Russ and Monica Chapin wanted a backyard made for entertaining. They also wanted to save water.
When they made over their landscape in Folsom, they got both. The old lawn and shrubs are gone in favor of a deluxe outdoor kitchen and patio. An underused flower bed made way for a poolside fireplace and seating area.
Behind their hillside home, the sharp slope was transformed from an uncoordinated jumble into a formal study of white-flowered plants set against black mulch. It forms a distinguished background for the handsome cabana and stone-faced bar.
The result? The Chapins never want to leave home.
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“This is our stay-cation,” Monica Chapin said with a broad smile. “It’s like we live at a resort.”
They’ll have plenty of guests this weekend. Their home is one of the featured stops on the 15th annual Gardens of Folsom tour.
Hosted by the Folsom Garden Club, about 750 patrons are expected to tour seven Folsom gardens. They’ll watch artists paint the scenery as they sample the views. Master gardeners will identify plants and answer questions. Plants and baked goods will be offered for sale.
This year, a common water-wise theme runs through these gardens, said Kathy Bramall, the club’s co-vice president.
“We have three gardens that are very drought-tolerant, but (all seven) keep an eye on water,” she said. “And they’re all so different. One is like taking a walk through the Sierra with boulders surrounding the pool. Another is all about growing food with lots of fruit trees, a large vegetable garden and a darling potting shed.”
Each has unique ideas that can inspire guests to think about their own gardens and what they could do with their landscape, large or small.
Support for the 150-member Folsom Garden Club and its tour reflects the continued interest in gardening in their growing community, Bramall noted.
“Our club has remained strong,” she said. “A lot of other clubs have gone by the way, so people come to us.”
Proceeds from the tour support scholarships for students who want to study horticulture and landscape design.
At the Chapins’ home, the tour’s influence comes full circle. Landscape designer Darcie Nunes Paulin of Custom Plantings created the new almost all-white garden for the couple.
“Darcie received a scholarship from the garden club, and she referred us to the tour,” Russ Chapin noted. “She’s helping give back to the garden club.”
The design started with the lap pool. It came with the home, which the Chapins bought two years ago, moving from near Stockton.
“The house was owned by a pool dealer,” Russ Chapin said. “So, this pool had all the bells and whistles.”
That includes recirculating fountains and handsome stone facing. Although the former owner had installed gas and electrical hookups for an outdoor kitchen, that project never got off the ground until the Chapins started taking a hard look at their water use and a total backyard makeover.
“We’re walnut growers, so we’re very aware of the drought,” Russ said. “That’s why we went with all this hardscape (instead of lawn). The drought was absolutely part of it. I know we’re saving a lot of water now.”
They started the transformation with the slope, which rises at a sharp 45-degree angle.
“It’s a very difficult slope,” Russ said. “That made it very difficult to care for, and (irrigation) water tended to just run off. It’s now all drought-tolerant plants. And because they’ve been in a year, they’re established (and can get by on less water). Everything is on drip.”
With deep green foliage and sparkling white flowers, the plants look lush with little water. Oleanders and crepe myrtles form a backdrop for ground-hugging carpet roses and star jasmine. A wall of photina studded with southern magnolias softens the retaining wall behind the pool and its fountains. Pots of white petunias, vinca and cyclamen pick up the white highlights.
“We like the very formal look of the all-white landscape,” Russ said. “We still have a few pops of color here and there, but the white pulls it all together. It goes with the pool – and it looks magnificent.”
Contractor Matt Niermeyer of Custom Image Hardscape in Folsom built the outdoor kitchen, cabana and fireplace. In the long, thin backyard, stonework wraps around the lap pool to pull the patios together.
Business has been busy, Niermeyer noted, adding that “hardscape is all we do.” But it’s not so much about drought conversions as making the most of outdoor space and transforming backyards into liveable “rooms.”
“We do a lot of outdoor kitchens,” he said. “That trend has been going for 25 years.”
The Chapins’ outdoor kitchen rivals its indoor counterpart. With an eight-seat wrap-around bar, the outdoor kitchen features a large wood-burning pizza oven, a six-burner gas grill, a “kegerator” with beer taps, a chilled buffet, under-counter refrigerators, sink and loads of counter space.
“I love the kitchen,” Monica said. “I love entertaining people, and this has room for a lot of people.”
Plus it has shade and remains cool even on the hottest afternoon.
“That’s one thing about this backyard: We had no (big) trees. We had no shade,” Russ said. “Now we do.”
That adds to the appeal of their resort-like landscape.
“You can enjoy the outdoors and summer evenings,” Russ said. “In the mornings, I love to sit out here and listen to the fountains as I read the paper.”
With the garden tour looming on their calendar, the Chapins rushed to get their dream backyard completed in time. They were still adding the final touches last week. But after the tour, they plan to really relax.
“We’re just looking forward to having our friends and family over – a lot,” Russ said. “This is our little slice of heaven.”