Bill and Sandra Jensen create a garden for everyone that is meant to be shared. Plus, their gardening tips you can use at home.
During one particular drive on a road that can be mistaken for anywhere in suburban America, shiny cars take a needed break in the driveways of homes with 30-year mortgages. The occasional basketball net entertains a pickup game with the local kids. At the end of one particular street is a captivating Mission-style home. As you draw nearer, a golf course comes into view, the ting of golf balls lulling you into a meditative state.
Opening the back gate to enter the home, an oh wow moment happens. This is not a garden of the suburban variety or even one that represents its home in the picturesque seaside village of San Clemente, California. It is a garden you would expect to come upon after driving miles of pristine English terrain as a stream of hunting dogs nip at your vehicle. Once inside, a path of verdant lawn leads to a miniature maze in the intricate cutout pattern of stained glass.
Bill lived in Britain for 10 years, a period when he became learned in gardening techniques that influence his style. “It has a different feel than most other Southern California gardens—some parts being formal, such as the knot garden, and other areas more eclectic,” he says of his work.
I learn that the garden is, not surprisingly, a sought-out location for weddings and tours, and is frequented by children on class trips. “Feel this,” Bill says, tugging on a leaf. “What does this remind you of?” The leaf has the abrasive feel of two-day-old bread. “It’s the sandpaper leaf. Kids love it.”
It is easy to see how Bill’s interactive tour is a hit with the kids. Later, Sandra arrives home to join us. She discusses her love for sharing the garden with visiting children and wedding parties as well as the ease with which they connected with the couples who have been married on the property, many of whom they are still in touch with.
“What a joy it has been to be a part of the happiness of the bride and groom on their wedding day. All of them, without exception, have expressed how wonderful it was to start their lives in these gardens,” Sandra says.
The garden is an undeniable setting for milestone occasions since there is something not quite real about it. It is enchanting, the stuff that inspires.
“Our philosophy is that a garden is to be enjoyed by everyone—not just owned by the person who plants and tends to it,” Bill says.
Garden Cottage at the Green
119 Avenida Santa Inez
San Clemente, California 92672
Digging for Dirt
The Jensens share their gardening tips.
• Don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes plants that are not particularly suited for a specific area of the garden might do quite well there—succulents in the shade, for example. Most people think cacti need hot, sunny and dry places to thrive, but they do quite well in shade.
• We choose plantings on the basis of three factors: size, color and texture. We will either use plants that are the same color or we will use contrasting colors.
• To sustain flower blooms, make sure the plants are properly watered and in as much shade as the plant will tolerate. Heat and
direct sun can often shorten the bloom life of a flower.
• To heighten the experience of a garden, add garden ornaments, fountains and outdoor furniture so that you can sit and relax. Also, include plants that are fragrant so that there is something to delightful to smell.
• When we plan for an event in our small garden, we ensure that wherever you look there is something worth looking at.
Written and photographed by Jacqueline deMontravel