When Eric Welshons attended Atascadero High School from 1980 to 1984, he noticed a small bungalow on Atascadero Avenue near the school that seemed welcoming and homey.
Little did he know that 14 years later, he and his wife, Maggie, would make that home their own.
On the way home from work one day in 1998, he saw a “For Sale” sign and went immediately to the real estate office, called Maggie at the hospital where she worked as a nurse, and said, “I have something to show you.”
Maggie and Eric got as far as the living room in the cozy, 1,530-square-foot house when she said, “We’ll take it!”
It felt like home the minute they stepped inside, they recalled. The romantic 1948 cottage with its narrow, deep yard (70 feet by 140 feet) has been the focus of their creative energies ever since.
Eric, senior personnel specialist at Atascadero State Hospital, and Maggie, nurse case manager at Arroyo Grande Hospital, said that at the end of their workday Friday, they “lock the front door and head for the backyard.”
The original backyard consisted of a typical 1940s concrete stoop by the door, a small lawn and an open field. Eric built a trellis-covered deck, now draped with purple wisteria and morning glories, and started adding raised beds, statues and fountains.
Working as a team, he and Maggie made sketches and designs for the next stage of the project.
“We did 90 percent of the labor ourselves — a good team who work well together,’’ Eric added.
Their younger son and his high school friends helped install the raised bed border stones and landscape boulders.
The focal point of the new backyard design is a crisp, white gazebo surrounded by a new lawn and raised beds in what was the former field.
Maggie, from Pennsylvania and Maryland, wanted the feel of a lush green park, with something in bloom all year around.
“I fell in love with the statues at Pacific Home and Garden, so I created seasonal beds to frame them,” she said.
Her “Spring Ladies” dance among pansies, delphiniums, dahlias and hydrangeas while her sunny “Summer Lion” hosts succulents, cattails, torch lilies and a crepe myrtle. The fall garden inhabits a shady corner under a large oak, showing off their favorite Razzleberry bush, yellow sweet broom and Chinese white wisteria.
The romance of the garden is accomplished by the use of old-fashioned white Banks roses along the fences, sparkling fountains and wrought iron fences; all set off the bright yellow bungalow with its black shutters and canvas awnings. These elements express Maggie’s love of 1920’s era art.
Although the backyard is a wonderful surprise, mention must be made of the small, yet interesting and colorful front yard, which welcomes guests under a spreading old oak. Early spring narcissus, candytuft, daffodils and camellias catch one’s eye.
The Welshons said they “like living in a small home in an older neighborhood” where they can hear the high school band practice and the roar of the football games on fall evenings. Warm summer evenings find them entertaining family and friends in what they call their “comfortable elegant” setting.
And the setting that they lovingly created was at its finest last summer when their daughter was married amid flowers under the crisp white gazebo.
Connie Pillsbury is a freelance writer who lives in Atascadero.