Home & Garden

Nostalgia for yuletides past

Christmas is the time of year when Mike and Carla Perkins’ garden in Atascadero is at its best.

Their front yard is reminiscent of former times, with a cedar picket fence highlighted by large wooden candy canes, a full size gingerbread playhouse, and wooden snowmen – all made in Mike’s workshop. Nearby, an antique 1800’s buggy that he rebuilt holds brightly wrapped gifts, and is the centerpiece for the lighted yard at night. The holiday color theme is picked up in evergreen shrubs and trees carefully chosen by Perkins. Three types of holly, bottlebrush, pyracantha and nandina add red blooms and berries to celebrate the season. Redwoods and juniper provide a deep green backdrop, while red flowering plum and brilliant gold ‘Autumn Blaze’ pear trees provide eye-catching contrast.

Mike and Carla purchased the three-quarter acre rental property with a 1940’s fourplex in 1973. After Mike’s retirement from the Avila Union Oil pumping station eight years ago, they tore down the fourplex and Carla designed a new home to maximize the east facing view. Moving from a small lot in San Luis Obispo, Mike now had time and space to use his skills and love of projects in gardening and woodworking.

Mike’s motto is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” After construction was completed on the house, he tackled the large yard, doing all of the trenching, underground drainage, irrigation, and outdoor electricity himself.

He built two retention basins for runoff from the sloping property, removed 13 trees, laid a flagstone patio and retaining walls, and began planting from one-gallon cans. “I like to get up early and keep busy,” he says.

He does keep busy, as evidenced by the custom quail-topped cedar picket fence he made to surround the property. All of the 50 posts are supported by u-shaped brackets set in cement, so that none of the wood touches the ground. He calls these his “no rock posts."

Each fence picket was carefully cut on a saber saw, with the quail design drawn on top from a template. Mike says he wore out one Bosch saber saw making the pickets over a six-month period. After sanding, all of the fence elements were stained with Behr outdoor transparent cedar stain. The result is a true work of art.

Since the property is located on a slight hill, the Perkins added a gentle waterfall off the back patio. Mike hired Rock Solid Creations to construct the falls, using rocks he had collected all his life. Beside the falls grow the hearty ornamental strawberry, blue fescue and pink armeria with evergreen favorites, ‘Green Velvet’ boxwoods, Indian hawthorne, and golden euonymous in the background.

Mike’s collection of buggies and an 1850 hay wagon complete the yesteryear theme. Each pre-1900 vehicle sits in its own protective shed to keep off the rain and sun. Two antique hay rakes, one found in the Salinas River and one in a field in Bakersfield, artistically add to the nostalgia theme in the front yard.

The Perkins Christmas garden reflects a former time not only in its decorations, but in the lifestyle of the owners. For them, the joy is in good stewardship, doing it themselves, doing it right, and keeping it orderly – now there are some good old-fashioned values! Merry Christmas!

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