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Hundreds of roses grace this SLO couple’s Mediterranean garden

I’m a huge rose lover, so any chance I can get to stroll through 300 different varieties in one yard, you’ll find me there. That’s how I ended up in Zaf and Pat Iqbal’s garden in San Luis Obispo — where roses stretch from the front, terraced garden all the way to the backyard.

Their garden also stands out because it includes plants saved from long ago. In 1910 Zaf’s father won Best Chrysanthemum in the Jullundur (currently Jalandhar) Flower Show in India. Gardening was a way of life in their household, with Zaf learning much from his father.

When the couple moved to their SLO home and planned a spacious garden, they first needed to remove huge blocks of cement, old tires and the previous owner’s trash.

The first tree they planted was a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia). It was thought to be extinct until 1944 when an unknown redwood was found in China. Due to World War II the tree was not studied until 1946 and then not documented until 1948 as a new species.

Zaf had been raising a cutting since 1988 and planted the small sapling in the northeast corner of his backyard. It is now a stunning redwood with deep green feather-like foliage.

The rose garden, which I fell in love with the minute I arrived, was not the first garden the couple planted. Just a few years ago their small front lawn was bordered by flowers and fruit trees.

Eventually they removed that and terraced the front area, using rocks for a border, with a walkway in the middle to their front door.

Then they planted rows and rows of every kind of rose imaginable — hybrids, heirlooms, single petal and ruffles, solid-colored, striped, speckled and multi-colored, with unbelievable scents.

But what makes the roses pop are the many other flower varieties planted in the adjacent beds.

There is a flower garden with Peruvian lilies, irises, daisies, geraniums and mums. In the backyard bordering the lawns are gladiolas, Canna lilies, bearded iris and Calle lilies.

A beautiful climbing rose graces the back of the house, reminiscent of an Italian villa with clematis, and more climbing roses border the walkways. A neatly trimmed boxwood hedge skirts a garden of dahlias, snap dragons, hollyhocks, bearded irises and Peruvian lilies.

Along the north side of the house is a stunning flowering Silk Floss Tree overlooking a fountain on the back patio. Another of the Iqbals’ favorite trees is the Ornamental Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans). It produces tiny fragrant flowers that release an intoxicating perfume at night.

There are three magnolia trees on the property along with grapefruit, orange, apricot, apple, tangerine, lemon, nectarine and plum trees — two plum trees, in fact, including a delicious Santa Rosa Plum. The magenta pink paper flowers of a bougainvillea wind along the back fence, making the perfect backdrop for tomato and eggplants to grow.

Chrysanthemums (Iqbal propagates more than 85 varieties of them) and Asiatic lilies almost three feet tall add to the allure of a Mediterranean courtyard. At the back patio, grape vines wind in and out through the pergola with clusters of table grapes among the green leaves.

Every gardener knows a garden is never finished. Plants are added or removed as seasons and desires change.

But the Iqbals have created an awe-inspiring Mediterranean retreat that will only become more breathtaking and stunning as it comes of age.

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.