At Home in the Garden
Celebrating succulents at the Meadows’ Fallbrook retreat
Posted on March 1, 2018
“Welcome to my garden,” reads a modest sign at the entrance to Jeanne and Barry Meadow’s Fallbrook estate. But that small sign gives no inkling of the big things to come just around the corner: acres of winding paths lined with hundreds of colorful succulents and cacti, raised garden beds, a potting shed, and sitting areas where guests can relax to the chirps of wrens and yellow finches. Here, you’ll find Madagascar Ocotillo, ruffled echeveria, spiny barrel cactus, the striking Aloe marlothii, and a collection of South African gasteria (just to name a few) — all planted in green pots. The garden has hosted thousands of visitors over the years and has appeared in such national publications as Country Gardens Magazine and in several books by gardening expert Debra Lee Baldwin. It was Baldwin who dubbed Jeanne “America’s Succulent Sweetheart.”
So, it’s a bit ironic that Jeanne had a far different vision for the property when she and Barry left Los Angeles and retired to Fallbrook in 2011. “My dream for this place was big baskets overflowing with flowers,” she recalls. “I didn’t even know what a succulent was.” But with the guidance of Bill Kiddoo, their general contractor and hardscape designer, she began visiting greenhouses, learning about the beautiful but hardy, drought-tolerant plants that require little maintenance. She also learned that San Diego’s North County has become a thriving center for the growth and sales of succulents, no doubt reinforced by frequent droughts. But what really sold her on succulents, she says, was returning from a long trip to Tasmania. The plants, even without being watered while the couple was away, remained vibrant. “That sealed the deal for me,” she says.
From then on, Jeanne was “all in,” immersing herself in the study of succulents, researching the plants on the internet, reading books, and attending classes and seminars taught by some of the top designers in California. She soon became an expert herself, partnering with Steve McDearmon of Garden Rhythms landscape company to devise the best ways to use plants and rocks throughout the expansive garden. She respects his “eye,” his flexibility, and his ability to work with her as a partner. McDearmon admires the “little surprises” that Jeanne adds along the way, for instance, pairing a plant with the perfect pot.
“A lot of the garden comes down to the details. There is grandiosity to it, but there are tiny treasures, little accents that catch your eye when you are meandering about,” he says, adding that he also appreciates their collaboration. “There’s a lot of back and forth to get it just the way we want.” Jeanne says they both strive “for an end product that we can be proud of.”
Jeanne and Barry, a former horseracing handicapper who has written several books, host numerous charitable events in the garden and by their vanishing edge pool. This month, they will entertain guests at a private party in advance of the annual “Super Succulent Celebration” on March 23-24 at Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall. Jeanne also teaches free workshops, showing students how to create imaginative container gardens with succulents. She often donates her own creations to such organizations as the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, Friends of the Fallbrook Library, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of North County. Jeanne has won numerous awards for her collection of rare, hard-to-grow succulents at the San Diego County Fair, the San Diego Horticultural Society, and the Fallbrook Garden Club. An accomplished speaker, she’s also a frequent lecturer at garden clubs and gatherings. While the Meadows love to travel, they are most at home in their garden, where Jeanne’s influence as “America’s Succulent Sweetheart” continues to grow. Andrea Naversen
Photography by Vincent Knakal