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Topiaries, unusual plant collections

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Brussels sprouts, collard greens, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables and herbs are ripe for picking in Sandra Nevares’ vegetable planters in the back yard.


POSTED May 2, 2013 2:09 a.m.

When Sandra and Al Nevares moved to Manteca, they not only bought a new home at Woodbridge Del Webb in Manteca. After 30 years of living in a small house in Stockton with limited yard space and just a swimming pool, they suddenly found themselves enjoying a new hobby in their retirement years – gardening.

“In our old house, we had a swimming pool and not a big yard, so we didn’t do a lot of gardening then. Since we moved here, we had to put a yard,” said Sandra, a retired Union Bank teller. Husband Al, a Marine Corps veteran, is a retired California Youth Authority employee.

A year ago, they bought the biggest house offered at Del Webb in Manteca. They have heard a lot of good things about the resort-style retirement community on South Union Road and fell in love with the place and the floor plan of the house.

But, said Sandra, “it didn’t have a yard, so we had to design one. We figured out what kind of plants we wanted and we went from there.”

She is partial to a “well manicured” garden look with plenty of topiaries and “kind of whimsy.” Which is why she has “a lot of garden art,” she said. These include animal shapes made into topiaries using plants such as ivy and boxwood.

“We didn’t consider drought-resistant or low-maintenance (plant varieties) because all of the trees had to be shaped. We just wanted what was pleasing to the eyes. And we like the look of the shapes,” Sandra explained.

Two of the most interesting plant varieties in the Nevares’ collection are the Staghorn ferns and Hindu Rope. The Staghorns, which were bought in Berkeley, are 30 years old and are growing on pieces of wood. The Hindu Rope is in a planter. The leaves are a conversation piece; the pink and white flowers are in clusters.

In one corner of the spacious yard is a pair of elevated vegetable planters. Among the more than a dozen vegetable varieties that are ripe for picking include Brussels sprouts, onions, tomatoes, artichokes, collard greens, strawberries, and a host of herbs. All look healthy, a tribute to Sandra’s hard work toward the eradication of destructive snails which is a constant struggle.

The couple’s love of plants is also evident inside the spacious house. Interspersed with their collection of art from Disneyland, a favorite vacation destination, are a wide variety of indoor plants such as African daisies.

The couple has their garden tasks equally divided between them. “He does the lawn; I do the garden,” Sandra simply explained.

The Nevares back yard will be the last house featured in the Manteca Garden Tour on Saturday, May 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be the setting for the end-of-tour refreshments and drawing of major prizes.

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