So the other day I paid a visit to San Luis Obispo to one the projects Gabe did before I came on board with Gardens by Gabriel. I know the garden as the “Chorro House”, for the street that it is on, but the correct name is the Anholm House. It is part of a historic home restoration that Gabe was part of and is one of his largest projects to date. I took some photos of many of the beautiful plants in the garden but I thought it would be fun to get some of the back story of how the design came about and what it was like for Gabe to involved in such a large-scale restoration.
So the following will be a sort of informal “interview” style with my basic questions and Gabe’s answers and some photos that he took before the project started and shortly after the project was completed. Part two will be my post on what the garden looks like now and photos of some of the impressive succulents and other plants in the garden.
So tell me about 375 Chorro Street. What was it like designing and installing a garden along side such a huge renovation?
The historical name is the Anholm house and the house is part of a historical tract named after the owner, Chris Anholm. The house was moved a couple hundred yards down the street in 1931 to its present location. The house underwent a full historical restoration in 2009 along with the garden. Its attained a Mills Act status for the design and authenticity of restoring a period house. Gregg Wynn was the architect, and Ryk Kluver out of Cayucos did the full home restoration.
The GBG crew were actually the the first ones in on the project, and the last ones to leave. Ryk was an amazing contractor to collaborate with especially on a large project. He’s an artist and a craftsman, so great care was put into the quality of materials, and details of construction. He was very clear about the coordinated efforts and timelines of when we could do work, and how details changed throughout the process. The garden was installed in stages as permitted through a year and half period, starting with the back.
The front facade of the Anholm House at the start of the project.
The front facade when the project was completed.
The landscape underwent a dramatic transformation. What was the overall plan for the new garden?
The site was very much a grandma style garden with sweet peas, roses, wisteria, daffodils. We preserved noteworthy specimens of Trumpet vine, Wisteria, Camelias and Citrus to keep the great bones of the garden. Besides those everything else was removed, including a large concrete pool, a Santa Maria style barbecue, and over twenty pallets of red brick (they weren’t nice old brick unfortunately).
The backyard before work began.
The design intent was to create an ecological garden that was quintessentially Californian. This meant that the design could be somewhat eclectic, and represent the crossover influence of the mediterranean climates in a california style. The house was bold, so the garden needed to have impact and pair with the clean lines of the architecture. Being seated on busy Chorro street, the house needed a noise and visual buffer so instead of doing large, expensive, masonry walls we decided to build up and create some dynamic soil berming to add height and a great volume of good soil to the heavy adobe clay. We used forty yards of soil in the front yard alone, and some areas of the berming are around three feet off the original grade.
The completed backyard including the freestanding garage to the left and the little red guest house.
Tell me a bit about the gardens hardscaping.
We wanted to create a natural way of unifying the garden with the hardscape installation, so we chose big slabs of sweetwater flagstone to lay for pathways throughout.
Sweetwater flagstone path.
The sweetwater stone has similar rusty warm colors that paired well with the gold granite, Mexican onyx, and Arizona boulders and cobbles. From the garden there are vantages of both Madonna and Bishop peaks, so to echo the surroundings, and give the gardens a sense of place, we used massive boulders, some upwards of 2 tons a piece. We formed a fire pit seating area, around a series of stacked Arizona slabs at different levels to allow people to sit at various distances from the gas fire.
Firepit and seating area.
Tell me about the plant choices. Did you have any help with the design?
The garden was dreamed up by Nick Wilkinson
of Grow Nursery
and I over a series of drafting sessions. The owners liked our collaborative style that they had witnessed at the Cambria Shores Inn
garden in moonstone beach, Cambria so they gave us free reign to make the garden as unique and spectacular as we could. A designers dream really…
The homeowners were from Michigan, so they loved all the classic elements of the california fusion style. We used plants with striking foliage like blue hesper palms, dwarf date palms, Mediterranean fan palms, variegated Yucca, Cordylines, Beaucarnea, and agaves for bold focal points. Plants like mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea) , a weeping blue atlas cedar, Agonis ‘After Dark’ and a twenty-one foot tall redwood specimen (48″ box) were installed to create soft screening for fences, and sweeten the views.
The edible component of the garden held a heavy influence as well. A small orchard was created that catches the southern exposure complete with pluots, peaches, espaliered apples, three kinds of figs, hass avocadoes, raspberries, and a herb garden.
Plants shortly after the garden installation was completed.
In parts of the garden, we contoured the soil, to create water detention areas where the winter rainfall could slowly percolate into the ground and form deep reservoirs in the landscape. All the gutter downspouts were routed to a large cistern where winter rainfall could collect, and be used to irrigate in the dry summer season. A grey water system was also installed to irrigate the orchard section. All plantings are drip irrigated. All the flagstone walkways are permeable with gravel joints that allow water to soak back into the garden.
Back facade of the house.
Driveway featuring Carex strip of "lawn".
Stay tuned for part two where I will take a closer look at some of the plants used in the garden!