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
"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.
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
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
"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