Bending over beneath the shaded boughs of a coastal redwood, Pescadero homeowner Shoshanna Kaplinsky gently held the pendulous, pink bulb of a Pacific bleeding heart between her fingertips. Each spring, the native, perennial plant blossoms into clusters of heart-shaped flowers.
“It’s so beautiful,” said Kaplinsky, surrounded by mounds of shamrock-shaped redwood sorrel. “And very little grows under redwoods, but that does. And you could have walked right past it.”
Kaplinsky’s garden, tucked away behind her and partner Isobel Scher’s home on North Street, was just one of many stops on last Saturday’s Gardens of the South Coast tour. Throughout the day, garden aficionados and curious onlookers alike snaked through lush, private gardens, farms and ranches dotting the South Coast. Identified by yellow, numbered signs emblazoned with a white daisy, the route stretched from the farmlands of San Gregorio to the southern fringes of Pescadero.
The garden tour was orchestrated by the Viking Boosters, a volunteer organization of parents, teachers and community members that supports Pescadero Middle and High School. All proceeds from the event will go toward Pescadero students.
“Avid gardeners like to show their gardens off,” said parent-volunteer Shannon Webb. “And a lot of (people on the tour) are also gardeners, from other places, and they want ideas. It’s also so bucolic and beautiful out here that a lot of people will be happening by, as tourists, and going, ‘Oh wow!’”
“Perhaps there’s a small element of people just wondering what’s in different yards and houses (in Pescadero),” she added. “The houses are off-limits, for privacy, of course.”
Even as a shroud of fog blanketed the South Coast on Saturday, garden tour participants lined up outside the Pescadero post office to begin their journey. They were greeted by Pescadero Middle and High School students who dispensed maps and garden descriptions for more than a dozen private homes, farms and ranches.
The first stop on the tour, Pescadero Pocket Park, harbors a cornucopia of native plants, fruit trees and succulents. The county-owned park was conceived by members of Pescadero Community Church, who envisioned a place for locals to congregate and relax.
“It’s evolved over the years,” said Janice Moody, “As the gophers ate things, I replaced plants with, hopefully, non-tasty items for gophers and deer.”
Around the corner, on Stage Road, Greg and Ann Timm showcased their private garden, divided into different “rooms” bursting with fuchsia-tinted roses, perennials, herbs, vegetables and flowering trees. A translucent, glass greenhouse — a recent addition — frames the area for vegetables and fruit trees.
“I like to talk to fellow gardeners,” said Ann Timm. “Especially because I don’t often talk to other gardeners. I also enjoy going on garden tours as well, and seeing what other gardeners are doing. I think that’s why people come to (them).”
Past the little bridge by Pescadero Creek, on North Street, the Pescadero Community Panther Garden — which sits next to the playground at Pescadero Elementary School — provides opportunities for budding gardeners to learn about plants and produce.
“From building the beds, to planting starts to watering the plants, (the elementary school students) are really involved in growing the flowers and vegetables,” said Michaela O’Connor, director of after-school programs for the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District. “It’s a really cool, collaborative process because we have all of these different (people) who are involved in the garden.”
Pescadero Elementary School students served as garden ambassadors throughout the tour. Students Selina Gomez and Magdalenia Alsadir pointed out a bed of alyssum, a flowering plant that blooms into clusters of tiny, white flowers.
“They kind of smell like mint,” added Gomez.
Other stops on the tour included the “secret garden” at Harley Farms, a woodland hollow of mature oak, lichen and roses, and the garden at Blue House Farm in San Gregorio. In total, tour participants could wind their way through 14 different gardens.
Kaplinsky, who inherited the layout of the garden along with the house, said that while she had no prior gardening experience, she’s learned to accept what she can’t control. She also credits her gardener, Gerardo Garcia, with helping to cultivate the property’s plants and flowers.
“Plants have a mind of their own,” she said. “You put something in and it either grows or it doesn’t grow. And you either pull it out or you shift it.”
“This tree has been moved four times,” she continued, pointing toward the leaves of a nearby lemon tree. “And it’s now happy.”