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Yard of the Month

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Many colorful azaleas cascading down the hill make the Rao’s hillside yard a sight to behold

By Sherry Archie

Sal and Lois Rao moved into their home at 1839 Tara Trail almost 20 years ago. Since that time they have steadily been improving the landscaping. Their front yard is now filled with mature azaleas growing freely under majestic hardwoods. A blend of small and large, single and double blooms, these azaleas create a colorful impact from early to late spring.

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It was this beautiful display of color that got the attention of Beth Craig of Leaf and Petal Garden Club. She selected the Raos’ yard as the May Yard of the Month sponsored by the Lancaster Council of Garden Clubs. The Raos will receive a $25 gift certificate complements of the Home Depot.

“The most outstanding feature in this yard is the beautiful, colorful azaleas.  The Raos’ home is high on a hill and all the color just seems to flow down,” Craig said.

The Raos also added retaining walls of stone to create terraces throughout the sloping yard. They built the walls themselves, carefully stacking 20 to 25 stones at a time in a production line fashion; one of them would kneel and stack while the other kept the supply coming.

Even their family pet, Heidi, stayed close by to give them support.

“Heidi, our dachshund, loves to hang around wherever we are working in the yard,” Lois Rao said.

Over the years, the Raos have removed about 30 trees from the yard to bring in the sunshine, so their fescue grass could thrive. They did save many dogwoods, hollies and oaks that were scattered throughout the yard.

Alongside the front sidewalk, gerbera daisies are beginning to pop up as the blooms of a red camellia begin to slowly fade away. Nandinas serve as foundation plants, while a Japanese maple with its auburn leaves provide a sharp contrast of color.

Easter lilies planted here hold a special meaning to the Raos. They receive one every year in memory of their son, Mike, a former senior trooper with the S.C. Highway Patrol who was killed in the line of duty in 2002.

The Raos continue to be very active in the S.C. state chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors support group. This group reaches out to families of fallen officers to help them realize their loved one did not die in vain.

The Raos also proudly display a blue light in their dining room window in memory of fallen police officers. Project Blue Light is a nationwide recognition of those police officers who have died in the line of duty. The project originated in 1988 in Philadelphia when Dolly Craig wrote a letter to Concerns of Police Survivors stating she would be honoring her late son-in-law during the holiday season by placing a blue light in her window. The color blue was chosen because it is symbolic of peace.

The backyard features smaller azaleas. Lois says she loves the azaleas because they are pretty and very low maintenance. Hydrangeas, hostas, forsythias and daylilies are also perennials of choice in the backyard.

“We enjoy using perennials because you just plant them and enjoy them and let God do the rest. He does it best,” Sal said.

If you would like to nominate a yard for Yard of the Month, please contact Patty Noll at 285-6232.