Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Big plans for a short sale sow family bonds in Wesley Chapel

Newlyweds Cheryl and Daniel Kaplan searched a year before finally closing on their first house, a spacious four-bedroom short sale, in February.

But the day they got the key, the clock started ticking.

"The homeowners association is giving us until April 1 to fix everything up," said Cheryl, a 29-year-old kindergarten teacher at Miles Elementary School in North Tampa, who contacted me on Twitter a couple of weeks before closing.

"The house has been vacant for a while, so the landscaping is really neglected."

The couple's new home in Wesley Chapel's Bridgewater subdivision came with a yard tangled with vines, weeds and overgrown oaks and palms desperately in need of a firm hand. Cheryl and Daniel, a 29-year-old mortgage loan broker, had exterior repairs to make, too, and a full paint job — all on a tight budget and all by April Fool's Day.

I would crack a joke here about that deadline, but I can't. There's something touching about a young couple eager to put in hours of hard labor after long days at work in order to leave apartment life and launch their own family.

And Cheryl had an added burden. Just a few months earlier, during the couple's house hunt, she lost her dad, Donald, in a car accident. She so loved that great green-thumb guy, and they'd had big plans for working together on her first garden.

Now, missing him hurt even more.

But Cheryl didn't realize that the nice thing about gaining a family through marriage is — gaining a family. She found an unexpected new ally in her mother-in-law, Denise Cherubino, a longtime Florida gardener who lives in Apollo Beach.

Denise shared her knowledge and her muscle, digging in to help Cheryl and Daniel with the labor.

"We became closer from it," Cheryl says.

"It's an unfortunate bond," adds Denise, who understands Cheryl's pain. Denise lost her first husband, father to Daniel and his twin brother, 19 years ago.

"This gave the two of us something to do together," she says.

The new house had mangy turf, two untamed laurel oaks and a shaggy queen palm. Twisted masses of pretty but unruly flowering jasmine served as a foundation hedge. A boxwood border hovered between life and death.

"I'm going to plant red salvias by the mailbox for my dad," Cheryl told me in February. "And red pentas. He loved those."

She wanted azaleas. And two hibiscus flanking the garage door, which had a lone healthy but hirsute podocarpus on one side.

Would a manicure help the jasmine? Should she try to resurrect the boxwoods? Cheryl wasn't sure.

Two days after she and Daniel closed on the house, as the two slept on a mattress on the floor, eight smoke alarms screamed them awake at 5 a.m.

"No maintenance to call," she posted on Twitter. Sigh.

But the couple had faith and fortitude. For three days, they painted. Daniel figured out how to make the repairs. An arborist trimmed the trees. They had the sod replaced.

By early March, after numerous consultations with Denise, the three ripped out most of what remained.

"The jasmine was beautiful, but it was out of control," Denise says. "Cheryl wanted some color, but she had a small area to work with. And she had about 14 plants she wanted!"

Winnow your list to three or four plants, Denise advised. Groups of identical plants look more dramatic than a dozen different individual plants.

Take a ride through your neighborhood, see what you like and make note of what grows well here.

In the end, Cheryl replaced the jasmine with hot pink Encore azaleas, which bloom repeatedly through the year. She said goodbye to the boxwoods and hello to alternating purple and white Mexican heather. She discovered Giant Apostles' Iris and found those red pentas and salvias for her dad.

Yellow Gerbera daisies add a pop of color — Denise's suggestion to contrast with all the red and pink.

Cheryl kept the podocarpus and added a twin on the other side of the garage.

The transformation has made the homeowners association and the Kaplans happy.

Cheryl loves the living tributes to her dad and the blossoming relationship with her mother-in-law.

Daniel learned that he has a knack for gardening. "It's almost therapeutic," he says.

And Denise? She grew something she cherishes.

"Cheryl's not my daughter-in-law anymore," she says. "She's my daughter.'"

Contact Penny Carnathan at [email protected] Join her and other gardeners chatting on Facebook at DigginFloridaDirt or follow her on Twitter @DigginPenny.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Turns out, Andrei Vasilevskiy is all right.And, believe it or not, so is the Lightning’s penalty kill, which was the unlikely hero in Monday’s streak-snapping 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center.Vasilevskiy, 23, played like the...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

New York TimesWASHINGTON — Congress brought an end to a three-day government shutdown on Monday as Senate Democrats buckled under pressure to adopt a short-term spending bill to fund government operations without first addressing the fate of young un...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Male bicyclist struck, killed by vehicle in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A male bicyclist was struck and killed by a vehicle on U.S. 19 on Monday night, according to Pinellas Park police.The incident took place at about 8:30 p.m. along the 8000 block of U.S. 19 N, near the Walmart Supercenter.The driver wa...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 22

Monday’s scoreboardBoys soccerPalm Harbor U. 3, Clearwater 0Boca Ciega 3, Indian Rocks Christian 1Girls soccerClass 4A, District 10: Countryside 7, Clearwater 0; Dixie Hollins 2, East Lake 0Class 3A, District 10: Osceola 14, Gibbs 0...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Jan. 22, midday:49 851 5049e_SRit11446Mon., Jan. 22, evening:05 733 5365e_SRit06330Fantasy 5Mon., Jan. 22...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Glass art shines at St. Petersburg’s new Imagine Museum

Glass art shines at St. Petersburg’s new Imagine Museum

ST. PETERSBURGThe bay area’s thriving glass art scene adds another member to its ranks today when the Imagine Museum officially opens in downtown St. Petersburg.Dedicated to the movement of studio glass, the museum is the brainchild of benefactor Tri...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Facebook vows progress in halting election meddling

Facebook said Monday that it fell short in preventing the social media network from being used for foreign meddling in the U.S. presidential election.New blog posts written by Facebook executives appear to be the most critical self-assessment yet of ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Judge: Victims of sports doc are ‘sister survivor warriors’

Judge: Victims of sports doc are ‘sister survivor warriors’

Associated PressLANSING, Mich. — The judge overseeing the sentencing of disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar said Monday that more than 120 girls and women who had given statements so far at the five-day hearing were "sister survivor warriors....
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severs contract with CareerSource Pinellas

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severs contract with CareerSource Pinellas

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severed his agency’s contract with CareerSource Pinellas on Monday after learning that the jobs center told the state it helped 624 sheriff’s employees get hired since 2014.The sheriff said he has no record of CareerSou...
Updated: 3 hours ago

TexasVoter-fraud panel targeted Hispanics, documents showPresident Donald Trump’s voter-fraud commission specifically asked for records identifying all Texas voters with Hispanic surnames, according to newly released documents. Records made public by...
Updated: 4 hours ago