Winter Walk-Off: Fifty Shots around Los Osos

Les over at A Tidewater Gardener is hosting his annual “Winter Walk-Off Challenge”. Since I have been so busy working on installing my gardens I haven’t had much time to explore town the past month so I thought participating would be a good excuse to get out and go for a walk.  I’ve done blog posts about walks to the north, south, and west so I thought for this one I would head east towards the more rural part of town.

I ended up taking tons of pictures and chose fifty to share which is a bit much so feel free to just scroll through and click on any that catch your eye for a bigger view.

Ceanothus is still in bloom.

There is this cute little honor system honey stand of honey on a busy street in the middle of town.  Apparently it is all local honey.

Echium candicans starts blooming in winter and will continue into spring.

Nice little water wise garden in front of this house with natives, mediterraneans, and succulents.

Cotyledon orbiculata is in bloom.

Cistus X purpureus

Acacia have been in bloom for the past month. This species is quite common though I am not sure what it is.  Maybe Acacia longifolia.  If anyone knows feel free to correct me.

Close up of the Acacia.

The further east you go the larger the lots get.  I’m not sure what is going on in this front yard but I am totally imaging gardens here.  I would kill for a yard this big.

Leucadendrons are still looking magnificent.  Like this yellow one…

and this orange one.

Quail Decor

It looks like they are getting read to do some work in this gated yard on the east side of town.  I love their view of Hollister Peak in the background.

Not all ice plant are evil invasives.  This one is quite lovely.

I wanted to get a closer look at this garden room and what appears to be a small field of lavender but there were two loud and aggressive dogs guarding that were not happy to see me.

This large front yard has a coastal dunes planting theme going on.

And heading back towards the west end of town this yard had a Japanese inspired collection of bonsai and an ornamental lathe house for Cymbidums to shade them from the sun.

Another species of Acacia.

LOVE this.  What a welcome entrance with a Cantua scrambling up an arbor.

Cantua buxifolia

California poppies have been in bloom since our last (brief) rain storm.

LOVE everything about this.  It is a canary aviary, with a green roof, featuring daffodils, decorated with a metal sculpture.

Their yard is also protected by some alien artwork.

They should seriously win an award for awesomeness!

More Leucadendrons.  They are almost as common here as Rhododendrons and Azaleas are back east.

This Leucadendron ‘Jester’ goes nicely with the red garage in the background.

Love these houses!  The one on the right is for sale.

Linaria which goes by the common names of toadflax or baby snap dragons is a common escaped weed in California.  I loved the color combination of this one.

This house had native plantings including this Salvia spathacea or hummingbird sage.

Close up of their flowery coolness.

Pretty sure this little chuckle patch is Leucanthemum hosmariense.  I love any type of daisy flower.  I probably should add some to my garden.

I made my way back to my neighborhood and the bay.  I believe this is a female northern shoveler.  Look at how crazy her beak is!

Dutch Iris by the bay.  The north-western part of town is called Baywood or Baywood Park.  This is one of the few areas that actually has some shops and restaurants and bed and breakfasts (and the laundromat where I do my laundry).  We are a “bedroom community” for San Luis Obispo so most of the rest of town is just houses without a real downtown.

A very fragrant Psoralea pinnata. Some people say it smells like Kool-Aid.  It is definitely fragrant but I’m not sure if I even know what Kool-Aid smells like so I don’t know if that description is accurate (I was more of a Hawaiian Punch kid growing up).

Close up of the little pea flowers.

Geranium madarense are in full bloom now.  These monocarpic plants die quite spectacularly after they finish blooming and reseed quite a bit.  There were tons of seedlings around this plant.

Close up of the exquisite detailing of the flowers.

Looking back south over this little arm of the bay.  My neighborhood is beyond the break in the trees toward the left.

Calla lilies are lovely but are also a pernicious, nearly impossible to remove, weed.  I’m glad I don’t have any in my yard.

Before I headed home I decided to stop at the Audobon Societies Sweet Springs Nature Preserve which is just a few blocks from my house.  This is the spring running into the bay with Morro Rock in the background.

This is the doomed Eucalyptus grove that makes up the preserve.  There are over one hundred trees here and they are planning on chopping them down so they can add more natives.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand they are established trees hosting communities of wildlife (hummingbirds and monarch butterflies to name a few) and provide some windscreen. I can see this grove from my house where it is already very windy. I imagine it will be worse without them.  On the other hand it will open up the view of the bay (which again I will be able to see from my house) and the addition of more native plants might be quite lovely over time.  Of course there is a bitter debate raging and there are people trying to stop the destruction of the trees.

View of Morro Rock from the preserve.

Lots of different birds make this area of the bay their home or use it as a resting place during their migration.  I believe these are cinnamon teals.

And I believe this is a group of green-winged teals.

This is a view from the north of the field near my house.  See those three palm trees over on the left? I live right across the street from them. I think it is because of this field that we have bluebirds. I have seen him several more times since the first time (and I never have my camera handy!).

Mimulus aurantiacus in an empty lot.

Chickens at my neighbors house!  Lots of my neighbors have chickens. I can hear them clucking sometimes as they lay their eggs in the mornings.  No one in my part of town seems to have roosters but I did hear some crowing on the east side of town this morning.

More ice plants in bloom.

There are lots of empty lots in town because there is a building moratorium due to a lengthy (over 30 year) battle over the switch over from septic to sewers. This lot has a nice little vegetable garden at the far end.

Finally home sweet home.  I took this shot to show the view of Montana de Oro in the background. I can’t actually see it from inside my house by it is nice to know it is there.

Hope you enjoyed this (rather long) walking tour of Los Osos.  And be sure to check out A Tidewater Gardener on the 19th of March to see the rest of the tours that people have taken around their neighborhoods.


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.

Design Update: Completed!

I went back to see my Morro Bay design the other day and the work is pretty much completed.

OK the mulch is a bit much.  The homeowner went with shredded Eucalyptus because it is much cheaper.  Once it gets a bit weather worn the color won’t be as intense.  And of course once you take the plants out of their big pots and put them in the ground they seem tiny.  But most of these are shrubs that will get between three and ten feet tall.  Morro Bay has a very long growing season so many of them will grow and fill in quickly.  I look forward to taking some pictures in six to eight months and seeing how the garden is progressing.

I would have preferred a gravel mulch for the succulent beds in front of the house but that can be quite expensive.  Once the plants will in and the mulch has faded this will look much more natural.

I think in time this border will blend in nicely with the neighbors garden.  Going back and looking at photos can highlight problem areas in your design.  I see a Kniphofia that needs to be repositioned.

Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter Red’

Leucadendron ‘Jester’.  Usually I am not a fan of this type of variegation but I think this plant mixes well with other boldly colored plants.

Calopsis paniculata  Rhodocoma capensis

My original design specced four Chondropetalum ‘El Campo’ (a beautiful dwarf Native Sons selection) and a large Chondropetalum elephantinum.  But then I saw some Thamnochortus insignus in a garden and decided I liked it better than C. elephantinum. Then five gallon C. ‘El Campo’ were not available.  Only show quality specimens in fifteen gallon containers.  That would be stunning but it would also have destroyed our plant budget.  So we went with just one ‘El Campo’ and added the above Calopsis paniculata Rodocoma capensis and two Thamnochortus insignis instead.  I think the variation will be nicer.  When you design a garden you need to be ready to make substitutions and modify your design at the last minute.

ETA: just a correction on the Restio pictured above.  It is actually Rhodocoma capensis.  We considered Calopsis paniculata but thought it would get too big for the spot so went with the Rhodocoma instead.

Furcrea foetida ‘Mediopicta’

When I design a garden on paper I always try to match colors to neighbors or even distant visible spots in the garden.  It is hard to tell from the photos since the plants are so small now but I am pretty satisfied with the way my color scheme worked out in this garden.  The variegated yellow of the Furcrea above is matched in yellow and green Leucadeondron ‘Ceres’ to its left.  The orange flowers of the pincushion on the left edge of the photo is picked up in other pincushions strategically placed around the garden and the red leaved Leucadendron barely visible in the center and winter blooming Aloes (and I am hoping some Kniphofias will overlap as well since they have a very long bloom season here on the coast).

Aloe rubroviolacea

I had originally specced Aloe wickensii for this spot but Gabe showed me these beautiful specimens of Aloe rubroviolacea from Yemen that he had in his backyard nursery and I made another design swap.  I think their shape is more similar to the A. speciosa and A. ferox from my inspiration photo and they were also just really nice big plants.

Grevillea rhyolitica (deau flame).  I still have a lot to learn when it comes to Grevilleas but right now this one is my favorite.  Gabe gave me one for my new garden!

This has been a fun process so I look forward to sharing more pictures as this garden fills in.  Hopefully over the next year everything will grow in and come together nicely and my design choices will be successful.

Exploring Los Osos

I’ve taken a few walks around various areas of Los Osos this past week exploring my new home so this is just going to be a bunch of pictures with brief explanations. The first was a trip to Montaña de Oro State Park where I checked out wild flowers and watched the sunset. The sand spit and dunes are just a five minute drive from my house. Feel free to correct me on any plant names.  Can anyone recommend a really good book on California wildflowers?

Erysimum ammophilum or E. menziesii?

Lessingia filaginifolia var. californica?

Eriogonum fasciculatum

Erigeron glaucus


Driftwood art on the beach at sunset.

Horses on the beach at sunset.  How cool is that?

Sunset at Montaña de Oro.

Next was a visit to the neighborhood to my west.  First stop was the Morro Coast Audubon Society Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.

There is a bit of controversy right now with this Eucalyptus grove.  The Audobon Society plans to chop them all down and they seem to have quite a bit of support but some people really love them and are trying to save them.  I’m rather fond of them myself.  I don’t really share the hatred a lot of native plant lovers have towards Eucalyptus in California.  I mean I wouldn’t want one in my front yard but I think they are beautiful trees and this grove is often full of fluttering monarch butterflies. However with the trees gone I think the preserve will still be beautiful and it will really open up the view of the bay and perhaps eventually allow more native plant communities to thrive.

OK doesn’t this one totally look like one of those cyclops aliens from the Simpsons?

One of the things I wanted to do was see what was growing in peoples yards to get some ideas for my own garden.  Leucadendron and Coleonema were both very popular choices.

Almost all of the houses facing the bay have huge windows.  One day I am going to live in a house with huge floor to ceiling windows.  Something really modern.

This garden bench has a lovely view of the inlet on the south side of Morro Bay.

I loved this rustic little house and their garden art.  If you are going to do garden art you may as well go all out and do something that makes your neighbors roll their eyes and sigh.

I loved the lawn substitute on the hill in front of this house.  Some sort of Carex perhaps?  Very cool look.

Cassia is another popular plant choice around town.

This house has a lovely view of Morro Rock and the bay from their front garden.

Next was a trip to the north side of town to see the El Moro Elfin Forest.  But first I checked out some of the houses along the way.  This is a cute little garden right on my street but I fear those variegated Agave americana will take over.  It isn’t a plant I would use in any of its forms.  It spreads too aggressively, is sharp as hell so would be a bitch to weed around or pull out, gets as big as a house in some cases, and dies so spectacularly when its enormous twenty five foot tall inflorescence fades that you are left with a giant Agave corpse to dispose of.

I don’t even have the words…the amount of work and dedication to create a topiary that big. I am a both repulsed and a little bit in love with it at the same time.

Leucadeondrons really do quite well here but I have seen some huge dead ones in front yards as well so even though it is the perfect climate for them it seems they are still prone to sudden death if you don’t give them the proper care.

Yucca elephantipes is another popular plant around here.  In fact I already have one in my front yard though it is not as big as this specimen. The leaves look rather deadly but they are softer than your typical Yucca.  Still I bet you could put an eye out on one if you walk into it.  Mine is right near my vegetable beds so I will have to be careful.

That is the end of todays tour. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll post a few pictures of the Elfin Forest soon but I don’t want anyone getting picture fatigue.

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.


When I am designing a garden I usually try to find a few photos for inspiration. It might be a photo of a garden I admire or even just a particular plant that I am currently excited about and want to add as a featured specimen.

My latest design for Gardens by Gabriel is a corner house just a few blocks from the bay in Morro Bay.  The homeowners saw a beautiful garden that Gabe had designed for one of their neighbors and decided they wanted their yard to look that nice as well.  The directive was simple.  They want it to have a “Wow factor!” and wanted to have a bit of a Protea/South African theme.

Proteaceae is one of Gabe’s favorite plant families so they are in good hands.  He is familiar with all the different genera and knows how to care for them (they have some tricky soil requirements but are right at home in the cool fog of the California coast).  But as the designer for the project I had my work cut out for me.  Since I learned gardening on the east coast and Protea were not mentioned in a single horticulture class I took I had a bit of homework to do.  I knew enough about them to look at a plant and say “Hey I bet that is in the Protea family”.  But that was about it.  Fortunately Gabe had recently picked up a bunch of plants at Monterey Bay Nursery so at least I had a partial plant list.

For inspiration I turned to some photos I took over a year ago at Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria.  If you are a garden lover and are visiting the Santa Barbara area you definitely want to check out this nursery.  Not only do they have a nice selection of plants but they have several acres of “botanical gardens” designed by local garden designers.  I actually think they are among the nicest gardens I have seen in California and every time I am in the area I bring my camera with me and spend a little time walking around.  They have nine display gardens but my favorites are the South African and Succulent gardens.

This particular photo was my main inspiration and the one I kept going back to while I worked on this project. The South African garden at Seaside Gardens designed by Laurence Nicklin of Ojai.

The homeowner has been to South Africa and sadly he doesn't like Aloe ferox! I guess I can understand that since in the wild they can look rather unkempt with their old dead leaves skirting the plants and they do get rather gigantic. I think they are great architectural plants though so I was a bit sad that I had to leave them out. One of these days I'll get a project where the client just loves everything.

This combination of Leucadendron, Kniphofia, and Chondropetalum is stunning and I am not embarrassed to say I stole it for my design.

I loved the pale purple heaths behind this Leucadendron 'Jester'. The right backdrop can really make a beautiful plant pop so my design features a backdrop of Erica caniculata, Chamelaucium uncinatum 'Purple Pride,' and other purple and pink flowered plants.

Leucadedron salignum 'Safari Sunset'. Most plants in the protea family need excellent drainage, a cool mediterranean climate, acidic soil and don't like to be fertilized with phosphorous.Protea 'Susara'

Aside from the Proteas the design also features other Mediterranean and native plants, succulents, and a bocce court! I hope the homeowners love the design because I had a lot of fun creating it and learned a lot.  It is in a rather prominent spot so it would be very exciting to drive past it and know that I had a hand in creating it.

A bit of the design. I think hand drawn designs have a certain charm to them but I am taking a class in AutoCAD this winter.