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.

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January Garden Design Update

You may remember my post back in November titled Inspiration. Well I am excited to say that the construction for that design began this week. The crew over at Gardens by Gabriel are hard at work preparing the landscape for the planting that is to come in this Morro Bay garden.  Normally “before and after” pictures would be in order but I am too excited to wait for the after so you will get the “before and during” pictures today and the after pictures will have to come when we are finished. The “during” being the hard work behind the scenes that make the garden possible.

This is the lower lawn of the property. The entire home is on a pretty steep hill.  The balcony in the upper right corner of the photo has a beautiful view of the bay which is just a block away.

Dan drives the Bobcat while Victor checks the level.  This area is being prepared for a Bocce Court!  It will be surrounded by the homeowners existing fruit orchard and new, mostly succulent, plantings.

This is the before shot of the front entrance and the upper lawn. All of the palms on the upper lawn were removed to make way for the new design.  One way for homeowners to save money on the construction is to do some of the preparation work themselves.  He killed and tilled the lawn and removed the palms before we began our work.  He will also build the bocce court himself.

The palms are all gone and some of the foundation plantings were moved to other areas.  Garden mascot Cody watches over some of the plants that have been delivered.

The upper lawn.  I believe there were six palms that were removed. As you can see the property has a pretty severe slope.  We will remedy this by creating berms.  Unfortunately there is also an unsightly telephone pole in a pretty prominent spot on the property.  There isn’t a lot you can do with utility poles or lines.  In this case we are going to do our best to disguise its view from the house with large plants.  There is an existing Otatea acuminata aztecorum right up against the foundation of the house.  Since it was poorly placed to begin with we will move it to a better spot and use it to try to soften the utility pole a bit.

As you can see some of the foundation plantings are gone.  Some Cyperus have been moved near the driveway and some small palms removed.  More Woodardia ferns will be added to the remaining foundation plants.  Irrigation is being prepared and soil that is coming out of the lower lawn to level the bocce court area will be brought up to create the berms.  Another ten yards of soil will be purchased and delivered tomorrow. The lime tree on the left hand side of the lawn will be moved down to the lower lawn.

Garden design books always talk about using “borrowed views” to enhance your garden. I’m pretty sure all of those books were written about huge English estates with vast lawns and beautiful vistas to frame.  It is a bit frustrating when your own view consists of a large telephone pole.  The view to the north isn’t so bad though.  Sadly Morro Rock is hidden behind some trees (you can just make it out peeking out behind the trees in the upper left) and we have a pretty solid view of the infamous Morro Bay smoke stacks.  But we also have a nicely landscaped neighbors yard.  One thing that caught my eye right away was the two beautiful Arbutus ‘Marina’.  So I capitalized on this and included two of our own to mirror the neighbors along the fence.  The street planting consists of a Melaleuca and some Helichtotrichon. I feel that our planting of Knifofias, Thamnochortus, and Grevillea will compliment the neighbors bed perfectly.

Our order from San Marcos Growers down in Santa Barbara arrived already and I am pretty excited about the quality of the plants. The weird plant above is Berzelia lanuginosa a South African plant that I think will look great with the Protea themed garden.

Aloe ‘Hercules’ is a tree Aloe that can grow thirty feet or more.

I originally wanted to use Chondropetalum elephantinum but when I saw Thamnochortus insignis I liked it better so we made a last minute switch.  Here it is along with some of our succulents and our two Arbutus.

The large berms will be held in place by two and a half tons of rock so Gabe and I went down to the quarry so he could handpick them and have them delivered next week.

He marks off the ones he wants with tape.  Hopefully I will be able to get up to the garden to watch as they are installed and get some photos of the machinery required to set them in place.  I find the whole thing a bit intimidating so it will be fun to see it all unfolding. I’m just the plant guy so some of this stuff is very new to me.

Now for a bit of a change of pace we’ll go check in on another one of my garden designs.  You’ll remember my post on My First Installation back in November and my courtyard garden designed with mostly Annie’s Annuals plants. It was super thrilling but also a bit nerve-wracking as well.  Would the clients like it?  Would the plants get enough or too much sun?

Well altogether the garden is looking great.  There was an unfortunate (and rare) heat wave right after they went in so we did lose a few plants and a some of them got a little crispy but now two months later and Annie’s plants are filling in just as beautifully as I knew they would and we are on our way to a very exciting spring.

The garden is beautifully mulched and we already have blooms in January.

Bed one was originally full of canna lilies and a giant tree fern.

Bed two was an overgrown mess full of weeds and Coleonema. While we were here Gabe and I did a bit of weeding and we pinched a few things back.  We decided to swap the Musschia and Cantua to give the Musschia more shade and the Cantua more sun.  I don’t think it will change the overall design too much even though they are very different plants. Sometimes what works on paper just doesn’t work in real life.

These Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ and Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ are already charming now in January.  Just imagine them in a few months when they are in full bloom!

I was surprised by how big Trachelium caeruleum ‘Hamer Pandora’ had grown in just two months.  This is one of the key plants that is included in all of the beds to help tie the design together.  *Mental note to buy some of these for my own garden in a few weeks!

And just a reminder of the view from the backyard of this beautiful house.

Our last stop was a nearby garden that Gabe had recently designed himself.

He designed the plantings in front of this guest house around the homeowners hardscaping design.  This is another home with beautiful ocean views.  This time from the upstairs balcony of the main house.

I am a little bit in love with this little vignette of Phylica pubescens with a beautiful piece of driftwood.  Hmm…I think I want some driftwood for my garden now!

I hope you enjoyed this design update.  I’ll be posting more updates as the work continues on the Morro Bay property so be sure to check back next week.