by SCMG Linda Simonds
This month we will visit three more of the gardens on our Bloomin’ Backyards garden tour scheduled for Sunday, June 6, for a look at how they extend their living areas into their gardens.
Bryce has created a terraced garden with a flagstone bench at the base where she has tucked in more succulents to make the back of the bench. Many gardeners create outdoor rooms with creative use of pathways and plant materials to change the mood—a secret space to read in the shade, a gathering spot around the fire pit to enjoy the evenings, a sanctuary for reflection or meditation. Bryce has a spot tucked away on the second terrace from which she can enjoy the entire garden and a sunset glass of wine.
A kitchen garden with delicious home grown herbs and vegetables should be just steps from the kitchen door. Our Mediterranean climate encourages a broad selection of food crops to flourish, especially heirloom tomatoes in an amazing range of color and flavor. We grow what we love to have on the table. Just above the stone bench, Bryce has planted her strawberry patch enticing you to linger and graze the goodies.
Cooking and serving outdoors is a favorite activity of Bryce and Gary’s. When the days warm up and lengthen, we all enjoy more time outdoors, and Bryce and Gary entertain both family and friends with barbecues in their outdoor living space. Grilled vegetables grown in our own gardens add flavor and variety beyond what is normally found in grocery stores.
Entertaining friends and relatives with comfortable spots throughout the garden to sit, share a glass of Sonoma’s best, and enjoy the surrounding beauty of the place is a great leisure time activity. Outdoor games like croquet, bocce ball, or petanque add a fun way to learn a new sport or to meet the neighborhood in our own space. Gary’s love of golf is even captured in a planted wire sculpture in the garden.
Bryce’s garden borders open space, and the homeowners’ association hires 1000 rented sheep for three weeks to graze the grassy hillside, eliminating the weeds and providing fire protection. An interesting and greener alternative to the noise of gas weed whackers!
A floral designer by trade, Sue applied her talents to meet the challenge of conserving water on a traditional suburban lot. Her practical Master Gardener side started from the ground up, replacing lawns with drought-tolerant perennials that attract beneficial garden allies. When you reach her neighborhood on the tour, you won’t need to look for the house number—just look for the beautiful bouquet she has created with color,
Sue provides a great environment for her grandchildren. The backyard includes a darling playhouse with stepping stones created by the kids and their grandmother. Sue finds the kids don’t miss the lawn to play on—they enjoy the twists and turns of the paths through the perennials. The kids may one day find a garden surprise like a sunflower house woven together with morning glories to make a great natural playhouse.
Providing the opportunity to get the kids involved with seeds and gardening sparks a life long interest in gardening. The raised beds in the edibles section encourage the kids to get their hands in the soil, and to taste a variety of foods fresh from the garden. A worm box is a fascinating addition, and children can feed the worms and help to harvest the worm compost and see the garden benefits from this rich resource.
Sue has a beautiful outdoor barbecue and eating area with plenty of shade for hot summer days. When the family arrives, everyone gathers outside to enjoy the beauty of the garden, the kids play, and everyone lends a hand to enjoy the garden’s bounty.
Propagating plants on site in her portable greenhouse is a very satisfying activity for Sue. She recently created 35 small succulent gardens which she gave to members of the 2010 master gardener training class. You could see the artist’s creativity at work.
Sue has created a beautiful side yard that for many would just be a pass through. “Rosie’s Garden” is signed by a beautiful mosaic hanging created by Sue that pays homage to the family cat.
Nancy’s historic family home has a garden well-tended through the generations and is now a certified bird habitat. This garden is a great resource demonstrating how to create a distinctive habitat in an urban garden setting. Spending time in a garden helps us to focus on the life in the garden. Observing birds and butterflies leads us to plant specifically for their needs—nectar, nests, larval host plants, and teaches us to be a better steward of our land and the life cycle. Nancy’s garden encourages us to sit awhile and observe. Creating a wildlife habitat encourages garden visitors, and provides food, water and shelter for wildlife and hours of enjoyment for the family.
Every inch of space is used creatively: Nancy gardens right out to the road. What for many city homes is just a scraggly strip of grass, at Nancy’s house is an integral part of her garden, with trees, shrubs, flowering perennials and topiary. As with Sue’s garden, there is no problem identifying Nancy’s house once you are on her street!
Nancy’s garden is a full collection of fun, whimsical and useful things—such as the “hanging table” that her uncle constructed for outdoor entertaining, which is a favorite pastime. The garden is a sensual delight—full of texture, color and fragrance. It is enchanting to stroll through, lingering to take in the wonderful color and texture stories she tells with plants and outdoor sculpture. Spending time outside in her garden is not just functional, but entertaining and restorative!
©Sonoma County Master Gardeners