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Secret Garden in French Collection home inspired by John Denver and John Muir
Cindy Esenwein takes a leisurely walk along the winding garden pathway flanked by redwoods, maples, a Sunset Cherokee dogwood, smoke trees and other perennials and annuals. meanders around the back-yard Secret Garden bordered by whimsy grass and other plant varieties. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO


The Bulletin

Cindy and Dennis Esenwein’s back-yard garden is classic Secret Garden.

Even the home, a French Collection house with an Old World6 turret architectural feature, lends a classic ambience to the experience. When the narrow wooden side gate is opened, you are treated to a glimpse of a private paradise. But that’s only a slice of the visual feast that awaits you as you take a few steps inside the gate.

However, before you get to the “redwoods,” the woodsy trail, and the winding creek bed where rocks are caressed by a crystal clear flowing stream, you first have to say visual hello to the woman in the “Migraine Soak,” artist Cindy Esenwein’s unique garden creation. The art work features an actual Victorian-style footed iron bath rub with a flower-shaped glass shower head. Real nails embedded around the woman’s head deliver the migraine message. Recreating the make-believe bubbles in the bubble bath are white alyssum blossoms.

The back yard is landscaped in such a way that it looks far bigger than it actually is. The entire back yard is actually a seamless garden that wraps around the house. One side of the garden, the area where the path from the gate takes you straight ahead, is a narrow trail that winds itself along whimsy decorative grasses, trees and shrubs culminating in the redwoods corner. Other mature trees such as a red-blooming dogwood called Sunset Cherokee, Japanese maples and other tree varieties lends one the feeling as though they are actually in a redwood forests. That phrase from a song by John Denver – “from the redwood forest, to the gulf steam water…” is actually the inspiration behind the Esenwein’s garden, explained Cindy who holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Cal State, Stanislaus and is currently an art teacher at Franklin High School in Stockton.

The trail loop connects in the back to the creek bed where the crystalline waters crawls leisurely down a sloping rocky pathway, jumping off medium-sized boulders in a couple of places before it forms into a pool below. Below the ground unseen is a water tank allowing the water to re-circulate to create the cool water feature.

In the middle of circular pathway and the creek bed is a slightly elevated grassy lawn where the Esenweins’ 11-year-old daughter, Sophia, and her friends play croquet, hold hula-hoop contests, and other games while away a pleasant morning or afternoon.

“That’s really what it is – a private paradise,” said Cindy Esenwein of her John Denver- and John Muir-inspired Secret Garden Eden.

Contact Rose Albano Risso at or at (209) 249-3536.