Tour two native woodland retreats on this year's Morro Bay AAUW Garden Tour

A peek at two yards featured in this year's Morro Bay AAUW Garden Tour on April 28

Special to The TribuneApril 17, 2013 


    The Morro Bay AAUW Garden Tour will be from noon to 5 p.m. April 28, allowing visitors to see six distinct gardens in Morro Bay and Los Osos.

    Tickets ($10) will be available at Volumes of Pleasure in Los Osos, Sage Nursery in Los Osos, Coalesce bookstore in Morro Bay and Farm Supply stores in Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. Tickets will not be sold at Miner’s Hardware stores this year.

Simpson garden

When Naida Simpson and her late husband, John, moved to Los Osos 26 years ago, they bought a house in a newly developed neighborhood, where the standard front yard was a swath of grass. Within two years, they had replaced their grass with trees and flowering plants.

Now, two tall purple-leafed flowering plum trees frame the front door, and apple, orange and lemon trees thrive in the reflected warmth of the south-facing house. The ground-level plants repeat the purple shade, or the bright pink of a redbud tree. In spring, masses of Aristea, a tall Iris relative, create a blue haze over low-growing ceanothus, salvia, and African daisies.

The backyard of the property flows seamlessly into the public “green belt” pathway that connects with the Los Osos Oaks State Preserve. A wooden arch defines the property line, but there’s no gate or fence to exclude walkers from the backyard. Simpson enjoys interacting with those who pause to admire her garden.

Simpson has been eliminating all the nonnative plants growing beneath the native oaks in the backyard. She is replacing them with native plants to restore the oak woodland understory. Taking a break from gardening, she can retreat to the shady brick patio along the north side of the house. A built-in koi pond and large pots of green, shade-loving plants enhance that relaxing setting.

Another favorite spot for relaxation is her greenhouse around the corner, where multiple varieties of orchids and bromeliads yield their exotic scents. Rarities include an Indian curry plant, an insecteating pitcher plant (Nepenthes), and a large Brunfelsia, which produces large purple flowers that gradually fade to white in about three days.

Davidson garden

Todd Davidson lives next door to Naida Simpson, at the end of a cul-de-sac. His property also abuts the green belt, as well as the Los Osos Oaks State Preserve.

As proprietor of Sage Ecological Landscapes and Nursery in Los Osos, Davidson has long been a proponent of native and other low-water-use garden plants. Most of his garden design clients request a mix that includes low-water plants from other dry regions, along with the California natives.

Sensitive to his location by the Oak Preserve, Davidson decided to create a 100 percent native plant garden, stating in an email that he “felt it was quite an obvious and natural choice to honor the Oak Preserve with native plants.”

“To be clear,’’ he noted in the email, “the plants are not all in situ local natives — I chose natives that would thrive in the design and the oak woodland /chaparral ecotone.”

He planted a meadow of California creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra) for his young son’s play area, and installed a natural stone path that leads to a council ring around a gas fire pit. As a final touch he added LED up-lights to “paint the majestic, grey, elephant-trunk-like oak limbs with light.” He even took a leaf and bark from a live oak to obtain laser-matched paint colors for his house paint.

Garden visitors, whether they are native plant purists or simply garden lovers, will appreciate Davidson’s site sensitivity.

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For more information on the garden tour, go to

Sharon Crawford is a freelance writer who lives in Los Osos.

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