I think I have mentioned before that I have recently started my own garden design business (Propaganda Garden Design). For the past few months I have been doing freelance work designing for my friend and former classmate and roommate Gabe. He and his wife Maggie have a successful landscaping business in the San Luis Obispo area called Gardens by Gabriel. I’ve done around six or seven designs for them now but the first one was recently installed so I am pretty excited about it. I’ve designed many gardens but this is the first legit “I got paid to do this” one.
It is a small courtyard garden for a beach house in the coastal town of Cayucos. That perfect zone 17 climate right on the ocean but somewhat sheltered by the house. The home owner wanted lots of color and listed a bunch of bedding plants that he loved. Now I am not such a garden snob that I dislike bedding plants but I figured since he was paying a designer he should get something a bit more special so my first thought for the space was that a garden full of Annie’s Annuals plants would be perfect for this spot.
I first experienced Annie’s plants back when I was an intern at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden when the nursery manager let me act as buyer. This was back right before Annie started doing mail order so for me as an east coaster it was pretty exciting getting to see all these amazing plants in person. Anyway I got to relive a bit of that nursery buying magic and buy a bunch of Annie’s plants on someone else’s dime. Being a garden designer is pretty awesome. So enjoy this photo tour of the process from start to finish.
The courtyard had four beds. This is bed one. Just a bit overgrown and not terribly exciting.
Bed two is not much better. My favorite part of this particular design is all the hardscaping was already taken care of. All I had to do was fill the beds with plants.
The Bougainvillea on the right in bed 3 got a reprieve. I wanted to rip it all out but it was one fo the few plants the homeowner really liked so we decided to spare a bit of it. I'm kind of notorious for wanting to start with a really blank slate.
Bed four is rather tiny but this Bougainvillea got to stay as well. Everything else came out though. Including the Solandra.
Back home in West Hollywood I poured over Annie's website deciding on a theme for the beds and picking out plants. The general method I use when designing a garden is imagine the beds in my head while pouring over websites and books and writing down a list of plants. Then I look over the plants and start moving them into combinations that I think will work well together and crossing some plants off the list (because I always go a bit overboard). Since this was a small design I decided to do it in marker. I also wanted to get across the color theme of the beds. There are two plants that are featured in all the beds (Trachelium and Anagallis) to tie the beds together and then each bed would have its own color theme while sharing at least one other plant in common with the bed across from it.
Now for the fun part! A trip up to the bay area and shopping at Annie's. On this trip I learned that you can fit nine flats of plants in a VW Golf! Now obviously taking such a monumental road trip isn't a really sensible way to run a business but I made a four day holiday of it. I figured this was a special occasion and I wanted my first garden to be incredible. But normally there are lots of other cool nurseries in the Central Coast area to shop at.
I don’t really have any cool pictures of the nursery because EVERY time I visit Annie’s it is always insanely bright out and my photos are all washed out. But I’m sure anyone that is reading my blog already knows all about Annie’s and has read about her and seen her nursery in lots of other blogs from folks who are better photographers. If by some chance you haven’t heard of or have never visited Annie’s be sure to check it out if you are visiting the San Francisco area. It is probably my favorite nursery in the world.
Meanwhile back in Cayucos Gabe's crew was hard at work tearing out all those plants and preparing the beds for their new arrivals!
The next day the beds were all ready to be planted. Those Bougainvillea really got a haircut.
Hard to believe that this is the same bed that was full of tree fern and Impatiens just the day before.
So I got to work placing all the plants.
Gabe's crew got to work installing. Here David and Victor are planting bed three. The plant that Victor is removing from its clay pot in the back is a Abutilon vitifolium that I grew from seed collected at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden in 2003.
Mindy and David prepare the drip lines for the irrigation.
And here is bed number two almost finished. After the drip was installed it was mulched as well but I had a three and a half hour drive back to West Hollywood ahead of me so I left early. Hopefully this garden will be as beautiful in the spring as it is in my mind and I'll have some great photos to share then. And in the next few months I will be moving up to the San Luis Obispo area so I can be closer to my work and get involved in more projects with Gabe and his crew.
Just so you get more of an idea of the setting of this garden here is a view of their "backyard". That is Morro Rock off in the distance.
I really hope this garden is successful and the homeowners end up loving it. About 95% of the plants are from Annie’s so it should be pretty neat. Aside from some really colorful plants in beautiful combinations I tried to include something really interesting in each bed that the homeowners have maybe never seen before (Musschia wollastonii, Cantua buxifolia, Abutilon vitifolium). So fingers crossed that we have a perfect winter so the plants get big and fat and burst into bloom in the spring.