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Tour includes lush woodlands
Part of the Pearsall woodland-style shade garden. - photo by HIME ROMERO

A walk down her garden paths reminds Karen Pearsall of family.

That’s because the paths were put in place by her sons and daughter working alongside her and husband Randy.

There is even a koi pond because their sons at a young age begged them to create one and even offered to dig the hole.

“We thought they would never dig the hole but they did,” she recalled. “We had to keep our word.”

Their sons are now grown and off on other endeavors. The koi pond is still there as are arbors and other design elements put in place by her husband.

And just like her family, Pearsall’s garden is personal and ever evolving.

It is one of six gardens featured during Saturday’s Manteca Garden Club Tour taking place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Tickets are available in Manteca at Delicato Vineyards, 12001 S. Highway 99; Ed’s Rockery at 6000 E. Lathrop Road; German Glas Werks (business is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday); Manteca Visitors Center at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley; Rainforest Nursery, 1982 W. Yosemite Avenue just east of Airport Way; Tipton’s Stationery & Gifts, 169 W. Yosemite Ave.; and the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane.

Tickets are available in Ripon at Park Greenhouse & Nursery, 12813 E. West Ripon Road and Silverado Nursery, 460 South Stockton Ave. 

Pearsall fears the rural garden on East Louise Avenue might disappoint those who are more attune to formal gardening. 

But the “jungle” — as her mom sometimes refers to the garden — has its own unique richness.

It started 22 years ago after a move from the cooler Bay Area to the hotter valley. For several years almond trees flanked the western side of their home. The couple had an agreement with a farmer to continue to take care of them in exchange for a percentage of the harvest.

“It didn’t feel like it was ours,” Pearsall recalled.

So when the almond trees came out, she set about to create woodlands covering three quarters of an acre.

The idea to plant shade trees was a given. They would provide cooler ground temperatures, a block against the wind, and create privacy. They already benefitted from a stately maple tree planted about the same time their home was built in 1920. That maple provides extensive shade for their home significantly reducing cooling costs.

“I wanted a cooler and relaxing feeling,” Pearsall said. “It is at least 10 degrees cooler in the shade on a hot day.”

 The realities of shade gardening also played into her view of green as a soothing color. While sun gardens are dotted with flowers and shrubs ablaze in different colors most of the contrasts in her garden are shades of green, foliage and textures.

“It was well worth the wait,” Pearsall said of the time it took for the trees to create the canopy necessary to fully support shade gardening.

The garden — much like the Winchester Mystery House — has unexpected additions each year.

“My garden is always changing and always evolving,” Pearsall said “Sometimes because I want to try something different or experiment with a new plant or sometimes because nature makes a change whether it is a branch falling or a gopher taking out a plant.”

She admits that she is a bit concerned about some people’s reactions on Saturday since she doesn’t make the absolute destruction of weeds a priority.

“I’ve gone on many garden tours and you never see a weed in formal gardens,” Pearsall said.

That doesn’t mean the garden is choked with them. Instead, she has allowed ground cover, mulch, and such help keep weeds in check. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t pull weeds it’s just that you will find nooks and crannies where weeds still struggle to survive.

“I’m the mulch queen,” Pearsall said with a laugh. Some people are into leather jackets and such. I’m into mulch.”

As for advice to those creating a garden, hers is simple.

“It’s your garden,” Pearsall said. “Do what you want. Obviously sun plants don’t do well in shade and shade plants don’t do well in sun but other than that the garden should reflect you.”

To learn more about the Manteca Garden Club, or to become a member, visit the club’s website at