‘Smell the Roses… and the Freesias’

by on April 4, 2019 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

Photograph of Kathy Blavatt and Louise Peirson by photographer Steve Rowell.

By Kathy Blavatt / April 2, 2019

I always like the idiom, “Stop and smell the roses.”

My friend and long-time OBcean, Louise Peirson, in her nineties was losing her eyesight and having to wear a patch over one of her eyes part of the time. She had also taken a couple of falls and could not visit her beloved garden without the help of a person of two.

Sadly, the last couple years of her life her doctor told her she should no longer go into her garden.

Louise was heartbroken that she could no longer visit her many plants and trees.

At this point, I decided I had to find a way of bring the garden to her, so about once a week when I was caring for her yard, I would pick a bouquet of flowers and branches that she could keep in her house.

When I brought the floral samplings to Louise, we would pick a vase, then set it on her dining room table. She would close her eyes, then take a big whiff of the fragrance scents, and then tell me what was in the bouquet. Then she would look closely with her eyes (or eye), and cherish the moment as she peered closely at the flowers, sometimes with a large magnifying glass.

I would then tell her in detail what flowers were blooming in the yard, how the trees were doing, and how the weather was affecting the growth. I would give her a report on the fruit trees, and pieces of fruit when it was ripe. I found out mulberries were a bit of a problem for her digestion, and oranges were limited to a couple pieces, because they didn’t mix well with her medications. The bits she could have, she savored, especially when they were made into a dessert!

Lavender clover

Friends would say, “you are sweet for doing what you do for Louise,” but they didn’t understand how lucky I was to have her in my life. She was an encyclopedia, a living part of history with a fascinating background, and the best part yet— a kind soul.

Like her garden she was full of color and life.

Now in my garden, Louise’s life force continues in the plants she shared with me. They have multiplied, and are being shared with others. My neighbor who played scrabble with Louise now has a front yard full of her offspring plants.

Louise’s next-door neighbor has created an amazing landscape with plants Louise gave her. And the gardens that have Louise’s plants in them adorn much of our block. Her roots are firmly planted in the history of our Ocean Beach neighborhood.

Burgandy-leaf-clover Lavender-clover

Now that spring has arrived, many of Louise’s plants are blooming in my garden. This years rain, mixed with sunshine, has brought renewed life to plants that I had thought were long dead.

The local yellow clover has sprung up all over my yard after this years rain. It bright yellow flowers, with its the sour-grass stems that I have loved to chew on since childhood, have been given part if it a reprieve from being pulled.

Surprisingly, several purple and white varieties of clovers originally from Louise’s garden, have popped-up in pots and in my yard.

I thought most of these clover plants were dead, or had never seen until now popped as they popped-up in pots with other plants from Louise. It is amazing what rain can bring back to life. Louise would have been thrilled with all these delicate blossoming clovers making an appearance. Louise’s bulbs are putting out greenery and should be sending out their stocks of flowers soon. A few buttercups, and brightly colored freesias, with their sweet sent have bloomed. And the elegant orchids are in bloom.


Louise loved bromeliads, especially epiphytic plants, because they absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. Her Spanish Moss, a bromeliad not moss, now thrives in my yard as it hangs from the trees protecting the trunks and branches from sunburn.

06 Hidden-Garden-flowers.jpg

My Peruvian Lilies are starting to bloom. These are from the “Hidden Garden,” at 4975 Niagara Avenue. They had been given to me from Louie Williams in 2008, who created his fantasy garden that he shared with the O.B. community.

These flowers are a reminder of this special Obcean from the past that shared his wonderful “Hidden Garden” with the Locals…

Louie and Stephanie

….And oh how Louis loved to talk to his garden visitors about plants, his treasures he incorporated his landscape, and of coarse his wonderful cat.

I once took Louise to Louis’ Hidden Garden. They sat at the table in the beautiful garden and happily rambled on for an hour. A couple weeks later Louis visited Louise’s garden.

The joy that they shared as they showed off their beloved gardens was fabulous. I was happy to be, “the fly on the wall,” or better yet, “the bee in the garden,” as these green soul mates found garden-nirvana.

Louie’s Hidden Garden was added to one of the past “Ocean Beach Historical Society Walking Tours,” and later was the subject of an Ocean Beach Historical Society program. Louie and his Hidden Garden was truly a part of O.B.’s history that brought joy to many people.

Personally, Louie inspired me to use more artifacts in my garden, make use of my fences, and welcome people into my garden.

I placed a bench in my front yard by the front sidewalk so people could sit, look at my garden, watch a sunset, or just rest. I have met many nice people that have enjoyed sitting on my font bench.

Wisteria Cottage at 4761 Niagara Avenue

The Wisteria Cottage at 4761 Niagara Avenue is another historic garden in Ocean Beach that is in full bloom this spring. Know for the over-a-century-old Wisteria vines that drape above the historic cottage’s front porch and yard. The Ocean Beach Historical Society has used the lovey yard for many fundraising events. This year’s the event was moved to the Jennings House Café on Rosecrans to celebrate the café name change and history, but next year the Wisteria Cottage Garden Party will be back. In the mean time cruise by the Wisteria Cottage and check out the beautiful flowering vines before the blossoms drop!

My own garden is attracting a lot of visitors. I love to share extra plants and seeds with locals. I am happy to see this trend expanding.

In March, the Friends of the Ocean Beach Library had wonderful garden and seed sharing event. I just planted the seeds I was given, and others took my budding sugarcane stocks for their gardens.

The Ocean Beach Library event had wonderful live music. This included singing by a big butterfly (Jesus from the Humming Bird). What a great O.B. way to celebrate spring.

And remember to “smell the roses!”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

retired botanist April 4, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Delightful, Kathy, a breath of fresh and fragrant air, thanks for sharing your thoughts AND your garden in these trouble-laden and negatively-charged times! So few narratives remind us of the free, positive, daily elements that are right under our noses…if we can just pay less attention to the head-bangers and more attention to the nature that struggles to be seen, smelled and heard. :-) As Thoreau said, its actually all in one’s back yard! :-)


ZZ April 4, 2019 at 4:48 pm

That lavender clover looks great. I have lavender-lavender spreading everywhere from 1/4 gallon pots 5 years ago to 10 by 5 feet wide monsters 5 feet tall.

Some fern type weed I thought I killed off years ago came back due to all the rain. Fortunately it is easy to remove. Like many local weeds, it doesn’t look too bad at first, then you realize it aims to take over everything.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman April 4, 2019 at 6:26 pm

Kathy Blavatt is an OB Treasure — doyenne at the Ocean Beach Historical Society, author of a community photographic history called “Ocean Beach — Where Land and Water Meet,” an appreciative gardener, ardent environmentalist and wonderful friend and neighbor. In some seasons, San Diego grows beautiful natives.


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