Barbara Stoner lived in Agua Dulce for four decades but it was in Manteca that she found the real sweet waters to nourish her passion – gardening.
“The only complaint I have is I have to thin (the plants) like crazy; everything grows here. It’s amazing,” she said, praising the rich sandy soil that has made this Family City into a thriving agricultural town from its founding at the turn of the 20th century to this day.
The home at 1086 Golden Pond Drive in north Manteca is part of today’s Manteca Garden Tour that runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets also will be available for purchase for the tour at the Golden Pond address.
Still, she is acutely cognizant and mindful of the need to conserve water while nurturing her post-retirement passion to satisfy her green thumb. And that concern has played a major part in shaping the kind of gardening she pursues.
“My number one goal is to save water,” said the retired postal clerk who, with her husband Bill who is retired from the Los Angeles County Office of Education as a business accountant, made their home in the town of Mohave near the Mojave desert before their move to Agua Dulce which, in English, is Sweet Water.
To that end, Barbara has carefully chosen the plants for her vegetable and floral gardens. Her selections demonstrate what many may not realize, that drought tolerant plants can be just as colorful and lush as the water-hogging varieties. Case in point are the Red Texas Yucca – hesperaloe parviflora – that are generously spread out in the back yard. This plant, which is native to the Chihuahuan desert of west Texas, produces towering stalks of showy reddish pink blossoms shooting out of a green ball of foliage that, on closer look, is really a clump of narrow evergreen leaves with a fringe of white threadlike hairs along their edges.
Visually setting off this garden attention getter is the light-colored gravel ground cover that the Stoners decided to utilize all throughout the garden as a means to further conserve water – no lawn to water – and eliminate one chore, regular mowing. The same effect is achieved by the raised rectangular planters where Barbara planted their favorite vegetables – sweet peas, tomatoes, rhubarbs, and artichokes, to mention just a few.
The Stoners are recent residents in Manteca having moved here less than five years ago, so the trees in their garden and around the property have not reached full maturity. Planted on their west-facing yard are several guavas.
Many of the plants, both on the ground and in planters, were purchased at the UC Davis Arboretum where the Stoners and members of the Manteca Garden Club, of which they are members, go to the spring and fall plant sale there. That’s where the pink Mexican sage, marjoram, thyme, Texas Ranger with showy lavender-like blossoms, and a host of other native varieties were bought.
Accentuating the landscape all over are metal sculptures – Barbara calls them “garden art” – that double as conversation pieces. One sculpture, made out of old and rusty garden tool parts such as a shovel and a rake, was created by a craftsman from Napa but was purchased in Southern California. A hanging avian collection was a gift from one of the Stoners’ daughter.
It was family that prompted the Stoners’ move from Agua Dulce in Southern California to Manteca. They have four daughters and nine grandchildren, only one of whom is a boy.
Barbara has always been a garden club member. Before they came to Manteca, she was already prepared to be involved with the Manteca Garden Club.
“I saw the garden club on the website before we moved here,” she said.