I've been honored to know Norma Lopez Bean,
now 77 and getting ready to leave her home and gardens of 32 years, since the early 90s. My couple of hours with her Saturday was both fun and fruitful....I did not know that on top of her being a brilliant rosarian (roses is how we met back then) and an EXTREMELY skilled and often whimsical gardener (her gardens have been on HGTV) she is also a very talented painter. Her home's gracious, somewhat Victorian interior is spotless.
Norma Bean is a tireless dynamo of human energy and an absolute delight to spend time with. She lost her husband several years ago but remains insuppressibly positive. Some of her plants are edible but she loves a very eclectic mix of ornamentals, and has achieved a remarkable amount of color both front and back in spite of very prominent shade. I deeply admire how her landscape is grassless, very informal and cottage in feel yet orderly and tidy...that is a hard balance to achieve. Her roses often tower over me and look vibrantly healthy.....she sprays VERY minimally as she is an ardent environmental. We are both very Liberal as a rule and are on the same page politically most of the time....one of her favorite Hybrid Teas is 'Caesar Chavez', whom I also greatly admired. Conversation with Norma is always energizing and interesting as all get out.
She sent me home with OODLES of awesome cuttings....roses, her richly colored yellow brugsmansia, the old fashioned RARELY seen tall growing lavender pentas I grew in the 80s, Angel Wing Begonias, and more. She has long been one of THE best assets to the Tampa Bay gardening scene. Norma is an effervescent mix of classy yet irreverent and funny...she exudes life, and pioneered the use of recycled items in landscapes a LONG time ago, plus using the color blue as a tool. I'm still stunned about the cuttings she sent me home with!
Over the years Norma has given many public presentations about gardening in the Tampa Bay area and won a LOT of ribbons in both ARS rose exhibitions and begonia shows. Years ago she created a living mantle of potted begonias, mostly Rex type, plus ferns and orchids over the entire surface of a LONG concrete block wall that lines her driveway....notice a bit of it behind her in the first pic.....what was a HOT Florida driveway when she bought the home (I saw the pic!) is now a cool slice of the Amazon jungle but with roses.
Norma soon moves into her fourth floor condo with her three cats and a select number of plants. I love crystal and cut glass and Norma has quite a few VERY tasteful things in her home.....she plans on having a Moving Yard Sale soon and I will so be there with cash in my pocket! I hope to buy one of her softly enigmatic paintings of the same three women I think she refers to as 'The Debutantes'. How she raised a family, had a husband, and created on so many levels while keeping her home and gardens impeccable blows my mind.
My camera battery died after not many shots, so I am going back in a morning very soon to do a better job of recording her back yard especially as the buyers plan on replacing it with a swimming pool...a real tragedy to me. I hope you enjoy these pics. I'm curious how many others in the Barefoot Gardeners group here in Florida know Norma.
She is a trip and knowing her is a real life gift!