Remembering Mary Lou…

In 1993, Westminster nursery owner Mary Lou Heard dreamed of a garden tour by real gardeners and for real gardeners–a tour “for the rest of us”–and so this annual self-guided tour began. Mary Lou’s store, Heard’s Country Gardens, had become a much beloved place where plant people worked, laughed, shopped or just stopped by to say hello since its opening in 1985.

There were no tickets, only free will offerings to benefit Mary Lou’s chosen charity, Sheepfold, which provides hope and safe refuge for mothers in crisis and their children. After the closing of the nursery in 2002 due to Mary Lou’s illness and her death shortly thereafter, the fate of the tour seemed uncertain. But those who loved Mary Lou were determined to celebrate her life and her contributions to the gardeners, moms and kids of Orange County and refused to let her legacy be lost–and so, the tour goes on! You can visit the tour’s website at to find out more about Mary Lou’s life and see photos of previous years’ tours.

The forecast was rain, wind and possible thunderstorms for the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour 2017. These dire predictions did not deter my gardening BFF, Judi, and I from pouring over the online and print guides detailing this year’s 42 open gardens, sorting out those we both had seen in previous years and finally arriving at our short list of 7 from which to map our route. There are Saturday only, Sunday only and open both days locations. We only have Saturday to tour so it was crucial to plan our time wisely. Seven stops were soon ready for the GPS!


To give every garden its due, I’ll split our day into three posts starting with a wonderful garden filled with plants, animals and artistic garden inspiration.


The addition of four young dogs kept this verdant and tranquil garden off the tour for the last two years. GBFF Judi said it was not to be missed and she was so right! In the owner’s words “California water-wise and drought tolerant plants were once the focus of  our yard but now dog-wise and dog tolerant plants are a definite must.”

The garden is a spectacular example of the garden design principles of unity, order and rhythm. The owners have chosen to use massed groupings of harmonious plant materials which flow through the space and carry your eye and interest along for a restful ride. Foliage plants which form the foundation for the garden include many species of Japanese maples, both planted in the ground and in interesting troughs and bowls; cultivars of Pittosporum tenuifolium; Duranta repens (or erecta depending on your references) ‘Variegata’ and ‘Gold Mound’; Philadelphus, commonly called mock orange; boxwood and many more. Walk with me through this lovely outdoor space, home to gardeners, Koi, pups, a ‘take no prisoners’ turtle, brother and sister rabbits, lovely song birds, garden art and inspiration.

An attractive, undulating brick road takes us from the street in to the garden
The lime foliage of Duranta repens ‘Gold Mound’ weaves throughout the garden 
An organic path from brick walkway back into the front yard—love this!
The bright white flowers of many mock oranges seem to light a path through the dappled shade


One of many exquisite potted Japanese maple specimens
The first of several spots to relax or entertain
A beautifully done Koi pond wanders down the side yard
Charming vignettes abound at every turn
Home to two lucky BIG bunnies


A little way station for new additions to the garden
Bold foliage in contrast to the finer variegated leaves of Duranta ‘Variegata’–I think the round ones are ligularia
Soothing water feature made with organic materials
From the sunnier side 
The aviary
Two more places to relax and enjoy the surroundings
A second river rock Koi pond 
Just right for your morning coffee
This pergola adds height to this side of the central patio space 
Pale greens light up the side of the house–small raised beds offer opportunities to add seasonal color
Geranium ‘Miss Heidi’ (pink flowers) and golden oregano fill in around the permanent plantings
We’ve come full circle back to the front sidewalk

It was so difficult to pare my photos of this garden down to just these–I did not want to leave any of them out! This beautifully designed and maintained garden was a joy to see and so full of inspiration, from the art and artifacts to the restrained palette and mass plantings. It is very pleasing to the eye and, according to the resident gardeners, will continue to grow and evolve as they do.

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