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Small Gardens, a Special Delight

Gardens have always appealed to me—large or small, one color theme or a kaleidoscope, specializing in flowers and color, or in green and texture. Some have vegetables or fruit trees. I have loved them all. To me, gardens are a delight and can be full of surprises.

It was an interesting challenge moving from a large home in the Bay Area to a Senior Community with small gardens. We were curious to see what others had done and plan what could be done. The gardens we saw were as different as the property owners. They essentially used the same amount of space and transformed it into a reflection of their own interests. Was it to be used for privacy, for relaxation, for entertaining? Maybe a combination of all three. Did they want to spend a lot of time gardening or have an easy care outdoor area freeing time for travel and hobbies?

First and foremost there should be a plan of your vision. How do you picture yourself in your small garden? What will be the purpose of your garden? Since there is not much space, it is important that there be at least a rough sketch to show how that space will be allocated. The tiniest garden can help you achieve an outdoor environment that you can enjoy. If enjoying the outdoors is important but you are not a gardener, low maintenance is crucial.

Both of the small gardens being featured on our Master Gardener Garden Tour on Sunday, May 21, were planned and built by the owners and are being maintained by them. They both have a small space, approx. 14 feet x 30 feet, between the house and the next door neighbor´s fence. One has some space at the back of the house as well. They are very different.

The Osmundsons wanted what they previously had in a much larger area in Walnut Creek: a hot tub, privacy, and a patio space for some entertaining. They also wanted perennial greenery with seasonal color, and more color in small annual beds. They are happy with what they have achieved and do not plan any changes. Camellias are on the left bordering the entrance walkway, azaleas in the beds to the right. Annuals are featured in small beds and a small waterfall makes delightful peaceful sounds. A few small scaled statues complete the entry vision. The patio can accommodate two large tables and to the rear is their roomy hot tub. Privacy is complete with jasmine covering the side fence with beautiful white, fragrant blossoms. At the rear is a very tall fence grown thickly with photinia, whose leaves are very red in the spring. It is truly a private oasis that can be shared with others and often is.

Pat Gibson wanted a relaxing colorful area for outdoor living and frequent entertaining. She and her late husband planned a spectacular waterfall, with five falls, at the side of the covered patio. There is ample seating and a built in wet bar. Her flowers can be viewed by all. She built the redwood planters herself and fills them with annuals. She also created the barbecue pad at the rear. The whole area is totally inviting and welcoming for her guests. There is even a misting system for our hot summers and for the lush hanging fuchsias, not always grown successfully in this area. At the rear of her house is a small private area under a corner tree. Her love of flowers is evident as her plantings provide color, color, color. She says that the garden is easy to care for and that it is always a work in progress, work that she obviously enjoys.

Wonderful ideas can come in small packages. Come and enjoy. Treat yourself to the pleasure of viewing these gardens on the Tuolumne County Master Gardeners 11th Annual Spring Garden Tour on May 21. These gardens and four others will be open to the public from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The ticket price is $8 and includes driving directions to each site. Tickets are available at the Columbia Nursery, J. S. West, Antiques Etcetera, The Nest in Twain Harte, the University Cooperative Extension Office at 52 N. Washington Street in Sonora, and from any Master Gardener.

See you in the gardens on the Spring Garden Tour on May 21.

Phyllis Reichle has been a Master Gardener since 2000 and applies her gardening skills to small spaces.