One hundred is the magic number for Ed Gutzmann of Atascadero. Gutzmann built more than 100 theaters in Southern California and throughout the West before he retired to west Atascadero. But retirement wasn’t part of the plan once he got busy landscaping his hillside property. Friends marveled at the result and asked him to “help” them with their yards.
That “help” turned into a full-on landscaping business resulting in more than 100 projects throughout the area. Gutzmann both designed and did much of the labor on his projects, each one capturing the vision of what the owners wanted to “see” from inside their home.
Landscaping wasn’t new to him, as his father was a landscape architect in Orange County, and Gutzmann remembers tagging along as a boy to the project sites. He’s always loved creating, and with an engineering and design background, landscaping was a natural. As he says, “I have a P.E. (Practical Experience) degree in landscape.”
Gutzmann and his equally creative wife, Joan, moved from Glendale to Atascadero in 1994 after 34 years of “a pressure cooker lifestyle of building deadlines” in Southern California. A friend of Joan’s had suggested the area, and after finding the hillside home that had privacy without seclusion, interesting terrain and beautiful views, they chose the relaxed pace of the Central Coast for their next home.
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Ed Gutzmann immediately began transforming their five-acre property into a rich and verdant garden. The focal point of this beautiful garden is a waterfall he built from stones gathered on the property. It tumbles down amid ferns, lavender and coral bells, all shaded by massive old oaks that provide a tropical canopy for the entire property. A natural sandstone ridge above the waterfall became a visual extension of the water element. Gutzmann used plantings in the upper rocks similar to those in the waterfall to connect the two areas.
The eye then follows the rock ridge to the top of a windmill, framed by the arching oaks. Under the windmill at the top of the property he planted fruit trees and vegetable gardens and built an up per brick patio to take in the view.
Because this property is high enough to catch the ocean breezes from the west, it is both cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than the rest of North County. This creates a lush microclimate under the pro tective oaks that allows for tropical plants, ferns, aralias, Japanese maple, schefflera, camellias and azaleas.
Gutzmann believes that every garden needs a water element, pathways, a garden gate and mounding. “The idea of mountain, river and water is pleasing to the psyche,” he explains. The garden gate and the pathways add the element of intrigue and mystery, with the visitor wondering, “What does the gate lead to, where does the pathway go?”
On the slightly sloping property, Gutzmann uses convenient pathways to draw visitors to different areas, each one with a grouping of plants of varying natures.
For example, a mass of yellow marguerites inhabits one slope, and then an inviting path leads to a bench near a colorful bed of Santa Barbara daisies under a shady oak. “You don’t need to plant out the entire surface of the ground,’’ he says, “just use groups of plants connected by pathways to give the illusion that it is all planted.”
It’s also important not to see the whole yard at one time, Gutzmann says. Screening, open fences and gates slow the eye, but don’t stop it. They cause the eye to go around the structure.
Gutzmann chose oldfashioned pink Cecil Brunner and pink and white Lady Banks roses to grace gates and arbors, and covered a trellised garden seating area with rhythmic grapevines. Along curving fences and lawn borders are star jasmine, fairy roses, honeysuckle and Apple Blossom carpet roses.
Pastel colors in the garden bring a sense of peace, Gutzmann says. He uses these along with whites throughout the entire scheme and then adds accents of red and yellow in small groupings to pop out and give energy. Seasonal choices keep color in the garden all year long.
The original property was mostly weeds under oaks with a small lawn. Over the years, he has added about 100 truckloads of oak chippings, which he gets from local tree trimmers when he sees them working nearby. By repeatedly spreading the oak chips and leaves three inches deep, he has conquered five acres of weeds and created a rich environment for acid-loving plants.
Joan says her husband is now officially retired from the landscape business, and perhaps they’ll take some time to travel in their RV. Meanwhile, he continues to do all of his own garden maintenance, and will certainly keep creating beautiful scenarios in his exquisite garden. And, he says, “I might still draw up a plan or two.”