Project Eternity

Their garden comes together, 25 years later

By Dan Vierria
June 2024

Buddhist monk Shunryu Suzuki proclaimed, “A garden is never finished.” Ever changing, gardens evolve and aren’t frozen in time. Trees grow, leaves fall, perennials fade, tastes change. Evolution dodges closure.

Michael and Peggy Bachman can appreciate Suzuki’s Zen teachings. Living in the same Carmichael home for 25 years, their front yard is a half-shaved mustache. One side of the garden is stunning. The other is stubble, a weedy, overgrown mess of gardening yin and yang.

What was transformed a year ago is now a neighborhood attraction, a marriage of stone, statuary, tile, a fountain and Mediterranean plants. The design was inspired by a trip to Greece. Michael built the walls and applied his handyman talents to tiling, stucco and concrete work.

To reduce water usage and maintenance, a patch of artificial turf surrounds three fruitless olive trees. After a failed first attempt, the couple hired professionals to install the turf. In loveable defiance to Peggy, Michael sneaked a fig tree alongside a pomegranate near the driveway.

“There has been a lot of compromising,” she says.

Opposite the driveway, the Bachmans planted a dozen fruit trees and built raised beds for vegetables. Overgrown magnolias and evergreens damaged the old driveway but were removed for sunlight.

The landscaping project has been long and mostly without mishap. The completed half of the front yard is striking enough for public attention. Neighbors the Bachmans never met before stop and strike up conversations about plants and design elements.

“People pull up in their cars and say, ‘Your yard is so beautiful!’” Peggy says. “People walk by and start up a conversation. Michael now knows the neighbors.”

Time was a rare commodity for Michael Bachman. Working in road construction for Teichert, he commuted from Carmichael to Tracy five, sometimes six days a week. A voracious reader, his limited free time involved books, music and art, all amply displayed at home.

Landscaping was last on the list, leaving a weedy backyard and overgrown, neglected front yard, dual eyesores. A fountain intended for the front yard remained in pieces for 20 years.

“We just didn’t have the time for it,” Michael says. “I always had the intent, just not the time and energy when I was working.”

He and Peggy, now retired from Kaiser, continue to plan landscape changes. The unfinished half of the front yard has two large camphor trees destined for removal, and scattered weeds. The area was dotted with volunteer privets and other uninvited woody guests.

What finally motivated the couple to venture outdoors? “Nagging,” Peggy says, had something to do with it.

The first years in the home, Michael remodeled the interior, followed by backyard landscaping. The backyard, once overgrown with weeds, now boasts a pool and entertainment space surrounded by tropical plants.

Four towering palms trucked from Tracy to Carmichael lend an island resort ambience backdrop to the pool. Honeysuckle, white ginger lily, cannas, bird of paradise and bamboo allow privacy, beauty and fragrance.

Neither of the Bachmans had much experience in gardening. Michael mowed lawn as a child. Peggy mowed lawn as an adult.

Michael became the planner. He wandered nurseries, drove through neighborhoods for ideas and scoured the internet. He likes succulents, yucca, salvias and fragrant plants.

Peggy is a persistent weeder. “I hate weeds,” she says. Peggy is partial to evergreen trees, plants that attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, and turf grass.

When it was time to plant, Michael dug holes and positioned plants. Peggy tucked them into the soil.
Michael has plans for the unfinished front yard.

“It is going to be a dark garden,” he says. “By dark, I mean red and purple foliage and flowers. Lots of flowering plants.”

Asked about his timeline, he says finishing a bathroom remodel is first priority. The remaining front yard landscaping will wait.

“It is going to be done last year,” he says.

“And we are still married!” Peggy Bachman adds.

Dan Vierria is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener for Sacramento County. He can be reached at For answers to gardening questions, contact the UCCE Master Gardeners at (916) 876-5338, email or visit Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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