Garden Critters!

One of the best things about creating a garden is all the critters you attract.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about the California quail and their babies visiting the garden.

The other day I found this cool spider hanging out among the bells of Ireland.  Does anyone know what type it is?

This morning I was watering and noticed something big scurrying away out of the corner of my eye.  It appears I had soaked a poor praying mantis.  It climbed up on some Convolvulus to dry off and catch something tasty.

For a while I was lamenting the fact that no hummingbirds were visiting my garden. I’m happy to say they finally found me.  This little guy is often perched on the Cantua buxifolia where he can quickly defend the nearby Nicotiana mutabilis from bees and rival hummingbirds.  Kind of funny that I went out of my way to plant lots of orange and red flowering plants to attract the hummingbirds and their favorite is the pink and white Nicotiana.

So what are your favorite garden critters?  Anything exciting visiting your garden this summer?






Varian Ranch

So on Thursday I went to place plants for a design I did.  This was definitely a cool one and quite important to me.  Even though the plants are only going in now, in March, I actually designed the garden last July. It was the very first design I did for Gardens by Gabriel that was given the go ahead by the clients to be installed.  It got pushed back so far due to Gabe’s busy workload, some changes I made to the original design, and some other work the clients needed to have done.

The home is in the Edna Valley wine region that borders San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande in a beautiful gated cattle ranch.

There are just cows wandering around all over the place.  It is kind of crazy for a city boy like me.

This little guy was hanging out right next to the house as I was placing plants.  Probably contemplating walking in and eating some of them.  A very real threat to this garden!

You may remember I posted this picture last month.  This was how part of the yard looked last July.  That is a very overgrown and poorly pruned Correa.  The house had been professionally landscaped over twenty years earlier but the more interesting plants had died out and been over taken by Correa and rosemary which had then been pruned into billowing cloud shapes!

Last month most of the plants were removed leaving behind some beautiful live oaks.  The planting had to be wait for the mason to put in new paths near the front entrance and then dry rot was discovered on the large front porch so the planting was delayed while that was all ripped out and replaced.

I finally got the call that we were ready to plant on Thursday!  This part of the garden between the driveway and the front entrance I decided to carry on the mediterranean theme that the other side of the driveway and the backyard already had.  So between these two oaks are lots of lavenders, Artemisias, Salvias, and yarrows.  The large specimens in these beds are a Caesaplinia mexicana, Berberis nevinii, and Olea europaea ‘Montrose’.

One of the tricky things about designing this garden was that I was still living in West Hollywood and never got to meet the clients.  So I didn’t have a very clear picture of what type of garden they might want. I knew that it certainly wasn’t this.  I picked up on queues from exploring their property.  They had multiple birdfeeders, several dogs in the backyard, and an outdoor tortoise pen!  I pressed my nose up against the glass on the front door to peek inside and saw some Audubon prints hanging on the walls.  Designing a garden is much easier if you have some sort of theme so for the front yard I decided on creating a native plant garden featuring wildlife attracting plants.  The design was well received but I did have to make some changes to some of the large plants (Pacific wax myrtle and toyon) .  Even though they would have been great for attracting birds they were deemed too tall and would eventually block the beautiful views.

Part of the design was this path between the driveway and front yard.  As you can see it was mostly obscured!

The hedges were removed and the oak was gracefully limbed up a bit to reveal the path.  The Correa here was replaced with Salvia spathacea and Ribes speciosum with some Muhlenbergia and Sesleria to round out the design.

One of the reasons I didn’t just continue the mediterranean theme was that the entrance way was dominated by two large western sycamores. I felt that switching to natives would make more sense with the sycamores and oaks.

Native plants certainly make more sense here than the crazy hedges of rosemary all over the place.

The sycamores also received some artful pruning, the lawn beneath them was removed, and a new path was created as well as a small sitting area to enjoy the view of the beautiful hills and wandering cattle.

The new sitting area complete and waiting for plants.

I love the way they worked the huge boulders right into the path.

Did I mention the bluebirds?  Finally I got pictures!  They found our cars to be the perfect height to scan the fields.

They seemed to love perching on the windows and gazing at their reflections.  They enjoyed it quite a bit as you can tell by all the poop on Gabe’s truck!

I saw my very first western titmouse and a pair of magpies too!  On my way home I stopped at the farm supply store and finally picked up a bird feeder.

A new “lawn” was created in place of the old water thirsty one.  Three different species of Muhlenbergia wind through the space like a ribbon.  At the base of each boulder are Seselarias, Aquilegias, Eriogonums, and Salvias.  Around the edges of the property are several different cultivars of manzanita and some Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ (hopefully none of which will be pruned into cloud shapes!).  Even though it is not native we also included some Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Blush’ for the contrast in foliage color. Flanking the front entrance are two pairs of Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward VII’.

Hopefully once they fill in the new plants will accentuate the beautiful sycamores and not dominate the scene like the huge rosemary hedges did.  You can see the brand new front porch in the back still waiting for a handrail.

Western sycamore – Platanus racemosa

The clients also lost a large oak in the backyard recently created a large new sunny space. So a few more projects are being worked on including expanding the existing perennial garden, adding a mini orchard, adding four raised beds for a vegetable garden and a play set for their grandchildren.

I went back to inventory the existing perennials to see what could be salvaged and what should be added and when I sat down four very affectionate dogs jumped all over me!  This is Maya and Hudson.

And this tortoise had been let out of his pen for a bit of exercise on the lawn.

And this is one of the many scenic view of the hills around the property.

As my first successful design this is definitely another very meaningful garden to me.  Hopefully I’ll be able to go back and have a look when everything has grown in to see if my vision for the garden works the way I imagined it would.


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.