Pre-Tour de Force
Okay, first things first: The Riverside Flower Show and Garden Tour pre-tour crowd loved the Rancho, and yes, I really was worried. After all, the other five participating garden owners and the Master Gardeners of UCR would be visiting and who knew how judge-y they might be, right? Well, they weren’t judge-y at all and I didn’t hear one negative comment other than I might consider adding red tape to my step-downs for less-agile visitors during the actual tour. Lots of pictures were taken, gushy compliments were kindly given and questions about how I arrived at such imaginative solutions were fielded. It was fun. Tiring, muscle-straining fun. Also fun was visiting all the other gardens on the tour; they included an obsessively detailed, amazingly expansive, miniature railroad landscape; a cozy-shady neighborhood retreat, a meandering and charming cat-lovers paradise complete with bountiful raised vegetable beds; a color-saturated cottage garden with charming rustic touches; and the gorgeously colorful garden of an equally gorgeously restored Victorian house. If there was a common thread to be found in such diversity, it was that each garden was very personal to its owner (whether designed by themselves or someone else). Of course, the Rancho was no exception in reflecting its owner … perfectly so, if I do say so myself! So, for all of you who weren’t along for the preview and who won’t be able to attend the actual tour next weekend, pictures from the Rancho pre-tour. Enjoy! …
Moving from the front area, through the side deck, visitors are introduced to the garden gradually. I admit I love following them through here because as the garden spreads out before them they invariably gasp in surprise, then say how beautiful it is. This sore gardener’s greatest reward …
My recently-acquired block seats made nice perches for pre-tour visitors … and they looked darn good, too. A fave cast concrete antique garden ornament provides ironic amusement … at least for me.
Recently transplanted ‘sticks-on-fire’ succulents add a nice punch of hot color to the planted bed on the lowest tier. In the background, my echium pride and joy’s purple-blue floral spears coolly contrast. Sad story: This same Pride of Madeira was three-times-as-large, and completely bristling with vertically thrusting purple spears as late as Wednesday of last week … when a frenzied windy spell caused it to break under its own weight and killed most of it. Heartbreaking, but in gardening, as in show biz, the tour must go on …
The concrete-and-classics temple area was re-worked with new plants and new elements like the crossed spears metal stand and the mini-Acropolis, and it delighted many a garden guest … most of them amused by the realization that they were looking at concrete scraps and discarded forms. The salvaged industrial windows that make up the temple’s backdrop were also a big hit … one of my best estate sale finds!
Under our big tree, my vintage fiberglass cube chairs show off new cushions, while in the background rusted kitchen kitsch trays camouflage unsightly detritus. In the rear, the mini-patio I made out of our neighbor’s discarded concrete incinerator waits for a sitter.
Two strung-vinyl vintage chairs, an African stool and a concrete-and-river-rock birdbath face the cube chairs. Behind, our newly rock-rimmed berm plays host to a diverse collection of objects, ornaments and plants. The rocks were free, found on craigslist, and we transported them in two trips on a recent rainy Sunday …
Moving back toward the house, the garden’s lowest tier is planted with an assortment of colorful plantings. Our rock collection ‘fountain’ was a source of lots of commentary at the pre-tour; another stony windfall, they all came from a local storage unit and for an amazingly low price for specimen rocks.
I’ve been adding some new colors to the Rancho’s color palette, blues especially, and this is an example of that. An icy blue chunk of slag glass is used as a jagged stopper in large pale bottle and put on a pedestal. I love the contrast of the cool blue with the aloe’s yellow blooms and how the glass’ translucence plays off the diverse foliage surrounding it. A knife leaf acacia shelters a shy garden babe; it was a favorite of garden visitors with its attractive shape, size and jagged-but-not-sharp foliage.
Another favored spot for visitors was this planted bed backed by a painting too big to hang inside the house. Paul’s fountain was a big hit, especially when he turned on the water so that it bubbled out of the little ceramic head inside. Euphorbias, senecios and a large aloe flourish here and complement the painting perfectly.
Back at the house, our trained bougainvillea tornadoes upwards where it will fulfill its new role as camouflage for unsightly air conditioning ductwork. More succulents, our traveling little red garden thinker and massive metal sunburst fill out the corner and add interest.
Having so many interested visitors over was enjoyable … answering their questions and trying to remember when we did what while putting the Rancho together, required some thought. Thankfully, this blog gives me a great point of reference and goes a long way toward pinning down dates and times. It was gratifying hearing people comment on the Rancho’s garden, seeing their delight in my endlessly changing projects. My favorite comments were that for a succulent/cactus/low water garden, mine wasn’t ‘dry’ as they dreaded, and was instead imbued with color and diversity … another noted that it had the feel of an ‘art gallery’ with something gorgeous to look at at every turn as they moved through it. We were given a commemorative wooden bench with engraved plaque, an unexpected host gift.
For tickets and further information on the Riverside Flower Show and Garden Tour, click here. It’s next Saturday and Sunday, and we plan to be on-hand to answer questions and greet visitors … stop by and say hi!