Moving Forward: AAUW Annual Garden Tour

Written by Judy Salamacha

April 23, 2023

For the past 35 years, the Morro Bay AAUW Garden tour has offered public tours of more than 100 interesting and lush gardens for our Estero Bay community’s enjoyment. Indeed, how gracious the residents and keepers of these gardens have been to prepare for hundreds of visitors on a springtime Sunday afternoon. Members of AAUW (American Association of University Woman) wish to express their thanks for the support they have received over the years even though most gardens and touring visitors have not been AAUW members.

All patrons can be assured the cause, which is to educate our youth, is worthy of their donations. Morro Bay AAUW was chartered in 1957 while nationally AAUW has been empowering women since 1881through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

Morro Bay Membership Vice President, Mary Jefferson, is a life member having belonged to several branches in communities where she lived. She said, “AAUW would not be what it is today without supporting women and education. Sure, we enjoy friendships and other activities, but equity for women is our core purpose. We raise funds to support this purpose.” Mary recalled AAUW funded advanced studies for Sally Ride, who went on to become the first woman to fly in space.

Years ago AAUW leadership realized girls lagged behind in secondary studies of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum and ultimately did not qualify or even consider careers in these areas. The development of Tech Trek camps was the nonprofits solution. For the last 15 years more than 50 seventh grade girls from Morro Bay, Los Osos and Cayucos have received scholarships to the University of California Santa Barbara for a weeklong STEM camp. The camp exposes girls to a wide variety of STEM fields and occupations through hands-on experience in classes, workshops, and demonstrations. The campers hear from women professionals and receive guidance to help them prepare for their own future careers, including the critical next step of choosing the right classes in high school. 

Each year Morro Bay AAUW members receive thank you letters from many of these girls stating how the camp changed their career focus and inspired them to take classes they hesitated to consider before.

Morro Bay AAUW also provides two scholarships to Morro Bay High School students annually and over the past years has given more than 40 scholarships to nursing students at Cuesta College from funds established by previous member, Mildred Logan.  

The next AAUW Garden Tour is Sunday, April 30 from noon to 5 p.m. Four new gardens, two in Los Osos, one in Cayucos and one in Morro Bay, will welcome guests for a donation of $15. This year Cal Poly Delta Gamma sorority has adopted the garden tour as one of their community service projects. Student members will greet and guide guests to and through the four gardens. Additionally, six young sorority women spent a day pulling weeds to prepare one of the gardens.

Morro Bay AAUW President Nancy Johnson promises surprises attendees might never have experienced before on this year’s garden tour, is the major fundraiser for the Morro Bay Branch of the organization.

For example, tour patrons will be able to swing and sway to the blues by The Melvin and Brucifer Show — blues duo Michael Melchione and Bruce Willard from 12-5 p.m. at a garden home on Andre Street in Los Osos. (AAUW asked that property owners’ names were not included in the story.)  The residents are a whirlwind of creativity. Gardening and music bring joy to their daily lives. Their property is a wonderland filled with unique horticultural and garden art effects popping up everywhere the eye might see. They even built a stage specifically for the Mrs. and her friends to perform – most often for their personal practice and entertainment. 

Another unique garden is on San Ricardo Lane in Los Osos. The residents cultivate native plants and succulents on their large property. It has a greenhouse and a vegetable garden plus Mr. has devoted hours of tender loving care for his grandmother’s precious 100-year-old red double-petaled poppies by saving their seeds from year to year. Mrs. enjoys outfitting her Mediterranean patio continually adding colorful plants to artistic pots. She welcomes guests to feel comfortable enough to sit awhile and enjoy the stunning views of the bay she and her husband are blessed to view all day every day.

Relocating from Vermont these Morro Bay residents built their west coast retirement home on Ridgeway Street. Succulents and other temperate climate cultivars fill their garden-embraced home as they enjoy their active lives living on the Central Coast. Mrs. is also a talented mosaic artist and stays busy making colorful mosaics, which are dispersed throughout the landscape.

And in the hills behind Cayucos, the entire family rallied to offer their transformed ranch-style setting on Toro Creek Road. Exquisitely landscaped it has become an entertainment venue with many personalized touches where family and friends of all ages come to gather and enjoy the great outdoors. Their grandchildren wanted to be involved in their grandparent’s special garden tour day. They offered to sell their thirst-quenching lemonade for a special treat for garden tour visitors. And since AAUW members are all about youth education, what better way for budding entrepreneurs to learn social graces and economic opportunity all in one day?  

The $15 tickets for the self-guided tour can be purchased at Volumes of Pleasure Bookstore in Los Osos, Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay, and Farm Supply in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, and Paso Robles,, and any AAUW member. 

Membership Chair Jefferson invites potential new members to attend a regular meeting at St. Peter’s Episcopal in Morro Bay the second Saturday of the month between September and May from 10-Noon. For more information check out the AAUW Morro Bay Facebook page.

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