Planting Out Aloes

I’ve been revamping much of my garden recently. If you have been following along the past three years you will remember the initial installation and the updates over the years. Because I didn’t really have the time to care for it I had pretty much left it to its own devices. This worked out pretty well and I ended up with a lovely garden of native and mediterranean climate annuals. This style of garden is great because it is basically free (after the initial purchase of plants the first year) and looks great while it is in bloom. The downside is that when it is not in bloom it looks pretty wretched and it is actually pretty high maintenance to care for it over the long term if you want it to look nice.

I wanted a bit of a change so I decided to create a Proteaceae and succulent garden. This type of garden is ideal for my warm, dry, coastal climate. It looks good year round, needs very little water once established (once a month should do the trick), and for the most part is low maintenance (though the succulents will need to be lifted and divided over time and the Proteaceae will probably need replacing now and then. They like to die).

We had almost a week of rainy weather and before the storms started I quickly planted out most of the Proteas. We had a break in the rain today and I planted out some of the larger Aloes.

I’ve been collecting Aloes and other large succulents the past few years but they grow surprisingly fast in containers and need pretty regular potting up. It was time to put them in the ground so they can look their best.

Aloe speciosa (tilt-head Aloe) arrived from Annie’s Annuals in March of 2013 in a tiny four inch pot. (top row, second from the left)

Aloe speciosa in a 4" pot in March 2013

It has grown pretty dramatically the past year and a half and as of this morning resided in a ten inch terra cotta pot. Incidentally, I don’t recommend terra cotta for big Aloes. Very difficult to get them out without damaging them!

Aloe speciosa now ready to be planted in the garden

I bought Aloe marlothii from San Marcos Growers about two years ago in a one gallon pot. Now it is ready to be a dramatic specimen plant in the center of the border.

Aloe marlothii

They both look pretty great planted out. They don’t really need the big watering wells. But since the shrubs, perennials, and grasses do I think it looks better if everything is uniform. It also helps me a bit in not planting things too close together since I have been designing this garden on the fly.

Aloe marlothii and Aloe speciosa planted out in the garden

Aloe wickensii I have had for at least four years. Originally purchased in a four inch pot back when I lived in West Hollywood or maybe even Santa Monica.

Aloe wickensii

The new gardens are starting to take shape but they are still a work in progress.

View of the garden from the front.

 

 

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.