Bobbye West Thompson is a local watercolor artist who has turned her creative imagination loose in her garden.
Nine years ago, she and her husband, Kim, moved into a nondescript house in Bay Ridge Estates in Los Osos. They removed the front lawn and built a 3-foot terra cotta wall along the sidewalk and driveway. A green wood gate was added at the driveway, at the start of the stone pathway to the front door.
The house was painted a lighter terra cotta with green trim to complement all the beautiful colors she would add to her garden. A Strawberry Tree anchors the front area — with Dusty Miller, red geraniums, rosemary, ferns and succulents filling the front yard with texture and color.
Like all gardens, it is never finished and Bobbye has removed or relocated plants in the front yard twice.
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What is unique about her garden is all the pottery totems. Several years ago she bought a teapot totem at a local store and placed it in the front yard.
With her artist’s eye, she knew she could make those, too. She collects a variety of objects in one color family and then her husband, Kim, drills holes through the bottom of each piece and stacks the items on a piece of rebar. Kim said it has been a learning curve, noting that he has broken a few pieces along the way.
Bobbye will sometimes go back to a piece weeks or months later and rearrange its pieces to create a new look. With 19 totems and counting, she still manages to find time to design other unique objects for the garden. Most notably are the wood projects that Kim has made.
As with the front yard, their backyard was pretty basic. There were two levels, with a Meyer lemon tree and three orange trees separating the spaces. A 60-year-old Live Oak is at the back of the property, adding wonderful afternoon shade.
Two years ago, they removed the bottom lawn and put in gravel with a cement curb edging. There are two brick planters in the center of the gravel with lavender, euphorbias and succulents.
The upper level is a small patch of lawn with cement pathways winding from the garden room to the hot tub, ending at the pergola Kim built. He believed lattice was too common so he removed all the wood slats and created a unique pattern to frame the swing hanging from the pergola. Brightly colored sitting areas are positioned along the garden’s outer edges. Each area has a color theme using pottery or glass, wood projects from Kim and colorful low-water plants.
As you walk through the garden, there are hidden treasures throughout such as the wood-trimmed gravel area that displays her grandfather’s wheelbarrow. Planted with grasses and succulents, it is a reminder of when her grandfather used to haul compost to his vegetable garden long ago.
A brightly colored gate that looks like colored pencils leads a visitor from the upper walkway to the lower garden area. Made by Kim, it’s a nod to Bobbye’s past profession as a teacher. A wooden arch, several feet long, is placed below the orange trees and curves upward with translucent blue, green and golden bottles along the edge.
It looks like a multicolored setting sun between the two levels. A bright red, barn-themed shed was on the property, but another old dilapidated shed was torn down and replaced by Kim, painted green and red to match. A small vegetable garden of artichokes and tomatoes is tucked among the totems in the back corner.
The end result? Rusted artifacts, bright painted furniture, colorful flowers — an explosion of color, texture and scents. An artist’s perspective has created a truly unique garden for all to enjoy.
Tami Reece lives in Paso Robles and has been gardening and preserving it’s bounty for 30 years. Email her if you know of a unique or beautiful garden at email@example.com.
▪ Use found and discarded objects to create unique treasures for your garden. Everything looks fresh and new when painted with bright colors.
▪ Create your hardscapes, such as walls and pathways, first. Fill in with mulch or gravel, then add plants and garden art.
▪ Place mirrors in old wooden windows. Hang on fences to create depth in garden.
▪ Thrift stores and garage sales are great places to find inexpensive garden art. Different items can be grouped together as long as they are in the same color family.
▪ Add items that have a history. Maybe a toy wagon from when your son was young or pavers collected when the city replaced an older street.