Cultivating Curb Appeal

2022 Beautification Award winners applauded for crafting eye-catching landscapes

It’s always a beautiful day in their neighborhoods  

by Melissa Martin

If you ask Brecksville resident Larry Zgrabik what his favorites springtime activity is, one of the first things that comes to his mind is taking the time to “stop and smell the flowers.”

He’s not talking in the figurative sense of the word either.

“I’m actually known for getting down on my hands and knees in the front lawn and taking in that wonderful smell,” he says. “It really is that good.”

The smell he’s referring to is the fragrance of the dozens of pink, white and purple hyacinths he and his wife, Cathy, have planted over nearly three decades to fill the main landscape island in the front yard of the family home they built 28 years ago. The proliferous springtime bulbs, always flanked by golden daffodils, have long been the couple’s favorite, especially when paired with the sizeable Easter Bunny decoration that makes a prominent debut alongside them every spring.

“There’s just something about [that smell],” Zgrabik says. “It takes me back to those days of being in parochial school as a kid and knowing winter was over. For me, lots of good memories have always been associated with [the scent of] hyacinths.”

While the Zgrabiks can’t deny their passion for soft, springtime blooms, the views during summer and fall in their yard are equally as breathtaking – so much so that their home at 5902 Fawn Lane is one of four city residences to receive the 2022 Brecksville Beautification Award.

Joining the list of this year’s honorees are Liz and Joe DiVincenzo, 8937 Old Highland Rd.; Jennifer and Scott Loomis, 6869 Mill Rd.; and Mike and Nancy Stamas, 9281 Province Lane.

Every year for the past 26 years, the Brecksville Beautification Committee has honored what it considers to be “outstanding properties” that reflect both the spirit of Brecksville and pride in the community. In addition to accepting nominations every spring from committee members who are tasked with driving all corners of the city looking for homes with undeniably charming curb appeal, the public is also encouraged to submit their own nominations for private residences, businesses and churches they find deserving of community recognition.

“Nominating a property is a great way to say thank you and to let friends and neighbors know their hard work, time and efforts are appreciated,” Brecksville Beautification Committee member Donna Hulett said, noting the committee received 15 nominations from the public this year.

Once the nominations are received, the committee evaluates the homes’ appearance, paying close attention to how well the landscaping compliments the home’s overall architecture.

With that in mind, Hulett said the homes selected this year “really stood out.”

At the DiVincenzo residence, for example, the most prominent feature in front yard is the century-old hedge that encases the property. These aren’t your average boxwood hedges, however. Surprisingly, they are maple trees that have been cultivated into bush form, which means that just like maple trees which boast vibrant fall colors, the hedge takes on a whole different look come October.

Factor in pristinely manicured perennial beds, charming porch pots overflowing with summer annuals and outside features that have not only been preserved but adorned with landscaping of their own – including the 150-year-old home’s original outhouse – the sight is one to behold.

The DiVincenzos say they take pride in making sure the home, marked as the Knowlton-Bourn residence on the National Register of Historic Places, is as historically accurate as possible when it comes to both interior and exterior renovations. Making the landscape surrounding it stand out even more this year is the home’s new color palate, painted in 2021 with colors that are just as appropriate today as they were when the home was built.

“This home is truly like taking a step back in time and the DiVincenzos have done an amazing job at taking care of it,” Hulett said.

Beautification committee members say they were equally taken by the charisma of the Loomis home on Mill Street.

“It looks like a cottage when you pull around the corner, with an amazing raised bed of coneflowers, coreopsis, peonies, mums and sunflowers, being the first thing you see,” Hulett said.

Closer to the home itself is a cozy sitting area, accessorized by mounds of golden-orange marigolds grown from seed every year that line the walkway to the home’s front door. Though you can’t see it from the front yard, the backyard of the Loomis residence is equally as breathtaking. The shady garden paradise features brick walkways stone stairs, an elevated garden chock full of several varieties of hostas and two arbors adorned by climbing flowers.

Jennifer Loomis said she and husband, Scott, have created all the beds themselves – with occasional “help” from their three young grandchildren, that is.

“It’s truly become my passion,” she said. “I sit and plan all winter and when the spring comes, I just can’t wait to get out there.”

Mike and Nancy Stamas know the feeling. Their Province Lane home has long been a work of heart – and it shows.

“This property is just stunning and like all the others, they maintain it all themselves,” Hulett said.

Not only did the couple design the interior of their home themselves 25 years ago, but as a retired landscape architect, Mike has intricately designed the home’s landscaping and the results speak for themselves.

“I’ve tried to build in layers, creating individual spaces or rooms,” he said, noting that as part of his design, he was able to integrate a cutting from his wife’s grandmother’s pale pink climbing rose as well as peonies that originated from his grandparents’ home.

In addition to a well-manicured lawn, the home features multiple coneflower beds along with other colorful perennials and annuals that captivate butterflies, dragonflies and other insects. There are stone walkways leading from the front of the home to the backyard, which features large shade trees, groupings of hydrangeas, numerous shade-loving perennials of every shade of green and even a water feature – all of which provide captivating early morning and mid-afternoon views from the home’s screened-in back porch.

“Each of these homes is just so unique this year,” Hulett said. “They may be all different ages, but they each are all truly spectacular in their own way.”

All four Beautification Award winners received signage identifying the residence as a 2022 Beautification Award winning home. For their hard work, the homeowners are expected to receive a green, granite plaque from the city when they are recognized during the Aug. 16 Brecksville City Council meeting. ∞

Photo:Water feature is one of the many garden highlights at the residence of Larry and Cathy by M. Martin