus but the leaves are always a show. It weathers the winters well and has been here, in almost full sun, about 12 years.
Now’s the time to consider that Charles maintains this garden working four to six hours a week in normal summer care and less in the winter. Several times a year he adds more mulch to all the beds, which takes a full day. Extra projects like a new bed take a full day or two. I work six hours most weeks, sometimes more. And the result is a far cry from his. It helps if you never get behind.
I am encouraged more than ever after seeing this garden. I will try to remember that much mulched area and that many plants of the same kind certainly provide better visual impact. Watering with automatic irrigation, if well maintained, also saves time and water – and improves growth.
Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 12 gardening books who can be reached at [email protected] Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.