When a friend recently approached me to write a story about a South African garden that was on exhibit at the Paul Ecke Jr. Flower show, I laughed. I was at the Verizon store, dealing with cell phone chaos when the text came in. The following Monday, my husband and I, along with our friends Howard and David, who sponsored the garden, went to the Fairgrounds, to go see this work of art. What was amazing to me was that two weeks ago this garden, was a mere slab of dirt. And now I’m staring at a three- dimensional representation of South African plant life. And at that moment, I felt nothing but joy and I knew why I was writing about this garden.
The flower show is in the back of the fairgrounds, where people can go to sit down, eat lunch, and enjoy the work of some incredibly talented people. There must be 75 or more garden displays that range from hardscape to comprehensive landscape, including elevation, streams, and elegant plant life. This particular garden is comprised of plants and trees that are all 100 percent native to South Africa, which is home to some of the most plant varieties in the world. And because the latitude from the equator for San Diego and South Africa are the same, the climates are the same. In order to represent South Africa accurately, they included the three climate zones: tropics in the mountains, Mediterranean in the center of the country, and desert in the West. And all of the plants in this garden were sourced here in San Diego; all being low water, and low maintenance plants, need I say more? You won’t believe the beauty until you see it for yourself.
In the middle of this garden utopia is an incredibly tranquil stream, which gave it a peacefulness that knocked it out of the park. I had so many questions for the two men who brought this project to life. Dave Ericson, the genius who designed and created the garden, told me that he operates with a list of mantras. These are his top 2: Back story – A garden without a back story is like a human without a personality. And then he explained that he visited the flower show for the past few years, and with the help of friends, decided to bring his passion and expertise to this show. He believes that passion and collaboration are a huge part of creating something special and unique.
But the real back story to me is that he knew he was going to do this from the time he was 10 years old and his father gave him a rose garden to tend. Within a few months, he had grown roses, and his dad suggested that he cut a few and give them to his mother. When he ran into the kitchen and gave her the roses, and saw the look of pure joy on his mother’s face, he knew that he would be doing this for the rest of his life. Dave’s entire mission in life is to bring joy to others, and I can attest that he’s achieved that goal. Five sensing is his other secret to creating perfection. He essentially wants to “5 sense you” so that every single sense is stimulated when you experience his gardens, all done in balance.
Shawn Ellison is the genius behind the stream and water feature. He is an incredible person who is equally passionate about his work. His entire process is organic from start to finish and every single decision he makes, is made with a purpose. He generally finds three rocks that work together, to juxtapose with another three so they all work in unison. He handpicks every single rock that becomes part of the stream. His goal is to make his water feature look and feel as natural as possible. As he explained, certain rocks look better together; therefore, he won’t complete a project until he feels it. There was a certain rhythm that made the whole garden feel so real. The whole garden was breathtaking.
This isn’t my typical rant, but seeing this garden, and meeting the men behind the artistry was such a treat. I truly hope you get to enjoy their work at the fair, so you can touch, taste, smell, see and hear the beauty that they made possible for all of us.
You can find Dave Ericson at ericsonlandscapeconsulting.com and Shawn Ellison at sdpondbuilders.com. And if you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.