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Growing to prominence

A local women's garden will be featured on cable's Home & Garden Television show A Gardener's Diary.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 5, 2002

Norma Lopez-Bean describes her garden as lush, imaginative and definitely not weed-free.

Soon, she can say famous.

Lopez-Bean's garden will take center stage during an upcoming episode of A Gardener's Diary on Home & Garden Television. Crews filmed Tuesday and planned to finish up Saturday.

"There isn't an ugly shot at this house," said field producer Hillary Miles, surveying the yard in Beach Park.

The show picked the Florida cottage-style garden based on its variety of plants and whimsical decorations, such as rusted gardening tools and an old paint easel. They also wanted to tell the story of the person behind it.

"This has tons of soul and charm," said host Erica Glasener, who has a "respectable" garden of her own in Atlanta.

Lopez-Bean started working on the yard 20 years ago when she and her family moved into the two-story house with sky blue shutters on Paloma Place. Her goal: Make the garden visible from every window in the house.

"Some women like to play bridge or play golf. I like to work in the yard," said the energetic grandmother of seven.

Over the years, Lopez-Bean has transformed every inch of the lot into an oasis for flowers, potted plants, birds and butterflies. There's everything from roses and begonias to milkweed and bamboo. She compares it to an impressionistic painting with a few weeds scattered throughout.

"It's a little on the wild side," she said.

Lopez-Bean, 66, has been gardening her entire adult life. She insists there's no such thing as a green thumb. Instead, she calls it a good eye.

A native of Ybor City, Lopez-Bean is a member of several rose societies and the Friends of Plant Park. As a master gardener, she teaches classes through the Hillsborough County Extension Service.

She learned most through trial and error.

"If I go two or three days without going in the garden, I get kind of grouchy," she said.

Lopez-Bean spends a lot of time in her garden, but probably less than most people think, she says. Nature is the boss. She's just the manager.

Her garden blooms all year, but March is best. The dozens of roses, impatiens and angel trumpets made picture-perfect subjects for this week's photo shoot. So did the spring green leaves.

The show travels around the country documenting different types of home gardens, from a South Carolina low-country garden to a New Hampshire hillside. During the Tampa stop, they visited three.

Acme Garden Productions in Atlanta produces the half-hour program for HGTV. It makes 26 episodes a year, each of which take 50 to 60 hours from start to finish. It airs at 4:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Now in its eighth year, A Gardener's Diary was one of the first programs on the home and gardening channel. Others include Awesome Interiors and Curb Appeal.

As host, Erica Glasener chats on camera with the owners about their garden and describes the different plants. To block the sun, she wears a wide-brimmed straw hat -- her trademark.

Lopez-Bean said she felt like a celebrity as the five-member crew set up in her yard. Numerous garden tours have stopped at her house, but none like national television.

The producers don't know when her episode will air. Depending on the network's schedule, it could be six months to a year. Lopez-Bean will get an advance copy.

She might even watch it in her garden.

- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3394 or

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