Reclaiming Relaxation

Bill and Sandy Rumbler moved from Chicago to the Central Coast not yet a year ago and they’ve already enjoyed their first crop of homegrown veggies. Having cultivated gardens at previous residences, the Rumblers knew the value of "an outdoor living environment,” as Sandy calls it. They therefore sought landscaping help from Gardens by Gabriel upon buying their new home in San Luis Obispo.

"When we moved in, we didn't know what was in the ground,” says Sandy, “and it turned out to be weeds. The vines in the back yard had really taken over, too; they were six feet deep!”

"The trees hadn't been trimmed in twenty years," Bill adds. "The yard was like a great green wall ready to engulf you. Cutting everything back practically doubled our garden space."

In designing their landscape, Gardens by Gabriel addressed the Rumblers’ desire to beautify their environment as well as their focus on water conservation. "We wanted Mediterranean plants because of the cost of water, and because we wanted to go with the flow of California," says Sandy.

The Rumblers' hard clay soil meant the budding garden needed yards of new compost and mulch. "When Gabriel’s crew arrived with all the supplies," says Sandy, "I thought, 'That can't all be for our garden.' I thought there was enough for a football field!"

A mere 6 months after its completion, the garden is already a haven for winged wildlife.

Softy, bushy blooms of Spanish lavender host shimmering hummingbirds, while the sesleria autumnalis and arching muhly grasses offer low bunches of green contrast. The fragrant blooms of apricot hyssop and lemon-yellow carpets of primrose bring cheer to the scene. The swath of no-mow fescue lawn surrounding the patio is thick and seamless, and rustles in light breezes.

The hardscape is subtle but effective. A dry-stacked arrangement of boulders and cobbles create raised planting terraces for the plants needing more drainage. A buckskin flagstone path trails through lawn and garden, coming to rest at a bench for two. "If you have a path, I figure it should have a destination," says Sandy. It’s there that she’s placed her hummingbird feeder and honeysuckle, where she watches monarch butterflies, scrub jays, finches and more flit by.

Bill experiments in the succulent beds he asked to be incorporated into the design. "I'm trying to make them work with the natural landscape that Gabriel created," he says. "But that's not the way I started--I started out bordering each plant with a circle of rocks, and it didn't look right. So I took my cue from the rest of the garden and used a more natural placement of rocks and succulents. Now it works."

Sandy’s play station is her patch of edibles. “We have herbs that I use all the time. Last summer we had tomatoes and cucumbers, and next year I think I’ll try zucchini,”  she says. “We're learning about gardening in California as we go along. Most importantly that you can't fight Mother Nature." 

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