16TH ANNUAL SAGE AND SONGBIRDS GARDEN TOUR AND FESTIVAL DRAWS A CROWD

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By Janis Mork

May 20, 2013 (Alpine) -  The 16th annual Sage and Songbirds event this year featured seven self-guided tours around a church garden, two colorful home gardens, and the Sky Hunters birds of prey facility. This event was hosted by CHIRP for Garden Wildlife Inc.

The event held May 4-6 also included a festival at Viejas Outlet Centers, where visitors could enjoy a butterfly release, caterpillar races, educational seminars, arts and craft vendors, birds of prey-hummingbirds, spiders, snakes, lizards and more.

Smith Garden is owned by Barbara and Tom Smith. The brochure mentions that this garden “once looked like a rose nursery [and] is now a sizzling, succulent show stopper, ablaze with vibrant reds, hot oranges, sizzling yellows and neon greens.” It featured a variety of plants and trees, boulders and smaller rocks, a mural-sized backyard stucco retaining wall in vibrant gold tones with Mexican art pieces and three hummingbird feeders.

Barbara and Tom, who is 86,  do all of the gardening themselves, and said they love going on the..tour, where they have gleaned many ideas for their own garden.  As for being involved in the tour, Barbara said, “It’s fun; it’s just a lot of work." They have been living here for 16 years.

Wyatt Garden is owned by Mendi and Lynn Wyatt. The brochure mentions that they “have been creating and planting new garden areas… for the past 11 years. It was a rock that initially made them decide to purchase the lot on which their dream house now sits.” Their garden contains rocks, bushes, drought-tolerant plants, drip irrigation, recirculating water feature with falls and creek, and a raised cement patio. Mendi spoke with ECM. She and her husband have been living here for “10 years last November.” The original landscaping was primarily “Manzanita trees and oaks.”

The Larsen Garden is inhabited by Dennis and Darlene Larson. Four years ago, the garden was “nothing but boulders and brush,” according to the brochure. Many dump trucks filled the area with more dirt, which has since become a succulent garden. Many species of birds and butterflies have habitat here.

“Admittedly, Darlene dotes on her birds,” notes the brochure. “Songbirds are supplied with sunflowers, quail get a daily portion of cracked corn, goldfinch are served nyger thistle in metal mesh feeders, and orioles are dished up live mealworms that Darlene grows herself, in containers of oatmeal.” There is even a tall brightly colored mosaic bottle tree, mosaic planter box, mosaic ‘welcome’ sign, and mosaic hummingbird feeder, which have all been handcrafted by Darlene. A unique feature of this garden is a collection of ‘pot people’ (a man and a woman) and many cobalt blue planters.

The tour also included Skyhunters Wild Birds of Prey Rescue Site.  Skyhunters has been in business since 1996.  The non-profit rescue and education facility includes birds on display, all of which are not releasable to the wild and native to North America.  These include the American crow, red tailed hawk, common raven, and more. For more information, visit: http://skyhunters.org/home.html.

The Ruscyzk Garden is owned by Vanessa and Richard Ruscyzk, who moved to Alpine 14 years ago from New Jersey, drawn by the climate and the land. “We knew nothing about gardening, and tried to keep it up, but everything died,” Vanessa states, according to the brochure.

She then became a CHIRP volunteer and learned about gardening. The couple has learned to “use mulch…and to plant everything in wire baskets [as well as] plants—California natives, Mediterranean natives, succulents, and all sorts of ‘habitat plants.’ Their garden has manzanita, Toyon, monkey-flower, Cleveland and white sage, and lots of soak trees as well as “non-native plants to increase the butterfly population, a herb garden, a brand new 800 square foot walk-in butterfly house with a hammock, manmade waterfalls, a hummingbird feeder, a unique block wall veggie garden, and another traditional raised bed area.” Vanessa is an artist; and she showed the public her art studio which also features gardening and nature books.

Christ the King Church was the first stop on the tour and included a CHIRP plant sale outside. Louise Phipps showed ECM around both inside the church, complete with beautiful stained glass windows, and outside where we strolled through St. Mary’s Garden, built in 1995. Phipps told ECM that this peaceful garden was “dedicated by church members. This is very symbolic.” It’s also a final resting place for cremated remains of church members.  A bell tower was “cast in 1896.”

Slaughter Garden, owned by Janette and Richard Slaughter, originally had “iron-stained boulders and rubble”. In October 2010, the garden was transformed in time for her son’s wedding. Today, there is “a double-sided waterfall, rock walls, dry creek beds and pathways of more rock, palatial wooden arbor erected on top of stone pillars and a large gas fire pit, half a dozen logs and stumps, a 100 year-old olive tree.”  Plants include “California natives, grasses and hardy perennials.”

The festival and Viejas Outlet public garden was the final stop. Booths there showcased crafts, candles, knitting,  jewelry, needle embroidery, glass, gourds, plants from Madeleine Sophie’s Center, and clothes. Al Meloche, an artist and woodcarver from Al’s Naturals, had oil paintings of Native Americans,  houses and a coyote in colored pencil, as well as many other works of art.

For more information about CHIRP, visit: http://chirp.org.