Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain~ Sneak Peek of The Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour 2015~ Part II

 A tiny hummingbird rests on a gurgling fountain

"There is not a fragment in all of Nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself."

~John Muir

European Country architecture embraced in California
Fire~Water. Sunshine~Shade.  Active~ Passive.  Hilltop~ Valley. Walk through a garden of seeming contrasts bound into a harmonious whole.

It wasn't always so. Like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, this was a garden in need of someone with vision and tenacity to take charge for it to maximize its potential.  

Enter Michel and Jo Faris. They looked past obvious difficulties (steep terrain and ivy strangling gardens composed of hodgepodge plantings) to the lists of assets.  Mature trees- there were already towering redwoods, ancient coast live oaks and monumental eucalyptus. The plant collections (camellias, roses and azaleas) were impressive in number. 

This was a garden meant to multi-task. It was graced with space and a sense of place. The couple decided they wanted to take on the task. They would guide Le Reve (The Dream) to its best possible self.

Here follows a sampling of how they filled weekends for the last eight years:

A gently arched rail echoes the window detail on house
When the rains come, water tumbles down a seasonal stream bed. The element of water is not just liquid- it is an auditory  connection to earth. 

The borrowed landscape has a wildness to it, enhancing the sense of space

It dissipates through a neighboring field of wild nasturtium. 

Existing roses were moved to sunnier locations
Like solving a Rubik's Cube, Michel enacted a plan which respected "what works best in which areas."  He made note of the mini-ecosystems and determined which were friendliest to specific plants, then went to work. Roses,  lingering unhappily in shade, were gathered and moved to higher, sunnier spots. The camellias are happier where  roses pouted. 

The shaded lower elevations are naturally moisture retentive. Filling in along pathways  with groupings of ferns and hydrangeas maximized the potential for long-term success. 

A most delicious groundcover- mints are allowed to run free in one corner of the garden
Mint is a rather loved as shade-tolerant  ground cover to tip-toe through. On occasion,  as Michel shaves them short, the scents of some half-a-dozen varieties  are released into the air. 

Passing by a leptospermum (so large and floriferous I was tempted to ask if the New Zealand tea tree was fed steroids for fertilizer), we paused at one of their fruit trees. Jo handed me a pineapple guava blossom  to taste. Oh, joy! It was like petals infused with cinnamon. 

 Conservationists at heart, not much is torn out of the garden. A tree fern dies: the trunk is reincarnated as snag to hang a lantern from. 

Rocks reclaimed from site enhance the "not too new" ambiance

Jo is convinced. When she told her builder to "clean off the rocks and use them" for the backwall of the pool, "the contractor must have thought I was crazy."

Colorful lanterns add charm 
When an over-shaded spot of  lawn was removed from the vale, much more practical decomposed granite became the flooring for a newly developed greet-and- eat space. 

The table is a braai- the lid lifts to expose a barbecue grill.
For this couple, South Africa is more than an abstraction. It is a place embedded in their hearts. Not only is it where Michel was born, they were married on the shores of the Crocodile River.  Their home and garden are filled with references and remembrances this other land they both love. 

Jo spent months hunting on the internet for a braai- Afrikaans for the favored barbecue in her husband's homeland. This style of casual entertainment fits perfectly in  Southern California. 

We leave you with scenes from where they start the day. On the stoep. The Afrikaans nomenclature for the small porch  where coffee is sipped and the joys of nature marveled at.

What they see~ One day, hummingbirds may be dancing for position at the feeder. Another day, a Cooper's hawk may be nesting nearby. Everyday, there is a good deal to be said of the virtues of a garden such as this.  

Isabella and 'Bandit' at home 
None more important than the values it imparts to a child. 

A shower curtain for a door to playhouse was mom's idea.
By what she sees her parents create, this daughter of good fortune will grow to know that for success, hard work is not an option. Beauty is born of blood and sweat. In patience and pride.

Next up is a totally different, but equally wonderful garden, in San Clemente. 

Until we meet again- Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.

The Faris family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 
Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141. 


  1. Lydia,

    Again, this place is just beautiful. As I said before it looks like pictures from a child's fairy tale book. The gardens certaily do not look like California. What a treat to see.

    Love love Isabella's playhouse! Adorable. I can only hope that someday our Isabella has a playhouse just half as adorable as that.

    Great work Miss Lydia!

    XO Trisha

  2. Hi Trisha- Glad you enjoyed the garden. That it doesn't "look" like California is what makes it very much like California. What a grand state we live in!

  3. This is all so creative and so very Beautiful....And the way you write about it is just so wonderful, too, Lydia. The work that went into this Garden is truly awesome....!

  4. What an amazing property. I love it that they figured out what did well and where and adjusted accordingly. And, really, isn't that what we all have to do however small our plot?


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