February 2, 2022
Inside Outside Design for Family and Neighbors
I first met Cleo Petricek when she submitted garden pictures for Daphne’s segment. Her story of family creativity and joy is so delightful that we made a date to record in April 2020.
Well, as you recall, everything screeched to a halt that March. So, finally last fall, CTG headed out: director Ed Fuentes, audio tech Robert Moorhead, and me. As it turned out, Cleo and husband Shea’s gardens and front yard playground comforted the neighborhood when the pandemic shuttered families.
Back when they built their house in 2014, they designed it for family, friends, and neighborly engagement. For her beloved mom, once a dedicated gardener, Cleo planted flowers for wildlife and fragrant roses like re-blooming climber Cecile Brunner.
Shea crafts garden structures in a contemporary red barn workshop (also the garage and front yard porch), framed by plants favored by butterflies and bees.
Neighborhood kids bike over to watch gregarious Nigerian dwarf goats frolic on the back’s terraced cliff.
Mainly, they wanted to give their son Graham, now eight, a lasting relationship with the outdoors.
“One of the things we asked the architect to do is give us a large playroom or homeschool room.” Shea said.
The glass-walled playroom brings nature’s big, bright world right inside.
Graham and his friends race out the wide sliding door when they spot a lizard, butterfly, or frog to explore.
Cleo’s warm artistic touches turned the patio deck into a colorful, inviting outdoor living room. It was her mom’s favorite spot to watch the flowers and the children play.
When a car accident left their mom brain damaged, Cleo and her sister alternated months to care for her in their homes. “You know, we grew up with really humble beginnings. My parents are Mexican immigrants, and my mom even brought some of her plants from Mexico to her house in Dallas. Something that she always taught no matter, you know, where you are and what station of life you’re in, you can have a garden,” Cleo said.
Along the sunny street curb, Cleo planted a variety of easy-care, reblooming roses to cut fragrant bouquets for her mom.
Sweetly-scented antique rose Souvenir de la Malmaison greets the mail carrier’s faithful rounds.
Cleo made signs to identify each rose and note its history and qualities.
She’s budded many new rose growers, especially after February 2021’s freeze when her plants quickly rebounded. “That gives me so much joy, because that’s what it was for me and my mom,” Cleo said.
During the pandemic’s shuttered months, neighbors stopped by for a rosy mood lift. And with so many families spending more time in the kitchen, golden-flowered Julia Child™ was an apt cheerleader.
Cleo and Shea bring composting right out front, where neighbors drop off spent fruits and vegetables.
Shea mixes the finished compost into his raised vegetable garden: stock tanks in architectural disguise.
When he noticed how hot the galvanized metal got in summer, Shea fashioned skirtings with scrap lumber. He drilled holes through the slats and strung them together with cable.
He wound them around the tanks and attached the cable ends with a screen door spring. “It’s just a facade, but it keeps the tanks cool to the touch,” Shea noted.
They also jazzed up the once-gravel walkway with Lueders pavers.
To conserve water, they replaced a scraggly lawn with artificial turf.
Shaded by the gracious pecan tree, Graham and his friends love to sprawl out with their games.
Since Cleo didn’t want hard fences, they went for a soft privacy screen of Graceful bamboo, Golden bamboo, and bamboo muhly grass. It all froze to the ground in February 2021, but quickly rebounded by November when we visited.
At front near the street, they replaced grass with a curving strip of river rock. Then they mulched around the pecan tree’s wide canopy to create a welcoming family friendly hangout for the whole neighborhood.
“And for this neighborhood in particular, there, there isn’t a park. So, I wanted something that was interactive for the children,” Cleo said.
After checking out all the butterflies, lizards, and curious beetles scuffling around, the kids (and adults, too) head straight back to see the Nigerian dwarf goats. They even bring them branches as a treat (no charge for the free chipper/shredders!).
Years ago, their lot was once the backfill from houses built on the rocky cliff, perfect for agile climbing goats. The big trick is finding plants that their male goats won’t eat, but Cleo never shies from a challenge.
For our visit, she brought out cute little kitten Simba to meet us and the goats. Cleo quickly returned her inside, where she and her cat companions enjoy the outdoors from window-view only.
“And then the nature of the lot meant that this deck had to be kind of this elevated thing above the space below,” Shea said.
Essentially, it forms a bridge over the excavated lower section. The goats hang out there in rain and cold weather, where Shea built them a swinging shelf.
After Graham outgrew his stock tank kiddie pool, Cleo turned into a koi pond. When she refreshes its water, the rest goes to nourish her plants.
During the pandemic’s shuttered months, Cleo and Shea watched Graham’s fascination, curiosity, and lessons in the great outdoors grow right at home.
“We were able to use this as a place to nurture our soul. We spent a lot of time working and planning new things during that time. I hope that it carries for him, like it carried for me and my mom, that where wherever you are and whatever circumstance you are, you definitely have time to take care of plants and to appreciate, they give so much to you.”
And heartfelt thanks to local musician Michael Rodriguez of The Brew for their lovely music, “Luna Llena”!
Watch Cleo and Shea’s story now!
And thanks for stopping by! Linda