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Splendiferous in Santa Ana

May 19, 2012

First look

When I read that the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour was happening May 5 and 6 — and that our friends Guida and Danny Quon’s home would be part of it — we had to go! One of my fave RR commenters, Guida and husband Danny came to visit us during last year’s garden tour and sales, and as with most RR readers I’ve met in person, we found them to be warm and enthusiastic … we also found they’d left a bright-hued umbrella behind after that rainy day sale. We tried returning it unsuccessfully several times since that visit a year ago, so this would be our chance to finally fulfill that errand. Little did I know then that a colorful brolly was a Quon garden signature.

. . . . . . .

First impression: Parking in front of G&D’s home in Santa Ana’s historic West Floral Park neighborhood, I was … puzzled. I mean, their front yard was perfectly, well, perfect; but unremarkable in an area loaded with perfectly done-up homes. I held my breath, would this be one of those instances that tested my ability to cover disppointment? … then, over the top of the house, to the left, I caught sight of something amazing. It looked like a branchless tree draped with shreds of … what? I exhaled … everything was going to be fine … this was what I had come to see: The unexpected … Walking around the side of the house and passing through a stunning, curling cascade of what I found was Spanish Moss, I emerged into the Quon’s garden of earthly delights …

Sun block

See? No lack of colorful umbrellas in this garden … in fact color, texture, wit, whimsy, and all the other elements of what I consider a successful garden, were present in such abundance that it took me a minute to gather myself. It was early so the crowds hadn’t arrived yet and we caught sight of first Danny, then Guida, expressing our delight over their amazing garden to each in spite of only having just arrived. I had to see it all and wanted to be sure to take plenty of photographs, so I left Paul to chat. Here are scenes from one of the most exuberant, diverse gardens I’ve ever experienced.

Para sol

How diverse is the Quon’s garden? Well, if I had to tag it with a style I’d dub it Asian Eclectic, with just a touch of classic Euro-Trad for structure in the form of neatly trimmed hedges and statuary. Still, these labels don’t really cover everything, and the busy minds of this creative and well-traveled couple are open to too many things to really limit them. Here, just about any and everything’s invited to the garden party!


Guida, who propagates succulents from various sources, also pots and sells them. She’s got a particular talent for matching plant to pot and had quite an assortment for sale on the tour. I loved this display and think it exemplifies her creativity. An ornate black frame topped with a lime green frill surrounds a pale Venus figure attended by potted offerings in disparate vessels … a shrine? Yep, to possibility, play and a willingness to mix-it-up …


Most of these gorgeously potted  succulents and cacti were for sale … and I say most, because the one piece I wanted most of all was decidedly NSF (a peculiar talent of mine: wanting things I can’t have) … that’s it in the top left position, the leggy turquoise chalice with blistered skin and filled with a dandelion’s tuft-lookalike cactus … gnarly coolness! Across from it I also love the sweet little silver creamer bravely enduring it’s new cactus beehive hairdo … what an amusing  juxtaposition of plant material and vessel. I could go on describing each pot in this photo group but I’ll leave it to you to enjoy the others … have fun!

So succulent

Larger succulents, including epiphyllums in eye-popping bloom, were also for sale. Appropriately, their pots were more sedate by comparison, so as not to distract from their uproarious display.


The Quon garden is parceled into different spaces, each distinct and loosely themed. In the entry to their lovely Buddha house, the mood is definitely Zen and tranquil, with a beautiful Chinese earthen pot used as a pond for goldfish. Tiny plants float on its surface, along with a glazed terra-cotta float topped with a tiny turtle. Carved wood panels, long stemmed orchids and a wall-hung stag horn fern create a calming tableau. The answer to my elevated blood pressure readings of late, I could sit here for hours and watch the fish drift in lazy circles …


The Buddha house also serves as potting shed and bonsai station … the filtered light from its translucent roof bringing every tiny leaf into focus … Outside, a larger bonsai crowns a table importantly.


G&D are fearless when it comes to mixing it up in the garden … calling themselves “gatherers and consumers”, Guida says some of the decorative pieces in their now 14-year-old garden have been there so long they’re decaying. Undaunted, and in a move I totally agree with, she sees this as an opportunity for ridding themselves of the old and bringing in the new. Also like me and my garden, G&D are constantly arranging and rearranging “the furniture” outside … one of the joys we share as creative gardeners and owners of an eye for design. Guida thought of the back garden as “hers” at one time … but, as Danny has added his own touches, it’s now decidedly “theirs” …


Mixed and maxed, it’s easy to pick out pieces that G&D thought were just too-cool to pass up; yes, Miss Painted Concrete Flamingo I’m talking about you! Seemingly tiny details are delights for me and reward my taking a closer look: stacked frogs remind me of classic depictions of the Biblical Tower of Babel (click here), pale blue “bubbles” transform an earthen pot into a good witch’s cauldron and an old galvanized tub becomes a jungle pool when flanked by orchids and lilies. Lots to see, tons to love here …


Carved, composed, poured and etched: Humans and animals cohabit here, all getting along just fine. Aztec, traditional European, artsy-craftsy, the bold and the subtle, they’re all here; each has their place, setting off their corner of the garden.


A large, dramatic birdcage rests on a wooden table and houses a trio of sweet doves, their cage’s architecture softened by more tillandias; the whole tableau a romantic study in shades of rust and gray.


A display of stag horn ferns surges forward, their antler-like shapes seeming more animal than plant … Guida tells me “they buy what they like” then “find somewhere to put it” and again I can identify. I think it’s this type of thinking that leads to the charming and often intriguing combinations of objects and plants in the gardens I enjoy most, including my own. I don’t need to tell you at this point that visiting G&D’s garden has been both inspiring and energizing …


Back to the Spanish Moss: It’s not really a moss at all but a member of that branch of the bromeliad family known as tillandsias, or air plants. Until today I’ve only thought of Spanish Moss as something that draped in tatters from the trees in Southern Gothic tales of madness and murder, a metaphor for the characters’ mental states. Seeing it now, lending surreal new life to a 65-year old dead pepper tree in a Santa Ana backyard, it’s changed in my mind: it’s now a portal between the staid outside world and G&D’s garden, where East meets West and becomes Somewhere Else Entirely.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2012 6:11 am

    LOVE the floral frog tower!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 20, 2012 2:06 pm

      I know, just adorable; I want to make one now, too!

      • Peg permalink
        October 6, 2012 10:14 pm

        My first thought was an ode to the Leaning Tower of Pizza 🙂

      • reubix1 permalink*
        October 6, 2012 10:19 pm

        A very small, but somehow grand touch … Love it!

      • Peg permalink
        October 6, 2012 10:15 pm

        and it’s a beautiful garden!

      • reubix1 permalink*
        October 6, 2012 10:20 pm

        You have to see it to know how grand it really is! Thanks for commenting …

  2. Guida permalink
    May 20, 2012 3:07 pm

    What a thrill to see our garden through your eye, camera and brain. Thank you Reuben. You have opened my eyes to my own garden….now I really know how much I love faces and never knew just how many friends were living here with me. You and Paul made our day. It was delightful to see you. Our time together has just begun. We look forward to our next visit here or there or anywhere. XO Where East meets West and becomes Somewhere Else Entirely. LOVE IT!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 20, 2012 10:20 pm

      My pleasure, Guida, as you can tell! R

  3. Traci permalink
    May 20, 2012 5:21 pm

    This was my favorite house on the tour, hands down! I’m excited you chronicled it so wonderfully, as I forgot my own camera (!!) and was failing to describe it accurately to others.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 20, 2012 10:21 pm

      Thanks, Traci, I’m glad you enjoyed the post … feel free to share it with others!

  4. May 20, 2012 11:21 pm

    Guida and Danny have an awesome garden – so much to look at – so many nooks and crannies.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 20, 2012 11:30 pm

      Awesome, at the very least … both they, and the garden! Thanks for commenting

  5. May 21, 2012 3:07 am

    I’ve never seen anything like it on the Mary Lou Heard tour before — Spanish moss in Santa Ana, who knew! Amazing garden.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 21, 2012 3:32 am

      I’m still a little agog over the Spanish Moss, too, Denise … in fact, I still don’t feel like I saw all there was to see. My favorite kind of garden … !

  6. May 21, 2012 4:25 am

    I just wanted to say that I don’t even know what to say. Really beautiful garden. Thanks for sharing the photos.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 21, 2012 4:32 am

      You’re welcome, as always!

  7. Guida permalink
    May 21, 2012 4:55 am

    How is it possible that you are teaching me about my garden…I started to write that we didn’t talk about the special pieces that are from your garden…did you see them?…I just looked back through the photos and nope, not there……..but what I did see are more faces, little garden friends that you have so brought to life…..I had not, in the photos, noticed my little Chinese man paddling along in the Buddha House……Reuben you have peered into my soul. I am forever grateful. xo

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 21, 2012 5:03 am

      I did see the things you got at the Rancho sale, Guida … but the pictures of them were not great and I wanted to concentrate on your things … and those little things you might have forgotten. Seeing one’s garden through another’s eyes, I found out during our own garden tour, is one of the best parts of sharing it! I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the post… R

  8. Vickie Perez permalink
    May 22, 2012 6:00 am

    What a lovely yard!! I know what they mean about seeing your own yard thru another’s eye.
    Thanks again for the visual trip.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 22, 2012 12:07 pm

      You’re welcome, Vickie! Glad you enjoyed it …

  9. May 22, 2012 8:01 pm

    I know I’m late to this post, as always… what a wonderful garden! How do you find out about the different garden tours? I would have loved to have seen Guida’s garden first hand, but since I couldn’t, thank you for the great photos Reuben.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 22, 2012 8:13 pm

      Oh, you would’ve enjoyed it so much, WF… I’m glad you enjoyed the pics. It’s truly a remarkable place Guida and Danny have achieved. I actually found out about the tour during the Southern Cal. Garden Tour at South Coast Plaza … in a leaflet being passed out by another tour participant. I’ll have to make it a point to share these things!

  10. June 1, 2012 1:12 am

    I got to visit it too, you described it really well. Absolutely a one-of-a-kind garden!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      June 1, 2012 2:14 am

      Thanks, Hoov! I loved it, and Guida and Danny just as much.

  11. June 5, 2012 10:19 pm

    Reblogged this on Renew RCC and commented:

    Spanish Moss
    Ethnobotanic: Various Native American tribes, including the Houma and the Seminole, have used Spanish moss for a variety of purposes. When the outer coating of the plant is cleaned away, tough, black, curly inner fibers are exposed. These strong fibers were useful in many ways. The fibers were woven into a course cloth that was used for bedding, floor mats and horse blankets. The fibers could be twisted into cordage that was used as rope. The ropes were used to lash together the poles that composed the framework of housing. The dried fibers were used to remove scum in cooking. The process used to strip off the outer coating is still used today. Dry Spanish moss was used for fire arrows. The moss was also an ingredient in the clay that was used to plaster the insides of houses. Fresh Spanish moss was gathered, soaked in water and stuffed into dugout canoes to keep them from drying out and splitting. The plant was boiled to make a tea for chills and fever. Spanish moss is still used today by many Native American tribes. For example, the Houma and the Koasati use Spanish moss in the construction and decoration of small dolls.

    Wildlife: Several species of bats including the Seminole bat roost in clumps of Spanish moss. Yellow-throated warblers and northern parulas build their nests inside clumps of living Spanish moss. Several other species of birds gather the moss for nesting material. There is at least one species of spider that only occurs in Spanish moss.

    Other: Spanish moss is used in flower arrangements and as decorations for handicrafts. It is said to be excellent mulch for the garden. Campers, because of red bugs and chiggers do not recommend the plants for use as bedding. If you wish to use fresh Spanish moss you may get rid of these pests by boiling small portions of the plant in water or heating them in the microwave.

    General: Pineapple Family (Bromeliaceae). Spanish moss is a native, perennial epiphytic herb. It is not Spanish, nor a moss, but a flowering plant. The slender, wiry, long, branching stems (reaching 8m or more) grow as suspended, bluish-gray streamers and garlands draping among tree branches and sometimes telephone lines and fences. The plant and is not parasitic, as is often thought, but attaches itself to trees for support. The plant has no roots but derives its nutrients from rainfall, detritus and airborne dust. The stems and leaves are covered with overlapping silver-gray scales, which are important for absorbing water and trapping dust and nutrient particles. It is thought that these plants may play a critical role in nutrient cycling. The very narrow, linear, awl-shaped leaves (2.5 to 8 cm long) are whitish gray. Numerous, small, solitary blue or pale green flowers with three petals (6 to 8 mm long) grow in the axils of the leaves. The flowers, which bloom for a period of three to four months from spring to fall, form interesting seeds (2.4 to 3 mm) with hairy sails that float on the wind and stick to tree branches.

    Distribution: Spanish moss is native to the Southeastern United States and Tropical America. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

    Habitat: Spanish moss grows on trees in areas of high humidity. It can be found on live oak and pines that border estuaries, rivers, swamps, and along the coastal plains of the Southeastern United States.

    Spanish moss may be propagated by seed or by division. The plants are very easy to grow, as they need no soil or transplanting, requiring only warmth and moisture. They are grown in greenhouses or outside in warm climates. The plants need temperature of 70 degrees or warmer in the summer and not less than 60 degrees in the winter. The plants grow well in full sunlight to partial shade. To propagate by division, place divided plantlets on bark slabs in areas with plenty of light and moisture. Mist plants regularly with lukewarm water. Spanish moss rarely blooms in cultivation.

    Although Spanish moss does not take nutrients from the host tree, it should be thinned if it becomes too thick. This is because it may either shade the tree’s leaves or, when it is wet it can become very heavy and the branches may break under its weight.

    Cultivars, Improved and Selected Materials (and area of origin)
    These plant materials are somewhat available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”
    © J.R. Manhart
    @ Texas A&M University

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