By Susan Wolking
It’s hard to imagine how 5 acres of orange grove and swamp in Fallbrook was transformed into the 30 acres of spectacular gardens that is now Grand Traditions, a popular venue for weddings and special events. Chalk it up to the vision and tenacity of a former home economics teacher named Beverly McDougal, who assumed “if you build it, they will come.”
Beverly and her husband Earl purchased the property for $165,000 in 1982. Over the years, they borrowed additional funds which enabled them to: purchase adjacent acreage; build a charming Victorian mansion with an award-winning restaurant called the Veranda; and landscape the grounds with expansive lawns, native and exotic plants, multiple waterfalls and even a huge, heart-shaped lake.
The McDougals retired after 20 years, but the property continues to be operated by a son and other members of the family. The love and care they’ve put into the business has paid off. Between 6 to 8 weddings are held there each week and people come from around the country to tour the gardens, which are open daily to the public. The Veranda has been recognized by Open Table as one of the “Top 100 Scenic Restaurants in America.” In addition to offering lunch on Thursdays and Fridays and brunch on the weekends, the restaurant prepares picnic basket meals that visitors can enjoy at designated picnic areas around the property.
Twenty-five members of the Hidden Meadows Garden Club took an extensive tour of the Grand Traditions property on April 21, and we all left thoroughly inspired and full of useful information. Our docent Pat (a daughter-in-law of the founders) led us through the many different themed garden areas, pointing out stunning specimen plants such as a Giant Bird of Paradise with its purple and white flowers and a Canary Island Palm that is trimmed to create a pineapple effect at the top of the trunk. Along the way, she offered tips on how and when to fertilize and prune, as well as selecting the right growing environments for different plants and trees. (Don’t plant a Moreton Bay Fig or other Ficus tree near walls or walkways as they have horribly invasive roots!)
After leaving Grand Traditions, the Garden Club group had lunch just down the road at another Fallbrook landmark, the Garden Grill & Cafe. The food was excellent and the lovely patio setting a perfect way to end a great field trip with fellow nature lovers.