The Scott garden in Arroyo Grande brightens up in winter

Cheerful garden color warms even the coldest days

Special to The TribuneDecember 26, 2013 

Winter is the time when Robert and Carol Scott’s garden art thrives.

“The art gets hidden behind blooms and foliage at other times of the year, but it comes alive now that everything is dormant,” Carol Scott says.

Because most of the art is vertical, Carol explains, it lifts the eyes up and away from the slumbering plants of winter. With 2½ acres in Arroyo Grande, the creative Scotts have abundant space for their outdoor gallery of repurposed creations to welcome the winter holiday season.

The Scotts, active members of the California Rare Fruit Growers since 1996, also find winter to be the time to work on their unique art projects. During spring, summer and fall they are busy pruning, trimming, irrigating and harvesting more than 80 fruit trees. They’re grafting experts, and most of their trees have at least five grafts of other varieties of fruit. Their trees bear 100 types of apples, 30 varieties of pears, and a host of plums, pluots, citrus and more.

It all began in 1977 when the Scotts, along with her father, built their own home based on a Popular Science Magazine solar home plan. They had relocated from Southern California, seeking a rural life for their two sons and a place to grow their own food.

They filled the once-empty lot with vegetable gardens, fruit orchards, a eucalyptus forest for wood, an avocado grove, redwood trees and many specimen trees and plants. Always “in progress,” the property continues to evolve. For example, the original eucalyptus forest became too tall, so Robert removed it, saving the wood to heat their home, and replaced it with a specimen cactus, succulent and protea garden highlighted by their whimsical garden art.

Robert, formerly a welder, machine and job shop fabricator, creates large metal sculptures out of leftover pieces he collected from various shops over the years.

“I’m all about making art in the cheapest way possible,” he says. He uses the most unusual recycled metal pieces he can find to de sign and weld visually intriguing outdoor iron art. From gears and machine components, tractor parts and springs, he has fashioned fish, trees, human figures, gates and entryways — each unique and notable for the transformation from function to form.

Carol, who creates mosaics of all kinds with “anything and everything,” has filled the property with an incredible variety of colorful displays.

For her, it all started when she returned from a trip to New Zealand, wanting a way to preserve shells she had collected on the beaches. Using a 12-inch square concrete base, she created a mosaic pattern on top. She then started adding porcelain pieces from a broken coffee mug or special plate, and discovered the joy of working with the small tiles to make anything mosaic.

“A lot of my mosaics have keepsakes in them, giving each one a story,” Carol says. She incorporates her own mementos and gathers whatever she can use in her mosaics at the San Luis Sunday swap meet, rural garage sales and thrift shops. Old plates, teacups and saucers all become “repurposed” and incorporated into gates, wall hangings and garden sculptures.

Her love of colored glass is seen throughout the garden as well, especially in her bottle trees and lampbase towers featuring cobalt blue, turquoise, green and yellow glass. Glass door handles and knobs, crystal chandelier parts and old ornaments all become part of an enchanting new creation.

The Scotts’ property authentically reflects their enthusiasm and energy. Retired for nine years, Robert and Carol say they look forward to what each day brings in the garden and in their workshops. Even on these cold holiday days, their cheerful garden color warms visiting family and friends. Merry Christmas!

TIPS FROM ROBERT AND CAROL SCOTT

• To create an inexpensive support wall, collect broken-up used concrete slabs and stack them. Give the wall color by using ferrous sulfate from Farm Supply, using one cup per one gallon of water. Spray on with garden sprayer, using one to two coats. This will give the wall a permanent color.

• To propagate succulents, break off pieces and let dry for two to three days until a callous forms at break, then place in pre-moistened cactus mix. Don’t water too much at start.

• To make your own potting mix, use compost, Perlite or pumice and peat moss. Use more perlite or pumice for a more porous, water draining mix.

•The technique of grafting allows many different types of a certain fruit to grow on one tree. This is especially useful where there is limited growing area.

• For information on California Rare Fruit Growers, Central Coast Chapter and its Feb. 15 grafting clinic at Cal Poly: www.crfg-central.org/  

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