Costa Mesa's great wall

Earlier this month, Peggy Gardner added a bench to her outdoor

garden. That bench faces a large wall. The Costa Mesa resident enjoys

sitting on the bench and staring at the wall.

That's where this story ends.

Artistic inspiration is where the story began.

This spring, Gardner's next-door neighbor asked for her permission

before erecting a dividing wall -- eight feet high and 70 feet long

-- between the two properties. The wall replaced a nine-foot-tall

hedge that was knocked down along with the neighbor's home to prepare

for reconstruction.

"I didn't think anything of the wall until it was up," said

Gardner, who has lived in Costa Mesa for 35 years. "When I saw what

it looked like, I said, 'We have to do something.'"

Instead of complaining to her neighbors or taking the matter to a

higher authority, Gardner did what she does best.

She painted.

A commissioned artist who often creates murals on interior walls,

Gardner was ready for a different challenge. She gathered vacation

photographs of forests and lush landscapes, and created the mural


"I normally do murals to please other people," Gardner said. "This

one I did to please myself."

Her husband, Costa Mesa Historical Society President Dave Gardner,

painted the cinderblocks a beige color. Then Peggy Gardner took over,

spending up to four hours a day creating the mural with acrylic


More than 40 animals make an appearance in the design, which

incorporates mountains, water, pine trees and various forms of fauna.

There are nine deer, 10 elk, 14 foxes and a herd of buffalo, among

other species.

Painting animals on hard surfaces is nothing new for Peggy

Gardner. A self-described animal lover, she sells stones and

petrified wood that are adorned with a range of creatures.

Each year, Peggy Gardner takes her inventory to the Orange County


She is also commissioned through two interior design firms.

But for this project, she worked alone. It took Peggy Gardner

fewer than two months to paint the mural, which she finished on Sept.


Bicyclists and joggers have stopped to compliment Peggy Gardner on

her work of art, which she calls "Home on the Range." The people

whose comments she really sought, however, were her neighbors, the


"We liked it," Chuck Beek said. "We're not sure what we are going

to do on our side now. I guess we may have to up the ante."

And Dave Gardner sold his other neighbors on the value of his

wife's project.

"I told them, you can sell your house for thousands of dollars

more now, because you can advertise it as a house in the middle of

town with a short walk to the forest," he said.

Egon Reich, a friend of Peggy Gardner's who owns a few of her

works, said the project illustrates her true nature.

"She didn't go over and make a big stink about the wall," Reich

said. "The best thing to do in that situation is to make a good thing

out of it. And she did."

As Peggy Gardner sits on her new bench and looks at her new mural,

she imagines herself being in the middle of the forest. The sound of

her water fountain and the smell of her garden add to the forest-like


The lone inconsistency is a pair of palm trees looming just over

the wall. They will no longer be visible when the Beeks' new home is

completed sometime next year.

Peggy Gardner said she is content with her view the way it is now.

"To me, it's a restful place," she said.

o7* ELIA POWERS is the enterprise and general assignment

reporter. He may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or by e-mail at


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