Norma Bean, whose 31-year-old home and garden has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and on HGTV’s former “Gardener’s Diary” show, is downsizing. Whoever buys this artist and master gardener’s Beach Park home in South Tampa home will get a lot of cultivated natural bang for their buck.
Norma, whose late husband George Bean was the director of Tampa International Airport for three decades before his death in 2004, is accomplished in her own right. She’s an artist whose eye for color, contour, texture and balance translates readily to the garden.
But sometimes, the greatest garden gifts are the happy accidents — or the success stories that defy explanation. The angel’s trumpet tree in Norma’s front yard, above, photographed in early April, is a mutant giant started from a cutting only 4 years ago.
“Angel’s trumpets are supposed to be heavy feeders, but I don’t fertilize it, I don’t do anything to it!” she says. “I have angel’s trumpets that have been growing a lot longer and they’re nowhere near this size. Maybe it’s picking up fertilizer from the roses?”
Among Norma’s favorite plants are begonias — she has at least 40 varieties, many hanging in pots from the stone wall lining her driveway. Most love filtered light; many have foliage with patterns so varied and colorful, you won’t care if they never bloom!
Norma’s favorite is Begonia Joe Hayden.
“It’s very, very easy to grow and easy to start from cuttings,” she says.
Norma’s second-favorite begonia is a fragrant variety – Begonia oderata ‘Alba,’ or Alba for short. I love this one because it can become a huge shrub, has a reputation for being very hardy, and has a divine scent .
“It’s another that’s very easy to grow,” Norma says.
Norma’s garden is filled with countless varieties of perennials — yesterday, today and tomorrow; antique and hybrid roses; amaryllis; ferns; mystery vines and even cultivated weeds because “weeds are only plants you don’t want — I want these!” Her advice to fellow gardeners, no matter where you live, “Include a touch of silver. Every garden needs silver!”
In a second-floor bedroom with shelves covered with interesting old bottles for rooting cuttings or floating blooms, Norma keeps an “inspiration” board — a bulletin board covered with pages torn from magazines and newspapers, and photographs. She may be an artist with her own visions but, hey, it never hurts to borrow!
“I know I can’t bring all my plants — I’ll have to pick and choose,” she says. “But for some reason, I still keep buying plants.”
We understand, Norma.