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The Bryant garden in Atascadero features whimsical garden charms

Atascadero Lake is visible beyond the terraces of Larry and Helen Bryant's garden in Atascadero.
Atascadero Lake is visible beyond the terraces of Larry and Helen Bryant's garden in Atascadero. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Walkers and joggers around Atascadero Lake are familiar with a sweet little terraced garden that charms them with color and nostalgic reminders of childhood.

The garden has been lovingly tended over the years by Larry and Helen Bryant, who moved to the home in 1998 when they retired from 3M Company in Northridge. Larry Bryant’s mother was the second owner of the home, built in 1956 on the west side of Atascadero Lake.

The Bryants removed the large shrubs that blocked the view of the lake and contracted with Armet’s Landscape to create terraces with curved decorative concrete blocks. The terraces accented the existing stairway on the sloping lot from street level to the picket fence along the front porch.

The terraces are now alive with color and garden statuary depicting innocent scenes of children at play: children on a seesaw, a slide, and playing tug-of-war. Classic poses of a boy and girl sharing a soda, a kiss on the bridge, and sharing a garden bench evoke a former time when children played outdoors all day and life was simpler. The scenes create a bit of a “Norman Rockwell” moment for the viewer.

The traditional theme of the garden art is matched by time-honored plant selections. Roses of many hues provide the structure throughout the various levels, while classic bulbs of daffodils, iris, daylilies and agapanthus bring seasonal color. Wide beds of white candytuft line the stairs, and California poppies light up a corner.

“We alternate the pansies and petunias, planting the pansies in the winter, and then the petunias as it starts to get hot,” said Helen Bryant.

When asked about the origin and meaning of the many “children at play” statues, Bryant replied, “I started with one, the boy and girl on abench, and added as I saw ones I liked, and then friends began to give them to me, and now I have a collection!”

One granddaughter (of 12 grandchildren) refurbished all of the statues with a fresh coat of white paint two years ago, which mirrors the crisp white of the picket fence and house trim.

Bryant’s goal is to present her garden as a cheerful mixed spring bouquet. She has carefully planted to bring color throughout the seasons. “I’m not a botanist and don’t know the plants by their scientific name,” she said. “I’m just a gardener who loves color.” She has enjoyed going out in the garden and working, visiting with the lake walkers and neighbors.

Another neighborly touch is that when the Bryants thin and divide their bulb plants, they place the extra bulbs in bundles along the street for neighbors and lake visitors. This coincides with the small-town atmosphere along the lake, where people chat and visit. “We found this area to be so friendly and welcoming. Everyone says good morning, and lake visitors stop to enjoy our garden,” Bryant said.

“This has been a wonderful place to spend our retirement years,” added her husband, Larry. “Living on the lake is like living along the beach, with many people walking by all the time, birds and wildlife, and different moods on the lake at morning and evening.”

Their garden has been the catalyst to meeting many of those people, as they stop to tell them how much their colorful display adds to their routine walking around the lake.