Phoebe and Richard Letocha, the Stoneleigh couple who were honored Friday with the award for the best Azalea House of Greater Towson, can't attribute their award to any master gardening techniques. They aren't members of their local garden clubs, nor do they know how they even won the award for the best batch of Towson's official flower.
So when County Executive Kevin Kamenetz asked their secret to growing azaleas at a ceremony during Towson Gardens Day on Friday, Phoebe Letocha gave it to him straight: "We bought the right house," she said.
That house in the 600 block of Stoneleigh Road is surrounded by azaleas of all colors, with deep fuchsia and candy pink bushes in front of the home and purple, pink and white ones flanking the yard. The plants are so established that they don't need to do much maintenance.
"Our philosophy towards gardening is to just let them be, and not to prune them very much," Phoebe Letocha said after the ceremony. "If they get a little too overgrown or some of them get leggy, I'll prune them to the same basic shape, but that's it."
"We don't even fertilize," Richard Letocha said. "That's all you need."
The variety and health of the plants can be partially attributed to the previous homeowner, herself an azalea lover.
"The previous owner had lived there for 32 years, and she was very fond of her azaleas," Phoebe Letocha said. "It was written up in her obituary that she was an azalea gardener."
Each year, the Towson Gardens Day Committee chooses the area's best azalea house. They also handed out on Friday several other awards to community groups and families for their gardening efforts. Community appreciation awards were distributed to: Towson University, for the new gardens at its Towsontown Boulevard entrance; The Third District of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland for funding 23 new trees at the Cromwell Valley Park and Ride; and the Church of the Immaculate Conception for its new Bosley Avenue garden.
The following area residents were also honored for growing neighborhood gardens of merit:
Anneslie: Ashley Kuhn and Matthew Sullivan, 6500 block, Banbury Road;
Armaugh Village: Julia and Andrew Holt; 200 block, North Tyrone Road;
Historic Lutherville: Pam and Bud Nixon; unit block, Morris Avenue.
Havenwood: Nina Nozemack; 1800 block, Vista Lane;
Rodgers Forge: Emilie and Jeffrey Wible; 400 block, Old Trail Road;
Stoneleigh: Peter A. Woolson; 6900 block, Kenleigh Road;
West Towson: Elizabeth and Walker Jones; 500 block, Woodbine Avenue;
Wiltondale: Brenda and Kirk Bechdel; 600 block, Yarmouth Road;
Yorkleigh: Nicole and Nathan Atkinson, 100 block, Yorkleigh Road.