Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Part III- Sherman Library Private Gardens Tour ~ The Purpose Driven Garden

"As in days gone by, kids are given a chance to wander or bound aimlessly in nature. They get to discover the intricacies of a butterfly making a cocoon in the carrots dig for worms, watch gravity at work rolling rocks down the slope, or just lay in the grass to watch the clouds go by." 

~ From the Garden Tour Booklet

The Bernadette and Murphy McCann Newport Beach home is fronted with vegetables and embraced from behind by the Newport Beach Environmental Center. Extraordinary on so many levels- we can start with how it shows why author and editor Lorene Edwards Forkner espouses black in the garden. It introduces the viewer to the garden much as the way a firm handshake introduces a stranger as strong. Trustworthy. Of good character. 

If you love a morning cup of coffee- you would so ~ love~ walking down the side yard which positively percolated with the scent of coffee. The homeowners are fond of top-dressing the veggies with a secondary use for java . Bernadette mentioned she got hers from her local Starbucks- for free. I followed her lead at the local coffee purveyor. They took my name- and at the appointed time- I was presented with a sack ready for pick-up. 

The garden shows the owner- designer (Bernadette is partner with Tammy Keilch in BPM Garden Spaces and Design) as a conservationist. A large percentage of materials found on site were re-purposed and recycled to suit the needs of the new family to call this place home. Not just rearranging and breaking cement into "urbanite" pavers; compostable materials, up to tree size, were ground up and reintegrated into the soil, resuscitating tired soil.   

Robb and Tammy Keilch

This is one of those gardens that when a writer  starts down its paths, the journalist inside screams  this is a garden with a story to tell.  Then pen and notebook at the ready, you look for someone to give you the connection you need.

Fortunately, Bernadette's partner Tammy Keilch was down the hill with her son, Robb.  Only because she authorized the pictures  I was not tackled by the well-meaning docent charged with overseeing the site. Tammy put me in contact with Bernadette. 

The McCann home is more than a garden tour home favoring the latest fashion of replacing lawn with crops. It is more than a conservationist-correct garden concerned with water-footprint. It is more than a beautiful space where hydrangeas add a romantic touch to a vegetable plot.  This is a garden with a purpose. 

This garden began when a beloved child started school with a learning disability. As Bernadette shared, " When does real learning happen? When you apply it in real life."  

She worked with an educator to develop a physical plan to turn her suburban garden into a sensory rich environment where traditional scholastic lessons could be reinforced. Through creatively thinking out how to translate classroom lessons into outdoor adventures, the outdoor stimulation serves up positive reinforcement. 

Bernadette designed the garden as a tool box filled to make learning fun. Besides a playhouse, there is a zip-line and trampoline. This  is a garden where children's giggles intersperse with the sound of rustling sycamore leaves. As a mother, she realizes the garden is not a replacement for traditional occupational therapy; it is an empowering adjunct.

The McCann garden is a piece of paradise Peter Pan might trade Never-land for.Peter Pan by nk.svg

 BPM Garden Spaces and Design phone (714) 335-9132


  1. I remember this garden with admiration for the family's goal to help the disabled child. There was just so much in that space! Still kicking myself for not taking the photos of the lettuce grown down the length of the side fence buried up to their necks in coffee grounds ;-)

  2. What a wonderful mixture of Garden Beauty and Childhood Fantasy....

  3. Thank you two for stopping in. This garden has the attention of a horticultural editor. Yahoo!


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