A Peaceful Space

22nd Annual Gardens of the Year Winner

Beach volleyball enthusiasts Stacy and Joel Bonomi relished coastal living in Orange County for decades. But after their daughters gradu-ated, the couple was ready for a sea change.  
“At the beach, everyone is on top of each other,” Joel says. “We wanted a little space … where our dogs could run and where we could garden.” “And where it would be peaceful,” adds Stacy. In 2011, when their home sold in one day, their housing search suddenly became urgent. The retired fireman and teacher turned their attention to Fallbrook, recalling visits to Joel’s sister, who once lived there.
“We found this house right away,” Stacy says of the Spanish-style ranch on 2.8 acres that has been home for the past five years. Stacy and Joel’s collection of Native American artwork and Old West antiques meshed perfectly with the home’s rustic details. The landscape, though, was in decline after months without irrigation and de-manded immediate attention — a task that challenged the couple as they transitioned from coastal to country gardening.
“We discovered we live in the coldest place in Fallbrook,” Stacy says, recalling plant damage from killing frosts. Wildlife too took a toll.

“I was admiring my lettuce crop one morning, and an hour later it was gone — eaten by the rabbits and squirrels,” she adds. Today, with the steepest part of their learning curve behind them, Stacy and Joel have happily resettled in what they call La Paz Lugar (The Peaceful Place). Within its sheltering “green walls” are garden rooms that soothe stress, welcome celebrations and comfort ill friends. “I think this house has finally found its soul,” Stacy says. Arriving visitors are greeted with water-wise plantings, anchored by a shoestring acacia and blue agaves. Inside the gate, a curved driveway flanked by frothy ‘Iceberg’ roses and olive trees leads to a rose-covered arbor outside the front door. Nearby are two of the four fountains added around the home to mask road noise.

Tall columns of jasmine, the first of many that hug the house and perfume the air, flank the courtyard entry. Inside, a gnarled olive glowing with fairy lights and comfy seating around a tiled fireplace create a cozy haven popular with the couple’s cat and guests staying in the adjacent casita. A staghorn fern that once belonged to Stacy’s father hangs overhead.
“Almost everything around here has a story,” she says, pointing to memorabilia from trips, family treasures, housewarming gifts and garage-sale finds.

In the back yard, outdoor furnishings and container plantings fill a long patio outside the great room, family room and kitchen. Stacy and Joel often sip morning coffee out here, watching orioles, finches and other avian guests breakfast at birdfeeders in a nearby olive tree. A paver walkway, one of four built to replace dusty dirt paths, leads around the corner to the Garden of Eatin, where favorites like ‘Green Zebra’ tomatoes and rainbow chard grow in a raised bed edged with a critter-deterring fence. A citrus orchard on the opposite side of the house adds to the homegrown bounty enjoyed by the two enthusiastic cooks.
Downslope, past a rainbow-hued rose garden, one catches a glimpse of Joel’s “forest.” The shady acre is crisscrossed by paths around some 80 trees he planted to add privacy, shelter wildlife and entertain the couple’s two German shepherds on twice-daily walks. Among the sycamores, pines and oaks is a stand of redwoods, now more than 30 feet tall.  “I was told they wouldn’t grow here, but they seem to be doing fine,” Joel says. A bare circle here marks the future home of a teepee made of vines, a symbol of Stacy’s Native American heritage, which she discovered only recently with DNA testing.“I think I’m related to a Canadian tribe,” she says of her ongoing research into her family history. Across a lawn nibbled constantly by scurrying squirrels and rabbits, an arbor shelters an outdoor kitchen and a Santa Fe-style, wood-burning fireplace. T ucked around the corner is The Nest, a neat-as-a-pin nook where Stacy finds garden inspiration among a collection of family heirlooms.Over the years, Stacy and Joel have hosted friends from their days living in Orange County. “When we decided to move, many were skeptical. They told us we’d miss the beach,” Stacy says.
“But that changes once they see what we’ve found here. They all tell us, ‘Now we get it.’

Categories: Gardening