Monday, April 12, 2010
One of the first things I did, when deciding whether or not to landscape the house, was go on the Theodore Payne Foundation’s annual spring garden tour. Located on the north side of The Valley, the Foundation is a natural preserve that grows, promotes and sells drought-resistant California native plants. The tour features homes throughout the county and is a fun way to educate folks about the joys of going native. I was completely inspired and swore that if our yards ever looked half as good as the ones I saw, I’d ask to be part of the tour.
Two-and-a-half-years later, I applied to have our house included on the 2010 tour. The application--a multipage questionnaire--not only asked which plants we have (tour homes must have at least 50% California natives), but also our gardening philosophy, how often we water our plants, which animals (birds, bugs, etc.) visit our yards, how we discard cuttings (we recycle), etc. I also sent photographs of the yards from the previous spring.
Several weeks later, the tour coordinator paid a visit to see our gardens firsthand. Although we had worked our butts off getting everything ready, the front yard was clearly a disappointment, with its abundant hawthorne bushes, star jasmine, euphorbia, and flax (all non-natives). But she loved the backyard, which far exceeded the 50% rule, especially since most of the plants there were purchased at Theodore Payne. Two months later I received an email congratulating us on being invited onto the tour. Now the real work work began!
For weeks on end, we spent hours and hours and hours weeding both yards and pruning unwieldy wildflowers and plants. We bought and spray-painted a metal bench for the backyard and were thrilled when our agave started to grow an enormous 15-foot stalk. We held our collective breath in hopes it would bloom in time for the show.
Finally the big weekend arrived: 50 houses over two days. For a small fee, aficionados got a tour booklet listing addresses and descriptions of the featured gardens. It was then up to them to decide which homes they visited. Our house was open 10AM-4PM on Saturday.
I woke-up that morning at 4AM. Tim got up an hour later. Too dark to go out into the yards, he decided to pull together a “before-and-after” slideshow, which we showed on our old computer (everyone loved it!). I organized the garage. As soon as it got light, I did one last round of weed-pulling, sweeping, etc. Tim put up the umbrellas, while I got the water and cookies ready. Our first customers arrived at 10:05AM and pretty much didn’t stop until 4:30PM.
The star of the show was, of course, the agave, which had indeed started to bloom the week before. People gasped in joy as soon as they walked through our gate.
They also loved our dramatic dendromecon (i.e., Catalina Island Bush Poppy), western redbud tree, and glorious wildflowers. At least one person had a Kodak moment as a friend took her picture sitting on our red metal bench. Several visitors said they wanted to move into our house and a professional photographer asked if he could feature our yard in a magazine about drought-tolerant plants. (We’ll see!) The garage was a big hit, too. No doubt the guys at Garage Envy, who remodeled ours, will soon be getting calls for an estimate.
In all, over a hundred people--including friends and neighbors--stopped by to see our gardens this weekend. It was a wonderful, WONDERFUL day. And though we were exhausted by the end, we can’t wait to do it all over again next year.