Preview the Morro Bay AAUW Home Tour

We offer a preview of two of the gardens to be shown in Morro Bay’s AAUW Home Tour in April

Special to The TribuneMarch 5, 2014 

Dr. Seuss would feel at home with Melissa Gilchrist’s aeoniums because they have grown so large they resemble something that Horton the elephant might stumble on.

Melissa and husband Bob moved into their Monarch Grove home in Los Osos 13 years ago. Even though the landscaping was a simple green lawn and plants on the periphery, they liked not having to deal with it right away.

Today, color is everywhere, especially in spring. Purple hopseed bushes, Mexican weeping bamboo and silver pittosporums provide a natural screen for their outdoor room.

Step through a low gate way onto a flagstone patio and find yourself transported to the Mediterranean. The curve of the low patio walls complement the home so completely, one might think both were built at the same time.

Melissa tries different plants in different locations until she is satisfied with color combinations and texture. Her method certainly works. She mixes grasses, blooming perennials and succulents to great effect.

Blue chalk (Senecio mandraliscae) unifies throughout the different planters and in many of the colorful pots.

More colorful pots greet visitors near an atrium-like area by the front door where a specimen giant Honey Bush (Melianthus major) with a great silhouette and nodding dark red blossoms holds court. Twin camellias on each side of the walk with reddish pink blossoms assure color through the winter. Leatherleaf and foxtail ferns bring lacy texture and welcoming green to the entry.

A pair of turquoise Adirondack chairs and comfortable woven outdoor wicker furniture lets visitors know this space is enjoyed and shared. Two more Adirondack chairs in moss green and more woven wicker surround the fire pit with its turquoise glass rocks.

The outdoor room is so spacious and use of turquoise as an accent color in this room by the bay is very clever. Ceramic balls float on a sea of Mexican river rock and several ceramic fish hang from a driftwood wind chime.

Hike through a pathway past a towering angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) to find many mounted clay pots, filled with succulents along the fence toward the back of the house.

Although the backyard is narrow, a lengthy imposing arbor covered in red trumpet vine gives the space privacy and an air of permanence. A huge peppermint geranium flanks one end with its bright green fuzzy foliage.

A patio umbrella shades comfortable chairs, which give relaxing visitors a great vantage point. The chairs are extremely light weight so they can be moved about the garden easily.

King and Queen palms tower over Jerusalem sage and a variety of ornamental grasses in shades of orange, green and blue.

Both Melissa and Bob like the useable space the new outdoor room provides.

They say it’s much nicer than grass and more water efficient. Because it’s so eclectic it’s practically a museum of plants and, consequently, is beautiful throughout the year.

Cayucos Victorian has old fashioned charm

The Victorian home and garden of Ken and Darlene Kaberline is as charming as its owners. The creekside location is surrounded by a white picket fence, hand hewn and designed by Ken from salvaged bridge timbers. The Victorian needed lots of work when the couple bought it in 1979. They rebuilt the porch, reactivated the well, built a potting shed, and added on to the home.

“We do it all — whatever gets done, gets done,” Darlene said. That goes for everything from laying brick to trimming trees to replacing house siding.

A large Haas avocado tree shades the lawn between the house and the well, which is surrounded by a low brick wall. Ken’s hand carved planters holding Aloe plicatilis show off their orange flower spikes.

A trailing lobelia spills out of a wooden planter designed by Darlene so it can swing by the kitchen’s french doors. Hollyhocks punctuate the line of planters along the back fence next to the creek. Also along the fence are leopard lilies ready to leap into bloom once summer arrives.

An unusual sago palm, estimated to be 70 years old, has finally sprouted three fronds after a so-called expert had pronounced it “DOA.” It is near Ken’s art studio, which was built to replicate a Harmony cabin from a century ago.

The space is a nest for hatching Ken’s whimsical gourd birds. He is one of two featured artists at the Cayucos Art Center the first weekend in May. His birds combine gourds, handmade paper and seaweed.

Yellow primroses brighten a hand-laid brick path. Darlene designed the path and Ken followed her direction, she said.

A large foxtail asparagus fern thrives beneath a hanging pot of donkey tail. On the old-fashioned front porch another donkey tail and Darlene’s grandmother’s wicker planter keep company with a bonsai bougainvillea. Pots of succulents and cactus decorate the fence near the potting shed, which hangs out over the creek.

The Kaberlines have a generous spirit: They take cuttings from plants located throughout their garden, pot them and grow them for sale as a donation to the Cayucos Garden Club’s annual sale.


Today’s gardens are two of five that will be on a self-guided garden tour from 2 to 5 p.m. April 27 sponsored by the Morro Bay American Association of University Women.

Tickets are $10 each and available at all Farm Supply locations, Volumes of Pleasure Bookshoppe and Sage Ecological Landscapes & Nursery in Los Osos and Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay. The tour raises scholarship money for local students.

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