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By Janis Russell

April 29, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)-- Despite windy weather and some rain, the 19th annual garden tour presented by Friends of East County Arts on April 26 was still held, providing visitors with an array of colorful and fascinating gardens to enjoy.

This event was put on by Friends of East County Arts, Inc, which is a non-profit, philanthropic organization focused on further development and growth of the performing and fine arts in the Greater East County. To date, Friends of East County Arts, Inc. has contributed more than $600,000.00 to art-based programs in the community. All monies collected from this event [would] benefit these types of programs.

The garden tour this year featured six self-guided tours around St. Madeline Sophie’s Center and five home gardens. This event included “gardens of succulents and water-wise settings” including colorful plants, nature habitats, peaceful respites, unique corners and beautiful views, an African-themed explosion of colorful characters and drought-tolerant plants, plus the two- acre St. Madeline Sophie’s organic garden and nursery, which  sold  many wonderful plants.  In addition, “Applecrate” vendors offered delightful crafts and garden creations for purchase.

Joel and Rita Cloud own the garden on Willow Glen Drive in El Cajon. The description mentioned that this garden is “going green without grass! This garden is for aloe, agave, cacti, rock, and succulent lovers. Enjoy your walk throughout Africa and watch out for animals!” This garden included a sculptural menagerie including a giraffe, horse, and rhino. There were beautiful flowers, trees, and different kind of plants, as well as wood chips laid out throughout this garden.

The garden on Vista Del Valle in El Cajon is owned by Dianne and Dan Mezzano. The description mentioned that “This natural, water-wise garden is a haven for bees, birds, and butterflies. You will find edible plants that provide food throughout the year. Beside a variety of trees, there are many plants that provide delightful colors and fragrances.” There was a beautiful water fountain, a statue of a turtle, turtle stepping stones, and many unique and eye-catching crafts displayed throughout, like the model airplanes. Dianne told ECM that it was her husband, Dan, who came up with the idea to put the planes in the garden, reflecting his hobby.

On Burris Drive in El Cajon, Russell and Karen Hoffman opened up their garden. The description said, “You will find numerous paths that lead from shaded areas with unique ferns and tropicals, to an orchard, roses, and succulents with a desert like feel. Bright colored annuals complete this amazing garden.” There were lemon and orange trees, where some people chose to  sample fruits. There was a statue of a rooster, a cow, and a cat among other statues of people. There were even plastic sunflowers with birdhouses. Many paths circled all throughout the garden leading to different plants or crafts.

St. Madeline Sophie’s Center garden had many beautiful plants, and it also included a statue of an owl, and puppet like people holding pumpkins in one area. The description mentioned that this garden “provides training for approximately 60 developmentally disabled individuals in a natural therapeutic environment.”

Fred and Nancy Carbone on Nugent Court in El Cajon also opened up their garden. This garden had a lot of bright and bold artwork and featured an array of color. There were many colored lanterns hanging, a multi-colored sun and lizard on the wall with other kind of artwork. There was even a playground, basketball court, and a swimming pool with waterfall. This garden was described as “combining a tropical setting with a diverse compliment of succulent plants. You will see colorful and creative arrangements in pots that bring a natural flow throughout the entire property.”

Lastly, Vince and Kay McGrath on Via Escuda  displayed their home’s garden in La Mesa. Besides plants, there were a variety of birdhouses, a brown sun hanging on the wall, a moose, butterfly on the wall, and a water fountain. This garden lets you “walk on various paths throughout..and see a variety of unique plantings, garden objects, and birdhouses all in intriguingly distinctive areas.”

For more information about Friends of East County and to see photos from last year’s garden tour, visit:

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