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.

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Building My Garden – Flower Garden Teaser

Just a little teaser update as I have been too busy planting to do much posting this week.  The plants actually look more impressive while still in their pots.  I got the plants laid out early Tuesday morning but planting them is another story.  If I could just pop them in the ground it wouldn’t take that long.  After all most of the soil is nice fresh compost that is easy to dig in and most of the pots are  4″.  Making the protective gopher cages for the roots probably quadruples the amount of time it takes to plant a garden.  In the interest of my sanity most of the California native annuals did not get protective cages.  Hopefully I won’t regret this later.  But I had about 4 flats of baby blue eyes, tidy tips, cream cups, and meadow foam.  Cages for all of them would have just taken way too long and added expense for what are temporary plants.  Annuals on the other side of the driveway along the fence where I know gophers are very active will be protected however.

About three quarters of these plants (from Annie’s Annuals and Native Sons) are now planted but I am still doing some finishing touches and moving around a few things.  I may wait on posting a big update until after the mulch has gone down and it looks a bit nicer.  The weather has been so beautiful this week that I sometimes forget that it is still February and that most of these plants have months to grow before blooming time.  Some things about California I’m not sure if I will ever get used to.

Road Trip to Annie’s!

It was time to take a road trip to the Bay Area this weekend so I could stock up on plants from Annie’s Annuals for my garden.  I decided to take the scenic route up Route 1.

I stopped at Ragged Point and took a bunch of pictures of this hummingbird zipping around the Echium candicans.  Even though there are several species of hummingbird in California I always assume they are Anna’s hummingbirds I am seeing because I believe they are the most common year round residents.

They are fast little buggers but I got a couple of decent pictures.  Pretty sure this is the same guy but the red around their throat is only visible when the light hits it from a certain angle.

I pulled over to take a picture of this huge lupin.

Aside from lupins there were Oxalis, Ceanothus, mustard, and California poppies in bloom along the coast.  On my way back I took the interior roads and there were tons of almonds, cherries, and plums in bloom.  It will always be a bit strange to me that fruit trees bloom in the middle of winter here in California instead of in early spring on the east coast.

Since it was a Sunday I didn’t make too many stops because there were a lot of cars on the road and most of the parking lots were full. So I skipped the elephant seals and Nepenthe.  I did stop at the vista point to take a picture of Big Creek Bridge.  It was a beautiful clear winter day.

wooly Indian paintbrush

I believe this is Castilleja foliolosa but I’m not an expert on them.  I do know that they are hemiparasitic (derive some of their sustenance from the roots of other plants) which is why you don’t see them for sale as a garden plant.

So happy!  Every time I drive up the California coast I feel very lucky to be living here.

The waves were insane!  I tried to get a picture of some of the big ones but of course they wouldn’t cooperate.  The huge waves were shy and only came out when I put my camera away.

I spent Sunday night in Berkeley and woke up bright and early Monday morning and headed to Annie’s for a full day of shopping.

I made a beeline for this Athanasia pinnata.  I think it will make a really nice specimen planting in my mediterranean garden so of course I had to have one.

Megan from Far Out Flora (one of my favorite garden blogs) works at Annie’s so I let her know I was coming so I could say hey.

I had a long day ahead of me.  I was there for a total of 5 hours.  Even though I came prepared with a list and Annie’s is very well organized I always end up running around in circles like a fool.  Everyone that congratulated me for being a grown up and not buying that Globularia a few weeks ago can go ahead and revoke my adult status.  Things I didn’t plan on buying were literally leaping into my cart when I wasn’t looking.  To be fair it is a four hour trip so I need to stock up. And there is no other nursery in the world like Annie’s Annuals (and Perennials).  The type of plants they grow are the exact sort of plants that I am in love with.  It was a beautiful overcast day for taking pictures but of course it is February so the display gardens are not at their bloomiest best.  There are always display plants in containers in bloom though so I did take the time to snap a few pictures.

Platystemon californicus – cream cups

Nemophila menziesii ‘Penny Black’

Lupinus succulentus – arroyo lupine and Gilia tricolor 

Nemophila menziesii – baby blue eyes

Alonsoa meridionalis ‘Apricot’

I set a new record for amount of the amount of plants I can fit in my VW Golf!  Twelve and a half flats.  That is TWO HUNDRED four inch pots!

I purposely traveled light so I would be able to stuff plants in every available spot. I had added so many extra plants I was afraid I was going to have to balance a few on my head but as it turns out two hundred is pretty much the exact amount of plants that will fit in my car without resorting to heroic measures.

They all made it home with me safe and sound.  I spent all of today placing and planting and I have a lot more planting to do tomorrow.  My spring garden is going to be out of control!  Thanks Annie’s Annuals!

 

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.

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.

Inspiration

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.

My First Installation

I think I have mentioned before that I have recently started my own garden design business (Propaganda Garden Design).  For the past few months I have been doing freelance work designing for my friend and former classmate and roommate Gabe.  He and his wife Maggie have a successful landscaping business in the San Luis Obispo area called Gardens by Gabriel.  I’ve done around six or seven designs for them now but the first one was recently installed so I am pretty excited about it.  I’ve designed many gardens but this is the first legit “I got paid to do this” one.

It is a small courtyard garden for a beach house in the coastal town of Cayucos.  That perfect zone 17 climate right on the ocean but somewhat sheltered by the house.  The home owner wanted lots of color and listed a bunch of bedding plants that he loved.  Now I am not such a garden snob that I dislike bedding plants but I figured since he was paying a designer he should get something a bit more special so my first thought for the space was that a garden full of Annie’s Annuals plants would be perfect for this spot.

I first experienced Annie’s plants back when I was an intern at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden when the nursery manager let me act as buyer.  This was back right before Annie started doing mail order so for me as an east coaster it was pretty exciting getting to see all these amazing plants in person.  Anyway I got to relive a bit of that nursery buying magic and buy a bunch of Annie’s plants on someone else’s dime.  Being a garden designer is pretty awesome.  So enjoy this photo tour of the process from start to finish.

The courtyard had four beds. This is bed one. Just a bit overgrown and not terribly exciting.

Bed two is not much better. My favorite part of this particular design is all the hardscaping was already taken care of. All I had to do was fill the beds with plants.

The Bougainvillea on the right in bed 3 got a reprieve. I wanted to rip it all out but it was one fo the few plants the homeowner really liked so we decided to spare a bit of it. I'm kind of notorious for wanting to start with a really blank slate.

Bed four is rather tiny but this Bougainvillea got to stay as well. Everything else came out though. Including the Solandra.

Back home in West Hollywood I poured over Annie's website deciding on a theme for the beds and picking out plants. The general method I use when designing a garden is imagine the beds in my head while pouring over websites and books and writing down a list of plants. Then I look over the plants and start moving them into combinations that I think will work well together and crossing some plants off the list (because I always go a bit overboard). Since this was a small design I decided to do it in marker. I also wanted to get across the color theme of the beds. There are two plants that are featured in all the beds (Trachelium and Anagallis) to tie the beds together and then each bed would have its own color theme while sharing at least one other plant in common with the bed across from it.

Now for the fun part! A trip up to the bay area and shopping at Annie's. On this trip I learned that you can fit nine flats of plants in a VW Golf! Now obviously taking such a monumental road trip isn't a really sensible way to run a business but I made a four day holiday of it. I figured this was a special occasion and I wanted my first garden to be incredible. But normally there are lots of other cool nurseries in the Central Coast area to shop at.

I don’t really have any cool pictures of the nursery because EVERY time I visit Annie’s it is always insanely bright out and my photos are all washed out.  But I’m sure anyone that is reading my blog already knows all about Annie’s and has read about her and seen her nursery in lots of other blogs from folks who are better photographers.  If by some chance you haven’t heard of or have never visited Annie’s be sure to check it out if you are visiting the San Francisco area.  It is probably my favorite nursery in the world.

Meanwhile back in Cayucos Gabe's crew was hard at work tearing out all those plants and preparing the beds for their new arrivals!

The next day the beds were all ready to be planted. Those Bougainvillea really got a haircut.

Hard to believe that this is the same bed that was full of tree fern and Impatiens just the day before.

So I got to work placing all the plants.

Gabe's crew got to work installing. Here David and Victor are planting bed three. The plant that Victor is removing from its clay pot in the back is a Abutilon vitifolium that I grew from seed collected at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden in 2003.

Mindy and David prepare the drip lines for the irrigation.

And here is bed number two almost finished. After the drip was installed it was mulched as well but I had a three and a half hour drive back to West Hollywood ahead of me so I left early. Hopefully this garden will be as beautiful in the spring as it is in my mind and I'll have some great photos to share then. And in the next few months I will be moving up to the San Luis Obispo area so I can be closer to my work and get involved in more projects with Gabe and his crew.

Just so you get more of an idea of the setting of this garden here is a view of their "backyard". That is Morro Rock off in the distance.

I really hope this garden is successful and the homeowners end up loving it.  About 95% of the plants are from Annie’s so it should be pretty neat.  Aside from some really colorful plants in beautiful combinations I tried to include something really interesting in each bed that the homeowners have maybe never seen before (Musschia wollastonii, Cantua buxifolia, Abutilon vitifolium).  So fingers crossed that we have a perfect winter so the plants get big and fat and burst into bloom in the spring.