Move Over, Low Maintenance

Carla Borchard’s and Dan Wixom’s home rests on a slope off of the 41 in Morro Bay. While their views include the surrounding rolling hills and pastoral fields, Carla and Dan are fortunate to also enjoy an overlook of their own back yard. When they bought the property 8 years ago, however, there was nothing besides ice plant and coyote bush holding the soil in place. “We put in a passion flower vine ourselves, and I haven’t had to water it once in 8 years,” Carla said. “That’s the kind of garden I wanted to create. Not just low-maintenance, but NO maintenance. Life gets busy!”

In the spring of 2009, Carla and Dan reached out to Gardens by Gabriel to construct a landscape that would require very little intervention on their part, yet would provide seasonal edibles as well as beautiful views from their wraparound deck. In order to fulfill their requests and maximize their space, we designed a somewhat tiered garden composed of 3 separate environments: A perennial border along the pathway that leads from the home to the patio; a patio surrounded by succulents; and an orchard for food and screening.

Zone One: Leading away from the house, the decomposed granite (or DG) pathway is lined with drought-tolerant perennials: Clumps of towering Leymus grass (a low-maintenance, easy grower with beautiful blue foliage), native deer grass, and a warmly-hued sunrose, Helianthemum “Henfield Brilliant,” to name a few.

Zone Two: Carla and Dan wanted a beautiful place to use their grill, so we created a second patio zone of Yosemite slate flecked with patches of rusty orange, ocean blue, and sandy taupe. We edged the space with Senecio “Blue Chalk Sticks”; hardy Aeonium Canariense; whimsical native Verbena lilacina, and a variety of stately aloes and agaves. Carla and Dan also harvested rock from their ranch to contribute structure to the planting. The rustic scene is completed by an old cattle feeder overflowing with aloes, the silhouette of a metal cowboy, and a rusted horse-watering bowl, just off the patio.

Zone Three: Visiting the third zone, the orchard, means descending large slabs of stone that serve as stairways. Now, three years after the collection of trees was installed, the fruit trees are making their way out of winter dormancy and are taking off. “The avocados are starting to bloom,” said Carla, “and the others [figs, apricots, and lemons] are maturing.” On having to share some of the bounty with birds, Carla said, “It’s hard to get to the figs before the birds do. But whether they enjoy them or I do, it doesn’t matter. It’s just perfect.”

Outside of some minimal drip irrigation, Carla and Dan have been able to essentially ignore maintenance altogether, which suits them just fine. “I couldn’t be happier. It’s brought comfort into my life. I love sitting on the back patio. I love looking over the garden. I love walking down the steps into the orchard. I love it all.”



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