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Rain fails to dampen enthusiasm
This is a view of the back-yard garden of the home near Shasta School with the broccoli trees in the front yard. The picture is taken from the outdoor kitchen and dining area in a covered corner of the garden. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Bonsai trees galore. A gigantic sundial on the ground, all handmade, with the traventine-marble gnomon rising to an impressive five feet. A full bocce ball court. Tree roses along pathways winding around not just one but two 1860s Victorian houses. A Biblical garden and a labyrinth surrounded by lush landscaping at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

These and many more were the attractions that drew the scores of people who braved the cloudy, and a bit wet, weather that welcomed the Manteca Garden Club’s 17th annual garden tour Saturday.

“Attendance was a little lower than prior years’, maybe a little bit because of the weather,” but the garden enthusiasts who didn’t want to miss the five featured private Edens this year were not daunted by that slight inconvenience, said garden club member Beverly Ensley who welcomed guests to the first home near Shasta School on Edison Street.

“The rain didn’t keep them away,” happily commented club president Paula Elias who was impressed by the many people she saw at the Victorian homes on Union Road where she was assigned to meet visitors.

The enthusiasm that was apparent in the tour attendance simply goes to show the community support that the club enjoys, member Suzanne Clemens pointed out. That’s because they realize that the money generated by this sole annual fund-raiser of the club all goes back to the community.

“Half of it goes to scholarships, and the other half to community projects,” she said.

At the recent Arbor Day observance, for example, the club donated 18 shade trees which were planted around the children’s playground at Woodward Park. This is the latest of this annual tradition which is done in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Manteca. Other public places where trees were planted under the same Arbor Day program include the Manteca Library Park, Morenzone Park in front of the Manteca Golf Course on Union Road, Northgate Park just to name a few.

Scholarships are awarded to graduating seniors from Manteca Unified’s high schools that plan to pursue further education in horticulture-related fields.

Each of the four home gardens offered varied attractions. Two of the homes were located at Del Webb on North Union Road. Homeowners, like Ken and Molly Cooper, were more than happy to share information about various aspects of their own residential paradise at their Del Webb home.

“It’s fun to have a hobby like this,” said an excited Ken Cooper.

On their three Italian zucchini’s generous crop last year, he said as he and his wife happily chatted with visitors, “We couldn’t eat it fast enough.” The three zucchinis that they planted were not just huge; they were prolific producers, he said with a laugh.

But that experience did not deter them from repeating the experience. The zucchinis are back albeit just a couple this time. Still, they expect to feed the neighborhood again with the plants’ generous offerings which are already becoming evident.

This is only the second year of the Coopers’ gardening efforts and they’ve been learning a lot, he said. “We’re just trying to have fun with it. We grow our own food.”

There is a specific delineation as far as the couple’s gardening chores are concerned. “This is kind of her thing,” Ken Cooper said of the vegetable garden that features raised beds he himself designed and built. “This is her domain. I take care of the sundial. We  have split responsibilities.”

A star jasmine arbor separates the two garden areas. Ken Cooper’s section is dominated literally by a large sundial on an elevated terrace facing the vegetable garden which he himself designed and meticulously built. The gnomon alone, which is the part of the sundial that throws a shadow to tell the time, is an impressive five feet of traventine marble.

One of the main attractions at the other Del Webb home was a full-size bocce ball court. At the first home near Shasta School, the garden which showed all signs of a private paradise that has been nurtured through the years by Chuck and Darla Carpenter, offered so many visual attractions it was hard to name them all. The first of these horticultural features greeted visitors in front of the house - mature bonsai trees amusedly referred to by passing school children as “broccoli trees,” fairy and gnome gardens, a pair of majestic palm trees towering over the backyard garden, whitewashed bird cages containing cascading blooming geraniums and other flowering plants, and a host of plants that bloom year-round including impatiens, begonias, wisteria, Sweet Memory Durante, alstroemeria, and hibiscus.

For the first time this year, the garden tour included a church — St. Paul’s United Methodist where visitors were able to meander through the Biblical Garden and the Labyrinth or Maze garden.