Friday, June 13, 2014

Gardens for retirees

Last weekend I toured a number of gardens in a Del Webb development just outside of Manteca with my friend Rosemary.   She and her husband sold the big house on the hill with the multi level gardens and multi level living spaces, in favor of downsizing to this development.    One of the first orders of business is getting the landscaping done, as it was a brand new home on bare ground.  The developers put in the front yards, but the back yards are left to the owners and a host of landscapers and nurseries.     They right away hired a designer whose work they had admired, and she set out to design pathways, a lanai, seating areas, patio, and a plan for plantings.      Down to the pouring of textured concretes, and ground covers, mulches, etc.    They did not opt for a water feature.     They are fortunate to have a view across their back fence, of Mt Diablo in the distance, so there will not be any back to back gardens on her side of the street.  It is greenbelt behind them.       Wide plantings and wider paths for dog walking.  It's all so nicely done.     

Her garden is not large.   I expected all the properties there to have similar size gardens, but we were both surprised to see some very large gardens on our tour.   Here are some pics and comments.

 First let me tell you what I expected to see.     Perfectly manicured lawns, lots of concrete patios, minimal upkeep.      I was in for some surprises.

Most of the gardens on the tours had very elaborate water features, running streams, cascades, waterfalls, rockery and alpine plantings.     The sounds were delightful and perfect on this very hot day.   Most of the gardens are freshly done.  Many have been there less than a year, so the plantings are still small.     When the trees mature it will block part of the fencing and make them feel more private.  The fencing is actually very beautiful, compared to my beat up old faded wood.     I loved it.    And I loved the choices of plantson this first garden in particular.  

 I was very surprised to find many of the yards had raised beds for vegetable gardens.     I really love this because it raises the level, looks so tidy and would be easy to maintain.       Look how wonderfully healthy and strong these veggies are looking.     
My little garden has gravel p aths, and they are very narrow as my garden is small and like to cram in all the plants I can.       Here in Woodbridge  most owners have chosen wider paths, great for entertaining outdoors or for wheel chairs is and when they are needed.    Also cuts back on maintenance.  

There were many different textures of paths.   And the use of stencils carving into the paths was evident in many of the gardens.      Here and there as an accent.  

 This one used a lot of alternate ground coverings to break up the space.   I liked this little seating area. And how open and spacious an area without clutter.  This was the side area, where we entered through a gate.   We had yet to turn the corner to see how really huge this space is.
Here it is.   You can see this is one of the larger yards, with several seating areas.    Lots of the people had chosen tree roses in their landscapes.  Seems like such a sensible choice as they are easier to take care of - no bending and stooping, and the roses are so happy there.     Most every garden had them in full bloom.  I don't know how they orchestrated that.    

 Here is another type of raised planting bed.      Isn't this the neatest thing?   I'd love to have these with the seat around it for kneeling or sitting.      Everything is within arms reach.   A bug or weed wouldn't stand a chance here.      I'd love to have a big planter of mint and every bearing strawberries.     Hmmmm......    
 This is another large garden with a huge water feature.   They don't have many trees started yet, or they are so small they dont' show up.   But the plantings are nice and again the water cascading down makes a delightful sound.      This garden had several water features, fountains positioned near the patio and against the house.     
 Here is something else that took me by surprise.     This garden boast a vineyard of their own.     Wow.   How cool is that?    This is in another very large yard along the side of the hosue, not right out back in patio living area.      I think this is amazing.   I wonder whether the  owner or the landscaper thought it up.    

We were given a little booklet with the owners names and  pictures, a description of their gardens, and the names of landscapers.      I left mine behind, but now wish I had it for reference.    
 Here is a quirky garden.       For quirky people.     This whole yard if sectioned off with all kind of quirky twists.      In a corner of this portion of their garden is an new/old outhose with a lit up picture ot elvis in the toilet seat.   And an old sears catalog alonside on the seat.     I told you it was quirky.    

 Some of the gardens used water features that were not the giant streams and cascades.    And I'm sure saved probably 15+ thousand dollars.     I didn't see solar fountains.    Surprised me a bit, as I love my own solar fountains.  Of course they are less permanent and power untis need to be replaced more often - but for ten dollars, I'd rather replace every year then have to have a crew of people out to repair or replace larger pumps.

This particular garen used a lot of stone and dry landscaping.     I'm from the high deset in Nevada, so I felt at home in it.     I didn't see any sage brush though.       
 Here is a conversation piece.  Edward Scissorhands must have roamed through here and did his magic.    The homeowner maintains it himself.    
 This is another vegetable garden with vines spilling over the edges.   It's melon season, and squash.     This is another side gaarden.      I expected to find narrow side yards, but the houses that are on the outside of a curve, benefit by much larger lots and wider side gardens.    It's almost like a separate space.  Charming.
 This is in another slightly quirky garden.      Succulents and shells.     I thought perhaps I had gone too far West and landed at the beach.       This is another side garden, against the house.
 Oh my.    This one has been her longer than the others, so the trees are more mature.    Some of the landscapers are planting redwoods.      In the hot valley.       Yes, they do grow here. The university has a redwood grove next to the student center/ dining room.   We often are in the redwood room or on the deck to smell the trees.  

But massing them into these gardens, I can't help but wonder what they think will happen in 25 years.    This seating area is on a raised area.     The garden is huge and making an intimate seating area in the corner, raised up like this is something I would not have thought to do, but I loved it.     I'd want to take my friends out there for a snack and cold drink.    Or sit and pet the dogs there.    

Here is another rose.   And a little staute.     I was expecting a lot more statuary in these gardens.  Some ohad quite a few decorative things like rusty plant stakes, and other ornamental things, but not as much as I expected.

We caught up with a crowd of touring guests in one of the smaller gardens.     Everyone was out getting ideas and names of plants, which some owners had labeled just for that purpose.     

 This garden has those wonderful planting beds and lots of rock ground cover.    This is a smaller garden but they have managed to break it up with plantings for minimum maintenance and yet, it is interesting and has a lot of variety.
 Here is on of the stencils carvings in the concrete.   Rosemary has a large compass on her patio, painted or stained so it stands out better.     I like the sun also, but would have done some colorizing.     
 The woman that owns this property has just barey moved in.   She does not even have her window covering installed yet.   She had the garden designed for absolute minimum maintenance.     Her house is huge so I guess she'll spend a lot of time cleaning.   LOL   Does not leave much time for yard work.        These planters are great with the seating..
 Here is her back garden which is wide but not deep.     Paths and rockery keep the maintenance down, and here is the only garden on the tour that used faux lawn.    Yes, it is not real grass.   No  mowing, no water, and it looks very real to me.      
Here is her brand spaking new water feature.  Cascading down a long narrow stream.      Miminum planting so far.    I'd want to plantt more along the fencline to make it seem more natural, but she seems very happy with it and was sitting on patio with a friend enjoying their lunch listening to the sound of the stream.

        This is a trick shot.  It's actually in my own garden.      Thought I'd just throw it in.   
 These last two are pics of Rosemary's place.     First is the now pic.      So charming and with interesting curves and plants, breaks up the boxiness of the space.      Compare it to the way it looked in December before they moved in.
 Yes, this is the clean slate the started with.    They are fortunate to have the large trees on the greenbelt behind their yard.     It makes it so much nicer with the iron on top of fencing to let in the light and still affords them plenty of privacy.  We walked the walkway around back. It is very vide and the path is probably 15-20 feet away from fence with lots of plantings in between.      
Here is the front of Rosemary's house.  I think that's my car in driveway.     LOL  

That's all for the tour folks.      Did anything surprise you?       It sure did me.