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Thrilla in Terracina: Visual surprise at every turn
The Japanese-themed water feature with the pond below filled with koi fish. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin
There’s a visual surprise at every turn in this garden – or more appropriately, series of gardens – wrapped around this home in the gated community of Terracina in northwest Manteca.

And if you have not picked up a ticket to the Manteca Garden Club’s “Gardens for Generations” garden tour on the eve of Mother’s Day – that’s Saturday, May 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – run, don’t walk to the nearest place where you can secure a $15 admission ticket for an exclusive view of six special gardens featured this year. One of them is this Terracina home and gardens of Dale Gray and Dave Konesky. Gray is the former CEO of the Central Valley Realtors Association.

This horticultural attraction actually takes the visitor to a walking tour of lush gardens, along a meandering pathway past a series of visual feasts all around the property that includes a tree house sitting on the forked trunks of an old almond tree. The exclusive gated community sits on what was once an almond orchard, but the developers left about three or four of the almond trees in each lot. This tree in the Terracina home was preserved specifically for the tree house that was built for the daughter of Konesky.

The garden is an artistic creation in itself, with some sections somewhat reminiscent of the master artist Monet’s gardens at Giverny. There’s the arbor on the west side of the property, for instance, which is covered with climbing floral varieties that include the stunning Nelly Moser clematis. On the east side yard of the home is a Japanese garden setting whose visual impact is as strong as a haiku. The focal point here is a waterfall, with the waters flowing down to a narrow but deep elongated pond complete with a stepping stone walkway that bisects the water feature where colorful koi fish dart everywhere.

Take a few steps to the south of the Japanese-themed garden and you find yourself in Tuscany. That’s the setting that Gray wanted to evoke when he designed the garden in the enclosed courtyard. In the middle of the crushed granite square area is a Tuscany-style water fountain.

One of the attractions that immediately greet visitors is the leaf-motif wrought-iron gates and walls in the courtyard. The leaf motif is carried into the drapes inside the formal living room. This is actually the reason for the wrap-around garden – to bring nature inside the house. Every window in the house offers a picturesque view of the gardens outside so the homeowners don’t need to step outside to admire the picture-perfect view.

Interspersed among the lush foliage in the gardens are various art pieces that enhance the garden, and vice versa. One of these art pieces is a snow white ceramic man’s mask that seems to emerge from the thick foliage covering the fence behind it.

Garden tour visitors will be able to discover more horticultural surprises in this garden on May 8. Tickets for the tour, which will include drawing prizes and refreshments offered at the last home, is just $15 apiece. Tickets are available at German Glas Werks, New Buds Nursery, Convention and Visitors Bureau at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley in Manteca, Morris Nursery in Riverbank, and P&L Cement in Escalon. For further details, call (209) 823-2209, (209) 823-6300) or (209) 824-2062.