Myra Lathrop was excited when she and her husband, Sonny, purchased the new home on a cul-de-sac in Montebello Estates in Paso Robles. She was excited because this was to be her first house, at age 60, after a lifetime of living in apartments in West Los Angeles.
“For me, this new home was Disneyland,” she said. She and Sonny wanted to escape L.A. and fell in love with the area. “We knew within five minutes that this was the house for us,” she said.
They hired “old timer” landscapers, Bob and Mary Lee Zazueta of Landscape Beautification, to design their gardens. Bob and Mary Lee have been landscaping for 50 years, 20 of those operating the Rustic Gardens nursery in San Luis Obispo (closed years ago).
But it was a trip to Castoro Cellars for Myra that directed the airy Mediterranean theme for the yard. The Zazuetas visited Castoro to see what Myra and Sonny wanted, and went from there to personally create a vision for the property.
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After installing drains and irrigation, Zazueta developed garden vignettes to be viewed from every window. Outside the kitchen is a large flower box full of colorful annuals and perennials while a wisteria-covered arbor accented by lilac, abelia, lavender and salvia produce the outdoor scene from the living room. There’s even a great view of redwoods, a weeping elm, and several colorful shrubs from the bathtub.
Instead of lawns, the Lathrops chose three flowering groundcovers for open areas, dymondia, lippia repens and mother-of-thyme. These require little watering and minimal care, and produce a colorful carpet from spring to fall.
At the back of the property is a large hill, which Zazueta and his helper planted with over 200 prostrate rosemary, rockroses and the fastgrowing, native Fremontia shrub/tree. Daylilies, lavender and flax bring added color to the hill.
“With this being my first yard, I’m amazed at how fast the plants and trees grow,” Myra said enthusiastically.
In the front yard, a small lawn is bordered by rockstrewn beds of native prostrate Manzanita and penstemon, with three dwarf fruitless olives, a dwarf pine and a scattering of daylilies, lavenders, guara and blue grass. Rustytoned berberis make a nice contrast to the compact “Wheeler’s Dwarf” pittosporum lining the entrance walkway.
When the Lathrops moved into their home in May 2008, it was the only home on the new cul-desac. Because of the recession it is still the only home, affording them wonderful views to the northwest.
Although they miss having neighbors, they do appreciate the rural feeling, beautiful sunsets and expansive vistas. Their guests from Los Angeles and visiting children get the best of the view from their northwest facing guestroom windows.
Regarding care of their yard, Myra said, “We don’t need a gardener, as the yard tends itself.”
Bob Zazueta, who likes to keep in touch with his own creations, comes twice a year, spring and winter, to replant, trim and check the water systems. Myra appreciates the fact that he will come over on a moment’s notice if there is a problem.
“Bob came from Morro Bay to check on the new trees when there was a big windstorm here. Now, that’s old-school for sure!”
Myra, a former professional dancer, and Sonny, owner of a high-temperature fabrics manufacturing company, were thankful for the peaceful setting when Sonny was, unfortunately, diagnosed with brain cancer soon after their move.
He continues to be soothed and encouraged by the colors, texture and variety of the landscaping as he faces his illness and treatments. Myra and Sonny met while she was teaching salsa dance classes, and she continues to dance at Jazzercise, as well as raise money for the Relay for Life with her Latin dance lessons in Paso Robles.
With their positive approach to life’s challenges, and deep appreciation for nature’s beauty, they make the most of each day in their Mediterranean garden setting.