Bright blooms and creative planting lend curb appeal to Clear Lake Shores yard
On a cold, wintry day, Joe Shulsky couldn’t help but worry about his yard.
After three days of powerful winds tearing through his Clear Lake Shores property, he lost a lot of blooms. But the balanced design of his gardens was mostly intact, perhaps because of the nine statuary gnomes keeping a watchful eye.
Calling himself a “gardener by mistake,” Shulsky never concerns himself very much with what’s on the tag when he buys plants at a nursery. As long as the information tells him how tall something might get and how much sun it needs, he’s happy.
“If I like what I see, I buy it,” he said. “Then I take it home, plant it and watch to see what happens. If it doesn’t do well, I dig it up and plant it elsewhere.”
Shulsky didn’t get interested in gardening until he and wife, Debra, moved to Clear Lake Shores in 2011. The yard had some tall cypress trees, a few pines, a pecan tree and cedar elm, and just a scattering of other plants, so he decided to give his yard some curb appeal.
Because the backyard is in the shape of a small triangle, he focused his attention on the front and side yard, where that large cedar elm covered in Spanish moss reaches the roofline of the house.
“I was never really into planting things until we moved to the bay area,” he said. “I think I just got enthused because I was back on the water.”
Growing up in Ohio, Shulsky lived just a block away from Lake Erie. He considers himself a water person who had been land locked for way too long. When he got to Clear Lake Shores, it was like coming home, he said.
“From the first time I put my hands in the soil, I felt really good,” he said.
He carried the design style of the interior of his home to the yard, describing it as “whimsical Tuscany,” and enjoys admiring his yard from the window of his home office, where he develops custom products for the food and beverage industry. Working remotely has its perks, and having a garden view is one of them.
“I know to put the smaller plants in front of the bigger ones,” he said. “The two things I look for are balance and energy.”
Unusual blooms emerge from dark maroon buds on what are appropriately called lipstick plants, which grow along a tiled pathway, leading to a wrought iron gated entrance and front porch with two rocking chairs for relaxing.
A pinecone shrimp plant is heavily laden with reddish blossoms and the tri-colored yesterday, today and tomorrow plant thrives with violet, pale lavender and white petals.
A glossy-leaved fatsia also is abundant with creamy flowers attracting a bevy of pollinators, feasting on the scented yellow nectar.
Chinese juniper shrubs are peppered about and Shulsky’s favorite and only annuals, white periwinkles, are evident.
“Annuals are tough,” he said. “So, I prefer to stick with perennials, but I do like the white periwinkles, and plant them every year.”
Several tall Italian cypresses give the yard its Tuscan feel, and the nice variety of perennials add color — particularly, pink knockout roses, yellow African daisies and the bright purple blooms of a princess flower shrub.
An angel statue stands guard along the side yard in the shadow of the tall cedar elm. The statue is missing its hands, but Shulsky doesn’t care. The angel statue has been a longtime fixture in previous yards; its hands have disintegrated.
“I don’t have the heart to get rid of her,” he said.
Shulsky takes a lot of pride in this side area of his yard. It is here where he filled in a culvert, tore down an existing stone wall, and reused the stones to make a parking area.
Opposite the driveway, he planted a row of foxtail ferns in front of a loquat tree and two Japanese blueberry trees. Beyond the fence line is that tiny, triangular backyard where Shulsky will soon build a pizza oven and install a hot tub.
“Right now, I’m anxiously awaiting spring and getting my hands back in the dirt,” he said.