DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

Protea In The Water-Wise California Garden

Named after the legendary sea god, Proteus, who could changed his shape at will, the family of Proteas has a surprising diversity of form, flower, and foliage across the different species. From the trees, such as Grevilleas, to the shrubby Leucadendrons and the ground-covering Banksias, there is a Protea for every purpose in the garden, and it’s easy to see why they’re one of our favorite landscape ingredientsA Gardens by Gabriel protea pincushion collection

Their flowers are exotic looking and come in a warm spectrum of colors and extra-terrestrial forms. In fact, Proteaceae are cultivated commercially as cut flowers because of their striking forms and propensity to last for weeks to months in a vase.

All of the protea tribe appreciate well-drained soil and cool temperatures, so they grow to perfection on the fog-kissed dunes of the coast. They require minimal maintenance, and don’t want much water once established. If you’re looking for a few eye-catching plants to light up your garden in the winter time, the protea family is not to be missed!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

California Native Plants–Flora Delights!

California is known for its vast array of unique climates. Within a 5 hour driving radius you can be in the towering redwoods, the waves of the Pacific, the searing desert dunes, or the snow-capped sierra.  The eastern part of the US has 11 climate zones, while we westerners boast 24! The Central Coast is no exception, hosting a multitude of micro-climates from the elevations of warm North County to the fog belt bluffs of the coast.  Specialized communities of plants have adapted to these distinct environments over thousands of years, yielding plants are that built exactly for where we live. Native plants give our gardens a sense of connection to the indigenous surroundings, and make us feel at home. A well-planned native garden reflects our subtle seasonal changes, supports a wealth of wildlife, and contributes to the delicate ecological balance of our global environment.

Tags: , ,

Designing For Success With Succulents

With their reputation for hardiness, it’s easy to think that succulents need only blazing sun, rocky soil and the occasional raindrop to survive. Fortunately for our earthy endeavors, that’s not the case! In fact, across the diversity of our coastally-influenced Mediterranean zone, from Cambria to Arroyo Grande to San Luis Obispo itself, San Luis Obispo County is home to many thriving succulent gardens.

It’s important to keep in mind that succulent gardens immediately on the coast will have different requirements than those just a few miles inland, which experience more sun and higher temperatures year round. With their warmer temperatures, succulents in San Luis Obispo will love the warmth but need a shady break from the intensity of the afternoon sun. These gardens will yield plants with rich color and bountiful blooms. Immediately on the coast, the same plants will have less intense coloration and a smaller stature, but be just as stately and beautiful.

Succulent Design Tips:

  • Inland, in San Luis Obispo, your succulents will benefit from some shade to provide relief from the hot afternoon sun.
  • The plants that want full sun on the immediate coast/want afternoon shade in San Luis Obispo include these species: Echeveria, aeonium, crassula, and kalanchoe.
  • Hardier varieties that can take full sun all day are the aloes, agaves, dyckias,  dudleyas, and sedums. (They’re adaptable to both a little shade and the full brunt of the sun’s heat.)
  • In the more extreme North County climates with hard freezes and days in the 100s,  your plant palette is limited to the hardiest of agaves, aloes, and dudleyas.
  • Succulents are even more dazzling backed by the texture of grasses, reeds, or striking Red Hot Pokers (kniphofias). They are brought to life by the echoing colors of neighboring perennials, or by the vibrant foliage of leucodendrons and the other-worldly flowers of pincushions (leucaspermum). We suggest blending in your other favorite water-wise plants with your succulent design for the greatest effect!
  • Above all, remember that succulents are highly adaptable, so have fun experimenting with them in different conditions!!

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Far Out Flora Is… Well, Far Out

Not to get too colloquial about it, but Megan and Matti are pretty far out. Horticulture hunters, this couple runs the eclectic and engaging faroutflora.com, a blog devoted to the exploration and documentation of all things horticultural and happenin’. Garden designer Kaveh Maguire (featured here in a fabulous green Gardens by Gabriel hoodie) invited this Megan and Matti to visit several garden projects we’ve been involved in, so they graciously agreed to visit our county on their travels.

Their first stop was Kaveh‘s fledgling Los Osos garden.  Next up was Vince and Janet Marino’s Morro Bay landscape (featured in this year’s AAUW Garden Tour). Two more stops in Cayucos completed the tour: One, a landscape (left and below) designed by Grow Nursery owner Nick Wilkinson; and Two, Wilkinson’s parents’ home garden. Succulent gardens and coastal views under our belts, we stole them off to dinner to ply them with food (thanks, Kaveh!) in order to get more plant-speak out of them.

As Megan and Matti await the birth of their first child and head off to explore the wilds of Wisconsin, we look forward to watching their blog expand from plants and puppies to progeny and beyond.

 

And here, a photograph of what it’s like to tour gardens with plant enthusiasts: Synchronized snapping!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Morro Bay Marinos: The AAUW Garden Tour

Vince and Janet Marino’s Morro Bay garden is making waves! Their Gardens by Gabriel landscape, installed 2 years ago in the spring of 2010, was featured in an article we wrote for the Tolosa Press; highlighted by the SLO Tribune in November of 2011; and is now one of the five gardens in 2012’s AAUW (the American Association of University Women) spring Garden Tour.

“The AAUW is a great organization,” says Vince Marino, “and the proceeds of this tour are going to do a lot of local good.” The Marinos became involved with the garden tour through a number of channels: One of the Marinos’ neighbors is a member of the AAUW; another neighbor’s garden was in a previous year’s tour; and the SLO Tribune’s garden writer, Sharon Crawford, put in her recommendation as well.

Vince and Janet are preparing their garden for an influx of guests. “We’re trying to be as ready as we can!” says Vince. “We’ll have a welcome table set up, and a route for people to follow to best see the space.” The Marinos have enjoyed their garden since its installation, and have equally enjoyed caring it. “This place is a botanical garden,” Vince says, “with plenty of natural flavor and attention to detail. Janet works out here all the time, keeping it healthy and beautiful.” For all her hard work, however, Janet says, “The garden belongs to God and Gabriel; I just work in it!”

As for their motivation for sharing their space with 500 visitors, Vince says, “We’re both so proud of this place. Everyone says ‘Wow!’ when they see it. Since we’ve learned a lot by visiting other gardens and nurseries, we’re looking forward to sharing our creation with other people. We feel that people can enjoy our garden, learn from it, and get a sense of what’s possible.”

This year’s tour begins at 12:00 on April 29th, 2012, and continues until 5:00 p.m. that afternoon. Five gardens in Los Osos and Morro Bay will be displayed, and the price to enjoy them is a mere $10. Tickets are available at Miner’s Hardware stores, Volumes of Pleasure Bookstore in Los Osos, and Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay. The tour is self-guided; take the time to enjoy the plants at your own pace. Vince and Janet will be waiting for you, ready to answer questions and show off their incredible views and enchanting landscape.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Nick Wilkinson: A Little Farther Down The Garden Path

The image of a plant enthusiast is easy to conjure: A kindly bearded gent, ankle-deep in mulch, puttering in the garden from dawn til dusk, trusty trowel in hand. Here to break the mold, however, is Grow Nursery owner and plant fiend Nick Wilkinson. We featured Grow itself in December of ’11, but this time we’ll delve a little deeper into the man behind the rare and unusual succulents.

GBG: Were did you grow up? Why did you decided to move to the Central Coast?
NICK: I grew up down on the border, 100 miles east of San Diego. It was really hot: The town’s motto was “Where the Sun Spends the Winter.” I moved here from San Diego 6+ years ago with my wife to buy a nursery and have been able to make that pay the bills.
GBG: How would you describe yourself?
NICK: Forever full of energy, yet constantly out of money.


GBG
:  What is your favorite plant or flower?

NICK: SO SO SO hard. You know I love them all! I guess the plant I have the most of in my collection is Operculicarya decaryi. I could have 100 of them and be happy, but that is true of so many…

GBG: How did you get in plant business?
NICK: After years of finding myself spending every last bit of money I had on succulents and vintage pottery, I got the idea to buy a nursery.
GBG: Which succulents would survive the apocalypse?
NICK: Sempervivums- With a name that in Latin means “Semper (“always”) and vivus (“living”), there isn’t much else to say.
GBG: How did being an artist influence your career as a plantsman?
NICK: You know, this is what I think makes me different from most plantsmen. Instead of coming at this from a plant-first outlook, I come at this profession from a perspective rooted (no pun intended) in form, shape and design. I’m constantly bending plants over, torturing them and looking for the right planter to make them into a sculpture.
GBG:  When you were growing up what did you want to become?

NICK: Anything but a farmer which is what my father, grandfather, and lots of other family did for a living. Turns out that instead of farming alfalfa, I’m farming succulents.

GBG: Do you like to travel and where have you been?
NICK: YES! I’ve been all over Europe and more recently been traveling a bit in Mexico, especially Baja the past few years. I’d travel more but my family is young and it’s just not in the cards for me to be gone for long stretches. Luckily, I get asked to give lectures several times per year on various topics so to travel and document the trip can pay off… at least that’s what I tell my wife and accountant.
GBG: If you were an animal then what would you be?
NICK: (see below)

 

 

 

 

 

GBG: Would you rather have super strength or super intelligence?
NICK: Luckily, I was blessed with both.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Just Try To Keep Up With Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin photoIn the past several years, succulents have become a mainstay in drought-tolerant gardens throughout central California. Their practicality aside, the geometric shapes and colors ranging from sublime to electrifying create a definitive sense of place in a garden. One woman in particular has made a career of illustrating how to creatively plant and care for them. Best-selling author Debra Lee Baldwin has written books, penned countless articles, createdilluminating websites and blogs, excelled at photojournalism, and perfected watercolors–all in support of succulent plants. Through her books and lectures she has brought the succulent movement to established gardeners and curious novices alike. Designing with Succulents (Timber Press, 2007) allowed homeowners and professionals to see the many applications for succulents in gardens. Her popularity grew, as did that of the plants themselves, and Succulent Container Gardens (Timber Press, 2010) was born, encouraging plant-o-files in any location or climate to cultivate these remarkable plants.

Debra is a one-woman bibliography of plant wisdom and beauty. One of her websites, http://www.succulentchic.net (dedicated to these “fascinating fat-leaved plants and exploring their design potential”) features beautiful images of co-mingled succulents, channeling the love of plants into creative designs that are easy for anyone to execute. Her main website, http://www.debraleebaldwin.com/, describes Debra more thoroughly by listing her blogs, links, and CDs; sharing the progress of her own garden; and lists where to catch this prolific potter’s next presentation.

More personally, I’m truly inspired by the tireless way in which she has unified the leaders of the plant world and brings exposure to their work. She has captured and crystalized the succulent movement with her lectures, networking, and drive to promote these remarkable plants.
(Photos used with permission from www.DebraLeeBaldwin.com)
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2011 PLANT PUZZLER #2 November 28th

GREETINGS, FLORA-PHILES!

We had some great guesses for the first Mystery Plant. Almost every single one of them got the right genus, and most guesses nailed the exact species we were looking for–great work! The plant in question? Eriogonum grande rubescens. The rose-colored flowers in the picture were a bit deceptive, since they’re normally much more vibrant. Close guesses were for eriogonum fasciculatum. A close coastal cousin!

MYSTERY PLANT #2:

  • Though I hale from the montane regions of Mediterranean Europe, I’ve acclimatized to the mediterranean climates around the world (and no longer have an accent).
  • A member of the grass family, my yellowy-green tussocks reach about 18″ tall
  • Each golden stalk of a seedhead is a tower of sparkling inflorescences. Allowed to bloom in the summer, they’ll persist well into the winter if your Felcos dont get the best of them.
  • One of the favorite grasses of the Greenman, I look at home massed in the natural meadow, dotting a perennial garden, or as a fine textured groundcover.

WHO AM I??

Enter your guess here! Include your name and email where required, and in the comment box, write the genus, species, and (where applicable) the cultivar name of the current week’s Mystery Plant. Write “Plant Puzzler” in the box marked “Phone” and include the date of the post with your entry. One guess per person, please! (Visit our Facebook page on Wednesday the 30th for a hint!)

DON’T FORGET!

For every correct Plant Puzzler answer we receive, we’re donating $1.00 to the SLO Botanical Garden. The top two people who guess the most correct plants at the end of the contest will win a bare-root tree! Check back next Monday, December 5th for the Correct answer, and the next Puzzler!

THIS WEEK’S WINNERS: Madeline, Daniel, Kaveh, Kim, Amy, Danielle, Greg, Christopher, and Mary.

We had some other very close guesses, and we’ll be honoring those folks, too, with a donation to the Botanical Garden.


2011 PLANT PUZZLER #1 November 21st

  • I originated in the archipelago of the westcoast of the US
  • I exhibit my sweet, rosy flowers in the later summer months
  • My candelabra-shaped flower stalks are reminiscent of California native Verbena (even though we’re not related)
  • Butterflies love me (what can I say!)
  • My seeds are a favorite of grouses, finches, larks, and sparrows

WHO AM I??

Enter your guess here! Include your name and email where required, and in the comment box, write the genus, species, and (where applicable) the cultivar name of the current week’s Mystery Plant. Write “Plant Puzzler” in the box marked “Phone” and include the date of the post with your entry. One guess per person, please! (Visit our Facebook page on Wednesday the 23rd for a hint!)

DON’T FORGET:

For every correct Plant Puzzler answer we receive, we’re donating $1.00 to the SLO Botanical Garden. The top two people who guess the most correct plants at the end of the contest will win a bare-root tree! Check back next Monday, November 28th for the Correct answer, and the next Puzzler!


Sedges Have Edges (and Rushes are Round)

The beautiful climate of the California Central Coast gives us an abundance of outdoor activities that include trail hikes, beach-combing, and bird-watching at the estuary. When you’ve been out and about, have you ever wondered about the surrounding greenery, waving in the coastal wind? Some kind of grass you think–well think again! Let’s revisit this rhyme that may be familiar to some…

Sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses are hollow, what have you found? 
Not being ones to shy away from the feel of things, we recommend the “touch test” to satisfy your curiosity. Gently roll the stem between your thumb and forefinger; if the stem and leaves are flat, you indeed have a grass. If you find edges making a very noticeable triangular shape, you’ve found yourself a sedge. And you guessed it; if the stem is round you’ve found a clump of rushes.
Next time you’re out for a bike ride or walk, don’t be afraid to bend down next to a clump of green and ask it to tell you its tale.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,