Before I answer your questions, I thought I would give you a brief synopsis about me in relation to my garden.
Our current garden is in Laguna Beach, CA. I have had other SoCal gardens…as you probably remember, my last and most favorite garden was in Denver. When we bought our current 1926 cottage two years ago, the garden had a beautiful grove of mature Strawberry trees (Arbutus Marina, to be exact) a few Wisteria vines, an overgrown thicket of bamboo, a mature pink Camellia bush and not much more. We added irrigation, stone paths and patios and then we started adding flowers and shrubs to the mix. Most of what you see in the photos is only about a year old, so there is still a LOT of maturing and filling in that needs to take place! I will include a before pic so you can get an idea of just what we started with. The house sits on a large, sloped lot with three separate garden areas – #1. A tree filled front yard #2. A sloped side yard with a water feature and stairway that leads to a small patio and detached studio that Kevin uses as his office and #3 The lower part of our lot which is now just a large gravel expanse and a YURT!! It needs help (it’s pretty ugly) but I’m noodling a plan for a raised vegetable garden and entertaining spot in this area. I’ll keep you posted on my progress THERE! Not planning to share pics of that lower area…nothing much to see there, YET!
My husband of 45 years, Kevin, is my greatest helper…we’ve enjoyed gardening together since we bought our first little Sears kit bungalow in Old Town Orange in 1976. I’ve had the same “gardener” for about 30 years, her name is Lisa and she comes once or twice a month to help me with the “big stuff” like irrigation and pond cleaning. There ya go!
YOUR CONTESSA IN HER GARDEN ON MAY DAY 2021!
Let’s pretend you are having a party for ONE of the four seasons.Which season would YOU pick?Spring ~ Summer ~ Autumn ~ Winter.
Who from the past would be there?
What would the decor look like?
With words try to create a visual feast for our eyes!
Spring. All that bright green…the freshness of new beginnings and the intoxicating fragrance of warming soil and jasmine blooms. I picture a long table on our little kitchen patio covered in moss; baskets of daffodils and freesias and bowls of beautiful citrus running down its center. Blue Willow china plates to serve spring desserts…Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Bars and little dishes of Chocolate Mousse. Champagne for the grown ups and Shirley Temples for the kids. I’d have my 4 grandchildren there, along with my 3 garden-loving grandmothers, who are no longer physically with us. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful kick if these two generations could have met each other?
Have you ALWAYS been drawn to the GARDEN?
Does it calm you?
Always, as long as I can remember.
It absolutely calms me…most every afternoon I get into my deep tub that overlooks a canopy of flowering Strawberry Trees out my bathroom window. I listen to music. I soak and watch the birds fly about and the bees as they move from flower to flower. Nothing better.
What is the earliest memory you have of being in a GARDEN?
Grandma Frances’ garden. All of my grandparents had beautiful gardens, but my paternal grandmother, Frances, gardened out of frugality and a need to put food on the table. She was a first generation Croatian-American who grew up in a coal mining family in Crested Butte, CO around the turn of the century. My earliest memories are of her pushing a small, homemade plow through the dirt in her suburban Orange County backyard. She would save last season’s seeds in baby food jars and sow lettuces, green beans and tomatoes in her little plot. In addition, there were persimmon, orange and lemon trees, a rhubarb patch, and a huge apricot tree that my brothers and I would climb to pick fruit every summer. Only a chain link fence separated her from her rear neighbor’s equally prolific garden. I can remember her trading fruits and vegetables over the fence with Joe. He grew much more exotic things like bananas and mangoes. For beauty, she grew sweet peas every year on her chain link fence from seeds saved from the prior year. To this day, the scent of sweet peas takes me right back to that colorful tangle of fragrance just outside her back door.
What does GARDENING give back to YOU?
Visual beauty, fragrance, a habitat for birds and butterflies and bees, shady spots to sit and enjoy, and lots of exercise!
How about a GARDENING BOOK…….can you share some of your FAVORITES?
I have at least a dozen, some are beautiful photo books and some more practical garden guides. The most useful book that I’ve had for years is the Sunset Western Garden Book which lists every plant imaginable for those of us living in the western U.S. Now that google is a “thing” I find that if I have a question about a particular plant, I just look it up online and get all of the information I could possibly need. My very favorite gardening book would have to be The Humane Gardener – Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife by Nancy Lawson. It’s a sweet little gem of a book…highly recommend.
Stephanie’s Garden when they moved in two years ago.
APRIL of 2021
How many hours a week do you spend in your garden working?
AND how many hours enjoying the “fruits of your labor?”
Do you take delight in picking bouquets from your garden or do you prefer to leave the blooming beauties there to enjoy?
I’m guessing about 8 to 12 hours per week? Hard to say, sometimes more and sometimes less.
I enjoy the fruits of my labor every single day – walking through the trees out to the mailbox, heading down the brick steps along our gurgling “faux” waterfall when I take out the trash, relaxing on our covered porch at the end of the day with a glass of wine. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
I love bringing flowers inside, also branch and vine cuttings. I get a kick out of the mix of color and textures when bringing different aspects of the outdoors in. I always leave plenty of blooms outside for the hummers, bees and butterflies.
Tell us THREE of your favorite Plants?
Can you tell us WHY?
Gardenias. Their beauty and fragrance remind me of my Grandma Winnie who had a huge bush next to her front door. In my memory, they seemed to always be in bloom. I planted two August beauty gardenias shortly after moving to this Laguna cottage about a year and a half ago. So far they are happy and thriving and are currently setting lots of buds for the June bloom. Yes, August Beauty blooms in June…go figure.
Japanese Maples. Our Denver home had so many…I fell in love with their graceful form, interesting colored bark and leaf shapes. I have only planted one in this NEW garden – Orange Flame. Planning on many more.
Sweet Peas. They make the most delicious smelling bouquets. Their season is short, and they need rich soil and cools temps but the payoff is worth the effort. I’m growing some now in a large pot on my front porch – a mix of fancy varieties. I was able to give them enriched soil, a trellis to climb AND I’ve babied them with weekly feedings since they are conveniently located just out my front door. Four feet high now and blooms any day.
Which FLOWER describes your PERSONALITY?
That’s a very interesting question. I’m basically shy and somewhat introverted…conversely, I often enjoy deep and thoughtful conversations. I think of myself as a bit of a wallflower, still I embrace my unique and colorful characteristics. I definitely have a passion for my family and friends…also for the beauty and mystery of the natural world. I think I must be an exotic Passion Flower.
Do you remember what flowers were in your bridal bouquet?
Did you KEEP it or TOSS to BRIDESMAIDS?
A colorful array of Gerbera Daisies and Baby’s Breath!
I wanted bright color and I got it.
I threw the bouquet and the single women fought like mad over it…such a funny tradition.
Will you be working in your GARDEN TODAY on this SPRING DAY of 2021?
What is typical attire for the GARDEN for YOU?
Yes, I worked in the garden today. Tree trimmers came yesterday and as much as I love them, they made a slight mess. Lots to clean up.
My typical attire? Ha!! I sometimes putz around in my nightgown first thing in the morning! I usually garden in whatever I happen to be wearing, as long as it’s comfortable and is appropriate for that day’s weather. The common denominator would have to be my five year old tattered, floral
Tom’s Shoes.They are falling apart but I love them dearly. They are always right outside the front door to slip on when there’s work to done.
(Contessa has added a link to NEW GARDENING SHOES BY TOM’s above!)
Do you have a favorite pair of gloves or pruning shears?
Atlas gloves…I got them from Amazon and need a new pair. Two or three pruning shears – no fancy brands just 3 sizes. Snippers for flowers, lightweight clippers for light pruning and a heavy duty pair for branches. My favorite accessory is my portable, canvas bucket bag with handles that holds my gloves, clippers, trowels, whisk broom and dust pan and my favorite garden tool, a curved, Japanese type wooden handled weeder. I use it for everything…weeding, breaking up dirt clods and digging small planting holes. Love it.
PLEASE GIVE US A GARDEN QUOTE THAT RESONATES WITH YOU!
“It is spring again.
The Earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
THANK YOU STEPHANIE always a PLEASURE to visit someone else’s GARDEN!
You can find and FOLLOW STEPHANIE on INSTAGRAM at………… tendrheart4
This GARDEN is a TREAT as we can WATCH the PROGRESS from A FAR!
However, YOU do know one day I will be there to take the GRAND TOUR!
THANK YOU FOR SHARING AND INSPIRING!