Visiting a storybook garden complete with white picket fence, trained blue jays and a rose-covered arbor makes one want to take a moment to simply breathe in the beauty.
That’s Valerie Levulett’s garden in a nutshell. It is one of five marvelous gardens featured in this year’s Garden Tour planned by members of the Morro Bay branch of the American Association of University Women. The tour is from noon to 5 p.m. April 24. The $10-per-person ticket is one of spring’s best bargains.
A garden is never static. Levulett, who retired from many years at Caltrans, looks for the best possible location for each plant as she moves both potted and established plants to gain optimum visual and growing advantage.
Entering through the custom arbored picket gate, bookend blush pink roses (Sally Holmes) greet visitors. These climbers can provide nearly year-round color. Fifteen rose bushes grow along the white picket fence. Two impressive princess flower shrubs with large royal purple blooms echo the color of the front door. Bright gold Mexican marigolds (tagetes lemonii) contrast dramatically with the purple.
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Red brick pavers curve gently toward side yards. They replaced dirt, dead grass and rangy geraniums that were in the yard when Levulett first bought her home in 1991.
Several colors of alstroemeria (Peruvian lily) intertwine with lavenders, wine-colored penstemon, foxgloves, coral bells, violas, pansies, day lilies and spring bulbs.
Wending through the side yard, camellias and large orange, yellow and red blooming abutilons (flowering maple) delight the senses and thrill local hummingbirds. Winter blooming orange and yellow Kaffir lilies along the path are so content in the dappled shade they have multiplied beyond one’s imagination.
Upon entering the backyard an array of color dazzles the eyes. Anchored by eight camellias, including the incredibly beautiful blushing Nuccio’s Pearl, Cecile Brunner and yellow Lady Banks roses climb a trellised fence and charming garden shed.
A recently installed herb garden fronts a selection of fruit trees, including loaded Meyer lemon and the low chill Beverly Hills apple. African daisies in burgundy and mauve compete for attention with terra cotta pots filled with assorted annuals such as pansies, purple violas, and white nemesia.
Take time to sniff the air and the overwhelming scent of lemon comes directly from a large upright lemon verbena shrub. Listen, and the neighbor’s hens are proudly proclaiming their latest offering, blue jays make their desire for peanuts known and mating doves coo from the wires above. A small fountain with bamboo spout adds resonance.
The west side of the yard is completely covered with blooming roses and a bright purple potato bush. They create a shady canopy for more Kaffir lilies and pots of many different succulents.
A large Australian tree fern reaches under an equally large smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria). In autumn the smoke bush will be covered with panicles of orange, red and burgundy puffs recalling puffs of smoke.
When visiting Levulett’s garden, don’t resist trying out one of her many colorful Adirondack chairs. Take a deep breath and enjoy the view.
On another garden stop, a tribute to California natives
The former juniper garden of Rene and Howard Howard on Morro Bay’s northern slope is now a tribute to California natives and a charming addition to the Garden Tour.
Unusual scarlet California poppies compete for attention with pink blooming buckwheat (eriogonum rubescens), golden yarrow and Pink Flamingo muhly grass.
Wooly blue curls can be tricky, but the robust, healthy plants in the Howard’s garden demonstrate what custom-mixed soil can accomplish.
Coastal breezes don’t disturb a sunny southern patio complete with loaded orange tree, ‘Silver Sheen’ pittosporum and full shrubs of Westringea fruticosa (coast rosemary). A hedge of lavender star flower (grewia occidentalis) softens the fence along the southern border.
Sprawling Galvezia speciosa, commonly known as showy island snapdragon, shoots sparks of red blooms during the spring and summer.
Hummingbirds particularly enjoy sipping the nectar these plants provide.
The Howard’s garden is one of five special gardens featured during the Morro Bay branch AAUW Garden Tour.
If you go …
Garden tour tickets for the five gardens featured from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 24, are available from all Morro Bay branch members of the American Association of University Women. They are also available at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay, Volumes of Pleasure Book Shop in Los Osos, Farm Supply stores in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles, and Sage Landscapes in Los Osos. Tickets are $10 per person.