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El Dorado Stone

Ramona Roses

Forget the familiar poem - in this garden, March's ubiquitous flowers come in all colors

ONCE SHE GOT ACCESS TO WELL WATER, Barbara Hurlstone admits she “started going crazy” with roses. Section after section of her one-acre property near downtown Ramona was planted with shrubs, climbers and hybrid teas, ranging from classics like ‘Double Delight’ to newcomers like the 9/11 remembrance ‘We Salute You.’

Last year, as she readied for the Ramona Garden Club Garden Tour, Hurlstone took inventory. “I almost croaked. There were 252 [roses],” the retired accounting manager says, laughing. “My grandmother loved roses, and that may be why they are my passion. I don’t have favorites; I love them all.”

Foundation beds fronting the single-story residence she and her husband, Ivan, have called home since 1978 are a preview of extensive gardens in the rear. Along the garage and on both sides of the front door, dozens of roses stand tall, sometimes brushing the eaves with blossoms. Pinks, reds, apricots and other hues “blend like they do in nature,” Hurlstone says of her “hodgepodge” color combos.

That exuberant style continues off the back patio, where deep beds stretch along a vine-covered fence and down east and west edges of the property. Rose bushes unblemished by pests or disease often tower more than 6 feet tall, dwarfing the lavenders, hollyhocks, dahlias, iris and other flowering perennials woven among them. Hurlstone credits their healthy good looks to organic gardening, efficient drip irrigation and tips gleaned over the years from the San Diego Rose Society.

One corner bed sparkles with the pure white blooms of ‘Honor,’ ‘French Lace,’ ‘White Majesty’ and the intensely fragrant ‘Pope John Paul II.’ When the couple lunches in a gazebo next to another broad border, they feast their eyes on more than 50 rose bushes, including butter-yellow ‘Julia Child’ and ‘Cherry Parfait’ with its lipstick red and white petals. Even the citrus trees have rose companions: ‘Lynn Anderson’ and ‘LeAnn Rimes.’

Birdhouses, fountains and birdbaths lure Hurlstone’s favorite scrub jays and hummingbirds, while fragrant butterfly bushes (Buddleja) attract the colorful butterflies she adores. Magnolia, acacia, gold medallion, Mexican bird of paradise and other small trees add floral fireworks throughout the year.

Hurlstone’s most recent garden project is beyond a rustic arbor clad in the red and white blossoms of ‘Fourth of July’ and ‘Sombreuil’ and inside a white picket fence. Rock-edged paths curve around a lush cottage garden and lawn with a trio of wisteria- and rose-covered arbors, welcoming benches and statues of fairies and angels.

In this “secret garden,” roses take a back seat to Shasta daisies, cobalt-flowered spiderwort, society garlic, agapanthus, fortnight lilies and various sages. Flowering shrubs like blue hibiscus and skyflower (Duranta) add year-round structure, while California poppies, nasturtiums and Mexican evening primrose bring drifts of seasonal bloom.

One arbor shades a dining table where the couple shares meals and the garden’s beauty with friends, who often leave with bouquets. “I want them to experience it,” Hurlstone says. “I’m out in the garden every day. I’m so passionate about being outdoors. It’s almost a spiritual experience for me, and it’s the best stress reliever ever.”

Gardens: By Mary James • Photography by Bob Wigand

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Now that I have seeds for basil and forget-me-nots, I’m making long-term plans. I picked up the seed packets at The Patio on Goldfinch, which recently opened in the Mission Hills neighborhood and hosted an opening celebration on Thursday evening.

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