Building community at the White Rock East Garden Tour
With its spacious front yards and tall shade trees, it’s clear to see where Forest Hills and Little Forest Hills got their apt names. These are neighborhoods that cherish green space, made apparent in the careful attention to detail many homeowners take in perfecting luscious gardens.
“One of the main reasons we bought the house was the garden,” Ron Balentine says of his San Fernando Way home.
Back in the 1980s, the property belonged to noted Master Gardener Delores Cullivan, the White Rock Lake resident behind Artistic Gardenscapes, which designs drool-worthy residential landscapes that range from English rose to drought-tolerant. At her own home, she carved out deliberate paths for the plants to follow, building architectural beauty from flora and fauna. According to neighborhood lore, Cullivan sold the property only after the new owner agreed to allow her to keep tending the garden she so lovingly designed for herself.
But that was years ago.
By the time Balentine bought it in 2014, the yard was dreadfully overgrown, left to flounder without a skilled hand to keep it tended. As longtime gardeners, Balentine and his wife, Julie Dunn, were eager to take on the challenge of restoring the half-acre to its former glory, albeit with their own personal touches.
“I just buy what I like,” Balentine says when asked about his plant preference. “A lot of stuff in here is from my grandmother. She was the one who taught me about gardening.”
The couple will unveil their years of hard work at the White Rock East Garden Tour, taking place May 21. You’ll find artists selling handmade creations in their garden, in addition to the annual plant sale, which is set for 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in Casa Linda Park.
The tour is a joint effort of Casa Linda Estates, Forest Hills and Little Forest Hills. All proceeds benefit neighborhood beautification projects along with fun holiday events like the Fourth of July celebration. Lottie Minick, a 25-year Forest Hills resident who volunteers with the tour, says the event has knit the community together in its 16 years.
“It’s brought us all together and allowed us to get to know each other,” Minick says. “It’s so nice to have a reason to meet new neighbors.”
She and other neighborhood volunteers scour the blocks looking for eye-catching gardens to showcase each May. “I walk the alley and peek through the fences,” Minick admits with a laugh.
This year’s tour is an eclectic mix, from modern and manicured to more whimsical. Mallory Becker will showcase her newly installed production garden, complete with leafy greens like kale and chard, tons of tomatoes and peppers, herbs, peach trees and other edible goodies. She calls it “the farm” and has plans to add a greenhouse and a chicken coop by the pool in her mid-century modern backyard.
“We have four dogs, why not get four chickens?” she smiles. “Honestly, this is all new to me. But my boyfriend and I cook all the time and the idea of having everything fresh is just really exciting.”
Mary Crawford has been refining her polished green space for 18 years, but it will always be a work in progress to highlight her outdoor paradise. Thanks to her love of florals, vibrant colors surround her pool and hot tub. Then there’s the outdoor living space, complete with a fireplace, dining table and barbecue, all encased in mosquito netting to keep it bug-free.
“We use it even when it’s in the 50s,” Crawford says. “It stays warm as long as there’s not too much wind.”
White Rock East Garden Tour
May 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.