Giant farm equipment is the last thing you’d expect to encounter in garden beds. But that’s what you’ll see in Kimberly Fruits’ remarkable landscape. Beyond an iron gate and an impressive grove, a massive grain auger and a 1908 threshing machine on either side of a circle driveway surprisingly blend into the scenery. The largest of many farm equipment, agriculture and a strong sense of rewinding time festoons most of the five acres surrounding Kimberly’s, and her late husband, Drexel’s, 5,000 square-foot country home in Acampo, California.
After tearing down and rebuilding the existing 1,800 square-foot house from 1997 to 2000, Kimberly and Drexel began landscaping the grounds in 2001. Drexel replaced borer-infested trees, brought in tons of soil to overlay hardpan, and installed water systems.
For years, Kimberly, a retired bank manager, and Drexel, a pharmacist, sought out auctions, estate sales, thrift stores, and garage sales. They tore down old barns to rebuild rustic sheds, and searched the internet for objects Drexel loved for the history and Kimberly loved because, “My favorite color is rust, and I like old and ugly.”
When Drexel bought agriculture equipment, he’d have a vision for it, drew a picture for Kimberly, then together they’d design a bed for the piece. They built large hills to accommodate timeworn pieces. To border the mounds, they used railroad ties, rocks from their property or broken concrete from the old house’s foundation. Then Kimberly dazzled the beds with flowering perennials and annuals.
Kimberly admits to choosing some of the large pieces like the manure spreader (above) tucked beneath a Japanese Elm tree. Drexel reinforced the rotted-out bottom with metal. He set barrels on the metal, filled them with soil, then added a drip line. Today, Kimberly’s plantings of sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime), agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile), and Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus), spills over the sides concealing the barrels. Between the spreader and repurposed concrete path that Kimberly acid washed, are colorful impatiens.
Nearby, purple and yellow lantanas fill a rusty horse feeder. A claw foot tub and an antique hand pump are paired as a water feature. A baby buggy frame holds a galvanized tub with society garlic. Throughout the grounds, wagon wheels, rusty carts, farm tools, cast iron stoves, bicycles and much more are intergraded as accents or focal points.
Everywhere one turns, strolls, or stops to take in the vast number of garden art and picturesque plantings, you realize several visits are needed to see everything. Impossible to miss are the grain auger and threshing machine. Against a vista of redwoods, cedar and pine trees, both pieces appear complete. Although Drexel plumbed the auger and threshing machine for water features, neither were finished when a tragic fall from a scaffold took his life three years ago.
To honor their dreams, Kimberly, a petite grandmother full of energy, spunk, and personal garden memories, has opened the grounds and her amazing home for tours. This is one place you don’t want to miss. Rewinding rich reflections of remarkable garden art and thousands of collectables indoors, Kimberly’s stories are as intriguing and unique as her country estate. © Dianne Marie Andre
Kimberly Fruits’ Garden Art Tips:
- Think outside the box. Almost anything can be a focal point or accent, alone or grouped together.
- For dynamite weathered finds, go to thrift stores. The more worn and rusty the better. Once it decays, it won’t cost much to replace – a dollar or less.
- Don’t be afraid of change. If it breaks or decays, modify the bed, patio, porch or wall with another object.
- Don’t be afraid to use indoor elements outdoors. Again, it can always be replaced.