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100-year-old walnut tree inspires this peaceful ‘edible landscape’ in Atascadero

Tour a peaceful garden oasis at this Atascadero colony-era home

Glen and Melinda Forbes have transformed an Atascadero colony-era home's yard into a garden oasis, with a massive 100-year-old walnut tree in the front and fruit trees, rose gardens and flowering vines throughout.
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Glen and Melinda Forbes have transformed an Atascadero colony-era home's yard into a garden oasis, with a massive 100-year-old walnut tree in the front and fruit trees, rose gardens and flowering vines throughout.

One year shy of its 100th birthday, a massive walnut tree grows in Garden Farms subdivision in Atascadero. It is now over 80 feet tall and at least 8 feet in diameter and was planted in the front yard of a home that E.G. Lewis was adding to his already growing Colony Holdings back in 1918.

According to property owners Glen and Melinda Forbes, it is not quite an English or black walnut, and the meat is nonedible, but the squirrels seem to like the nuts.

Over the past 30 years the Forbeses have filled the rest of their 1½-acre lot with fruit trees, rose gardens, natives, perennials and flowering vines, but the walnut tree remains the focal point of the garden.

When the Forbeses first moved into their home, built in 1918, little else was growing besides the tree. The lot was covered in weeds. A few heirloom roses were growing near and around the house, with hollyhocks, love-in-the-mist, larkspur and feverfew sprinkled throughout the property.

Today, a huge 100-foot honeysuckle tree shades the barn, which was once falling down but has been beautifully restored. Multicolored irises grow near a 30-year-old grapevine and a pecan tree that is not watered except by annual rains.

Toward the south side of the house is a vegetable garden already overflowing with artichokes, several varieties of lettuce and heirloom tomatoes. A greenhouse is near the vegetable garden and is used to propagate plants by seed or cuttings so they can be planted throughout the garden or given to friends. Seeds are collected and donated to the Seed Savers Exchange.

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A greenhouse is located near Melinda Forbes’ vegetable garden and is used to propagate plants by seed or cuttings so they can be planted throughout the garden or given to friends. Forbes collects seeds and donates them to the Seed Savers Exchange. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The Forbes property is a textbook study of “Edible Landscaping,” the practice of planting edible plants or trees within landscape plants. All throughout the property are fruit trees next to landscape trees with apple, pear, almond, weeping plum, nectarine, pistachio, olive and fig — to name just a few.

Beautiful blues, pinks and purples are sprinkled throughout the property with many of the flowers from a wildflower mix purchased from Annie’s Annuals. Flax, bachelor buttons, honeywort, calendulas and snapdragons will all reseed once the season ends.

Melinda’s mother was a weaver, and in her honor a rose garden was planted in a weaver’s pattern. Cecile Brunner, Alchemist and a wood rose (Rosa woodsia) are a few of the roses growing in the landscape.

The back porch is covered by a wood pergola and sometime ago a grapevine volunteer started growing near the stairs. It now covers the pergola and offers added shade during the hot summer months.

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A grapevine grows on the back porch pergola at Melinda Forbes’ property in Garden Farms, Atascadero. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Along the base of the back porch is arugula, cilantro and chard intermixed with columbines, larkspur and a spice bush that has an intoxicating cinnamon/allspice smell. A Japanese maple is in a pot nearby and an old umbrella stand with a metal canopy is covered with a passion fruit vine.

Melinda is a member of the California Rare Fruit Growers and has grafted several trees, including one plum tree with multiple varieties.

On the east side of the barn kaleidoscope-colored peach, pink and yellow Playboy roses grow along the eave.

Next to the neighbor’s fence on the north side of the property is a “fence compost.” Along the existing fence, a low four-foot wide fence was placed.

The Forbes and their neighbors throw yard waste into the area and allow it to self-compost. In the middle of the garden well hidden by the shrubs is a three-bin compost system. Both are occasionally “harvested” to add needed nutrients for their garden.

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A bee collects pollen from a rose along the porch at Melinda Forbes’ home in Garden Farms, Atascadero. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Bees have taken over a large birdhouse near the beautiful wisteria growing on a wooden pergola. Roses near the rocking chairs on the front porch release their floral scents.

And as the wind chimes gently sway in the breeze, the front porch beckons you to stay a while and enjoy this amazing peaceful garden.

Tami Reece lives in Paso Robles and has been gardening and preserving its bounty for 30 years. Email her if you know of a unique or beautiful garden at rosepetalranch96@gmail.com.

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