- Author: JoEllen P Myslik
Unfortunately Carmen’s Garden isn’t a place you’ll be able to visit now that the Vallejo Garden Tour is over, but I’ll share some of my pictures and insights with you so hopefully you won’t feel too sad that you missed out on it in person. Although this is “old news” now since the Vallejo Garden Tour was on May 19th, my new friend Carmen deserves to have her beautiful garden bragged about!
As a Master Gardener “newbie” (Graduation: May 10th, 2012!), I was a bit nervous about being a docent for the Tour, but was relieved to share my duties with a seasoned veteran, Trishae Rose. And once I saw Carmen’s beautiful garden, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to talk to anyone about its beauty!
Carmen and her family have a lovely 1920’s home situated in the historic Bay Terrace neighborhood of Vallejo. One of the unique aspects of the garden is that it is comprised of approximately 5 different levels, each with its own interest and different types of plantings. Perhaps the most remarkable part of the story is that Carmen, with the help of her daughter, transformed this area in the span of only two months when she was approached by the organizers of the Garden Tour to participate! Because of this detail, I thought it was imperative to show “before” and “after” pictures so visitors could really appreciate the transformation. So I printed Carmen’s “before” pictures and posted them on two different sandwich boards for visitors to see the comparisons.
When visitors arrived at Carmen’s lovely home, no doubt they were impressed by the interesting architecture of the home and peaceful fountain at the front entryway. Guests then made their way around the house, along a narrow & somewhat uneven brick pathway and as they entered the back gate, they stepped into the magical world of Carmen’s Garden!
The back patio is set up for a relaxing yet upscale outdoor dining experience, including a Spanish-style candle-lighted chandelier, plus beautiful plants in the border garden beds and in patio planter pots as well, including a variety of succulents. Throughout all the levels of the backyard garden, which also boasts a hot tub(!), there are a variety of beautiful plants – Plectranthus, Lavatera assurgentaflora (Tree Mallow), Gunnera tinctora, Hydrangeas -- most of which Carmen included just because she liked them. In fact, she didn’t know much about plants at all, but purchased/placed the ones in her garden simply because she thought they were nice and they suited her taste.
I should note that Carmen has been an Interior Designer for many years – the inside of her home is evidence of her amazing talent – but it was clear that she really has a knack for being an ‘exterior’ designer as well! However, amazing talent aside, one very important rule Carmen abided by to help her choose her plants wisely, was to choose plants that fit the right location: full sun, shade, wide growth area, in pots, etc., plus the majority of her choices are evergreen and perennials so they will maintain a level of beauty year-round. So whether you have a knack for design, you’re a Master Gardener, or just a plant enthusiast, Carmen’s Garden is a wonderful example that we can all create a beautiful garden in our own backyard if we do a little research first!
- Author: Betsy Buxton
Were you one of the smart gardeners who signed up to work with Ken Williams on the Vallejo Garden Tour? You weren’t – you didn’t? Boy, did you miss a great time touring through the selected gardens!
Lanie (newbie) and I (oldbe) were assigned a garden on Fern Place. Since this short street is right off Tennessee St near downtown, I figured that my directions were wrong; surely I didn’t err in following MapQuest! Nope, I correctly read the map, but what a difference 1 block off a main drag can make!
As I slowly went down the street, “casing the joint” so to speak, I began to forget the traffic noises and began to relax, enjoying the landscaping as I passed? Is this the place? NO!! Can this be the one?? NO!! Finally toward the street end, I saw the banana tree (Ensete ventricsum) with its deep red leafstalk and red-tinged leaves. I was there! Getting out of the car, I could barely wait to see what else was growing here!
Oh no, nobody answered the door! Was it the right day and wrong time or the wrong day and the right time? I squared my shoulders and walked down the driveway past the roses, past the gladiolas, and closer to the garage. There were pots of cacti, succulents, and other goodies that confirmed that no car ever went this-away!
There was my host, Mario, and his “helper” watering and weeding in honor of our visit. Apparently he figured that we would criticize if it weren’t “perfect”! With all the grassy weeds in my yard, I don’t point fingers at any one!
What a yard! The most gorgous exotic shade garden I have ever seen! There were pots (big ones) full of cannas; those wonderful striped leaf ones (the ‘Tiger’ series); ferns galore in even larger pots; Brugmasia, both in pots and in the ground; an enormous Philodendron bipinnatifidum with the deeply cut leaves at least 3 feet long and as wide at the stem!
All of this was growing in the shade of an Acacia tree, which was very well behaved – no suckering from the roots. Three water features, one with small koi swimming around in the basin, kept the noise from the side houses and the rear neighbor at bay.
I couldn’t understand why visitors kept mentioning how warm it was; my feet thawed out around 1pm! Looking from the shelter of the tree, I noticed just how sunny both neighbors’ yards were; I was comfy!
Leaving through the garden gate with its arch of grape vines (in barrels), the visitor was then amongst Mario’s collection of sun plants, including a Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’, and then back down the driveway past the roses and to the street.
Having a river rock ground cover with both many large stepping stones and small intimate seating areas made the garden seem very large; of course, the large mirror pieces reflecting key pieces of garden statues and featured plants helped also!
Except for the large tree, this is a young garden! Mario and his life-partner, Calvin, told us that there was nothing in that back yard seven years ago when they moved in! All the work and all the planning was done by the two fellows with help from their large circle of friends! As I told them: “ya done good!”
PS: Mario asked me for a possible plant list to add to the already exotic look! I ended up trading him 2 Cymbidiums for 2 small Canna rhizomes! He thinks he got the better side of the trade. Boy, he doesn’t know!
On June 1, the entire group of volunteers goes on a “field trip” on all the gardens on the tour! I can’t wait!
PPS: Thanks to Ken Williams who coordinated this tour!
- Author: Bud Veliquette
On May 19th I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the eight gardens listed in the 2013 Vallejo Garden Tour. My focus was on intimate gardens, places where one could do some quiet reflection or meditation or to talk quietly with an intimate other.
Of course, there is an ornamental and utilitarian (such as veggies and cut flowers) side to gardens, and there was plenty to be seen along those lines. But looking at gardens from the “quiet reflection” point of view gave me purpose and a framework from which to look, not to mention inspiration for creating my own. And I found plenty of what I was looking for.
Many of the gardens had special places, some sun-drenched, and some inviting filtered light, and often with the sound backdrop of a wonderful fountain, with a seemingly unlimited array of styles and sounds. In fact,
I found many interesting water features, including a waterfall in one corner of a small backyard garden, cascading down a 6-foot slope. At that same location, creeping fig (Ficus pumila) nicely covered what might otherwise be an unsightly wall of concrete block.
What inspired me was the combined plantings of perennials and annuals often as an understory of larger shrubs and trees. There were countless Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum), one of my favorites for color and form. And clumps of geraniums (Pelargonium), meticulously placed for their shady or sunny locations, often with lush splashes of ferns.
And interspersed among the foliage and color were interesting statuary and other “garden art objects”, too many to detail here, but very fitting with the intimacy of each location.
A favorite ground cover was Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis), which can take sun and fill in nicely between pavers, adding to the feel of a softly carpeted area.
All in all, it was a gorgeous day, and I came away inspired to use much of what I saw as ideas to create my own quiet garden space.
- Author: Trisha Rose
Greetings, I spent this past Sunday as a docent for the annual Vallejo Garden Tour. I spent the day at an historic bungalow on Napa Street. The owner has converted her wrap around front and side yards into a successful edible garden. She and her "rent a husband" removed about a foot and a half of the existing clay soil and brought in garden soil. They built up mounds for raised beds and brought in many half barrels to house a variety of greens, herbs and vegetables of all sorts. Two existing trees, an ancient willow and a palm, were removed after failing simultaneously. Now citrus and fruit trees have found a place in this bountiful garden. The owner adds her compost to the soil twice a year and has established an elegant drip system that takes care to supply just enough water directly to each plant. This organic garden is maintained by feeding the soil rather than the plants. What a refreshingly beautiful result. It doesn't hurt that original art appears in the inner courtyard among the tall (yes already in May) stalks of corn and exuberant Yellow Fin Potatoes.
This home is located in a neighborhood of graceful homes mostly built in the 1800's. The overall garden isn't that large, but what this urban gardener has accomplished is truly inspiring with her wrap around space.
What I have found over the past three years viewing the many gardens on the Vallejo Garden Tour is a real sense of artistic endeavor coupled with ingenuity and effort to make a place of accomplishment. These results have expressed a desire to grow a healthy community and share a spirit of joy to all that care to take a look.
Next time you have a chance, spend some time in your local community gardens, you won't be disappointed.