When Penny Woods had back surgery for a herniated disk two years ago, her doctor told her, “No more bending.”
This was not welcome news for Woods, who has always tended her own roses and tropical potted patio plants at their home in San Luis Country Club Estates. Not one to give up gardening, Woods and her husband, Larry, responded to the news by elevating the garden up to Penny, so she could still enjoy her hobby “standing instead of bending.”
First, the Woods replaced the backyard bush roses with tree roses in shades of peach, orange and pink. Next, they raised all of her outdoor potted plants up on pillars, columns and attractive stands, making them readily accessible.
Located on the shady patio overlooking the 12th green of the San Luis Obispo Country Club, the various clay pots show off several coleus with their brilliantly colored leaves, fuchsia (gartenmeister and firecracker), begonias, maidenhair fern, mother fern, scabiosa, trailing lamium and ficus trees.
By training the pink Alice duPont mandevilla up an espalier, Penny is able to tend and trim with ease. She enjoys potted plants because she can control the environment and care for each plant individually. Her miniature roses, on roller stands, are wheeled into the sun when needed to avoid mildew and promote blooming.
Larry Woods has taken over the “bending” tasks, which include feeding the potted plants every six weeks and treating the roses for insects, rust and black spot.
Queen palms, tree ferns and Japanese maples provide a lush backdrop for the roses and potted plants. A large cedar on the golf course shades the nearby bird-viewing area, visible from the family room. The feeders and birdhouse attract bluebirds, goldfinches, hummingbirds, quail, house finches and doves. This was an especially restful view when Penny was recovering from surgery.
The Woods, originally from Tulare, moved to their San Luis Obispo home in 1996 after living two years in a condominium in Shell Beach.
“I missed sunshine and a garden,” Penny says. I’m a true valley girl.”
They re-landscaped the existing front yard of their new home, adding more palm trees, roses, and two fast-growing and effective lavender starflower (grewia occidentalis) vines to cover the stucco on each side of the garage.
The new small courtyard between the house and Larry’s office was highlighted with tropical bougainvillea, tree ferns and hibiscus that grow, along with the starflower, in moderate San Luis Obispo, but not North County.
The whimsical side of Penny’s garden is that she looks for and purchases plants with meaningful names.
There is Elsie May floribunda for her mother, Heather for her daughter, the yellow St. Patrick rose for her granddaughter born on St. Patrick’s Day, the antique Penelope rose for her own name, and Billy Graham, “just to remember him.” She planted the peachy Sunset Celebration rose in honor of Sunset magazine’s 100th anniversary in 1998.
Rounding out the gardens are several one-variety borders. By filling each border area with just one type of permanent plant, a striking texture or color spot is created. Plants used in this scheme are nandina, society garlic, ferns, and campanula.
The Woods continue to enjoy their sunny San Luis yard, and through their adaptive creativity, Penny has become an excellent “stand-up” gardener.
Connie Pillsbury is a freelance writer who lives in Atascadero.