Updates

It has been rough keeping up with blogging as I have a lot on my plate right now. I’ve been very busy with work, I have been developing my garden and have some big plans for it in the future and I have a few planted aquariums now that are a lot of work.

Leucospermum reflexum

One of my new plants in my garden redesign is this Leucospermum reflexum. Usually I don’t like to post pictures of plants that already had buds when I bought them as I think it is cheating if I didn’t get it to bloom myself. But my track record so far with Leucospermums is pretty bad so there is no guarantee it will be alive to bloom next year! They are tricky. Lots of changes in my home garden coming up so I look forward to sharing more when it is further along.

Finches on Salvia mellifera

I found the above photo while I was looking for inspiration for a garden I just designed. The focus was to be a native wildlife garden and there is nowhere better to look for ideas than my own garden when it comes to attracting wildlife.  Last July the finches were going crazy for the Salvia mellifera which was going to seed. It is not the most ornamental of sages but it gets an A+ for wildlife. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies while in bloom and all sorts of finches and California quail once it goes to seed. Plus it is a local native so very little water is needed to keep it going.

I have kept fish since I was quite young and of course my life for plants found its way into my aquariums as well. It is definitely a bit more tricky keeping aquatic plants and dealing with issues like algae and pressurized CO2 injection. I have run into all sorts of obstacles and problems but I am pretty happy with my results so far.

Hydrocotyle leucocephala

I am pretty impressed with myself that I got Hydrocotyle leucocephala to bloom in a little aquarium in my office.

Panda Lyretail Mollie and Blyxa japonica pearling

And I was fooling around with my new camera and I snapped this picture of Blyxa japonica pearling with a female panda lyretail mollie looking on.

Really happy with my aquarium of SE Asian and Australian fish. The aquascaping still needs some work. I am still at the point where I want to grow every different plant I read about so it is stuffed with plants rather than a cohesive design. But I finally got a problem I was having with green water cleared up so the tank is looking nice and these beautiful rainbowfish and rasboras are really fun.

 

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.

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.

Giant Rock Moving Truck!

That is the common name for it. I don’t know the scientific name for the Giant Rock Moving Truck. I sent Gabe a text to ask him and as soon as he responds I’ll let you know.  Or if someone reading this is smarter than I am about giant trucks feel free to comment.

(ETA: Gabe just texted me back and called it a reach lift. I think Giant Rock Moving Truck is more fun so that is what we’ll continue to call it.)

I thought it would be cool to show you this part of the garden building process that we started the other day.

Here is the Giant Rock Moving Truck waiting while the rock is prepped.  We don’t own this bad boy.  It has to be rented and the pouring rain the other day was a bit of a setback because it wasn’t available the next day.

First the guys secure the rock with chains.

Victor operates the vehicle while Gabe and David guide the rock into position.  You can’t just plop rocks down any old place. To look more natural they need to be dug into the soil a bit.  Then you have to find the rocks best side and set it just so.  Not so easy when you are dealing with boulders that are hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Smaller rocks can either be rolled or moved with the Dingo (the little red tractor over on the left).  It is also useful for moving large quantities of soil around fairly quickly. But for the big rocks the Giant Rock Moving Truck is a necessity. I’m not really sure what the cutoff size or weight is. As I’ve mentioned I am the plant guy and I find rock moving to be a little bit scary.  Everything went very smoothly though and Gabe and the Gardens by Gabriel crew did a great job creating the planting berms and placing the rocks.  So I was able to get involved with the much more exciting task of placing the plants.

Remember the telephone pole I talked about in the last update (January Garden Design Update)? We were very lucky to have a large specimen of Otatea acuminata ssp. aztecorum (Mexican bamboo) on the property.  It was very poorly placed right up against the foundation of the house but rather than just dispose of it we carefully dug it up and moved to its new position (and when I say “we” I mean the GBG crew. My giant plant digging days are over).  Huge utility poles on your property are never fun and they are impossible to completely hide but in time this bamboo will reach up to twenty feet tall and its graceful arching stems will help mask this eyesore. The network of telephone lines and wires you just have to try to tune out.

This is the view from the house that we were trying to beautify a bit.  If you imagine the Otatea twice as tall as it is now (and you can see one new big shoot reaching upward) and then gracefully spreading out you can start to imagine it as a screen.  We were very lucky to have this very large specimen on hand to give us a bit of instant gratification.  A plant that size would probably retail for well over a thousand dollars.

One of the exciting things about my move up to the Central Coast is now I can make myself available to help place the plants for my designs.  Nothing ever works out exactly how you plan it on paper.  There might be existing irrigation that wasn’t taken into consideration or a specimen plant that wasn’t available that could change the entire layout.  In this case there were some changes to the shape of the berms and the placement of the large rocks.  Since I was around I was able to make some modifications and keep the design true to my original vision. Plants never look exactly the same in real life as they do on paper.  You always have to keep an open mind and move things around a bit before you plant them.

Now for a few more plant highlights from the design.  This is Banksia blechnifolia.  It is native to the coast of Western Australia and a member of the Protea family. It has upright fern-like foliage and its cone like inflorescence occurs right at ground level.

Leucospermum cordifolium (pincushion) from South Africa will form a nice winter blooming mound. They are very popular along the California coast.

Banksia ‘Birthday Candles’ is a dwarf cultivar of Banskia spinulosa var. spinulosa from Eastern Australia. They look a bit like little mugo pines covered in yellow flowers.

Alyogyne huegelii is a Hibiscus relative from Western Australia.  It will grow eight to ten feet tall and will form part of a backdrop of purple and pink flowered shrubs along the central spine of the largest berm. I think the cool pinks and purples will make a nice contrast to the hot flowers of Banksias, Leucadendrons, Aloes, and Kniphofias that surround them.

I hope you have enjoyed this part of the garden design process. I’ll share more pictures of this garden once the plants are all in the ground and mulched.  I’m really pleased with the way this garden is progressing so far.  All the color and texture combinations I planned on paper are actually working really well. I think it will be a knockout garden.

Now for some other news…

My compost was delivered today for my garden!  I have a lot of work cut out for me this weekend spreading it around but luckily I have some helpers coming over on Saturday to give me a hand. I’m really looking forward to getting my own garden planted and sharing that with you.

Other things I liked about SoCal

The hummingbird garden on my balcony.The street art across from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Los Angeles Arboretum.Peacock at Los Angeles Arboretum.Mountain view from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Blooming nectarine at South Coast Botanical Garden.
Orange Leucospermum hedge blooming in Sunset Park, Santa Monica.Antelop Valley Poppy Reserve in April.Antelop Valley Poppy Reserve in April.Bounty from the Santa Monica Farmers Market.The Drosanthemum floribundum carpeting this sloped front yard near my old apartment in Santa Monica.The Santa Monica Community Garden on Main Street.
My favorite was the sweet pea guy.Kite Surfers in Malibu!View of the ocean from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Dioscorea elephantipes at California Cactus Center in Pasadena.Charmlee County Regional Park in MalibuView of Malibu and the Pacific from Charmlee County Regional Park.
Amazing arrest I saw.The gardens at the Getty in Brentwood.The view of Los Angeles from the top of Runyon Canyon Park.Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden in Claremont.Coreopsis gigantea blooming on the cliffs of north Malibu.

Things I liked about SoCal, a set on Flickr.

Here are a few more pictures that didn’t make the cut but were still pretty cool. Click the thumbnails to see a description.

Plants I NEED

Christmas seems like a good day to set up a wish list for plants that I need to grow someday.  Either in my new garden (I’m moving on Friday!) or a future garden or just a wish list of amazing plants that I would love to grow.

I’ll probably try to do this as a long running series and hope to fill it with new plants I learn about or just plants that I love.

The first is Crotalaria agatiflora. I spotted this Chartreuse beauty at the Kula Botanical Garden on Maui (well worth a visit if you are ever in Maui). Both Annie's and San Marcos Growers have sold this plant in the past and no longer do. I don't know if that means it is difficult to grow or just not very garden worthy but I want one. I NEED one!

Sticking with a Chartreuse flower theme for a moment the next plant on my list is Puya chilensis. This is a plant I first learned about from one of my gardening mentors, Lily Ricardi, at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. The only one I saw at that time was already finished blooming but I never forgot Lily's description of the vivid green blooms. Remember when I went to England last May but then didn't share many pictures with you because I suck at blogging? Well I'll try to remedy that with future blog posts and this is the first of them. I was very excited when I visited St. Michael's Mount near Penzance and got to see this impressive specimen in full bloom. I had seen photos of course but nothing beats seeing a plant in real life. I'm not sure if I will grow this in my new garden as it a huge plant (this one must have been at least 20 feet across) and is rather prickly (it is believed that Puya's may be carnivorous because animals get trapped inside the prickly tangle of leaves) but it is on my "some day" list.

This plant was so big that this was the closest I could get to capturing a photo of the blooms.

And now for something a little less rare but still spectacular. I grew Lupins in my first garden in the mountains (OK hills) of northern New Jersey. There is something about the way the leaves push up out of the soil in late winter and early spring that is magical. They look like dewy green fingers. And then the flowers are these wonderful phallic spires of pillowy bi-colored pea flowers! My first plants were all seed grown Russel Hybrids so it was always exciting to see what interesting color and bi-color combinations you would get. Once my garden moved to my father's place I could no longer grow them as they prefer cooler summers, but California has many native Lupines, and the cool climate of Los Osos should be perfect for them. This picture was taken at Hidcote where they had an entire border filled with Lupins.

Isoplexis is a foxglove relative endemic to the Canary Islands and Madeira. They are very common growing under glass in English gardens but in coastal California they should be quite happy growing in the yard. This one was growing in the glasshouse at Hidcote.

The spectacular spiral leaved Aloe polyphylla, coveted by many, but tricky to grow. It grows at a high altitude in its home in South Africa so doesn't do well with heat and humidity. Luckily the central coast of California seems to have the perfect growing conditions and it is quite common there. I have even seen a row of them planted in a hell strip in San Luis Obispo!

Quite by accident the next plant I chose was another with the polyphyll specific epithet (it means "many leaves"). This one is Tropaeolum polyphyllum. Regular garden Tropaeolum or Nasturtium has escaped into the wild and is a fairly common weed here in California but there are also many unusual species in the genus. Many of them are tuberous or climbers and most are somewhat tricky to grow (especially compared to Nasturtiums). I feel like the cool coastal climate may be just what they want so I am going to give a few of them a try. This tuberous blue leaved beauty was growing at Beth Chatto's garden.

As I have said in earlier posts I am eager to learn more about the Protea family and definitely want to grow some in my new garden. But there are so many. Which ones should I grow? I don't even know where to start! Luckily I saw this beauty while driving in Maui and stopped to take some pictures. It is Leucospermum reflexum. This impressive silver leaved bush is growing along the road that leads to Haleakala Crater and the Kula Botanical Garden so I'm sure I'm not the only person who has stopped to take pictures.

The flowers of Leucospermum reflexum start out with the usual pincushiony greatness! I think this one looks like a phoenix.

Then the petals all bend back on themselves and the look changes to a fiery shuttlecock. Very cool. I NEED one.

The last plant on my list today is one I am not likely to ever grow but I was just excited I got to see them in person. It is the Haleakalā silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum) a rare and endangered plant endemic to Maui (two other endangered species of silversword grow on the big island of Hawaii). All the ones I saw were basically planted in the parking lots at the top of Haleakala Crater. It was so cold, foggy, and rainy that we didn't go hiking about looking for them out in the wild (in fact my father and brother stayed in the car when I got out to photograph these). On a nice day the views from the top of the crater must be spectacular but all we could see was a wall of grey. But it was worth the cold, and rain, and my father crying in the back seat, as we drove up the crazy 18 mile windy road to the summit 10,000 feet above sea level (he is terrified of heights and complained the entire time that he had not given informed consent when he agreed to take the trip with us to the top).

Sadly the flowers were all finished on this silversword (they are purple!). But the spent inflorescence is still cool. The plants can live up to 50 years but they are monocarpic. Once they bloom and set seed they die. So this guy won't be around much longer.

That’s it for this installment of Plants I NEED.  Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

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.