The Experimenter: Pat Scarano

“The yard constantly changes due to the different bloom times. It’s always fun to walk ‘the estate’ in the morning with coffee just to see what’s blooming that day.”

Pat Scarano takes a rare break in her Old Bridge backyard.
Pat Scarano takes a rare break in her Old Bridge backyard.
Photo by Laura Moss

Pat Scarano inherited her passion for flowers from her grandmother, a Polish immigrant whose prized roses were the envy of her Belmar neighbors. “Money was always an issue, so my grandmother never bought a single plant,” says Scarano. Instead, she grew every rose from cuttings, all acquired from friends and family.

“I learned gardening as a child watering my grandmother’s garden,” Scarano says. “She showed me the love of flowers.”

When Scarano and her husband, Jerry, bought their own home in 1976, she quickly took to gardening. Money was tight for them, so Scarano followed her grandmother’s inspiration. She dug up daylilies at the end of her dead-end street. She asked friends and family to share their plants. And just like her grandmother’s rose beds, Scarano’s garden became the envy of her Old Bridge neighborhood. The 100-foot by 100-foot yard is packed with petals. “I fill every space with flowers,” she says.

What started as a hobby soon turned into an obsession. When Scarano retired from her career as an accountant, her thirst for knowledge led her to the Rutgers Master Gardener program in Middlesex County. After completing the program, Scarano started hybridizing daylilies, a process she’s been perfecting for the past seven years.

“I take two different daylilies and pollinate them manually, like what a bee or a fly would do,” she says. After pollinating, she collects the seedpods and stores them in the refrigerator, essentially “faking winter.” Each spring she plants the seedpods in pots she keeps indoors. Then she waits to see what blooms. Her experiments have resulted in close to 250 one-of-a-kind flowers. “I’ll put the most outrageous colors and unique features together to see what works,” she says. Her wildest? A daylily that’s red, pink and maroon, with yellow ruffled edges.

Eventually, Scarano transfers the daylilies—only the best of them—outdoors.

There’s no overarching plan other than volume. “I plant very dense so I don’t have to weed,” she says. Since daylilies bloom just once, the garden is an ever-changing rainbow of colors. “The yard constantly changes due to the different bloom times,” she says. “It’s always fun to walk ‘the estate’ in the morning with coffee just to see what’s blooming that day.”

The yard also features a koi pond and a brick fireplace built by Jerry. Although initially used as an outdoor fireplace, it’s now overgrown. “It’s an ivy monster,” Scarano jokes. The yard’s one shady area is a corner patio where the couple enjoy rare lazy afternoons.

As Scarano’s garden flourished, she started to pay it forward, gifting her blooms. “I divide and share with my children, friends, neighbors, even the postman,” she says.
Scarano, 65, hopes that her love of gardening rubs off on future generations. “I try to teach all four of my grandchildren about plants,” she says. “They have harvested seed and planted seed. Hopefully one day they will pursue gardening themselves.”

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