The string of 90-plus-degree days we’ve had this summer has turned the green landscape to a tan color that, in the heat, makes you even hotter. That’s what made visiting Linda Knapp’s Mead garden all the more special. All the native grasses and many of the lawns in her neighborhood looked a little worse for wear but not Linda’s luscious, green backyard. I cooled off 10 degrees when I walked into it.
It impressed the Inland Empire Gardeners’ Garden of the Month judges in the same way. As a result, they awarded her the July Garden of the Month.
I noticed two things when we walked into her backyard. First of course was the cool, green garden that took the temperature down several degrees; a welcome respite from the heat. The second was the sweet fragrance of the white phlox that filled many of the beds.
Linda’s garden didn’t start out beautiful. When she bought the house 22 years ago, it had been on the market for two years so what gardens were there were in bad shape. She removed seven pines in the backyard to bring more light into the yard and started playing.
“I’d go to the coast and see all kinds of neat plants I wanted to try,” she said. “I knew some of them weren’t hardy here but I had to try.” So she filled her deck with lots of hanging fuchsias, tropical plants more adapted to Southern California, and lots of pots of annuals. It can take her more than an hour to water everything, but it is worth it for the color and the fragrance.
For her collection of zone-challenged plants, she eventually built a small greenhouse to overwinter fuchsias, elephant ears, geraniums and a eucalyptus tree. “I put a little oil heater in there, and it keeps the temperature about 38 to 40 degrees even in the really cold weather.”
The highlight of the rest of the garden is her Great Wall garden that leveled a slope into a large bed where Linda has planted lots of colorful perennials, including the phlox I smelled when I walked in. Tucked in and around the plants was a collection of whimsical pieces of metal yard art that provided a nice contrast to the billowy flowers. Her tall fences made an excellent backdrop for more tall perennials and shrubs including several varieties of daphne.
Many of her plants in the garden were selected for their ability to provide food and shelter for birds. The large shrubs scattered around the garden provided a place for nests and roosts. Several small birds were picking over seed heads as we walked. A small water feature near her greenhouse provided them with water.
When asked how much time it took to keep up with the garden, she laughed and said her housework goes to pot in the summer because she is out there all evening, every evening. Now that’s my kind of gardener!