a garden tour

“The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies.”

Gertrude Jekyll

Let’s pretend…Once upon a time, on a sunny summers day, you find yourself strolling along our lane. You come upon a little old cottage, the color of rain, set deep in an enchanted garden, It’s all wrapped within a blue a picket fence.

Intrigued…you pause to peer deeply into the shaded areas behind the vegetable beds nearest the fence. You spy an older couple working or resting there. You’re greeted with smiles and the offer to, “Come on in, and tour the garden”.

So…if you have a few moments now, and you’re interested in seeing where we spend many a happy hour…

Come on in – Tour Our Garden!

    “Here are fruits, flowers, leaves and branches… here is my heart…” 


A step inside the Garden Gate brings you to our version of a four-square herb garden. The beds are filled to the depth of a two-by-six and centered on a brick-paved patio. Closely planted with culinary herbs and interspersed with seasonal vegetables. It’s small. Each bed is only about eight square feet; but it yields enough tomatoes, peppers and eggplant to freeze sauces and share the abundance with neighbors.

Our collection of succulents thrive in the magnified heat of this tiny desert space, blooming profusely in the bright sunlight. This collection of terracotta pots form the birdbath, setting the tone for the theme of container gardening found throughout our tiny yard. Specimen plants in well worn terracotta pots are placed at intervals throughout with traditional plantings around every corner.

Moving north, into the shade of the heavily laden grapefruit tree, and looking back into the sunshine beyond the fence, tomatoes and marigolds suspended in bamboo tepees bridge the path between the four-square beds and another raised rectangle, this time filled with roses, bordering the lawn. In this small garden, space is maximized by using every trick of doubling and layering we can think of.

Fruit and berries are mixed into the garden both as container plantings and ground cover. A tasty freestone peach resides in a half whiskey barrel, underpinned with strawberries and flanked with a metal shelf bridging the path.

While it may sound tedious to the non-gardening folks who visit us, we have learned to love the exceptional richness of texture and pattern achieved by our layers of green. Light and shadow, sunshine and shade, work together to bring the illusion of space to what might otherwise be considered a tiny garden plot.

Thanks to our Zone 9 climate we are able to grow both traditional garden varieties and semitropical plants with equal success. The cottage is flanked on the south with a guava and a pomegranate; on the east with two huge pots. One contains a Meyer lemon the other a navel orange.

Each tree offers seasonal treasures not only for feasting but also to
delight the senses and fuel the imagination. As an example, shell-like petals of the guava blossoms surrounding a fringe of gold tipped crimson, beg to be photographed, drawn and painted again
and again. The artist must work quickly, however… before local mocking birds move in to gorge themselves on the sweet delicacy.  When we first observed the mockers warring with scrub jays over the petals we could not imagine what all the fuss was about. So we tasted the flowers! Now we know. Each fleshy petal is the flavor of ripe fruit and honey. I suppose it’s fair to say the guava is allowed space in our garden purely for it’s entertainment value.

The lemon, orange and grapefruit provide amazing perfume in March and luscious fruit until June thus paying for their space.

Most years, in early spring, our garden will experience a major renovation. The four-square herb beds stay almost exactly as you saw them above. Everything else is subject to change.

In California, gardens outgrow themselves on a regular basis. Pruning and trimming is an ongoing gardening chore but every few years, a complete update is required to maintain order.The real challenge to gardening in zone 9 is keeping the look and feel of a garden that’s been there forever. In my personal estimation most homes are surrounded with landscaping… not gardens!  I’ve been told I have an English Gardener mentality in a tropical setting, and the two are not particularly compatible. Ah well…

Even goldfish outgrow their allotted area eventually. So… a few summers ago, rather than get new fish, we opted for a larger pond., placing it closer to our favorite seating area to bring the sound of running water more into focus. A very nice bonus when reading or resting on the small shaded patio.


I suppose if there was any disadvantage to moving the pond it was disturbing the toads. There was quite a bit of grumbling and complaining as they packed their small possessions and relocated to new quarters under the rocks of the larger pond.

Moving into the shade beyond the herb garden our garden guests find a couple of comfy chairs and a small table, usually graced by a plant in full seasonal blossom.

Early morning light washes across the garden, bathing the small patio and new plantings in gold. This photo captures a tapestry of leaf shapes and textures, sunlight and shadows. One of the most satisfying things about the way we garden is the ever changing beauty of each small patch of scenery.

A few steps beyond the chairs is another paved area where we enjoy having cook outs several times a week from April through September.

Somewhere in this garden you can always find a spot  perfect for taking a few moments away from any task. I love it… morning, noon or evening! It’s difficult to remember when there were only weeds and a a few neglected patches of lawn under these trees… but sure enough, when we moved to the cottage in 1996 that’s exactly what we faced. Here’s where I pause to give credit where credit is due. Dick moved every pebble and paver, dug the fish pond and planted most of what you’re seeing. My share of the gardening comes in much smaller projects. I care for the herbs, water the containers, sweep the paths and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! There must be about four or five trucks full of top-soil, pea-gravel and pavers in this small paradise. I’m thankful for each and every inch of it, and I acknowledge every ache and pain Mr. L earned making it so.o.o. beautiful.

country gardener