DUNMORE - Growing up at her lifelong Chestnut Street home in this borough, retired teacher Lucia Riggi watched her parents tend their narrow 50-foot tract of lawn with pride, but she always dreamed it could be more.
The lot adjacent to the family's home changed hands through the years and even endured a fire that leveled the stucco building that used to stand there.
The borough filled in the 10-foot foundation space and the lot remained an empty wasteland for 10 years.
Riggi's hopes of owning it and annexing the plot to her own property came to pass three years ago and, in the time since, she has transformed the once-barren yard into a wonderland of artistic floral design.
"I would look out and think what I would do," she said. "It started with stone, and the dream got bigger and bigger and got much more exciting."
Riggi's garden perfectly blends her past with her vision of the present. Three spruces her father planted decades ago still tower strong and stoic above the lush landscape of flowering bushes and blooms that have taken root in recent years.
With the help of Bob Tuffy, Ken McLaurin and Mark Nicholais, of Reilly Landscaping, Riggi began the project with an outline of the various paths and structures that serve as the foundation of her garden. The crew helped build the stonework walls that fence the yard in, and designed the concrete walkways that are dotted with fleur-de-lis and acanthus garland.
Columns from a 200-year-old mold from Rome and a portion of a Civil War-era fence from a homestead in Missouri, along with numerous finds from the local dealer Olde Good Things give the property a unique sense of style Riggi describes as Mediterranean-Tuscan-Victorian.
"I look for colors that complement each other," Riggi explained. "I like mixing different periods and types because I think it adds excitement."
Vintage pink and white furniture from local consignment shops fill a garage that acts as a kind of en plein air sitting room in the center of the plot when the doors on each end are opened.
Sculptures and metal artwork of Pan, angels and critters peek out from the bunches of flowers that include colorful begonias, petunias, geraniums, shasta daisies, hydrangeas and rose of Sharon, among many, many others.
A koi pond with a waterfall cascade provides gentle background noise, while plenty of comfy chairs, tables and benches give visitors a chance to take it all in from many vantage points.
"It's been a joy to everyone who's passed by," Riggi said. "(People) have peered in through the gates and asked to come in. I really love sharing it with everyone.
"I think beauty is such an essence of life. It uplifts the soul. I come out here and I smile," she added. "It's been a joy to develop this. I thank God everyday (He) gives me the opportunity to use my creativity and love of plants. No matter where I go, it's peaceful and calming."
Even at night, admirers can enjoy the view thanks to handiwork of electrician Joe Murrin, who installed several LED laser lights that illuminate the garden. Twinkling white lights adorn numerous plants for an ethereal feel and the Japanese ferns glow at night.
"This garden is an extension of me," Riggi said. "It's such a personal, special garden.
That being said, her neighbors have all lauded her work as a community gem, and she welcomes passersby to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.
"It really is nothing unless it's shared with people you love," Riggi said.