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Yard of the Month: Coopers mix gardening tricks with know-how to make yard thrive

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By Sherry Archie

Underneath the tall pin oak trees, the crisp white blooms of azaleas and daffodils welcome guests to the home of Don and Cynda Cooper at 806 Crescent Drive in Lancaster.

The contrast of these blossoms against the bright green blades of winter rye grass is just a small example of how this yard earned the designation as April Yard of the Month by the Lancaster Council of Garden Clubs.

The Coopers will receive a $25 gift certificate compliments of Ace Hardware and Garden Center of Lancaster for turning their yard into a showplace.

The Coopers came here from Shelby, N.C., in 1999 when Don was named as postmaster of the U.S. Post Office branch on North Main Street.

When they first moved into their home, Cynda said the yard was overgrown with trees and leggy shrubs, including a backyard completely filled with dense stands of trees.

Cynda said the yard resembled “a jungle” before they started thinning out trees and replacing older shrubs.

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Now, the only original landscaping that remains are some the pink azaleas along the foundation of their home, a few boxwoods, tall pin oak trees and six magnolia trees.

A large magnolia tree in the backyard is what led the Coopers to buy the home.

They have not only have they enjoyed the magnolia tree, but have shared it with the public, too.

Cuttings from it have been used by Lancaster Garden Club to decorate several county landmarks during the Yuletide season.

“We trim the entire bottom of the magnolia tree at Christmas time. Clippings from our tree have been used to decorate the Lancaster County Courthouse, the outside of Kilburnie (Kilburnie the Inn at Craig Farm) and Old Presbyterian Church, as well as numerous weddings, showers and parties,” Cynda said.

Although they only lived 80 miles away, Cynda said they quickly discovered that the soil here is quite different than in Shelby.

The plants that Cynda successfully grown there would not thrive in Lancaster’s red clay.

That has made their yard a continual work in progress since she and Don are always moving plants around to find the most suitable location.

The lawn is filled with their favorite colors, red and white.

White daffodils will soon bow to brilliant red shades of amaryllis and day lilies.

In the back of the driveway, a bed filled with ferns and hosta features the same red and white colors, along with hues of yellow stella d’ora and happy returns day lilies that bloom in the summertime.

Purple creeping phlox drapes over the stone wall that edges the driveway and a bench flanked by an arbor offers a great place to relax among the red day lilies and white iris.

Low-growing pink and white gumbo azaleas dotted among the early spikes of red and white amaryllis edge the garage wall and walkway. Kimberly Queen ferns accent a small bench at the front porch landing. A favorite of Florida landscapers and gardeners, Kimberly Queen ferns are sun tolerant and grow well here, too.

To the left of the house, Don has a planted large bed of day lilies in a variety of colors that are complemented by three gardenia bushes. Underneath tall pin oaks in the backyard, a large shady bed will be filled with almost 100 hostas later this spring.

All of the plants in the Cooper yard are very lush and healthy. Cynda credits her mentor, 93-year-old Grace Blanton of Shelby, with teaching her great growing techniques.

Blanton, who still gardens, taught Cynda the importance of soil preparation.

Cynda said Blanton advocates using an equal mixture of Black Kow (composted cow manure), top soil and potting soil to keep plants healthy and happy. According to the Coopers, it works.

Other helpful hints include using crushed oyster shells, which is carried by most feed stores. Cynda said crushed oyster shells will deter bollweevils from eating roots and keep squirrels from digging up bulbs.

As proof, she carefully grouped and planted 100 daffodil bulbs one year.

In no time, Cynda said every bulb had been dug up and scattered all over the yard. But since mixing a little oyster shells into the soil, she said the bulbs stay where they are planted.

She said that equal parts black pepper and red pepper flakes sprinkled on tender green plants will discourage deer from eating them.

“The deer will find another yard to munch in,” she said.

– To nominate a yard of the month, please call Janice Smith at 285-4191.