Wine and Chi

The words “landscape” and “portable” aren’t often grouped together. “ Roots“ and “impermanent” might seem like they’re the antithesis of one other. And you’d rarely hear a landscape described as “moveable.”
Todd and Kendra Clift of Los Osos took these traditional ideas of landscaping back to the drawing board with their Autumn landscape project in 2011. The Clifts’ collaboration with Gardens by Gabriel was the implementation of an innovative yet impermanent garden. They hoped to address Los Osos’ strong winds and sandy soil, while creating something attractive, cohesive, and—most interesting of all—flexible for themselves.

“When we first moved here, the yard was absolutely overgrown with struggling trees and shrubs,” says Kendra, a local Special Education Teacher. “It wasn’t our style at all. We removed everything—but then didn’t know what to do. We had ideas, but no experience.”

“We both enjoyed being outdoors,” adds her husband Todd, Owner and Vintner at Moonstone Cellars in Cambria, “and the space was perfect for a variety of purposes; we just didn’t know how to create the environment we wanted.”

Todd and Kendra worked with Gardens by Gabriel to create their garden in stages. Turning the sand into healthy soil simply meant a hearty amendment of compost. Mitigating the wind meant only the placement of a soon-to-be robust Leucadendron argentium tree in a strategic, wind-blocking corner. Instilling impermanence in a living landscape, however, was more of a creative venture.

In order to plant a long-lasting garden that contained structure along with surprises, we struck a compromise. The Clifts’ garden is now home to semi-permanent flagstones and a heavy (near-immobile) fire pit. The beds, edged with rough cobble, boast healthy soil and mulch, and support a host of perennials and succulents. There are trees and shrubs whose roots will become established in time. On the other hand, there are also secretive nooks and unexpected crannies intentionally left unplanted, ready and waiting for a visit from a potted perennial, a wrought-iron plant stand, or a half wine barrel of Coprosma ‘tequila sunrise.’ The stability of the garden as a whole facilitates longevity, while the strategic spaces allow for creative alterations.

“Now we to get to play with our yard without being labored by our yard,” says Todd. “We threw our first wine-club event after six years of living here, and everyone raved about the yard and the wine motif. They were blown away. We were proud of what we’d done. It felt good to be comfortable enough to host a party at our home.”

As for keeping the Chi moving, Kendra says, “If I want to add a splash of color, I just add a small pot in the spot that I choose, and that instantly makes it look different. Don’t underestimate open spaces. Being open to change creates the opportunity for creativity.”

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