A Full Palette

A Fallbrook artist overcomes space limitations to ‘paint’ her garden with color

Downsizing from a home on 2 1/2 acres to a condo less than half the size was daunting for Fallbrook artist Carol Reardon. Never-theless, the garden enthusiast jumped into her new back yard with purpose.

The neglected, L-shaped landscape of dying lawn and unkempt shrubs became her “canvas,” she says. “I feel as if I paint with flowers and plants in the garden.”  

Last year, her artistry charmed hundreds on the Fallbrook Garden Club’s annual spring tour. 

“They wanted to show what’s possible in a small space,” says Carol, a club member since moving from coastal Orange County to Fallbrook almost
two decades ago.

At the garden’s entry, an aqua planter brimming with succulents fills an arched wall niche. Below it, ‘Iceberg’ roses, ruby red geraniums and purple-flowered iris and lantana disguise shrubs mandated by the homeowners association. A succulent wreath decorated with seashells hangs on the gate.

The hallmarks of Carol’s romantic palette —
deft combinations of cottage-garden favorites with water-wise succulents in ocean shades of blue and green — can be found throughout the garden. Watery hues color benches, pillows, pots, étagères and even the front door to create focal points and unity in the eclectic landscape. 

“When you do a painting, you want to spread the color around, so the eye travels rather than stops in one place,” Carol says. “I wanted to do that in the garden.”

She also strove for indoor/outdoor connections. Blues link the living room/dining room to the adjacent patio, where a new cover shades seating, lush containers and painted shelves. Brown fencing visible from the dining room disappears behind cubby shelving that houses Carol’s aqua and lime ceramics collection, many overflowing with succulents.

Now revived, the lawn yielded space on all sides for new planting beds. One, just steps from the patio, mixes espaliered citrus, lavender, bougainvillea, iris and rambling white petunias with ruffled succulents and roses. Among them is David Austin’s ‘Miranda’ rose, once tended by Carol’s late mother. 

“We moved a lot, and she planted a garden everywhere we went. She got the whole family gardening,” Carol recalls. 

Across the lawn, an aqua bench, potted cymbidium orchids and blue hydrangeas call attention to a curved brick patio, one of two along the property’s south perimeter. All gleam with sand-set rainbow mosaics of glass and broken crockery, often passalongs from friends and family. These and other gifts and memorabilia, Carol says, helped her evolve from “feeling foreign here to feeling at home.” 

Girlfriends who gather for weekly Friday morning coffee klatches are greeted by a new umbrella-shaded patio across from the front door, where a shell wreath hangs and an exotic angel-wing begonia blooms. Steps away, on a patio outside the master bedroom, another begonia, bamboo, and fragrant plumeria and gardenia fill Carol’s Zen garden, home to a candle-ringed Buddha and turquoise-cushioned chaise.

Nearby, tucked at the base of a tree, is a small pond ringed with gravel and stone turtles for what Carol calls “a beachy scene.” More shells and colorful wood fish lurk in a stand of horsetail reeds that remind her of seaweed. “I think we’d all live by the water if we could,” she explains.

Budget-minded, Carol creatively recycles to create garden vignettes. When a teal urn broke, she wedged one piece into a corner of the yard as a container for a burgundy cordyline. T wo other pieces rest on the ground “spilling” a cascade of blue-tinged succulents across the bed. 

When weather permits, Carol sets up her easel in the garden for plein air painting in oils and watercolors. 

“Cats belong in a garden,”
she says of her frequent companion, Molly. “It was a hard transition here at first, but now things have fallen into place. We’re a good fit here.” 



Categories: Gardening