DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

“Mowing” The Drought-Tolerant Lawn

carex pruning

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Lawnmowing services exist to give homeowners a break from the tedium of hauling out the mower each week. The hassle, the sweat, the repetition–it seems worth it to shell out a few bucks to skip the mess of grass clippings and go right to the backyard barbecue. But even more convenient than paying someone to deal with your water-hungry lawn could be the brief task of clipping a native crop of Carex grass just once a quarter. 
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Gardens by Gabriel’s demonstration garden features a meadow of two types of Carex: Carex pansa (green) and Carex flacca (blue). Both were planted at the same time and have grown in happily with the help of low-flow drip irrigation. Six months later it was time for their first haircut. While we enjoy the look of a lush, flowering meadow, we like to clip younger grass clumps to encourage them to expand laterally and form a denser carpet. There are choices for how to cut grass, and we landed on hand pruning with a hedge shear because it avoids the need for a gas-powered machine as well as the burned edge left by weed-eating or weed-whipping.photo 2 copy 3photo 4 copy 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with mowing a lawn, mulching with the clippings is a healthy protocol (and a lot easier than gathering them into the greenwaste bin). We spread ours over the mulch and grasses alike with a metal rake and called it a day.

 

Tools: Shears, rake, funny hat.
Total elapsed time: 20 peaceful minutes on a Spring afternoon.

 

 

 

 

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Waterworks in the Garden

“If there is magic on this planet,” wrote naturalist Loren Eiseley, “it is contained in water.”

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Our Earth is known as the “blue planet” because of the abundance of liquid water on its surface. For centuries people have gravitated to ponds, streams, creeks and falls for water’s celebrated healing properties. Today, people continue this tradition in a personalized way, incorporating water features into their home landscapes. gbg_bowl

Fountains and water features invite the dimension of the delicately untamed to a garden. Birds of all types, dragon and damselflies, butterflies and lacewings, frogs and toads are all drawn to its glittering edge. In the San Luis Obispo garden pictured above, tiers of stone create sloping crystalline sheets bring splashes and dance to the shade. Contrastingly, water can also add Zen-like serenity. In our own Morro Bay garden (right), we included a softly curved concrete water bowl by Wells Concrete Works. Simple and clean in shape and line, its endless upwelling of gentle waves create a softly hypnotic place for the eye to rest.

Listening to the gentle gurgle of water splashing in a fountain enhances the sensory pleasure of an outdoor environment, bringing us the same peace as sitting by a spring-fed brook. The humble water feature, tucked into a mass of grasses or perched atop pebbles, reminds us to breathe and reflect on the sound of softly falling water, the shimmer of sunlight on a pond, the dart of a damselfly or the flit of the butterfly as it pauses on a puddle.

 

 

 

 

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Sanctuary & “Soft Fascination”

Close_up_on_maysun_wellsSanctuary, solace, serenity. Nature lifts the spirit and calms the mind. Our everyday lives are often in stark contrast to such tranquility, dominated by technology and driven by nonstop interactivity. We are inundated by artificial stimuli: bright computer screens, traffic noise, loud music, flashing televisions, captivating smart phones. Our ability to truly relax is inhibited by constant distraction.

While we intuitively appreciate a few deep breaths outdoors, scientists are also continuing to explore and affirm the benefits of time in the natural world. A recent study featured in The New York Times considered the phenomenon of “brain fatigue”: the inability to focus and the forgetfulness that comes from the brain being overwhelmed. Mediterranean Meadow“Natural settings,” notes the report, “invoke ‘soft fascination,’ a beguiling term for quiet contemplation, during which directed attention is barely called upon and the brain can reset those overstretched resources and reduce mental fatigue.”

Cultivating this “soft fascination” is a fundamental goal in our garden design. The gardens we create are intended to provide space for that contemplation, a personal sanctuary where we retreat from the cares of the world. Stemming from the Latin word sanctus, meaning sacred or holy, a sanctuary represents a safe haven – a bounded area, detached from our hurried and hectic world – where we find refreshment, recuperation, regeneration, and reconnection with ourselves. Wander into the soothing sanctuary of your garden. Can you enjoy its peace without seeing to-do lists? Can you reset your breathing to a slower pace? Can you simply be and enjoy time in nature, carving out a space of sanctuary for yourself?

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