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An Urban Jungle Takes Root

Nada Liberto looked over her tiny, riotous backyard and smiled. Ten years ago this patio garden in Allentown, Penn. was empty, just cement and two iron fire escapes. Now it is an urban jungle.

"I almost can't help myself," Liberto said. "I love plants so much. I just keep getting more. I especially like the foliage. The flowers are almost accidental."

Virtually every space - the ground, the fire escape, the fence - is covered with plants. On one of the fire escapes dozens of Christmas cacti are lined up on the stairs and clematis covers the structure. The other is engulfed by trumpet vine and wisteria.

Down below, there are raised beds constructed of stone and wood that contain variegated toad lily and hosta. Half barrels are filled with herbs, phlox, canna and ferns. A giant elephant ear fern hangs over a shady picnic table.

With all of these plants to water, its lucky, probably essential, that Liberto works next door. But when it’s hot, she can get sick of it.

"Sometimes I water everything twice a day - or more," she said. "It's a constant worry when it's hot."

So late this past season she introduced two new products to her garden: coil hoses and self-watering pots. And what a difference it made.

The coil hose makes watering faster, easier and tidier. "Look at how it fits into that small space," she said pointing under the water spigot. "No more tripping over my old hose."

And she's got a lot less to water too. "With these pots I won't have to water my plants every hour on the hour, as I did before," Liberto said. The pots hold several days, even a week's worth, of water. "I'll just sit and enjoy my garden more."

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