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.




Cambria Nursery

Cambria Nursery and Florist is one of the better all purpose nurseries in our part of the central coast. A destination type nursery with display gardens, a great selection of plants, a florist, gift shop, and events.  A few weeks ago Gabe was offered the opportunity to advertise our services by designing one of their display gardens.

The garden area he chose was a large circular amphitheater where events are held.

It was in dire need of help.  It had lots of empty space and a mix of old overgrown plants. But the hardscaping was nice and it is an interestingly shaped space so it was fun to design.

Since it is sort of a half circle shape I suggested that it be planted in a rainbow pattern.  Gabe’s response was that I had better not design it that way and I had to agree that it was sort of a corny idea.  But then I accidentally, sort of designed it that way anyway.  Not exactly.  It isn’t a perfect prism or anything.  But there is a color theme thing going on.  Blue and Gold to the left leads into orange and red and then fuchsia and purple. Oops.

Gabe and the crew removing the old plants.  The only thing I kept were some shrubs and small trees and a big clump of what I thought was Lysimachia ciliata but now looking that plant up the leaves aren’t right.  Well…it will be a surprise then. This is why as a designer I like just pulling everything out and working with a clean slate.  It is easy to misidentify plants when they are not in bloom.

Everything is in place and Victor is hard at work getting them all in the ground. I’m pretty happy with the blue and gold mediterranean theme going on in the left hand side of this garden. That is Stachys byzantina ‘Primrose Heron’ in front of Victor and the large gold shrubs to the left are Caryopteris X clandonensis ‘Worcester Gold’.

One of the great things about designing in a garden center is if a plant you ordered was not available you can just go pillage from the nursery stocks!

The area around the fountain became a succulent garden.  Normally we wouldn’t plant so close together but we wanted instant results for this garden. The main specimens in this garden are Agave ‘Blue Glow, Yucca ‘Bright Star’, and Agave ‘Shark Skin’ surrounded by a bed of Echeverias and Aloes.

I’ll go back to take more photos once the garden has grown in a bit.  Or if you are visiting the central coast go check out Cambria Nursery and you can do some shopping and see one of my gardens in person!

Garden Tour and Far Out Flora Visit!

Last Sunday and Monday were very social for me (which is rare – I’m  practically a hermit). First  on Sunday Vince and Janet Marino were on the AAUW garden tour. You may remember I blogged about their garden before in my Bocce post.  It was their first time on the tour and Gabe was going to be there to help answer questions.  Even though I didn’t design this particular garden I know enough about the garden that I felt like I could be of use answering questions about plants.

The garden was looking great!  Janet had been slaving away all week making sure that not a single leaf was out of place (the garden has looked great every time I have seen it).

The Leucospermum were still in full bloom and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ was looking perfect.

The Euphorbia lambii were looking lush.

The bocce court was immaculate.

There were several stands of Kniphofia thomsonii and other Kniphofia’s in full bloom.

Vince and Gabe greeting visitors.

The tour was very successful.  Apparently there were over 500 visitors to the garden.  I swear at one point in the middle of the day there were 100 people in the garden all at once!  I did try to make myself useful by standing in the lower path and greeting people and answering questions about plants.  There were a few plants in particular that I got asked about over and over.

My photo doesn’t do it justice but the groundcover above (with lots of Linaria growing through it) is Grevillea ‘Fanfare’.

Here is a closeup so you can see the red bottlebrush flowers and red and green oak like leaves.  It stays low, just a few inches tall, but spreads out to about 10 or 15 feet across. It is planted right at street level and stopped many visitors in their tracks.

Sedum ‘Coppertone’ was another popular plant.  I don’t particularly think of this Sedum as that rare but I have never seen such huge specimens of this plant.  People couldn’t believe that this garden was only about 2 years old and that most of the plants had gone in as gallon sized pots.  When you have good compost to plant in and that perfect coastal climate things grow pretty fast!

Kalanchoe orgyalis ‘Copper Spoons’ was another popular plant.

I felt kind of bad for all the folks visiting from inland.  This is a garden that benefits from the cool coastal location and has a lot of tender specimens that don’t like it too hot or too cold.

Plants like Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ prefer to live on the coast.

Close up of the “ribbons”.

The tour was a huge success and I hope that Vince and Janet will be on future tours.  It really is a garden that is worth showing off and I had a lot of fun spending the day with them.

And it was perfect that we were in tour mode because the next day Megan and Matti from Far Out Flora were in town. I’m going to assume that everyone who reads my blog is already familiar with Far Out Flora.  One of the best gardening blogs on the internet and one of the reasons that I started my blog actually.  Megan and Matti (and border collie Max) are headed back to Wisconsin to start a family and came to visit me on their way east.  OK I think they actually came down the coast to pay a visit to Lotusland in Santa Barbara but we’ll pretend they just wanted to visit me.

I had them meet me at my place (didn’t want my garden to seem anticlimactic compared to the other cool gardens we would visit) and then we headed over to meet Gabe and Maggie at Vince and Janet’s house.

I thought they would appreciate some cool central coast gardens.

Next we brought them up to Cayucos to show them a few gardens designed by Nick Wilkinson of Grow Nursery.

First stop was the garden of Nick’s parents house in Cayucos.  Now I’m going to cheat a bit.  When I am being social I take horrible photos so I have a few older photos that are a bit better and do the garden justice.

Hopefully Megan got some good current pictures and will post them when she is settled in back in Wisconsin.

The last garden is another designed by Nick and is just down the road on the beach.

Quite a view.  You can watch the sunset and the ocean all the while surrounded by amazing succulents.

Anyway now I can go back to my hermit like ways but I had a great time seeing Megan again and meeting Matti (and Max!). I can’t wait to see their visit to Lotusland come to life on their blog and can’t wait to see how their blog transforms itself from a San Francisco Bay area garden blog to a Madison, Wisconsin garden blog!  And hopefully if they ever find themselves on another road trip on the California coast they will pay us another visit.