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Seasoning with color

This local backyard is a standout year-round
By: Jane Rounsaville, Gold Country News Service
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With splashes of vibrant magentas, deep greens and blues, Ruben and Virginia Carrillo’s backyard is a garden lover’s paradise. Any time of the year, trees throughout the one-acre property add a different color scheme — flowering cherries in the springtime, Crape Myrtle in the summer, brilliant red Japanese maples in the fall and evergreens in the winter. Camellias, begonias, shrimp plants and dogwoods. A non-gardener might wonder why Ruben does this. Azaleas, gardenias and rhododendrons. Pyrus shrubs, philodendrons and dwarf pittosporum. There are so many different plants and flowers in their garden that he can’t recall each and every name. Yet he carefully nurtures each blossom, vine, leaf and branch. “He babies them,” Ruben’s wife, Virginia, said recently. “He’s out here eight hours a day. Sometimes I have to call him in for lunch.” Just past a row of 18-inch high Boxwood hedges, a separate garden of tomato plants, watermelon, squash and cucumber vines thrives in the summer heat. An Australian tree fern almost completely covers one window of the house. “Eight feet and growing,” Ruben said. The fern will eventually reach a height of about 20 feet. At High Hand Nursery in Loomis, which occasionally carries Australian tree ferns, nurseryman Daniel Spangler emphasized keeping it protected against frost. “Ferns needs shade,” he said. “If it is an Australian tree fern, it doesn’t like to be frozen. It needs nice amended soil. If you are going to keep it in this kind of climate, grow it against the house where it has some protection against the elements in winter.” Working outdoors is something Ruben knows well. “I used to work as a landscaper in the Bay Area,” Ruben said. “I was basically an operator, and of course I used to do landscaping with them. I would help them whenever I could, but my primary job was finished grading — lawn areas like the baseball fields and football fields, and all that sort of work.” His 35 years experience running a backhoe came in handy when the couple bought the home in Granite Bay about five years ago. He cleared the property’s overgrown yard, ripped out oleander shrubs and installed a dripline system. Beyond a small cluster of oaks is a weathered, decades-old decorative miniature concrete castle left behind by the previous owner. A rock birdbath/fountain is a favorite playground for neighborhood frogs. A few whimsical garden ornaments are scattered here and there. When it comes to deciding which plant he likes best, Ruben doesn’t play favorites. “I have no preference,” he said, “I like everything that is alongside the deck, and then over there in the back where I have my little water pond. Then, of course, these azaleas here, right off the deck, on the back.” Despite being a flower-loving critter’s paradise, his garden remains miraculously deer-free. “The only problem I have is with the moles,” he said. “They somehow get into the lawns, and before you know it, you see a burrow of dirt.” He recycles grass, leaves and kitchen scraps into compost, and feeds his plants fish emulsion twice a year. Every winter, he covers the plants with a tarp. For Ruben, gardening is not an exact science, and that’s okay with him.