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A little piece of paradise

Linda and Gary Hardy have more than a garden in their Camarillo backyard

By Michelle Volkmann

Photo by Stephen Schafer

 

ost people travel across oceans to find an exotic oasis for rest and relaxation. But Linda and Gary Hardy need only step outside their Camarillo home to enjoy a tropical space.

Every square inch of their two-acre garden is covered with somewhere between 80 and 100 different types of plants. Utilizing the hill’s natural slope, this couple envisioned transforming the dirt and cacti-cluttered lot they bought in 2001 into a botanical backyard. It took nine months of constant work to make it a reality. But the garden has been a place for entertainment and relaxation ever since.

More than 240 trees, the majority being palms, provide an overhanging canopy. Intermixed with the majestic 140 queen palms are Mexican blue fan palms and California fan palms. The orange beaked flowers of 100 birds of paradise live among jasmine, day lilies and California redwoods. Approximately 300 red bougainvilleas, a desert shrub, thrive.

While some portion of the garden is in bloom at any given time, the blossoms peak in the springtime when the garden is solid color. Most shrubs, like duranta, were chosen by the Hardys specifically because they attract butterflies and birds.

Without any serious gardening experience, Linda made a list of trees, shrubs and flowers she wanted in the garden. She selected plants they love, including a cockspur coral tree — a tree the couple, who have been married 38 years, have had at each of their previous homes. The garden wouldn’t have been complete without it and, luckily, their landscaper was able to find one.

The garden is a place of natural beauty where Linda likes to stroll. Ask her to select a favorite spot and she hesitates, unable to pick a beloved place the same way a mother is unable to name a favorite child.

Linda and Gary Hardy relax in their resort-like backyard.

After visiting the goldfish-filled pond, the descending path curves to a gazebo lined with white and pink iceberg roses. Nearby Hass avocado, apricot, nectarine and Mexican lime trees line a dirt path. Hidden in the foliage are at least 20 life-sized figurines. A peacock perches in one part of the garden as a lion protects another. A herd of deer listen for intruders. Behind the shrubs, narrow stone steps give Linda and Gary’s four granddaughters a shortcut to the pool.

The 73-foot-long pool has a gradual sloped entrance on one side for calm immersion. On the opposite side a curvy slide sinks into nine feet of water next to cascading waterfalls.

Music is cherished at Linda and Gary’s home. Across from the pool, three-tiered permanent risers provide a performance space for the Agoura Hills Harmony Chorus, a chapter of the Sweet Adelines, a barbershop group in which Linda sings lead.

Continue following the path to find Linda’s downstairs kitchen. Eight large and six small concrete columns support the enormous shelter that houses a stainless steel sink, warming oven, built-in coolers and grill. “It’s the perfect place to entertain,” says Linda.

Because of the terraced landscape, tropical vegetation sits at eye level with the openings in the kitchen gazebo. They are lovely windows that never need to be washed, Linda said. In the spring many feathered friends make their nests there and the Hardys lovingly call it a bird condominium.

A curved bar allows visitors to soak up the view while drinking margaritas. Like most of the garden’s fixtures, the bar is concrete. It eliminates the need to repair rotting wood, says Gary, a former general and framing contractor. Low maintenance was an underlining principle when the couple designed their garden.

Linda and Gary’s personal resort is often mistaken as a community park. But they don’t mind. Gary invites the occasional passersby in whenever he sees them peeking through the gates. “We didn’t build it so we have something private for us. It’s something we enjoy sharing,” he explains.

 “You know, sometimes when you plan something and you get done and you say it’s not quite the way I planned it,” says Gary. “This is 180 degrees the other way. It turned out way better than I ever thought when I started on it.”

08-01-2006

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