Mike and Therese Olivero’s two-acre property in rural Paso Robles is just plain fun. Starting with bare treeless dirt in 2000, the Oliveros have transformed their backyard into a showcase of interesting garden art amid a vibrant color palette of reds, pinks and purples.
It all started with a flat shovel, used for skimming off weeds, and then creating curving pathways throughout the property. Therese was the main builder of the paths, with Mike bringing her wheelbarrows of rocks to define the edges after decomposed granite had been tamped down. Busy during the day running their family business, Therese would often work on the project at night, wearing a headlamp to light the way.
As the pathways developed, Mike and Therese started planting trees and shrubs, carefully selecting them for their pink or red colors. They chose the multi-trunk pink dawn chitalpa, western redbud, petite red imp crape myrtle and royal red butterfly bush for their flowers and the Chinese pistache, red-tip photinia, nandina and barberry for their red foliage. For background trees, Therese liked the softness and gray colors of the deodar cedar and the deep green of coast redwoods and pines. Hearty standard shrubs escallonia, viburnum, privet and boxwood provided structure and depth to frame both the eclectic displays and smaller blooming plants. For contrast, Theresa sought gray foliage in artemisia, sage, lavender and santolina.
As Theresa describes it, “the garden art is recycled collectible old stuff I picked up at garage sales, auctions, barns, antique and thrift stores.” The pieces are arranged in groups throughout the garden, visible from the meandering pathways, and bring a sense of whimsy and humor to the large area.
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Yet, surrounding the funky garden art is a sophisticated and carefully planned landscape design using repetition, contrast and color to tie it all together. Along the pathways, they placed large and repeating beds of deep pink centranthus, also known as Jupiters beard, red salvia and catmint.
The Olivero’s patio is set up with many tables and chairs, and when asked if they had a large family, she explained that in 1983, they and two other families from Downey in Southern California all made the move to the rural El Pomar region of Paso Robles. They have raised their families together and continue to gather for outdoor dinners and celebrations in the Olivero’s large and welcoming backyard.
Upon entering the garden from the patio, there is a hand-painted sign on a split rail fence saying, “Yes, this must be the place.” On the back, as one leaves, it says, “Arrivederci,” in keeping with Mike’s northern Italian ancestry. For beautiful plantings, fun and lighthearted visual interest, the Olivero garden is the place!