Although I really enjoy this tour and I have been inspired by it in some way every year, my primary critique is that the gardens on the tour tend to be more "outdoor living spaces" than gardens.
Of course, in Sacramento that makes sense since we can comfortably enjoy a dinner on the patio basically from March through October. One change I noticed this year was fewer outdoor kitchens and fewer outside TVs though. I'm guessing that with the reduction in property values that fewer home owners have taken home equity loans out to invest in extravagant features for their back yards. Or maybe people realized that they'd rather watch TV inside after all.
My only other complaint is that the tour takes place during all the worst hours for taking photos. I took 171 pictures on the day of the tour. Too many of them were washed out by the sun, but here are some of them that weren't too bad:
When we walked into this backyard, everyone was asking about this tree. It was a "tour stopper."
I enjoyed the secluded sitting area seen here through this Japanese maple.
Another view of the seating area:
I see these fountains all over the place but usually I see the "disappearing pond" built into the ground. I'm not sure I like the contrasting color combination of the pot, the rocks, and the concrete container especially in front of the brick, but I like the idea.
I'm guessing that this is an Iceberg Climbing rose that greets visitors as they walk into the back yard of this house. It was certainly healthy and happy.
This espaliered tree actually belongs to the neighbor but they shared a driveway so I'm sure both homeowners appreciate the green breaking up the monochromatic expanse of this side of the house. It also seems like a clever way to draw attention away from the pipe. I know that the are of espalier can make it possible to grow trees in small spaces but there couldn't have been more than 4 inches of earth to plant this guy in.
I really thought this lion statue picked up the colors of the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow plant perfectly.
Worth another view:
This iron arbor seemed to garner a lot of attention for it's ornateness. But I appreciated it for it's sturdiness which it's going to need . . .
. . . because it's supporting these already gigantic wisteria vines:
This yard also had a pool that was just big enough to submerge yourself in and get cooled off. I'm not sure that it matches the rest of the garden but I'd also bet that the homeowners don't care when they are relaxing in it with their eyes closed.
This garden had many several distinct areas but my mother-in-law thought they didn't flow together and I agreed. It's difficult to design a cohesive garden to start with but I imagine it's even harder when you have to work around a pool and large spans of concrete.
This fountain is the first thing that greets you when you enter the back yard through a side gate.
The adjacent dining area would be a nice place to eat a dinner.
And here's the pool area. Many of the embellishments you see in this photo were brought in just for this tour. I'd be curious to see how this area looks without the decoration. I think it might look a little drab.
This peaceful grassy area sits between the pool and the dining area, but the fence around the pool area made accessing it a bit more of a chore than you would want.
I'll post Part II of the tour soon so please come back for more pictures.