Colleen and Glenn Martin bought their Arroyo Grande home almost 20 years ago. They liked the convenient location — their young son and daughter could walk to the nearby elementary school, and later, to the high school.
Their backyard was spacious enough, and, judging by the worn lawn, appeared to have been a neighborhood playground. Its positive qualities were its generous size, plus a couple of mature trees. One, a gnarly apricot tree remaining from the pre-development apricot orchard, still produces a few apricots.
While the children were young, their yard continued to be a playground. Colleen hung a staghorn fern in the other old tree, and planted a few flowers and small trees in containers and border beds. Glenn hand-mowed the surviving grass, and maintained the trees and fences.
Colleen favors hydrangeas because, she says, “You can make a stunning bouquet with just a few hydrangea blossoms and some fillers.”
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When the potted flowers fade, she plants them in the borders. She cuts them back severely in the fall, and has found that most will survive the winter and re-bloom.
After both children left home for college, Colleen decided to pursue the college degree that she had abandoned when she couldn’t decide on a major. While serving eight years on the Lucia Mar School Board, she had developed a keen interest in education.
Now, she is the college and career specialist at San Luis Obispo High School, and continues to serve on the Lucia Mar Board of Trustees. Glenn also maintains a youth connection as a summer softball coach.
The Martins’ attitude toward their backyard garden evolved after a remodeling project six years ago set off a string of improvements. Initially, a new master bedroom addition extended into the backyard, which made the original patio appear skimpy.
The larger patio they built warranted a wider patio door; it was flanked by picture windows, visually opening the interior to the outdoors. With the entire backyard so visible, they saw that the view required improvement.
They began with privacy screening. Three young redwood trees (Sequoia soquel), were planted along each side yard fence. A previously potted Jacaranda was planted near the patio, where its blue blossoms seasonally carpet the nowhealthy grass. Additional flowers enliven the borders.
The patio’s lattice work provides shade and a sense of enclosure. Color is supplied by bougainvillea vines, flower-filled hanging baskets, and potted plants. A few realistic animal figures, created by artist Margaret Hudson, peek out from between pots.
The backyard, with strings of LED lights that radiate outward from the patio, illuminating the garden after sunset, “has become our outdoor living room,” Colleen says.
Its suitability for entertaining large groups was proven when they hosted their daughter’s wedding dinner, with tables spread across the lawn.
Sharon Crawford is a freelance writer who lives in Los Osos. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.