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Garden Tour Features Local Gardens

By Marlys Bell , Master Gardener

On Sunday, May 21, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, six Mother Lode homeowners will share their private gardens with the public as part of the 11th annual Garden Tour sponsored by the Tuolumne County Master Gardeners. For each of the next three weeks, this column will preview two of the gardens that were selected to be part of the Garden Tour. This article highlights two of the gardens that have differing approaches for gardening and landscaping large spaces. They are the Montanez and Severin gardens. Next week, gardening in smaller places will be featured. The third article will focus on drought tolerant, water saving gardens using Mediterranean and native plants.

Creating a uniquely personal, private garden in the midst of several acres is a daunting challenge. Planning without space constraints provides opportunities to do almost anything. These homeowners made interesting choices that reflect their personal interests, the site and their overall visions for how their land would be utilized.

Both properties have well-established gardens with extensive landscaping that take advantage of the site´s terrain and existing trees. Many additional trees, shrubs, perennials and container plantings add color, form, texture and variety to implement the desired theme.

The Montanez property is a completely private, romantic, four-acre oasis designed around the native oaks with an emphasis on recreation. The Montanez family started working on their garden before their home was completed more than ten years ago. The result of their efforts is a garden filled with roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and many other different kinds of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals to provide spots of interest and flowers year round. Creative use of trees and shrubs such as laurel, oleander, redwoods, conifers, and red tip photinia screen parking areas and the pool. Over 150 trees were planted to supplement the oaks, manzanita and pines, which were native to the site.

Guiding visitors to the front yard is a path accentuated by rounded river stones and an arbor that frames the front patio that is filled with container plantings. Several islands with foxglove, daylilies, butterfly bushes, and spiky plants like yucca, grasses and Phormium (New Zealand flax) border the grassy area used for practicing golf shots.

The flagstone patio surrounding the pool provides opportunities for relaxing in complete privacy while the ping-pong table is ready for more active moments. Extensive use of groundcovers, flagstone, stone and tree litter mulch reduce garden maintenance.

Rancho Torales, the Severin garden, is sited on the ridge above the Tuolumne River. It is a working olive tree and lavender farm, consistent with the Mediterranean style home and landscape design theme. Other highlights of the Severin garden are the pond, the windswept knoll with arbor, agave and live oaks, and the walls bordering the driveway that were constructed with stones recovered from the property.

The garden, which welcomes visitors, has cacti, palms and a variety of succulent and drought tolerant plants to suggest a sandy desert. The Mediterranean courtyard garden between the main home and the guesthouse is designed for relaxation and reflection with its oversized lounges and flowers climbing the stucco walls. Garden ornaments and native oaks, yucca, agave, Phormium, a banana tree and other plants that look like sculpture tempt visitors to take a closer look. Masses of salvia, Russian sage and other plantings help to create transitions between levels and different gardens. Plants were selected to be deer resistant and drought tolerant.

When visiting these gardens, take note of:

*The creation of “garden rooms” to partially enclose areas of the landscape for more intimate, private spaces for relaxing and entertaining.

*The repetition of key plants throughout the property, the many large sized plants and/or the massing of smaller plants to create a sense of unity and continuity rather than jarring visual confusion resulting from one plant of every kind.

*The transitional devices and plantings that help blend the areas that are left “natural” and those that are more obviously landscaped.

*The placement of paths, walkways, arbors, benches, fountains and garden ornaments to encourage visitors to explore the garden.

* The use of stones/rocks, hedges, and various groundcovers to help define and divide areas.

Tickets to view all six gardens may be purchased at Antiques Etcetera, Columbia Nursery, J.S. West, The Nest and the UC Cooperative Extension Office. The price per person is $8.00. There is no charge for children under 12. The proceeds from the tour support Master Gardener activities such as the library, scholarship, and Cassina demonstration garden. See you at the Garden Tour on Sunday, May 21.

Marlys Bell is a Tuolumne County Master Gardener.