Home & Garden

With wonder and a sense of whimsey

Variations in stonework: carved Asian figures stand on a gravel-topped mound beside a dry stream of river rock and a serene pool in the large enclosed back yard of Susan Schneider and Joel Siegel.
Variations in stonework: carved Asian figures stand on a gravel-topped mound beside a dry stream of river rock and a serene pool in the large enclosed back yard of Susan Schneider and Joel Siegel. TRIBUNE PHOTOS BY JAYSON MELLOM

When Susan Schneider and Joel Siegel moved to Morro Bay two-and-a-half years ago, they downsized from a high-maintenance dwelling near Sacramento. They wanted to simplify their lives.

They love their new location with stores, restaurants and the waterfront within walking distance. Plus, they see Morro Rock from their upper level living room and deck.

When they arrived, the house and garden both needed work. Joel, a recently retired college professor, and Susan, a self-employed energy consultant, redesigned the home’s problem areas and have had the house remodeled to suit their lifestyle.

They also tackled the neglected garden, reusing garden materials they had moved from their former residence. Their first project was a paving-stone patio near an entrance that had been overwhelmed by masses of Pride of Madeira, melaleuca and manzanita. The completed patio is surrounded by a border of the mature plants, left to screen it from the street.

The main entry to the house was reconfigured, both inside and out, to be more convenient and welcoming. The enlarged entrance porch is safer, with space for potted succulents, and it’s surrounded by colorful plants that flower year-around.

In the wide front yard, the couple created an amusing scene they jokingly call “a river runs through it.” It features a dry stream with two bridges. Many of the whimsical animal figures there were gifts from friends and family. Susan is delighted when she glances through her office window and observes passers-by enjoying the view.

A wide space between the street and the fenced back yard is highlighted with shrubs in lavender shades, including lavender and osteospermum. Passion vine, bougainvillaea and jasmine eventually will drape the entire fence. In the meanwhile, two planters attached to the fence and two on the ground occupy the spaces between vines.

Joel worked with Keith Gaffney Landscaping in designing the spacious garden enclosed by the fence. The paved patio, with a fountain in one corner, is partially shaded by an overhead deck and a huge pine tree. The space could accommodate a crowd, but the ambience is cozy enough for two.

Joel’s interest in Asian culture is exhibited in the way the soil is mounded, with plantings reminiscent of Japanese gardens. A path leads to a rock-lined pond where cyperus and equisetum grow. A granite bench completes this meditative scene.

There’s also a practical aspect to the enclosed garden. Along the back fence, four citrus trees and two young deciduous fruit trees will provide food, seasonal blossoms and visual screening. Winter color comes from tea trees (Leptospermum sp.) in three different shades, golden breath of heaven, and a ground cover of variegated dead nettle.

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