To describe Leslie and Cathy Ferreira’s garden as diversified would be an understatement. It has a koi pond, a Japanese garden and a collection of more than 100 bonsai plants. The standard-size lot also includes two more ponds with waterfalls, two spacious seating areas, each warmed by a gas fire, a barbeque area, aspa, an outdoor shower with solar-heated water and a greenhouse.
The greatest diversity is in the garden’s variety of edible plants.
The fence around the property supports grape, passion fruit and kiwi vines, plus three types of thorn-bearing berries. Strawberries fill raised beds. Of the 42 fruit and nut trees, some have been grafted to produce a total of 61 fruit varieties.
Les, a professor of physiology at Cal Poly since 1978, says that some type of fruit or nut is ready to eat, year-round.
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The San Luis Obispo property was an empty lot when the Ferreiras purchased it in 1983 for their dream house. Les designed and built the house, assisted by a local architect-contractor. Much of the work was done by the Ferreiras, with friends and relatives.
Raised on a farm, Les had acquired many practical skills from his father, who taught that “if something breaks, figure out a way to fix it.” In addition to repairs, Les learned basic construction techniques. When he began planting fruit trees after the house was built, he used his father’s grafting method.
Les’s concept of a foodproducing garden was inspired by a book: Edible Landscaping (1st ed. 1982). The author, Rosalind Creasy, coined the title phrase, initiating the trend to incorporate food plants into decorative landscapes. Les continues to receive regular encouragement and advice as a member of the Rare Fruit Growers organization. He calls the current chair, Joe Sabol, “Mr. Enthusiasm.”
Although skillful, Les doesn’t hesitate to seek expert help with unfamiliar tasks.
Les hand-dug the 250-gallon koi pond and designed and built the pump house, but credits Allen Anderson of The Pond Place on Higuera Street with helping him select the filtration system and other pond equipment. Les also credits fellow members of the Central Coast Koi Club with help in refining his techniques.
“Whatever your problem is, someone at the monthly meetings will be able to offer helpful advice,” he says.
Les knows that the key to creating an eclectic garden without having it appear hodgepodge is to create separate theme areas. Although the garden is filled with plants, each individual area can be appreciated as a separate entity. For example: the bonsai plants are in the Japanesethemed front yard, or grouped on two display shelves along one side yard; the shaded tropical garden surrounds a sturdy Jelly palm; and the cacti and succulents have a separate, sunny patch.
Les says that even devoted gardeners like him must accept the fact that some plants won’t succeed.
“When you see what works, stay with the winners,” he advises.
He believes that the reason most people hate pulling weeds is because they try to do it all in one day. He enjoys pulling just a handful during his daily 20- to- 30-minute walk through his garden.