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Private botanical garden thrives among the almonds
The view from the second-floor balcony of the Rawlins’ home. In early spring, when the almonds are in bloom, is breathtaking with the almond blossoms looking like a solid white carpet. Farther in the distance is the Coastal Range dominated by the peak of Mt. Oso. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO


• WHAT: Manteca Garden Tour
• WHEN: Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• TICKETS: $15
• AVAILABLE AT: Delicato Winery, 12001 So. Highway 99; telephone (209) 824-3600; open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Ed’s Rockery, 6000 E. Lathrop Road; tel. (209) 239-3155; open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; German Glas Werks, 109 East Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca; (209) 825-4527; Monday and Thursday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11-4 p.m.; Manteca Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1422 Grove Avenue in the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley; (209) 823-7229, open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; New Bud’s Nursery, 23563 So. Manteca Road; (209) 824-7403, Monday to Saturday 8:30 am. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Plants thrive with a little bit of water and a lot of love.

The expansive and multi-faceted Rawlins garden attest to that. And if you want to see the proof with your own eyes, mark this date - Saturday, May 10 - on your calendar. That’s the day when the Manteca Garden Club showcases six of The Family City’s best private Edens during their annual garden tour which will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Herb and Marion Rawlins’ private Eden is one of the six gardens featured.

Located in Manteca’s bucolic and rustic countryside ensconced among acres of almond orchards, the Rawlins’ garden offers plenty of horticultural attractions to delight every garden enthusiast and fan alike. To mention just a few of these visual delights: more than 100 roses of different varieties that line a meandering path in the back yard, different varieties of pine trees all over the property that have been meticulously trimmed and shaped like a bonsai, all types of Japanese maples whose multi-textured foliage range from vibrant green to blood red, a host of sago palms both planted in the ground and in huge pots, a raised garden planter with a water feature in the center that is closely guarded by a pair of bronze egrets, and a row of majestic redwood trees that catches both the morning sunshine and the glorious colors of sunset.

The home’s long driveway circles around the humongous raised planter which is home to a variety of perennials and annuals: a large clump of artemesias spilling over one side of the planter, red hot pokers rising behind a concrete pagoda sitting on the edge of the pond, willowy reeds basking in the sun next to one of the inanimate egrets, lots of lilies and other showy blooming annuals. In the middle of it all is an old Japanese black pine shaped like a bonsai, its carefully pruned branches spreading over its planter dominion.

The raised planter is large enough to feature a generous tiled platform area where a bench has been placed next to a custom-made Japanese lantern. Seated on the bench are a pair of decorative resin statues, that of a young boy and girl keeping a mute watch over the pond and the plants all around. The planter’s seating area is accessible by a low flight of steps.

The bonsai trees and the Japanese lanterns are the two garden features that catch the visitor’s eye immediately. They also are quite visible to passersby as they drive down the country road in front of the house. The property’s elevation is such that the imposing house, which was built by the Schmiedt family, and its expansive front gardens and lawns lend themselves to a picture-perfect postcard view.

The house was only five years old when the Rawlins purchased it from the Schmiedt family in 1983. In fact, the Rawlins still have a copy of the Real Estate Section of the Manteca Bulletin dated January 15, 1982 which featured the home on its cover. Even without the extensive landscaping that the property now boasts, the house on the cover page looked really imposing even then.

Herb and Marion both have  green thumbs, but they have their own garden territories.

“The roses are mine,” said Marion who diligently spoils each and every one of the more than hundred varieties in her rose garden literally every day. In turn, the roses respond to being spoiled by throwing a profusion of multi-colored blossoms practically throughout the year. Many of the roses are Jackson & Perkins, while others were miniature roses purchased at various stores in the area. The miniature roses, though, ceased to be miniatures once they were planted in Marion’s rose garden where they have more than doubled, even tripled, their original sizes. Among the rose varieties that are now blooming in profusion: Betty Boop, Mr. Lincoln, Small Miracles, Ragosa, Her Royal Highness, Little Artist, and Buffalo Gal. The Buffallo Gal produces a cluster of red buds that later turns to purple when the large petals open up. The result if a purple rose surrounded by bright-red buds.

Herb’s part of the gardening chore are the bonsai trees.

“He’s big on bonsai. He likes the Oriental look and the pagodas. He was raised in Hawaii, that’s why,” Marion explained.

The most breathtaking view of the Rawlins place, arguably, is the 180-degree scenery from the second-floor balcony in the back of the U-shaped house. The balcony overlooks the free form-shaped large pool and spa below dotted along the edges by large planters filled with sago palms, and the large cabana in the back with a spacious central seating area overlooking the pool. To the right and left of the cabana are glimpses of the back-yard gardens. Beyond, on the other side of the property fence to the south, are acres and acres of almond trees, while farther beyond are the Coastal Ranges with the peak of Mt.Oso rising above the almond treetops. Marion said the view in the spring when the almonds are in bloom is gloriously breathtaking with the orchards looking like a “solid white carpet.”

Arts beneath the redwoods

As the last home among the six featured in the garden tour, visitors will be able to linger at the Rawlins gardens awhile for light refreshments, a chance to win a prize or two during the opportunity drawing, and an opportunity to view the art works by members of the Manteca Artists Guild who are taking part in the tour for the first time. Some of the art works will be for sale.

When you buy a ticket to view the featured gardens at the garden tour, you not only get to enjoy some of the best residential landscapes around but you will also be supporting the club’s beautification projects in the community as well as contribute to the scholarship awards given to graduating high school seniors every year.

For more information about the Manteca Garden Club, the annual garden tour and where to purchase tickets for the tour, visit