Garden(er) of the Month

Delight in an edible garden, in a produce-producing haven that nourishes mind, body, and soul

Story by SUZIE HARRISON

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

While beautiful, Monica Thompson’s enticing garden is not your typical garden, rather it’s a veritable vegetable haven filled with heart and history. Working with what was once a victory garden during WWII, Thompson has turned her love for organics into a work of agricultural architecture, carefully created and cultivated with utmost care. 

A work of art itself, its history relates to Norman St. Clair, the founding father of Laguna’s artist colony – his son Aubrey lived in the house. Aubrey was a famous local architect for the Water Department, the Wells Fargo Building, and City Hall, among others, Thompson explained. 

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A historic home hosts a garden filled with heart and soul via Monica Thompson’s passion for goodness

“We can’t build anything else on the property because of its historic nature. But when we bought the house two years ago, I can show you the weeds were up to here. No one had seen the house for years,” Thompson said.

Well, a lot has changed over those two years. She and her husband Rich had the yard leveled, plants and fruit trees planted, boxes made for Thompson to start her beloved vegetable garden, and they created a gorgeous stone river that adds to the special nuance of the property. 

“We eat organic and we believe in organic. We really believe in growing our own food, and we think that lawns are a waste,” Thompson said. “You know, I am not a master gardener, but we eat from out of our garden daily. We just like fresh vegetables.”

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Producing produce fresh and organic is Monica Thompson’s garden joy

Indeed they do…I got a tour and loved seeing all the growing fruits and vegetables.

The gleam in her eyes makes it obvious that Thompson has a passion for her tasty garden. You name it, they’re growing it, from every type of lettuce, fruit, berries, carrots, celery, and beets, to avocados, peaches, pumpkins, broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower, quinoa, and Swiss chard, just to mention a few. Yes, there’s a lot of growing on at the Thompson’s garden, from A- apricots to Z- Zucchini! Wow!

“These are beets and this is lettuce, butter lettuce. And I have new spinach coming in over there. Then these are peppers and then carrots. Look at the size of the puppies; they’re all really big,” Thompson said. “This is the variegated romaine; isn’t it gorgeous,” she said, touching the rich colors of purple and green.

We stepped into her office, the huge window actually opens to pure nature, a new addition she relishes. It’s a front row seat to her garden, and the hummers that frequently visit, which makes her glow.

“I was a hospice doctor, and a single mom, I raised kids and worked and did absolutely nothing else. And then, I retired, met my husband, got married, empty nested, and moved here,” Thompson said. And Rich said, ‘what do you want to do’, and I said I want to be a gardener.” 

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It’s easy and fun to veg out and relax enjoying Monica Thompson’s beautiful bounty and peaceful tranquility of nature

Pointing to the abundant fruit trees, she explained, “This is a navel orange, this is pomegranate. This one is apricot and this is a Santa Rosa plum. It’s cool isn’t it,” she said with humble pride and excitement. “It’s beyond my imagination. It just like all happened.”

Not really, not without her dedication – she grows everything from seed. “I don’t plant any seedlings at all, everything from seed. I buy my seeds and I put them directly in the ground,” Thompson said.

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Lettuce grow, lettuce grow, lettuce grow…in every shape and color in Monica Thompson’s garden

As for watering, she controls a drip irrigation system for all their fruits and vegetables. Thompson actually controls it from her phone. The only plants she waters by hand, she said are “just the pots, just some pretty stuff.” For Thompson, plants and flowers are last on the food chain; she adores her fruit, vegetables and nature.

“See my hummers on the tree branch. They are out there all the time,” she said. “I have to tell you it just thrills me. It absolutely thrills me.”

As for being a member of the Laguna Beach Garden Club, Thompson adores it, especially the lectures. “I joined the Garden Club immediately when I came here because I knew what I was planning to do,” Thompson said. “I thought that they would be able to give me ideas and coach me when I was having trouble. I love the Garden Club.”

She called gardening and growing fresh organic vegetables for all their meals an awesome chapter in her life.

“Gardening is very soulful thing for me. It’s very spiritual thing for me. I love digging in the dirt. I love feeling the warmth. I love being out with nature,” Thompson said. “I can’t tell you how excited I get when I see new things coming up or when we’re able to pick something to eat that we haven’t had before. It’s just well with my soul being in my garden.”

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