Recovery

Last year at this time we had a few days of unusually cold weather. It got as low as 28 degrees for a few hours which is pretty rare. A few of my plants did not appreciate this dip below freezing.

Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light'

I really thought this Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ was done for. All the leaves were mush. There was just one central leaf that wasn’t destroyed. I almost threw it away but something told me to give it a chance so for a few weeks I would bring it in at night when there were threats of frost. And then it went back into my plant ghetto and I pretty much forgot about it.

Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light'

Well I am happy to say that a year later it has made a remarkable recovery. I planted it out the other day in the new Protea and succulent border. Hopefully now that it is planted in the ground it will be a little more resistant to freezing weather.

Most of the buds got fried.

Aloe Moonglow was a huge disappointment. It was covered in buds for the first time and despite my attempts to protect it with sheets they were all limp the day after the worst frost.

Aloe Moonglow getting ready to bloom.

This year Moonglow is looking better than ever and has at least a dozen spikes. The forecast shows temperatures no lower than 42 degrees for the next week and hopefully it stays that way until at least February. And more rain would be appreciated as well. So far we are off to a good start this year but I wouldn’t mind it raining at least once a week from now until spring to help make up for the past three years of drought.

Design Update

Back in November I stopped by to take some pictures of my favorite garden that I designed in Morro Bay. It was installed in January of 2012 by Gardens by Gabriel so is almost 2 years old. I’m really impressed by how big everything has grown in such a short time.

If you have been following my blog since then you may remember how it looked when it was first installed. This is a screen grab from Google Earth back when the garden was just a month old. You can see the homes proximity to the bay and the ocean (both visible to the left) and Morro Rock is peaking out behind the chimney. The plants were so tiny. The mulch was so bright. I always worry that clients won’t have the imagination to picture what my intentions for the design were.

It just takes a bit of patience.

Some of the shrubs still have some more growing to do and we did have a few problems with some of the plants but overall my vision for the garden is being realized and each time I visit it looks better and better.

I am actually less happy with the area to the left of the bocce court (in the foreground). Perhaps we will go back and make some changes there in the future.

But the upper garden looks great. This Agave gypsophila is gorgeous as are the Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ and Agave celsii ‘Nova’ in the background.  Agave gypsophila is one of the more tender Agave species. It is not especially happy when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. I have one in a container that had finally started to look better after a cold snap last year disfigured it. Now with this recent dip below freezing it is looking a bit rough again. Luckily Morro Bay is usually a few degrees warmer than Los Osos so this garden should be fine.

Agave celsii ‘Nova’ was a later addition. I believe that a design is never finished. In this case once other plants started to grow in I felt like this spot needed something extra. I wanted to use Agave ovatifolia but that wasn’t available. Garden design also requires quick thinking and coming up with appropriate substitutions when needed.

Agave macroacantha ‘Pablo’s Choice’ is pretty sexy with its black (painful) spines and beautiful leaf markings. This usually forms a little colony but so far the gardens owner has been rooting out the pups and keeping the plant solitary.

The stems on Euphorbia caput-medusae will eventually elongate and sort of flop around on the soil like snakes. Right now it looks like Medusa has had a crew cut.

Right now Kalanchoe beharensis reminds me a bit of a piece of modern art. Felt blocks that have been haphazardly stacked in a pile.

Do you see the sneaky little Oxalis growing underneath Agave geminiflora? One issue with growing succulents is that removing weeds can be a painful and difficult experience. Sometimes best to just let the plant smother them out.

I think I have mentioned before that this was sold to us as Echeveria X imbricata but I am a little unsure if that is correct. It is bigger and the leaves are thicker than the E. X imbricata I am used to and the leaves really color up more than I have ever seen before. Perhaps it is just environmental but it is pretty common for plants to be mislabeled.

I love how Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ matches the yellow plastic guards the phone company put on the metal telephone poll support lines. They added those after the fact. Not the greatest thing to have in your garden but at least the color sort of blends in.

One mistake I will admit to is I used two pairs of plant cultivars that are so similar I have a hard time telling the difference. This is possibly Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’.

And this is Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter Red’. Or maybe I have that backward? Looking them up with Google Images or on Flickr doesn’t help as they are just as mixed up there and Leucadendrons are so changeable from month to month.

This is Grevillea lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’. I think.

And this is Grevillea lanigera ‘Mt. Tamborintha’. Or maybe strike that and reverse it.

Now when I design a garden I try not to include species or cultivars that are very similar. If only it was so easy as looking at the design plans and seeing which plant was supposed to go where. Unfortunately plants from wholesalers almost never have labels. So it is entirely possible that we even mixed up where each group were supposed to be planted. This can really be a problem if one plant is very different in size or form when it matures but luckily in this case all of these plants are quite similar in their adult size and structure.

Actually hold on a second. I think the Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’ I posted earlier is actually ‘Winter Red’ and the above picture is the true ‘Blush’.  Aaargh! See how confusing this is?

Fortunately Leucadendron ‘Jester’ is very distinct. No mistaking its tri-color variegation for any other Leucadendron in this garden.

We had some problems with some of the Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ we planted in this garden but the one above has performed perfectly.  Unfortunately even with our ideal growing conditions most Proteaceae can be persnickety.

This Grevillea rhyolitica has performed really well here but the one in my garden planted at the same time is long dead.

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ has grown massive in just two years. Already at least 6 feet across.

And Arbutus ‘Marina’ is another fast grower. Already towering above me. This is quite a messy plant so be careful not to plant it near walkways or over cars. Fortunately the two in this garden are off to the side where they shouldn’t cause any problems.

Design Update

It has been a year and a half since I moved to the central coast. A lot has happened since then, some good, some bad. But I just returned from a trip home to see my family in NYC and as I drove back home from the San Luis Obispo airport into foggy Los Osos I kept thinking about how much I love it here.

One of my first designs in Morro Bay, that was installed shortly after I moved here, is also one of my favorites. I paid it a visit in May and it was nice to see how much it has grown in almost a year and a half. The succulents in particular are getting huge already.

You can click on each image to enlarge.

Kniphofia ‘Shining Sceptre’ is a favorite of mine now. The clumps grow huge and each one probably has at least 30 flowers on it at a time. The Thamnochortus insignis in the background will really look nice when it is full grown. You can just make out the top of Morro Rock peeking over the house in the background.

Grevillea rhyolitica and Arbutus ‘Marina’

Aloe rubroviolacea from Yemen are really nice specimen plants. The Otatea accuminata ssp. aztecorum on the left has recovered from its transplant shock and is starting to fill out. It was originally planted right up against the foundation of the house and is one of the plants we decided was worth saving. We moved it where it would screen the telephone pole at the corner of the yard. Hopefully it fills out a bit more over the next few years and starts doing a better job of that.

The purple flowered Alyogone hugelii has been a bit of a disappointment. It is infested with thrips so we may remove it in the future.

I am really impressed with the size of the Euphorbia rigida. This is just one plant that started out in a little one gallon container.

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ in the foreground and Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ in the back.

This is either Leucadendron ‘Blush’ or L. ‘Winter Red’. We used several of both and I am hopeless at telling them apart.

Aloe vanbalenii have become nice specimens in a relatively short period of time.

There are so many amazing Echeveria species for California gardeners to choose from but I am a little bit in love with E. gigantea and E. ‘Zoro’. Each of these plants is over 2 feet across. Once the Agave ‘Blue Glow’ reaches its full size I think the contrast between all these plants will be really spectacular.

Big blue Echeveria gigantea with spiny Agave geminiflora in the background. Are these things amazing or what? They are not terribly common either which makes them even cooler.

Echeveria ‘Zoro’ is gorgeous but these are doing exceptionally well.

I’m in love!

Echeveria ‘Pulv-oliver’ isn’t too shabby either. It is a cross between E. pulvinata and E. harmsii.

These were sold to us as Echeveria X imbricata but it it is much larger and the leaves are much thicker than the E. X imbricata I had seen in the past. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Is this something else?

Euphorbia caput-medusae has filled in nicely. It is compact now but eventually each stem should elongate and flop across the ground like a bunch of snake heads.

Agave gypsophila

And finally a view of the entire succulent portion of the design.

Bocce!

Remember my recent posts about the garden I designed in Morro Bay? InspirationJanuary Garden Design Update, Giant Rock Moving Truck, and Design Update: Completed! Well the bocce court is finished!

How excited am I that I designed a garden that features a bocce court?  Pretty excited actually.  Simply because it isn’t something that I would have ever imagined myself being involved in a few years ago.

Gabe and I stopped by to take a look at the finished court and see how the garden is coming along.  Homeowner Carl gave me a lesson in bocce and I’m actually pretty good at it (or maybe it was just luck).  Pretty cool stuff.  I’m really looking forward to sharing updates on this garden as the plants grow in.  You can’t really see from this photo but to the left of the court there are some plants.  A pair of Agave vilmoriniana, some Sedums, Leucadendrons, and Grevilleas. I think they will look really nice when they grow and fill in but now that I see the finished court I kind of wish I had kept it simpler.  Just a row of maybe five Agave vilmoriniana growing from a carpet of Sedums.  Oh well.  All part of the learning process.  I don’t think I had a really strong image of what the bocce court would look like in the space.

We were discussing maybe adding some kind of art installation hanging on the fence at the end of the court.  What do you think?

Now this wasn’t the only garden we visited today that has a bocce court.  This next one is going to knock your socks off.  I just wish my photos were better but I wasn’t planning garden visits today and only had my camera phone.

This is the garden of homeowners Vince and Janet just a few blocks away.  This is a garden that Gabe designed before I started working with him. It is hard to believe but I think the garden is just under two years old.  Plants grow really fast here on the coast.  I first saw this garden last January when I was had just moved to West Hollywood.  I was just starting my design business and came up to Morro Bay for a visit to ask Gabe for some tips on how he was running his business.  He took me to several of his gardens that weekend and they were all amazing but this is the one that really wowed me.  It also encouraged me to ask Gabe what he thought of the possibility of us working together and here I am today designing gardens for him.

I love everything about this garden.  Gabe said the design itself was rather informal.  He started putting it on paper and then just started buying cool plants for it.

Look at the size of this blooming Sedum ‘Coppertone’.  I wish my camera had captured the color of the leaves better.  They glow at dusk.

Look at all the blooms on this Leucospermum!  Vince and Janet are really into caring for and learning about the plants in the garden. It is fun to see homeowners so involved and excited about their garden.

Another Leucospermum with a Grevillea.  I’m a little bit in love with the genus Grevillea lately.  I’m going to include them in more and more of my designs.

Kalanchoe pumila

It is hard to believe this is a Kalanchoe.  It reminds me of an Arabis or Aubrieta.

And the bocce court!  The walls are a bit higher on the ends of this court and the plantings around it are more mature.  What do you think?

Not one but two beautiful specimens of Euphorbia lambii.  I wish I had a picture of the entire plants as they are quite impressive. (ETA: actually I just noticed you can see them in the background of the next photo!).

Kniphofia thompsonii

I was excited to see this species of Kniphofia looking so fantastic as I just included some in a design.

This is the top of the garden around the bocce court.  The rest of the garden that you can see in the first picture slopes down toward and is visible from the street.

Not only is this Dyckia in full wonderful bloom but it has four more huge inflorescences forming!

They even had some bocce inspired art commissioned. I love it. I think if you are going to include art in your garden you should go all out and have something grand and a little crazy.  Something made just for you is neat too.

Leucadendron discolor is just starting to bloom (I’m sorry it is not quite in focus).

And finally a very impressive specimen of Agave gypsophila.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour. I’ve wanted to share this garden for a while now and in the future I’ll share more of Gabe’s garden designs before I came on board.  As homeowner Carl said “I’ve hitched my wagon to a shining star” and after seeing some more of Gabe’s mature designs you’ll see that is true.

Good Stuff

Exciting things happening! (skip to the end if you just want to look at pretty pictures)  First of all I found a place to live when my lease is up here in West Hollywood!  I was a bit nervous as I wasn’t really having much luck in the house hunt but I found a great 2 bedroom house to rent in Los Osos.  Finding a suitable house to rent was more difficult than I thought it would be.  It seems a lot of rental houses just pave over their entire yards.  Understandable as a lot of renters probably don’t want the bother of a garden but that wasn’t going to work for me.  An apartment was out of the question as well.  I’ve lived in apartments (for the most part) since 1999 and having a garden of my own was on top of my non-negotiable list. No neighbors above or below me or drunkenly running around on the streets outside at 3 in the morning was important to me as well.  This place has a nice big yard and the landlord seems excited that I am a garden designer and want to go a bit crazy with it.  It is in a very pretty part of Los Osos right near the  Morro Coast Audubon Society Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.  So yay!  I’ll be moving sometime in the week between Christmas and New Years day.

The other big news is I am going to Hawaii on Saturday for 10 days.  My brother is applying to medical schools and has an interview in Honolulu so we decided to make a trip out of it. My father will be joining us for 5 days as well. My poor sister is left out because she will be doing an internship in NYC.  So this trip added a bit of stress to my house hunt as well because I needed to find a place before I left but now I am looking forward to a nice relaxing trip. I’ve never been to Hawaii.

Some other good news is one of my recent garden designs is being installed this week and next. It is a fairly large property with several separate garden areas with pretty widely varying styles of gardens.  A large Mediterranean garden featuring a lot of lavenders, a small succulent garden, a lawn area with a border of papyrus, Cordylines, and lemon trees and then a guest house with a cottage garden.  I cant wait to see how it turns out.

And the clients really liked my design for the garden I talked about in my inspiration post.  So installation will begin in January on that one.  Thrilled about that as it was a fun project and I will probably be using a lot of the plants and combinations for my own garden.  Los Osos is just south of Morro Bay and has a cool foggy climate similar to that of San Francisco’s Sunset zone 17.  I’ll be able to grow a lot of interesting plants that like being in the fog belt.  The only thing that might not work is plants that require a lot of heat. I think I can live with that.

So my posts may be a bit sporadic until January.  I stayed with friends Gabe and Maggie while I did my house hunt so enjoy these pictures of Gabe’s backyard nursery to tide you over in the meantime.

Super amazingly cool variegated Agave 'Blue Glow'. I want to steal it!

Orange leucospermum blooming. I definitely want one of these babies in my new garden.

I want some Leucadendrons too. I believe these plants are destined for that garden I designed.

Not sure what this tuba is about. Kind of neat though.

Agave gypsophila becomes a sort of candelabra/octopus shaped plant with wavy leaves with curled ends. It is hard to get nice specimens in big pots though because they are easily damaged. So Gabe saw these young plants and snatched them up for future designs. For some plants it is better to plant small and let them grown into their space.

Double flowered Helichrysum bracteatum. This was an impulse buy from my trip to Annie's Annuals and is going in the garden that is being installed next week. I saw it in bloom and fell in love so grabbed a few and subtracted a few other plants. I'm currently involved in a secret obsession with everlastings and straw flowers.

Gabe had a neighbor build him a little greenhouse in his backyard for propagating more tender plants and for a few of his own personal collection. I think I need a greenhouse too!

Protea blooming in Gabe's front garden. I have to find out what species or cultivar it is.

Venice Garden & Home Tour

On Saturday I went to the Venice Garden & Home Tour.  It is something I have been meaning to do for a while now and neve got around to.  Advance tickets are kind of pricey at $60 each but proceeds go to the Las Doradas Children’s Center so at least it is for a good cause.  And you get to see 31 homes and gardens so it is a pretty good deal.

Sadly I am having an issue with my digital camera settings so the exposure on some of my photos was a bit off.  But I do have a few cool things to share.

Venice itself is a very artistic and fairly wealthy neighborhood.  In the neighborhood where the garden tour was located each street has a parallel pedestrian alley which makes you feel like you are in a little village.  Some of my favorite gardens were not on the tour at all but were simply neighboring houses.

click images to enlarge

The street that I parked on was less affluent but many of the houses had very nice little gardens. I parked in front of this run down old house with a beautiful Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' growing against the front porch.

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How did they do that?

I was driving through Pacific Palisades the other day on my way to Malibu lamenting the fact that really beautiful front gardens are pretty rare in southern California when I saw a sight that made me do an illegal u-turn and get my camera out.

Seriously? Four Agaves in a row in perfectly synchronized inflorescence  harmony!  How did they do that?  It can take Agaves anywhere from twenty five to a hundred years to bloom and I was not aware there was a way to get them to do so on command.  Were they just lucky?  Is there some sort of trick I don’t know about?  It looks like performance art!

Once those Agaves are done blooming they will set seed and die so are they going to be replaced with four new ones that they will somehow get to bloom next year?

Dasylirion longissimum

I was pretty impressed with the several interplanted  Dasylirion longissimum as well.  So this is at least one southern California front garden that has impressed me.