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Manteca Garden Tour set for May 11
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The three R's work well in the school. They are also useful in the garden. Just ask Bruce and Deanna Cowan of Manteca. For these avid gardeners, though, the letters stand for recycle, reuse, and re-invent. For the last word, you can also read re-purpose.

The result of these words put into good use is the heart of the Cowans' garden which will be one of six private homes featured in the annual garden tour sponsored by the Manteca Garden Club.

Take the raised bed, which they call their tropical garden, in the back yard, for example. The picket fencing is made of 35-year-old wood with the wide solid top, which conveniently doubles as a seating convenience, around 75 years old. Both materials were about to be thrown in the garbage bin when they were rescued by Bruce who, luckily is a carpenter by profession. The nearly eight-decade top wood used to be part of a golf course.

The tropical garden derived its name from the edible varieties planted here — pineapples (the tops saved from fruit that they had purchased and eaten), strawberries, and a type of beans which is colored purple, among others. In the middle of the tropical garden are bananas that go back to the "1960s, 1970s," the Cowans said with a laugh. They were actually first planted by Bruce's father but somehow just never took off.

Materials used by the Cowans in building the courtyard-cum-pond in front of the house had the same origins. This part of the garden facing the street is a unique highlight of the family's private Eden. From the street, the older house looks no different from the others in the neighborhood near Sequoia Elementary School. Perhaps the only difference is that this residential property is dominated by a 60+-year-old camphor tree with a massive trunk. This was already a big tree when he was a boy growing up in this neighborhood, recalled Bruce who grew up next door. Deanna also grew up in the neighborhood and went to the same elementary and high school (Manteca).

In building their courtyard, they included the tree as part of the unusual landscaping. The wooden floor and the pond complete with a waterfall and koi (there's one catfish in the group and a few turgles in the group) touches the front wall and picture window of the house. Every inch was built and landscaped by the couple.

Deanna calls the sound created by the waterfall as "white noise (because) it kills all the city noise" coming from the street just a few feet away. The pond uses recirculating water.
"We just did what we could do at that time," Deanna said, describing all the work that went into the development of their garden through the years.

"Creativity is the mother of invention," she said, then quickly added, "Poverty, I think — it's poverty" that is the mother invention.
Plus, she noted, that means less going to the landfill, and less waste.
The Cowan home is one of six homes featured in the annual Manteca Garden Tour set for Saturday, May 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tour tickets, at $20 each, are available at the following local businesses:
* Rain Forest Nursery on West Yosemite Avenue
* Tipton's Stationery & Gifts in downtown Manteca (corner Yosemite Avenue and Maple Street)
* New York Diamonds in the Walmart commercial center (South Main Street and Mission Avenue)
* German Glas Werks in downtown Manteca, (corner Yosemite and Main)
* Sadie's Salon, East Yosemite Avenue across from Manteca High
* Ed's Rockery on East Lathrop Road (on the east end of the Lathrop Road Highway 99 overcrossing)
* Silverado Nursery on Stockton Avenue in Ripon
* Park Greenhouse on West Ripon Road in Ripon
* Delicato Family Vineyards, Highway 99 Frontage Road (west side of the freeway)
* Manteca Senior Center, Cherry Lane just behind City Hall.
A brochure showing the garden locations will be available when you purchase a ticket.
Refreshments will be available at the last house featured in the tour where door prizes will be given away to lucky visitors.
For more information, visit the group's website at You may also contact them at P.O. Box 23, Manteca, CA 95336.