Twice we have visited the old but ever changing and spectacular garden of William Harris and Howard Haynes—once to experiment with drone photography and more recently to paint.
This house and garden were the first to be built in Atascadero some 75 years ago. When Bill and Howard acquired the property 15 years ago, it had been unoccupied for several years and both the house and garden were in need of restoration. Through several garden restorations, the old mesquites, gigantic palms, piruls, Eucalyptus, Chinaberry, Jacaranda, Italian cypress, and nispero (loquat) have been saved and now provide welcome shade giving the garden a rich, verdant, dense quality that is only possible in a mature garden.
I used the words “ever changing” in the first sentence describing the garden because, while we were painting, the garden was undergoing a remodel. You all know people who rearrange the furniture in their houses, well, this garden restoration involves moving and rearranging plants on a scale much larger than rearranging the living room furniture—a score of boxwoods, an Israeli plum, some lavender, Pittosporum, and several 30-foot tall oleanders have all been moved to new locations. From Linda’s perspective, she could see, as she was painting, the top of an oleander swaying as it was moved to its new place in the garden.
A not unfamiliar story here in San Miguel is finding that the size or limit of one’s property is not what one thinks. When obtaining the permits for a remodel, Bill and Howard discovered that the property extended beyond the supposed boundary by 500 square meters—a substantial garden bonus! The owners are frequent and generous hosts of large garden parties for San Miguel charities with sometimes as many as 150 guests seated at tables and chairs throughout the 1500 square meter garden. The large garden is, also, play space for their pack of seven, happy rescue dogs.
As you, the reader, know, this garden theme is new and one idea that we are experimenting with is drawing garden maps from drone photographs particularly of large and complex gardens. Bob Harper is collaborating with us on this aspect of the garden project. Here is the first garden map from drone photos. This garden is on a level lot. The left one-third of the garden is walled off from the rest of the property. Because there are so many mature trees (various greens) a lot of the detail is obscured by their canopy.
MAP NOTES: Light red and off white are rooftops; pure white is patios and walkways; * indicates where Linda and I painted; “I” entryway and gate to back bonus garden; tiny squares are columns; dull dark green is grass; curved koi pond is just about in the middle of the map.
In each garden, there are many views or vignettes to choose from. This time while painting from different angles, we both chose the same focus—the above ground koi pond and the new blue garden lanterns that are mounted on several columns throughout the garden.
Linda sometimes repaints from photos when she is not pleased with her first effort. You can compare both of her paintings…one plein air (she included the newly moved pink oleander) and one done in her studio. She thought the first too busy: I find both charming, as I’m sure you do.
The sinuously curved koi pond has its own story. Bill related that he literally drew the design for the pond in the dirt with a stick to show the workers where to place the pond and the shape. What was not communicated was that he wanted the pond sunk in the ground not built above ground—but that mistake has become a happy accident. The façade of stone carvings were added later by a master stonemason who simply traced the shape of the pond on large sheets of paper and was then able to create these intricately carved stone panels that fit perfectly all around the sides of the elevated pond.
I chose my particular view to include the curve of the koi pond, the happy frog, one of the columns with the brilliant blue lanterns, and the trunk of a monstrously tall, old palm. Did you think it was a telephone pole?
The blue of the lanterns is a striking blue that intrigued me. The best match I could make was with almost full strength cerulean chromium blue and a bit of cobalt blue.
We are most grateful to Bill and Howard for inviting us to paint and photograph their gem of a garden.
There’s more…not only is this a “gem” of a garden, but there are actual gems here. William Harris and Luis Pantoja design custom jewelry. Linda couldn’t resist a spectacular silver bracelet. You can see their designs on the Piedras website: https://www.piedrassanmiguel.com/
GREENS—Green Apatite Genuine lets you create a beautiful range of greens—fresh yellow-green to deep olive with a single tube. This sedimentary color is a dark, almost brown, olive green when used with less water, but, in washes, the brown settles leaving a vivid natural green and creating memorable texture and contrast. Linda has this on her palette. You can see it in her second painting.