Garden Photo of the Day

Spring in Irvin & Pauline’s garden in California

Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) is below the nandina. Red berries persist from fall to spring, providing winter interest. Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of Irvin & Pauline Faria

A special treat today–a new visit to Irvin and Pauline’s garden in California! We’ve visited and enjoyed their beautiful garden so many times that I set up a page with all of their previous posts, HERE.

In the entry garden a flowing crabapple displays its spring blossom beauty. Miscanthus grass and manzanita surround an Oribe Japanese lantern.  

Today Irvin says, “Despite the California drought we are lavishing in the freshness and vibrant display of spring colors. Japanese maples with a mass of colored foliage gracefully dance in the spring breeze. Azalea plants bursting with blooms are exhibiting nature’s resilience to challenging weather conditions. Azaleas’ year-round greenery complements the beauty of the maples.

Manzanita, when grown correctly, will grow for more than 100 years. 
These are great wildlife plants, providing nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds. 

“In preparation for numerous reserved garden club tours in April, our time has been occupied in garden tidy-up, renewal, and amendment. First and foremost in response to the serious California drought, shredded cedar bark mulch has been spread throughout the garden. It serves to moderate soil temperatures, slow evaporation, and stretch the time between waterings. In addition to insulating plant roots from temperature extremes, it is an excellent insect repellent as its oil repels various ant species along with roaches, slugs, and snails.

‘Shindeshojo’ Japanese maple foliage is the brightest among maples. Spring foliage is flaming scarlet then turns pleasant reddish-green in summer and in the fall colors become blends of red and orange.  

“At the garden entry heavenly bamboo (Nandina) is planted for its interesting foliage and sprays of spherical, two-seeded, red berries. It is deer-resistant and drought-tolerant, making it an ideal plant throughout our garden. Always spectacular, a beautiful flowing crabapple (Malus) with lavish clouds of white, pink, and red flowers serves to welcome spring visitors.

Red ‘Autumn Amethyst’ Encore azalea paired with a cascading ‘Tamukeyama’ Japanese maple. New maple foliage is a deep crimson-red which soon changes to a very dark purple red holding through summer. Fall color is bright scarlet  

“For special interest we planted manzanita (Arctostaphylos) for its attractive shiny mahogany colored bark and interesting limb structure. Its urn-shaped flowers that vary from pink to white are popular with hummingbirds. Manzanita is very drought tolerant and evergreen, always looking green and healthy even in the hottest, driest part of the summer.

This garden viewing bench is bordered with ‘Mrs. G.G. Southern Indica’ azaleas.  

“Near the garden entry is a large bolder composed of apple-green serpentine which is the California state rock. Two grasses, variegated sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Ice Ballet’) and variegated Japanese sedge (Carex oshimensis ‘EverColor Everdi’), have been added to soften the scene. Using the wooden structure of an old garden umbrella, we tried to add some zaniness to a section of the creek side garden. Not sure how this will be accepted by visitors.”

Acer palmatum and ‘Moonfire’ Japanese maple  

As usually, I love it all. Thanks, Irvin, for giving us this latest tour!

‘Katsura’ is a beautiful and colorful small tree all year. Autumn colors are a mixture of yellow and orange brushed with an occasional scarlet. One of the first trees to leaf-out in the spring.  

****Tell us your garden story…. Email me with photos and words at [email protected]. ****

Serpentine is metamorphic and/or magnesium-rich igneous rock, most commonly peridotite, from the earth’s mantle.  
A fun element in the creek-side garden.  

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View Comments


  1. perenniallycrazy 03/27/2014

    Thanks for the Spring tour Irvin and Pauline. Your garden is one of my most favorite GPOD features and always will be!

  2. user-1020932 03/27/2014

    i always love this garden. the plant selections, the commentary and the story of it's development. i love it all everytime and will check out the page when i have more time. AND the umbrella skeleton is fun!

  3. flowerladydi 03/27/2014

    Love it all Irvin and Pauline!
    Just LOVE all the Japanese Maples,,, they are so great in the spring and Fall, so fresh and ' new ' looking!,, love how your mirrored the colors of the shindeshojo and other orangeyier ( is that a word? ) with the clay pot and red plant material,, it looks so great! I also really like the first one with the blending of color of your greens with the lamp post, and sign on the brick, as well as the brick picking up the color of the birch in the background! It is such a welcoming warm look, and you have done it ALL so very well! I am sooooo ready for spring here!!!,, we are NOT there yet,,,but I am especially anxious to see my Jap maples emerge with their fresh spring color as well! Thank you for sharing,, and have a great season! Sounds as though you will be busy! I HOPE you get some rain!!!,, yet in spite if it all,, your garden shines beautifully! Kudos to you both!!

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/27/2014

    An early spring cyber visit to your garden, Irvin and Pauline, is as spirit lifting as my first bluebird sighting of the year...I get a zippity-do-dah feeling and a smile on my face.
    Every picture is a favorite! I give a thumbs up on the playful umbrella skeleton with its bold purple color and red accent ornamentation...I'm sure your garden visitors will share your sense of fun and nod approvingly.
    I also particularly enjoyed the photo of the blue garden bench contrasting so attractively against the white is lit up so beautifully with gentle touches of sunlight.

  5. cwheat000 03/27/2014

    Beautiful burst of spring. It was 13 this morning with far colder windchills. Thank you. Love the geology feature. I haven't tried encoe azaleas yet. Do they rebloom well for you?

  6. mainer59 03/27/2014

    Gorgeous garden, lovely photos, and marvelous commentary.

  7. Quiltingmamma 03/27/2014

    to paraphrase:
    I've never seen a purple duck,
    I've always hoped to see one,
    And if it means a home like yours,
    I'd rather be than see one...
    I can't believe the photos are from THIS year. Spring is so not on Ontario's radar..

  8. NC_Yarden 03/27/2014

    Marvelous. As always, I love the Japanese maples - my favorites; but I am jealous of that Manzanita. Congratulations too on such a wonderful garden in the current tough California conditions. Well done. Thanx for sharing.

  9. bee1nine 03/27/2014

    Always a pure pleasure to tap in and tour through your highly
    delightful passion for gardening photos. Include me in, on
    the wonderful and helpful commentary as well! Love the enthusiasm you both share!

    Thank you again, Irvin and Pauline!!

  10. annek 03/27/2014

    I want to be on that garden tour! I want to see your elegant Japanese maples and wander your paths, leisurely gaze at your design and marvel at spring's entrance into your garden. I want to sit on that lovely blue garden viewing bench and take plenty of notes. I am so taken with your efforts and skills, Pauline and Irvin. Thanks so much for the morning thrill and have fun on the tours!

  11. tractor1 03/27/2014

    Delicious understory trees, and I love that purple bumbershoot frame. Thank you, Irvine & Pauline... and I hope you receive water soon.

  12. greengenes 03/27/2014

    Good morning! Wow, Irvin and Pauline! Thanks for sharing with us. This is the first time I have seen your gardens. I went thru all the past ones, too. I love the brick pathways that you have put in. All the maples are simply beautiful. And then you share it all with the "wild side". What a great place to live in. I was at a nursery yesterday and they had just gotten in some Japanese maples and I think iam going back there to day to get some! Your gardens are so inspiring and it looks like a lot of it is an understory planting. Great shady areas.
    Oh, and quiltingmama: I love the little poem! So true!!!

  13. wildthyme 03/27/2014

    Great plant combinations, and you've managed to achieve a very lush look despite the watering challenges. And don't let anyone denigrate your umbrella skeleton! I once used the wooden skeleton of an umbrella in my vegetable garden for pole beans! I love the idea of using unusual things for new purposes!

  14. sheila_schultz 03/27/2014

    Pauline and Irvin, your gardens are not only beautiful but they are also inspiring and fun! Keep the photos and commentary coming!

  15. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 03/27/2014

    Enchanting, educational and inspiring! Looking forward to more posts in the future.

  16. GrannyMay 03/27/2014

    Visiting your garden again is such a pleasure! There is always so much to see, favourite combinations to enjoy, new additions to marvel at... like the purple umbrella frame and matching duck. Such fun! I'm sure your garden visitors will love it all, as we do. Thank you Irvin and Pauline!

  17. CJgardens 03/27/2014

    Pauline and Irvin,
    It's wonderful to see a spring garden already in it's glory. Always enjoy the photos you share. Appreciate the information on how you're dealing with the drought conditions; hope you receive some rain.
    Both of you and your gardens are such an inspiration.

  18. GrannyCC 03/27/2014

    Once again it is delight to see your garden. So full of interesting plants and delightful and fun additions such as the umbrella skeleton. Love all the pops of blue in the garden with the blue pots and water features.

  19. user-653169 03/27/2014

    Where in California? I am in Anaheim and have some similar plants -- Japanese Maples, Azaleas (have you been to Nuccio's, fantastic collection of Azaleas and Camelias). Black bamboo. My garden is also in full bloom.

  20. Meelianthus 03/27/2014

    Hello Irvine & Pauline ~ Thank you for sharing your wonderful gardens once again. Kudos to you both for working in your gardens all of these years. It does keep a person young both physically and mentally and is so therapeutic. I do love the image of the blue viewing bench against the white azalea. So stunning! I very much enjoyed your garden commentary and have a wonderful tour season in your gardens.

    Thank you Michelle for setting up all the seasons in their garden. Very enjoyable to once again view so conveniently.

  21. DellGarden 03/27/2014

    Michelle, Pauline and I want to thank you for your thoughtfulness and taking the time to gather together all of our GPOD entries. And to those of you who offered wonderful appreciative comments, we are most grateful. For the person who asked where we live, it is in Carmichael, which is east of Sacramento. And no, we have not been to Nuccio’s gardens.

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