Home & Garden

Heely garden in Paso Robles

Jill and Robert Heely garden.
Photo by Joe Johnston 07-14-10
Jill and Robert Heely garden. Photo by Joe Johnston 07-14-10 Tribune

After a long summer day of riding and roping at the Lazy JT family cattle ranch in Bitterwater, Robert and Jill Heely are happy to return home to their shady patio garden and pool in Paso Robles.

Robert, whose main focus is his Paso-Robles based construction company, RHC, was raised on a ranch in nearby Estrella. Jill, a fifth-generation Twisselman, has been around cattle and horses all her life. She manages the cattle and Robert handles the maintenance at the Twisselman Ranch for the family.

Jill’s great-great grandfather, Heinrich Twisselman, came to this area in 1878, operating the Chorro Dairy on current Cal Poly land. After his early death, his wife and five children moved to the Bitterwater Valley, beginning the large family’s ranching tradition.

When Robert and Jill found the five-acre early California hacienda ranch home site in Paso Robles in 2006, complete with pool, pasture and barn, they knew it was “just right” for their family’s activities. Their daughters, Kaitlin and Madison, needed more room for animals, and their folks wanted a welcoming outdoor setting for large family events with room for parking.

To make it their own, they asked their landscape gardener, Fred Garcia, to rework the gardens and grounds. “We came up with an idea, and Fred would think about it and then mold and meld his solutions with ours,” the Heelys said.

Garcia and his crew started in the backyard with a southwest outdoor fireplace and waterfall by the pool, and then worked their way around the yard. Fortunately, they found the original outdoor tiles stored in the barn to use in the new projects.

The waterfall was first, since Garcia needed to bury a 500-gallon water tank for storage, which eliminated the need for chemicals. When the waterfall is off, the water goes back into the tank, staying fresh. The falls create a microclimate under three large old pines, allowing Garcia to incorporate shade-loving Japanese maples, ponytail palms, jasmines and ferns.

Several rows of untended olive trees filled part of the pasture when the Heelys purchased the home. Garcia moved them to sights throughout the property, adding a pleasing gray contrast to the lawns, redwood and birch trees. He used a large pile of river cobble all around the property, creating meandering streams and artistic groupings.

Throughout the entire landscaped yard, Garcia used plants that he could count on that are drought-tolerant and disease resistant. These include the ‘Flower Carpet Red’ rose, the breath of heaven (coleonema pulchrum, ‘Sunset Gold,) gaura, daylilies, agapanthus, crepe myrtle, sedum, and fescue. In other landscaping designs, he may create ‘rooms,’ where each garden area is different, Garcia said. But for their hacienda ranch, he created a cohesive theme to keep it gracious, yet informal and welcoming.

The result? Spectacular! Both the Heelys and Garcia are pleased with the outcome of the two-year project. Garcia continues to maintain the large yard, and his meticulous care is visible.

For Robert and Jill, their new landscaping is a source of refreshment after days spent outdoors on the ranch. The added patio amenities, new entrance and expanded parking have provided the setting for a wedding rehearsal dinner and graduation party for 70 guests. “It’s very comfortable and just what we wanted.”

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