By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Part of Saturdays garden tour
BulletinGardenAlmondwood 5 copy
Comfortable couches in front of the outdoor fireplace provide plenty of creature comforts in the courtyard of an Almondwood Avenue home. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin Correspondent

What trees can you plant along your driveway that won’t crack the cement?
How do you build a privacy wall that will enhance your garden sans the use of such hardscape materials as wood or cement?
How do you grow Portuguese kale?
What two avocado varieties are best grown in a home garden?
You will find the answers to these and other gardening questions at the Almondwood Avenue garden in rural South Manteca, one of the outstanding private horticulture attractions lined up for this Saturday’s annual Manteca Garden Tour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A unique lush oasis set in
a 40-acre almond orchard
What immediately sets this home garden apart is its unique location. It is unarguably the main attraction in the 40-acre almond orchard where it’s ensconced – except perhaps in spring when the trees are in full bloom and the ranch spread is suffused with sweet-smelling blossoms like a giant magic snow carpet. The sprawling house which was built in the 1960s by the former orchard owner, a longtime local farmer, and later extensively remodeled and renovated by the current owners in the 1990s is literally surrounded by fruit trees, plant varieties that could easily rival a small nursery’s collection, all kinds of vegetables and herbs growing in neat straight rows, and palm trees especially selected because their root balls don’t create any cracks in the cement driveway.
Inside the secluded back yard, accessible via a side gate, are garden features worthy of the pages of a glossy magazine. Interspersed with the wide variety of dwarf and medium-sized trees, flowering plants some of which were chosen to attract butterflies and bees, and other horticultural varieties are creature comforts designed and created by Larry Haworth and Jesse Soto. These include an outdoor kitchen with state-of-the-art modern cooking and dining accoutrements, a large stone-wall waterfall which provides a soothing audio backdrop to the relaxed setting, a comfortable sitting area complete with soft and colorful couches and a cozy fireplace. There is also a secret garden in one corner of the back yard complete with lush tropical plants like elephant ears and a towering fruitless banana tree.
“I brought Puerto Rico to my back yard!” gushed Jesse Soto, referring to the tropical plants and color scheme that he and Haworth incorporated in the inviting gathering area.
This part of the property is not just for show. It’s a very utilitarian space.
“We live out here. The only thing we do in the house is sleep,” almond farmer Larry laughed, adding, “I like to come in here and relax.”
Jesse was proud to point out that this part of the garden has an entirely different, but equally beautiful visual appeal to it at night. That’s because of the other incorporated elements that lend themselves to nighttime viewing such as the one-of-a-kind remote-controlled arc of flames situated above the concrete bench in front of the dining area. Decorative hanging fixtures on the trees and pergola provide additional nocturnal magic thrill.
Orchard and
ranch part of early
Manteca farming history
The Almondwood Avenue orchard was originally owned by farmer Stanley Carlson. He and his family lived in the old house just west of the new home that is being featured in the garden tour. The old house also has a shop that Haworth uses for his farming equipment.
“Stanley built this house in the mid-1960s for his wife,” said Haworth. He bought the orchard, both houses and the shop, from the Carlsons in the 1990s. The old house is now a rental.
Since he purchased the property, the house has undergone extensive remodeling and renovation to modernize it. But a number of things are still there that were part of Stanley Carlson’s legacy.
“A lot of the plants and trees were original to the property” and were planted by Carlson, Haworth pointed out.
One of the trees that was planted by Carlson, however, had to be replaced. Where a magnolia tree once grew in the center of the front lawn now stands a dogwood. The bottlebrush he planted is also still there.
To accommodate the variety of fruit trees running the whole length of the west side of the house, Haworth had to take out eight almond trees. Soto talked to a consultant on how to best go about this change in the landscaping. In place of the almond trees on this side of the fence are Mexicola and Bacon avocado, a fig, apricot, a nectarine and peach, among other fruit-bearing tree varieties. They came up with the range of tree selections to get a varied harvest of fruit throughout the year, Soto explained.
The trees benefit from the proximity of the almonds in the orchard, he added. “All the trees co-exist with the almonds, so they don’t need a pollinator.”
Sharing space with the fruit trees is a huge thriving clump of Portuguese kale that is currently in seed stage.
“We’ll let it seed here,” explained Haworth, so they can have more of the scrumptious vegetable next year for Soto’s favorite soup – Portuguese kale soup. He is looking forward to making a batch of this soup the way his mother and grandmother made them, he said.
All vegetables and herbs, not just the trees, were selected and grown for their dining table. Soto and Haworth said they do a lot of fruit and vegetable canning from their harvest.
So, how do you build a privacy wall without going through the trouble of pounding nails on wood or stacking up cement hollow blocks? Soto has the answer.  Think Hot Lips Salvia and agapanthus (Lily of the Nile) for starters.
The garden tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with refreshments and door prize giveaways to take place at the last featured home. Donation per person is $20 with all proceeds to be used for the garden club’s scholarship, civic, and community beautification projects.