Lyle Taylor has transformed a vacant lot next to his home on Curtis Street into a beautiful new garden..

By Gale Rose

It all started with an underground storm shelter. When Lyle Taylor retired after working for Stanion Electric for 28 years, he wanted to install an underground storm shelter because his one-story house has no basement. He didn't have enough space on his lot at 709 Curtis to install the shelter so he bought the vacant lot next door and had the shelter installed there.

While Taylor was happy to have the shelter, he said it looked kind of like a grave in a cemetery so he decided to change the landscape to conceal the shelter and transform the rest of the lot as well.

Taylor contacted Younie Landscaping to design and build a garden around the underground shelter. He had Fred and The Boys Construction build a wooden storage shed, complete with a copula and a weather vane, over the top of the shelter to transform a vacant lot into a showplace garden in his community.

Now, the former vacant lot has been transformed into a lush, growing area. There are a couple of flower bed areas complete with a variety of flowering plants including species that attract butterflies. The specific plants for butterflies are working very well. Dozens of Painted Lady butterflies are swarming around the cat mint and blue beard plants creating a colorful addition to the landscape.

Several new trees have been added and will eventually provide a lot of shade to the area that is now covered with a good crop of Bermuda grass.

"It will be a few years before the trees and shrubs take root and dress up the place," Taylor said.

And in the midst of the garden is the storage shed. Built out of wood with a wooden exterior that includes a covered porch, windows and space inside the shed for a variety of containers that used to clutter up his garage and house. The shed even has an antique style lock with a skeleton key that goes well with the building.

All of this is part of Taylor's retirement plan. He had this project in mind for years before he retired and had set aside money to make the whole plan happen. Besides the garden, Taylor had remodeling done on the inside and outside of his house to make it the home he wanted for retirement.

The vision of the garden was pretty general to start with. As he worked with Younie Landscaping and FATB, the plans for the garden and the storage shed developed and took their final shape. It took a lot of work to get the lot ready for the garden.

"The original plan was kind of vague. It got bigger and bigger as we went along," Taylor said. "We had to move a bunch of dirt and put in retaining walls."

While most of the project is complete, there is still work to do. The ground immediately round the shed is bare. Taylor said the plan is to put in rye this fall then come back in the spring and cover the bare ground with Bermuda grass.

But essentially, the project is complete. Taylor said his job now is to take care of the garden. He will water and mow and pull weeds. Because the grass cover is new, there aren't many weeds yet.

Taylor said he enjoys being outdoors and going over the lawn and pulling weeds by hand.

The garden has gotten attention and there have been a number of vehicles that have slowed down as drivers take in the new garden. His neighbor across the street, Lois Mueller, likes to drive around the block and see the garden from every angle.

"There has been some extra traffic on Beech Street," Taylor said.

When Taylor decided to purchase the lot next to his house, he knew it had never had a structure on it since he lived there. The Plat information on the lot revealed it had never had a house and had never even been given a street number. When the water lines were installed, the city gave it a number, 711 Curtis, for billing purposes. Taylor said, with a grin, he likes the address.

Having his own garden was a natural thing for Taylor who loves the outdoors and taking hikes down nature trails. He is also a photography buff and enjoys getting pictures of the plants and butterflies.

For now, the garden is complete with no immediate plans for additions. But, he is thinking that a bird bath and maybe a wishing well could be added sometime in the future.

But for now, Taylor will keep busy working on the garden and enjoying watching his 9-year-old cat Cleo who likes to watch the butterflies as they gather food in the garden.