Nipomo WOW Garden

Nipomo is home to a number of different soil types, including thick clay, dry sand, and a rocky shale composite. If you’re really lucky, like John and Hollee Parker, you get all of them in one lot. Creating a garden out of sandy clay soil takes determination, but  fortunately the Parkers had that in spades. They came to us with a bevy of ideas and a wealth of creativity. “I wanted a ‘Wow!’ garden,” says Hollee, “not something that I’d see anywhere else. Before the transformation, this yard was just grass, it was very ‘blah.’”

The secret to creating a “Wow garden” is a thoughtful combination of color, form, height, and repetition. Not designing with wild abandon, necessarily, but rather noting the shape and textures of the plants and allowing them to really play off of one another. Paying attention to plant shape and color in this way means that even while not in bloom, the Parkers’ garden will be striking throughout the seasons.

Juxtaposing textures, we planted sweet, leafy bunches of coreopsis and the elegant, shimmering ‘silver sheen’ Pittosporum. For an elegant “pop,” we lined the Parkers’ custom deck with stands of Papyrus, whose pencil-thin stalks burst into wispy 5-inch puffs of green at the tips. We interspersed bright purple Verbena bonariensis with loli-pop-like red and yellow Rod Hot Pokers. To contribute movement as well as screening, we added both blue and black bamboo that will shift and shiver in the wind while simultaneously slowing the steady breeze. Mounding tufts of autumn moor grass sweep through the garden, blending groups of plants and softening the overall composition.

This eclectic garden relies on strong structural components like hand-picked--sometimes hand-placed by Hollee--boulders and the contributed works of other local craftsmen. Allen Andersen of The Pond Place designed and built a 4,200-gallon, 4-feet-deep koi pond and cascading waterfall. John himself helped with the retaining walls and shelving for the pond. Carpenter Ryan Allen of Allen Builders built a two-tier circular deck and a corresponding crescent-shaped pergola, adding height and curvilinear grace.

“We’ve had a pond before but we’ve never been able to enjoy it before. Now that we have these patios, we can listen to the water at any time. It’s very peaceful. I told Hollee I was going to move my desk out there!” says John.

At Hollee’s request, we sequestered a small area for edibles, with a lemon tree, strawberry plants, tomatoes, and the couple’s existing avocado. The edible garden area is one of many nooks in the couple’s new landscape: “There’s also the meditation area,” says Hollee, “the pond, the deck, the patio where we entertain, the little table where we have a glass of wine.” At night, the couple’s landscape lighting switches on automatically, creating dramatic silhouettes of the plants and boulders, and moving the waterfall to center stage.“The yard is totally transformed between day and night, so when we go out in the evenings we have a whole new place to enjoy.”

“We go out every night, and we never did that before,” says John. “Hollee gets transported to Hawaii, but not me--I go to Tahiti.”

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