Out of the Box Garden Art

September 12, 2011

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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

For tour and luncheon information contact Kimberly Fruits at 209-334-0138 | rewindthyme@softcom.net | facebook.com/rewindthyme

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.


  1. What interesting and beautiful gardens exist in the areas around where we live that , only by luck, we get to know about.

    Would love to see this and I know the Garden Club that we belong to would also enjoy seeing this remarkable garden.

    So sorry that Kimberly’s husband, Drexel’s can’t be there.

    Thank you for your wonderful descriptions and photos.


    • You’re welcome. I had a ball taking photos. There’s so much to see and photograph — and a lot more to write about.


  2. Cool! sounds like a go-to for me. Artistic talent and creativity go a long way in making a silk purse out of a sows ear. Thanks for the information Dianne.


    • For sure, you have to book a tour. Invite some friends and have a special day at a very special place. You’ll want to return again and again.


  3. Oh Dianne, What a Beautifully written article..Drexel, my Angel, sure was shining down on you when you took those wonderful pictures of all of his creations…It has been such a pleasure meeting you and being able to share all of our dreams…I look forward to many years of friendship…Thank you so much…Kisses Kim


    • It was an honor to write about all that you and Drexel created together. I too look forward to many years of friendship.


  4. Dianne….you paid such a great tribute to Kim and Drexel for their amazing wonderland of art and beauty. Not to mention the best hospitality extended to everyone who visits this masterpiece of artwork; also Kim’s deliciously prepared lunches and treats that she personally prepares on request. This is truly a treat for everyone!


    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.


  5. rusty old and ugly…sure makes for enchanting. love it all 🙂


  6. Ahhhh….so fun to read this article and look at your amazing pictures of Kimberly’s garden. Wimsey, artful re-purposing and creating add such an exciting element to gardens, There has been some mention of a 2012 Master Gardner’s tour. Kimberly’s and Drexel’s garden would certainly be an artful addition to the possible line-up of gardens.


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