DIG THIS! Green Musings from GBG inc.

A Place To Grow

A Place to Grow San Luis ObispoA Place to Grow: A Tale of Serendipity and Sustainability

One definition of serendipity is making desirable discoveries by accident, which is just what happened when we chanced upon the recycled garden structures designed and built by Dana O’Brien of A Place to Grow. The genesis of Dana’s business was serendipitous, as well: It began in 2004 when Dana convinced her brother-in-law to buy a home because she’d fallen in love with the backyard greenhouse built with wood sash windows salvaged during the home’s remodel. A few months later, that same greenhouse ended up in Dana’s backyard as her 40th birthday present–Dana’s husband had cut the greenhouse apart with a skill saw, loaded it on a trailer, and set it up in their yard. This synergistic series of events was the inspiration for A Place to Grow.

In the most literal sense, Dana designs custom places “to grow” in whatever way best matches the client’s wishes and aspirations. Her passion is creating greenhouses, meditation retreats, artist studios, 3-sided structures for outdoor dining rooms, 2-sided structures for hot tub enclosures, as well as arbors and potting tables for the garden. Dana finds it particularly gratifying to be able to incorporate special pieces from her clients, such as stained glass windows or doors.

Using primarily reclaimed and re-purposed materials, A Place to Grow helps keep architectural salvage out of the landfill and turns it into “functional art.” Dana has donated a recycled greenhouse to the Montessori Children’s School of San Luis Obispo and is in the process of designing a greenhouse for Bellevue Santa Fe School in Avila Valley. Donations are very welcome and help fund the charitable component of Dana’s business. She is most in need of reclaimed wood, glass doors, and wood frame windows, but she also appreciates redwood decking material and fence boards (as long as they are in decent shape), corrugated metal, and wine flavor sticks.

Wells At Work: We Love Wells Concrete Works

Maysun Wells dips his hand into a barrel full of what appears to be white sea glass. “Someone just gave this to me!” he says, loosing the semi-translucent pieces back into the bin. “I use clear glass like this if I want to create a different look from the wine bottles.” He gestures to a pile of green-, blue- and ochre-colored bottles collected from local restaurants. Earth-toned or clear, the tumbled fragments will soon become sparkling accents in one of Maysun’s pre-cast concrete fire bowls, benches, or countertops.

Maysun’s concrete studio, Wells Concrete Works, combines an indoor zone for pouring and molding custom concrete forms, with an outdoor zone for grinding, sanding, assembling, and finishing his pieces. After six years of working for local concrete artisan Roy Burch, Maysun bought the business and made it his own. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got out of school,” he says, “but when I saw what Roy was doing and worked for him, I realized I’d found it.” Fortunately, his degree in Industrial Technology from Cal Poly dovetailed neatly with his newfound passion. A mere two years after buying Burch’s business, Wells’ work is featured at Sage Ecological Nursery in Los Osos, Porch Home Furnishings in Carpenteria, Potter Green & Co in Sonoma, and Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles, along with shops and homes around California.

Designer concrete projects line the walls and sprout upfrom the gravel floor of Maysun Wells’ studio,
awaiting their next steps or further inspiration.

Decorative concrete is enjoying a renaissance in San Luis Obispo County, and Maysun is excited to be a part of it. “I like the collaborative design aspect,” he says. “Homeowners come to me with different needs and give me a chance to work on some real specialty pieces.” However, even Maysun’s simple concrete fire bowls are truly works of art. Domed or conical in shape, accented with clear or colored glass–or even stones and fossils, alone or paired with benches, each one is hand-crafted with both recycled materials and a sculptor’s eye. We’re finding they make a beautiful, natural addition to a landscape, tying together the elements of earth and fire–and in a recent project involving a fountain bowl, water.

Visit Maysun’s website at www.wellsconcreteworks.com for more information and a selection of photographs of the subtle, clean, and elegant indoor and outdoor accessories that he has perfected.










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: , , , , , , ,

500 Visitors!

This year’s AAUW Tour was a smashing success! 500 people toured through one of the five gardens on the tour, that of Vince and Janet Marino, a garden that we created. The euphorbia were blooming, the variegated yuccas and agaves were radient, and the pincushions had held their blooms for a remarkable 8 weeks. Many thanks once again to the Marinos who were gracious enough to invite hundreds of plant enthusiasts into their garden.




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: , , , , , , , ,

Cambria Nursery’s Secret Garden

Tucked into the pines off of Highway 1, Cambria Nursery is a welcome and unexpected surprise. Rooted on four beautiful coastal acres, Cambria Nursery’s inviting aisles and unexpected nooks encourage visitors to explore the plant selection, attend a class in their outdoor amphitheater, or simply enjoy a picnic amidst the beautiful surroundings. Becki Smith, the nursery’s manager, says, “It’s not your average nursery; it’s more of a destination.”

Becki is a gardener not by accident, but more like by reluctance. “I made it as a nurse up to the point of interning at a hospital, but I couldn’t go through with it. I didn’t have a passion for it.” Passion is an essential ingredient to working with plants, she says, and it’s a love she inherited–grudgingly–from her folks. “My parents used to make us identify plants by their botanical names as we drove around town,” Becki says. Now she puts this knowledge and motivation to good use, maintaining the nursery’s appearance and eclectic selection.

Not only does Cambria Nursery boast an extensive number and variety of plants (plus a handful of charming outbuildings full of products and gifts from local artisans), but they also illustrate how the plants will grow in their naturally elegant demonstration gardens. When you visit, make sure you give yourself enough time to enjoy all the nursery has to offer. Pack a snack and enjoy a visit with the koi, or walk the meandering paths through established native trees and shrubs.  Explore their website at www.cambrianursery.com or chat with them on Facebook at Cambria Nursery & Florist.

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.

:  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: , , , , , , , , , ,

Water Conservation Sweeping The Nation!

…Starting with our own KCBX!

Many thanks to Mike Bush of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden who, during his January 25th, 2012, interview on KCBX, mentioned a garden we completed with water conservation champion Mary Wilhelm. We were happy to be able to feature Mary’s garden in an article with the Tolosa Press, highlighting that due to her efforts to reduce her water usage, she hadn’t watered her garden at all during 2011. Take a listen to the SLOBG’s Executive Director as he discusses upcoming SLOBG events, signature qualities of Mediterranean climates, and the future of our inspiring local garden:

Mike Bush SLO Botanical Garden KCBX Interview 





Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

We Love: Grow Nursery

Tucked behind The Garden Shed in Cambria awaits Grow Nursery,
plant-nerd haven of the Central Coast. 

Not your average plant purveyors, Grow Nursery boasts not only rare gems of the plant kingdom, but creative twists on traditional garden tools and unusual, artful accessories. Devout plantsman and nursery owner Nick Wilkinson’s degree in fine art from San Diego State University perfectly supports his passion for the vibrant shapes and colors of exotic succulents. Knowledgeable in terms of the growing habits and lengthy Latin names of our Mediterranean climate’s botanical palette, Nick is also adept at combining his specialty plant collection with unusual garden artifacts. 

Look for plants tucked into seashells, gum-ball machine terrariums, “living stone” succulents planted in the hollowed husks of actual stones, and more. Grow also offers pottery handcrafted by San Luis Obispo county artists like Richard Rowe, Heidi Petersen, Barbara Flynn, Steve Weaver, Jorn Piesnack, Charles Varni and Jeanette Jennings. 

Stop by Grow’s new location (2024 Main Street in Cambria) and understand Buddha’s reference to the “miracle in a single flower.”


Tags: , , , ,

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


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!)


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!