Jean and Peter Herring enjoy gardening together at their beachside Morro Bay home. Jean is an artist, and Peter has a talent for stacking rocks and training plants. Both admire traditional Japanese gardens.
The garden reflects their mutual interests and abilities.
Their home had been Jean’s vacation cottage with her first husband, who died. After making it her permanent home in 1993, Jean expanded the living area (sacrificing some beachside deck area to do so) and added another bedroom. Since their marriage, Peter has contributed his carpentry skills to several interior improvements.
Outdoors, a recent project involved a streetside row of mature Hollywood junipers, with branches sweeping the ground. Their density projected a gloomy, unwelcoming appearance. Removing the lower branches created a new garden area, now planted with multicolored Impatiens and Erodium (cranesbill geranium).
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Erodium also serves as a ground cover beneath a row of formally pruned wax-leaf privet along the driveway.
Across the driveway, two Japanese lanterns perch atop tall wooden posts. Near the front gate, a neatly pruned bottlebrush cherry and a tidy row of succulent Aeoniums enhance the walkway that encircles the house.
Typical of waterfront lots, the property has narrow side yards. The Herrings’ passageways are tended to become attractive parts of the garden. On the south side, a solid wood fence is covered by vining fig, Ficus pumila, while low-growing baby’s tears (Soleirolia) fills the narrow space between the fence and concrete walk. A living wreath of tidy succulents enhances the opposite side.
It’s a delightful surprise when the narrow walkway opens into a rectangular bay of the house, 18 by 20 feet in area.
Three windowed walls overlook the Herrings’ Japanese garden; a glass door provides access from indoors. Sheltered from the wind, Hinoki false cypress, black pine and numerous other plants thrive.
Volcanic “feather rock” contributes to the naturalistic appearance of a large, three-tiered fountain. Near the fountain, a classic Japanese lantern sits atop rocks, skillfully stacked by Peter.
Fish, in varied media, form a repeated motif through the garden. Two, of carved and painted wood, hang on the Japanese garden’s wall. Another pair, of wire and semi-precious stones, decorates the house wall nearby. On the back deck, three large, carved stone fish are handsomely displayed on square concrete plinths that Peter made. A square planter, painted to echo their muted color, completes the arrangement.
On the north side of the house, the Herrings and their neighbors agreed to keep the space between houses unfenced. Attractively maintained as a single garden, the passageway appears more neighborly. The Herrings are anticipat ing another neighborly gesture this spring — their garden will be open during the Morro Bay American Association of University Women’s annual garden tour on April 29.
Sharon Crawford is a freelance writer who lives in Los Osos.