The patio area features a Green Man (an ancient European spirit of forests) fountain. - Jim Craven

World view from the garden

A charming 1939 Frank Clark home in east Medford has an English garden around the two sides facing the street, but when you duck behind privacy hedges and fences into the off-street sides, you're stepping into another world: a peaceful realm of koi and plants that whisper "Japan."

It's the creation of John and Deb Clark (no relation to architect Frank Clark), and it's one of five gardens featured on the seventh annual North Valley Soroptimist Garden Tour — a popular event that raises money for education and health needs of women and girls. The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 22.

The front of the corner lot has a length of wisteria trained to an arch, and the aggressive vine is kept well away from trees and the house. Under it are French perfume lavender and roses.

Trees with edible nuts dot the corners — pecan, English walnut and Persian walnut. A smaller bronze-bark weeping cherry sits by the door. Beds abound with bush and tree peonies, lilies, iris and culinary bay, which is often pruned and left by the curb for neighbors.

"It's an English garden, a reminder of our trips to England and Wales and also of New England (Maine), where we came from 15 years ago," said Deb.

Amid a winding paver path, the front of the house offers flowering camellia, shishigashira, daphne odora and azalea, plus a hedge fence with holly on the outside and ivy on the inside leading to a private dining patio.

The snuggy patio is enclosed on one side by a garage covered with petrified wood applied like shakes (done before they got there), and is set off by a Green Man (an ancient European spirit of forests, covered with oak leaves) with a fountain coming out of his mouth.

The rear yard presents a large koi pond and a generous fountain streaming from rocks covered with elfin thyme and weeping blue atlas. A grape-covered pergola hugs the house. They call it their "homage of love to the Japanese garden."

The couple are beginning to install mirrors on the far side of the pond, seams hidden by bamboo and angled so you get the feeling of depth without seeing yourself reflected.

The Clarks have made a paradise out of a postage stamp and the words they apply to it are "peaceful, Zen, a buffer to the outside world, a place to get stress-reduction in the most natural form, with the feeling of air and water moving, the koi fish, the sounds of plants, wind chimes, fountains on every side."

Among the four other stops on the tour, you'll find:

  • A city lot transformed to many small and lovely garden areas, blending with natural settings and executed by a master gardener.
  • Fountains, birdhouses, a gazebo and a fanciful greenhouse of recycled materials in a suburban yard creatively turned into rich garden whimsy.
  • A lush garden fit for sitting and relaxing, with dense and colorful plantings and original sculptures. Carefully tended rock garden, leading to herbs, flowers and grasses in beds and pots, with seating in a gazebo with diaphanous curtains.
  • A small garden tucked beside a tiny cottage in east Medford. The small, rich, grassy area is surrounded by ferns, flowers and artful seating areas.

The self-guided tour costs $12. Maps and tickets are available at the starting point at RoxyAnn Winery, 3285 Hillcrest Road, Medford. Wine tasting and gourmet treats may be purchased there, with picnic tables available. Tickets are also available at Four Seasons Nursery, 5736 Crater Lake Ave. For information, call 541-601-3437.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

Share This Story