Sanctuary by Design

Before the installation of Catherine Hiatt’s cultivated landscape, the only plants on her Cayucos property were “statice, roses, and hundreds of yellow iris,” she says. “And of course the weeds that grew alongside them.” With a landscape design by a friend at Environs International Planning and Design, Inc., Catherine approached Gardens by Gabriel for its installation, hoping to focus on harmony and continuity.

Catherine values the sense of place generated by good design, and it shows in her home and garden. “I was concerned that with a yard this size I would get too many different plantings and it would end up looking disjointed,” she says. For this reason, Catherine sought designers and craftsmen whose passion for their craft and signature artistic styles would knit together seamlessly in creating her drought-tolerant garden.

“Gabriel helped me select plants that worked well together,” she says. “Some tall, some short, some ground-cover—all that would complement one another.” Gabriel chose plants for their shape, size and texture, but also for their year-round interest. This means as the perennials’ and grasses’ summer show wanes, the echeverias, and leucadendrons steal the limelight with colorful blooms and vibrant flushes of new growth. Catherine gestures at twin patches of carex ‘praegracilis’. “I’ve hiked the Sierra Mountains where you can see a similar carex grass in meadows,” she says. “The wind from the ocean blows across my property and makes these flow.”

Catherine asked Steve Watt of Seacoast Construction to install the pavers of her driveway; a pergola with upturned beams and sturdy quartzite columns; and a concrete half-wall, elegantly crusted with exposed aggregate, to surround her outdoor patio. Steve also veneered the existing brick chimney with a slate-hued stone, creating a visual connection between home, pergola and the garden's hardscape.

To dress up an adjoining neighbor’s garage that acts as a perimeter fence, Catherine suggested a succulent wall modeled after one at Mendocino Botanical Garden. Jamie Coxon, recycled-materials artist of The Linker Workshop, says, “We used an eclectic combination of reclaimed materials for this piece, including oak wine staves, lumber from the barracks of Camp San Luis Obispo, and vintage pressed tin ceiling tiles. The living wall is constantly changing as the succulents grow and materials are exposed to the elements.” Plant material and design was up to Nick Wilkinson of Grow Nursery in Cambria. “I love the plants Nick chose,” says Catherine. “They look like they’re reaching up to the sky.”

“We entertain our friends around the fire bowl [created by craftsman Maysun Wells of Wells Concrete Works in Los Osos],” says Catherine. “It’s great when my grandkids come as well. That’s how this garden has changed us: Before we would go out and pull weeds. Now we go out and enjoy. It’s a whole different lifestyle, and that’s what I wanted to create.” Catherine’s garden is a haven for her and her family, and an attraction to passers-by. She says, “It feels like a sanctuary out there for me. I go out and I read, I put my legs up on the sofa and look out. The wind blows the grass, and it’s just beautiful.” 

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