Two Different Tour Gardens, and Trees

 Back in 2019 I attended an Open Garden Day, took some photos, did a blog post about it...and somehow forgot to publish the post.  

This particular garden was not part of the tour.  It was on the walk from one Open Garden to another.  The design and the plant choices were admirable, so I took some photos.  Climate-appropriate plants included  Grevillea, Palo Verde  'Desert Museum' (a big thing here at that time), a young olive, Cereus, Coprosma, Calothamnus, Callistemon, Euphorbia, and the like.  Even an Agave or two. 

There was an award plaque (the grey tombstone-like object in the photo above) showing it had won the grand prize for the local nursery's "California Garden" contest in 2016. 

 Covid and a few other years have intervened since.   This year,  back to the same neighborhood for the same Open Garden Days event, and the above garden I admired in 2019 was now one of those featured.  The front garden was about the same, with only some minor changes.  It has been very nicely maintained.    'Desert Museum' was much diminished, as has proven to be the case with many of them in our area, but the olive tree had grown and was shading a different set of furniture in the sitting area.

2022:  Looking towards the street from the driveway:

Looking at it from the public sidewalk:

 The award stone from 2016:

An umbrella has been added:

This year, it being part of the tour, we had the chance to see the back garden.  The driveway is behind the low wall in the above photo.  On the other side of the driveway, bordering the next property, is a narrow planter nicely stuffed with succulents:

Moving towards the back yard, a fence separating the neighbor's home from the tour garden's driveway is topped with Bougainvillea and Clytostoma callistegioides:

At the end of the driveway in front of the garage door, before entering the back garden proper, was a display of "before" and construction of the back garden: 

As you can see, a modest space.  The designer did an amazing job of using every bit of it in a functional yet charming way.  I roughly plotted it out using the photo:
 a dining pergola (rectangle) and a sitting area (ellipse) surrounded by plantings, enclosed by an L-shaped "hallway" path.  At the far back, behind the short leg of the "L", a utility area for storage, potting bench, herb planter, and waste bins. 

The first part of the "hallway", along the garage.  Choice plants include Leucadendron 'Jester', Westringia, and succulents.
The short leg of the "L", with the hidden utility area on the left behind the fence.  The dining pergola is to the right, behind more plantings and a low fence:
The utility area was very functional and had its own charm:

The roof of the dining pergola is visible at the top of this photo:  the short "L" of the "hallway" is behind this fence: 
A succulent planter against the back fence of the property:
A whole lot of function, hidden away.  More storage tucked in a space behind the garage:
Gardens need a utility area, for the trash bins, if nothing else.  Now to the main socializing area of this property...a panorama shot:

(Typical Open Garden Days lighting:  harsh)

There is a dining table under the pergola, a sitting area with umbrellas adjacent, and room for plants.  The 2019 photo shows the orange chairs were painted white and located in the front garden back in 2019. 

I overheard another visitor ask the homeowner if they ate outdoors much--"Almost always." was the answer.  This was a wonderful garden that seemed to really work as an extension of the home.  Lots of personal touches and personality, too, like the flamingos scattered throughout the garden, all painted in a playful Dias de los Muertos style: 

A second garden on the tour makes an interesting contrast.  

 Larger in size and much larger in budget:  this landscape and the exterior of the home was completely redone in 2021 in the currently popular "Modern Farmhouse" style.   

Boundary fence between the street and front yard. Bunch grasses and Senecio mandraliscae on the street side:

Inside the fence, extensive lawn and narrow straight line shrubbery beds edging the lawn.  The large mature tree (Sycamore? London Plane), part of which can be seen on the right side of the photo, was the only survivor of a previous garden.  Everything else, newly planted:

Bunch grass, Senecio mandraliscae, 'Meyer' Asparagus fern, and boxwood in the narrow planter.  Narrow strip of lawn--why be so stingy with space for the boxwood hedge  and create a mowing annoyance on top of that? 


That was about it for the front.  What more can be said about a lot of lawn?  On to the back. 

I thought maybe Bay Laurel on those shrubs, but the tour description said Ficus nitida.  God forbid they leave any space for fence maintenance.  Eyeroll.  

Pool.  The two-boxwoods-one-Westringia planter--they must have put a whole lot of thought into that.  

Standing on the covered patio attached to the back of the house...

Are the tables always set on your garden tours?  My patio table is full of plants and spilled potting soil.  

A shot towards the other side of the yard.  There's the two-boxwoods-one-Westringia thing again.  There's a spotlight aimed at the Westringia--so maybe those plants were just temporary, for the tour?  A lone young Olive tree behind the sofa in the distance.  There's a cornhole game set up (the game is about throwing beanbags into a hole in a sheet of plywood) on the far side of the lawn.   They must have a dog (burn spots on the lawn).  

And that was it.  It looked like pictures in a magazine and was about as personal. 

 Curious as to what the property looked like before the remodel?  The blurb referred to the house as originally "Craftsman".  Did they tear down an old farmhouse?  I looked on google maps--aha!  Bingo!  A 2020 photo:

Hmm.  I like the "before" better.   Sure, replace some of the shrubs could be replaced (or not shear them into globes), and ditch the ring of plants around the Sycamore, but was lovely.  They pulled the two maturing Arbutus 'Marina', near the driveway.  A gorgeous, slow-growing, climate-appropriate species.  Sigh.  

One of the finest things about the tour neighborhood were several streets lined with beautiful mature trees.  There were streets with oaks, with Sycamores,  and with Jacarandas.

One of the Open Gardens was on a street without any trees, and it was a whole different experience--not just hotter, but also not as welcoming.  Something about a grand archway of trees evokes wonder and comfort.  

There were some strange uses of trees, too.  Stump -as-plant-stand?

Stump-painted-gold-as-fountain-stand?  What's the rope for? 
Old Eugenia cloud-pruned for decades.  With June's typical SoCal flower:  Agapanthus
The Tecoma looked lonely, so I took a photo of it:
An Italian Stone Pine probably original to the street constructed in 1947. 

TThey appeared to have repaired the curb very recently without distubing the tree:
Euphorbia ammaks grow pretty fast here. 30(?) years old at most?  

Just a side glance at the street with all the Sycamores.  It was especially nice.  

Enough for now.  Those lawns!

Do you live on a tree-lined street?  


  1. Why do you think the Palo Verdes aren’t doing well? We have planted a lot of them in the past few years at our Santa Clarita home.

  2. Oh my! The first garden was interesting, with a lot to admire. The second, the farmhouse, was incredibly boring. In light of the current drought restrictions, installing that much lawn borders on criminal in my view, unless the family has a house full of budding football players and hosts practice sessions on a regular basis.

    Our neighborhood is a patchwork quilt of trees, although a lot of the most recently renovated homes haven't invested in trees or landscapes. There's one house nearby that seems to be breaking that mold but I've yet to see what they're going to plant - if its grass, I may cry. The old stone pines that used to form a tree tunnel along the main drive in our area have been dying one after another.

  3. @B Mills Over watered, the trunk snaps. Kept drier, producing slower growth, they are stronger. They are lovely trees--sad to see them snapped off after a strong Santa Ana. With your more intense inland heat they could be pretty happy.

    @Kris, the "modern farmhouse" was strangely generic and impersonal.

    Several remodels here have put in plastic grass. A couple remodeled around their oak trees and now the oaks are dying. Hurts to see that.

  4. The first garden was definitely my favorite! And those jacaranda trees send my heart aflutter... Our street had very few trees for the longest time, but as younger folks move in, that is changing - thankfully! The 2' hellstrips aren't exactly conducive to towering trees, but people are being creative in trying to green up our street, using large shrubs or small trees. Our 70' tall Great Southern Magnolia is by far the largest tree on the block, but it's in our front yard, not in the strip. It litters like mad, but I still love my big tree. <3

  5. There’s a lot to like about the first garden (that low front fence, gorgeous grevillea, orange door and clever use of space etc). I’m puzzled as to why the second was chosen as an open garden? Or do willing participants just put their hands up?

    Sadly our street is too narrow for street trees but our area is pretty leafy on the whole. Unfortunately with all the development and subdivision going on in the neighbourhood, we are losing mature trees at an alarming rate.

  6. @Anna K, Except for the native oak, shade in my garden all provided by large shrubs. Non-plant people (and some professional) don't seem to realize large shrubs amenable to being limbed up make very manageable shade producers without the expense and problems of a large tree with an equally large root system.

    I love the Magnolia grandiflora. Magnificent, gorgeous. Heavenly scent. There are two on our street, one constantly stunted by excess pruning (never flowering because of that) that is all surface rooted and will soon destroy the property's driveway, and one within two feet of our retaining wall, that will eventually crack the wall and really needs to go for that reason. I explained that to the original neighbors who planted it. They laughed and said "We're moving, it's not our problem." I explained it to the next owner, who shrugged. I explained it to the latest owner, who nodded silently and has had it pruned hard. Oh, dear, you've got me started on tree roots...sorry!!

  7. @Horticat,

    They spent a lot of money, and it's in the trendiest style, so it must be good, right? (eye roll)

    The difference between a street with mature shade trees and one with nothing is so dramatic--that tour neighborhood was a textbook example. The street with no trees (there was one) was harsh, stark, and uncomfortable by comparison. The trend of course now is for everyone crammed in together with no room for trees, birds, plants, or anything but humans and hardscape.

  8. The first garden has great curve appeal. They made good use the space, with curvy paths and well placed plants. The second home had no garden to speak of. It looks like an immaculate HGTV flip ready for a magazine photo shoot.
    Thankfully, there was the Jakaranda lined street that took my breath away. The ancient pine tree was rather fabulous too.

  9. I definitely like the first one best. I love tree-lined neighborhoods. It makes a world of difference. Ours is not and it is one of the main things I noticed when house-hunting.

  10. @Chavli, yes and yes and yes and yes. :)

    @Phillip, It does make "a world of difference". It is a shame that allowing for the space to accommodate tree-lining is being discarded in favor of the biggest possible home on the smallest possible lot.

  11. I have to admit I have a stump-plant stand. But it looks much better than that one! I have noticed that the modern farmhouse thing is creeping into neighborhoods here, whether or not the house is architecturally appropriate. One of the really bizzare practices is the fake barn door hardware on the garages. Anyway I agree that house one is the winner.

  12. They certainly need to be getting rid of those lawns. In the not so distant future they will understand why! Old Phoenix has lots of big non-native trees, but not now in the suburbs. At least here we are mostly planting native trees and NO grass. Sometimes I think people live in a vacuum and pay no attention to the world around them!

  13. @ks, I just realized there's a "modern farmhouse" style house three houses down, only it's 40+ years old, looks classic, and in 40 years it will still look classic. But it doesn't look like the "modern farmhouse" houses of today. It looks like a farmhouse.

    But does your stump have a rope tied it, and is it painted yellow?

    @Nancy, Phoenix is so hot in the summer it's amazing grass can survive there.

  14. Come to think of it, our street, has no trees (not even the one it is named for) But our garden does, including one for your horrified owl.

  15. @Diana, owl would stop being horrified and be happy!


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