Winter Walk Off 2013!

A few weeks ago I had to get away from all the construction happening on my street so I decided to go for a walk so I could take part in this years “Winter Walk Off” inspired by Les of A Tidewater Gardener.  Last year my post was a bit crazy.  Fifty photos!  This year I am a bit more busy so I am going to keep it short. I’m trying to keep my blog posts at fewer photos anyway.  There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I don’t want busy people quickly scrolling through my posts but if you don’t have much time for blog reading DO at least scroll to the end of this post. I saved the best for last.

I walked up to the northwest part of town which is known as Baywood Park.

There is beach access there so you can enjoy views of Morro Bay and the estuary.  From left to right you can see Morro Rock, the unfortunate smoke stacks at the Morro Bay Power Plant, the Morro Bay Heights, the golf course, and Black Rock.

There are million dollar houses all along the estuary and the bay.  This one is for sale. Quite a bargain since not only do you get a house with a beautiful view but you also get  a magnificent Leucospermum cordifolium.

And a lot of Linaria. This spot is just itching for some new Protea specimens. That is Black Hill again in the background.

Orange Leucospermums are very popular in town.  I fear for this ones safety as I believe there were some lateral sewer line markings on the street right near it. If you remember my post from last month the path of destruction is pretty wide. I don’t believe most Proteaceae transplant very well. Especially when they are this size.  This is quite an artistic little house. I think leaves on the little tree in the background are fake. Made of metal or something.

They have a nice little Garrya elliptica too.

Does anyone know which Acacia this is? There are quite a few of them around town.  They start blooming in January or February and are quite pretty but I still don’t know my Acacias. There are so many of them but they get quite big so I haven’t used any in garden designs.

This is the garden I wanted you all to stick around for.  A really great design just a few minutes from my house. Nick Wilkinson from Grow Nursery had a hand in creating it.

The part that really knocked my socks off were these three HUGE Aloe polyphylla! I have seen a photo of huge specimens in their home in South Africa but never this big in California.

They are so big they are barely fit in the space allowed them!

Nick says they are about five years old and he has never had Aloe polyphylla at any other location get this big.  It must be the exact right combination of our chilly coastal climate and maybe the excellent drainage from the large raised beds.

Whatever it is these are some really happy plants! I can only hope mine are even half this glorious some day.

The entire garden is really charming and full of great specimens. This is another garden I really hope will be spared any sewer destruction.

I’m really glad that winter is coming to an end (though truth be told it has been quite spring-like here the past month). I’m going on a trip in a few days but I’ll be doing a spring bloom and garden update post soon.

Central Coast Cactus & Succulent Society Plant Show and Sale

Pelargonium siddoidesAriocarpus retususHaworthiaEcheveria canteDioscoreaDioscorea
DioscoreaPachypodium brevicauleEcheveria shavianaArgyroderma pearsoniiPseudolithos cubiformisRebutia and other Cacti
Rebutia vulpinaMonstrose AriocarpusAriocarpus retususChamaecereus lobivia hybrid 'Kent Sunrise'The sales area was packedThe sales area was packed

Nick Wilkinson of Grow Nursery sent me a heads up that the Central Coast Cactus & Succulent Society was having their annual plant show and sale at the Ludwick Center in San Luis Obispo, so I stopped by this morning to check it out.

As you’ll see from the photos the society is pretty active and it was a good show. I managed to avoid buying any plants but I am tempted to go back tomorrow morning to check it out again. The show continues until tomorrow at 4 pm if you live in the SLO area and they are auctioning off some large plants at 1 pm.

You may have noticed I have been a bit negligent on blog posts the past week. I have been teaching myself AutoCAD so I’ve been a bit behind with work. I’m slowly getting the hang of it but I wish I had learned it a few years ago when my brain was younger and less forgetful.

Hopefully I’ll have time to post more updates soon.

If you haven’t already liked my Facebook Page you should definitely go ahead and check that out. I posted a video of some of my California quail running around my yard messing up my plants!

Garden Tour and Far Out Flora Visit!

Last Sunday and Monday were very social for me (which is rare – I’m  practically a hermit). First  on Sunday Vince and Janet Marino were on the AAUW garden tour. You may remember I blogged about their garden before in my Bocce post.  It was their first time on the tour and Gabe was going to be there to help answer questions.  Even though I didn’t design this particular garden I know enough about the garden that I felt like I could be of use answering questions about plants.

The garden was looking great!  Janet had been slaving away all week making sure that not a single leaf was out of place (the garden has looked great every time I have seen it).

The Leucospermum were still in full bloom and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ was looking perfect.

The Euphorbia lambii were looking lush.

The bocce court was immaculate.

There were several stands of Kniphofia thomsonii and other Kniphofia’s in full bloom.

Vince and Gabe greeting visitors.

The tour was very successful.  Apparently there were over 500 visitors to the garden.  I swear at one point in the middle of the day there were 100 people in the garden all at once!  I did try to make myself useful by standing in the lower path and greeting people and answering questions about plants.  There were a few plants in particular that I got asked about over and over.

My photo doesn’t do it justice but the groundcover above (with lots of Linaria growing through it) is Grevillea ‘Fanfare’.

Here is a closeup so you can see the red bottlebrush flowers and red and green oak like leaves.  It stays low, just a few inches tall, but spreads out to about 10 or 15 feet across. It is planted right at street level and stopped many visitors in their tracks.

Sedum ‘Coppertone’ was another popular plant.  I don’t particularly think of this Sedum as that rare but I have never seen such huge specimens of this plant.  People couldn’t believe that this garden was only about 2 years old and that most of the plants had gone in as gallon sized pots.  When you have good compost to plant in and that perfect coastal climate things grow pretty fast!

Kalanchoe orgyalis ‘Copper Spoons’ was another popular plant.

I felt kind of bad for all the folks visiting from inland.  This is a garden that benefits from the cool coastal location and has a lot of tender specimens that don’t like it too hot or too cold.

Plants like Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ prefer to live on the coast.

Close up of the “ribbons”.

The tour was a huge success and I hope that Vince and Janet will be on future tours.  It really is a garden that is worth showing off and I had a lot of fun spending the day with them.

And it was perfect that we were in tour mode because the next day Megan and Matti from Far Out Flora were in town. I’m going to assume that everyone who reads my blog is already familiar with Far Out Flora.  One of the best gardening blogs on the internet and one of the reasons that I started my blog actually.  Megan and Matti (and border collie Max) are headed back to Wisconsin to start a family and came to visit me on their way east.  OK I think they actually came down the coast to pay a visit to Lotusland in Santa Barbara but we’ll pretend they just wanted to visit me.

I had them meet me at my place (didn’t want my garden to seem anticlimactic compared to the other cool gardens we would visit) and then we headed over to meet Gabe and Maggie at Vince and Janet’s house.

I thought they would appreciate some cool central coast gardens.

Next we brought them up to Cayucos to show them a few gardens designed by Nick Wilkinson of Grow Nursery.

First stop was the garden of Nick’s parents house in Cayucos.  Now I’m going to cheat a bit.  When I am being social I take horrible photos so I have a few older photos that are a bit better and do the garden justice.

Hopefully Megan got some good current pictures and will post them when she is settled in back in Wisconsin.

The last garden is another designed by Nick and is just down the road on the beach.

Quite a view.  You can watch the sunset and the ocean all the while surrounded by amazing succulents.

Anyway now I can go back to my hermit like ways but I had a great time seeing Megan again and meeting Matti (and Max!). I can’t wait to see their visit to Lotusland come to life on their blog and can’t wait to see how their blog transforms itself from a San Francisco Bay area garden blog to a Madison, Wisconsin garden blog!  And hopefully if they ever find themselves on another road trip on the California coast they will pay us another visit.

Anholm House Restoration: Part Two

As I mentioned in Part One I visited Anholm House the other day and rather than just do a post on the plants I wanted to give you a little background.  Now that we’ve learned a little about the design process and the house itself you’ll get to see how the plants have grown and filled in the space.  Be warned, if you are a succulent lover not living on the California coast you may suffer a bit of zonal envy after seeing some of these photos!

As mentioned in the first post the plants were chosen by Gabriel Frank of Gardens by Gabriel and Nick Wilkinson of Grow Nursery.

First the lovely little hell strip.  It is fairly simple with some Dudleya, Carex, and the charming Silene uniflora ‘Druett’s Variegated’.

Silene uniflora ‘Druett’s Varigated’ – Pure white flowers on a low matt of cream variegated foliage.

A little colony of Banksia blechnifolia lives in the mulch under the shade of a large tree.

Banksia blechnifolia – Of all the unusual plants of the family Proteaceae I think Banksia are perhaps the strangest.

As Gabe mentioned they decided to create a large berm in the front yard rather than wall in the space.

This pergola archway just went in recently.  Even though the main restoration was completed over a year ago new garden projects are ongoing.

Euphorbia myrsinites coming into bloom in the front yard.

Anemanthele lessoniana (syn. Stipa arundinancea) is a beautiful grass from New Zealand that glows in the right light.  Unfortunately it can be a bit tricky.  It is short lived and sometimes plants just drop dead for no reason even though another one is thriving just a few feet away. Luckily this one is looking particularly amazing right now.

The driveway leads to a detached garage in the backyard and features a strip of Carex and a circular parking space in front of the garage. (I cheated a little.  This picture was taken last September.  The Carex was recently cut back so I didn’t take a picture of it the other day). The hill in the background is Cerro San Luis Obispo (aka Madonna Peak).

As you reach the backyard you are greeted by this pair of Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’.

I posted some pictures of the houses backyard in part one but now you can see how things are filling in.  The summer blooming Gaillardia and Calylophus are resting and the succulents take over the show. Silver leaved Dymondia margaretae creeps along between the edge of the mulch and the flagstone path.

I’m amazed at how much these Agave ‘Blue Flame’ have grown since the first time I saw them a little over a year ago.

Cordyline ‘Renagade’ – If you want to be snooty you can pronounce Cordyline the correct way.  Kor – DILL – in – ee.  Remember in botanical Latin the accent goes on the antepenultimate syllable and the “e” at the end of words is its own syllable and is usually pronounced as a long E.

One of the features of the backyard is this cute little school-house red guest room.

Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Blue’

Otatea accuminata var. aztecorum and Puya berteroniana.  The Puya is one that I bought as a present for Gabe on a trip to Annie’s Annuals about three years ago. So even though I wasn’t involved in the design of this garden a little piece of me made it in anyway!

The large central island bed in the middle of the backyard with the fire pit and seating over on the left hand side and the detached garage in the background.

The back porch of the house decorated with a palm, Agave paryii, and a few Echeveria ‘Zorro’.

Echeveria subrigida in a bed of blue Senecio.

An impressive Agave speciosa in the center bed.

You have to love its inflorescence.  Maroon buds fade to cream flowers with green stripes as they open and reveal stamens made up of long deep red filaments topped with bright yellow-orange anthers. Craziness!

The Agaves in this garden are planted in pairs like these stunning Agave vilmoriana ‘Stained Glass’.

Another view of the central island bed.

Yucca ‘Bright Star’

Even if a garden isn’t on acres and acres of land Gabe likes to squeeze in a mini orchard in his designs.

Aloe striata

Next to the fire pit is this nice specimen of Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ with variegated Cordyline ‘Torbay Dazzler’ behind it.

I think that is more than enough plants for one post. I don’t want anyone to overdose!

I hope you enjoyed this two-part tour of one of Gabe’s great gardens.  Hopefully in the next year some of my own designs will have filled in as impressively and I can share them with you.






Anholm House Restoration: Part One

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.

Cobble path.

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!