DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

Landscape Design In San Luis Obispo County – Why Do We Do This??

Landscaping As Design

It can come as a surprise to clients that cultivated landscapes require a drafted plan. Isn’t a garden just some dirt and plants?? Maybe throw in some landscape rock (that’s a thing, right?). Why the extra time, why the holdup? This is a question I enjoy clarifying because anything that helps you understand our process can ease the anxiety around it.

First And Foremost, The Design Process Is About Your Needs.

My co-designer and I visit your site to understand important elements like microclimate, soil type, slope or grade, and so on. But we also want to know how you’d like to use your future garden and what features you envision. We combine the nitty gritty  with the fanciful to create an initial Concept Plan and we walk you through the placement of patio, pavers, plants, etc. At this point, you take the time to mull over the project for as long as you want before we finalize it. With your feedback we make adjustments and create the Final Plan. A garden design is not a rush job; the goal is to make sure you feel confident about the layout before we move along to install.

A Plan Is Also About Our Needs

A design is as much to clarify things for you as it is a game plan for our install team. We’re often creating an entirely new outdoor environment with walls, fences, patios, and so forth — more than just planting a few plants. A design articulates all the necessary materials and pinpointed locations of a layered installation project. A design keeps everyone on the same page.

A Plan Helps Us Stay On Budget

Our design is scaled so we can accurately budget the cost. We want to know as near to exactly as possible how much mulch, soil, irrigation parts, etc, we need. I don’t like budget surprises during a project, so I want you to know the full costs of everything broken down before we start. If you want to make a change during the design or install process, then we can do that, and we can track changes because we have a plan to reference.
 There are always going to be unknowns and decisions to be made on the fly, but with more preparation than less we can move as seamlessly as possible from site evaluation to design to installation and enjoyment!
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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!!

 

 

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When Aphids Attack!

David Spatafora: Insect Assassin

You’ve seen this guy hefting rocks, demoing concrete, and pruning, stacking, and planting away. Like all landscapers, David also spends a good deal of time fighting pests and plant predators. Gardens by Gabriel works to be as organic as possible, and that includes pest control. You may have heard of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), but if you haven’t, it’s a system we employ from start to finish (and beyond!) in our gardens that focuses on prevention and the least amount of intervention required.

David follows IPM when dealing with creepy crawly plant eaters, and none more often than the teeny-tiny aphid! Aphids  come in a rainbow of colors, are indiscriminate about their meals, and flock by the dozens to munch your plants. But because aphids swarm en masse, they can be easy to eliminate in large batches.

When dealing with aphids, it’s tempting, and it works short-term, to simply blast them off with a hose, but they often see that as a challenge to return! In terms of intervention, IPM means using the most benign products first in order to deal with pests. We like vegetable-based Horticultural Oil for pests like aphids. It’s a fungicide, a miticide, and an insecticide all in one. And according to Colorado State University Extension School, “Oils pose few risks to people and to beneficial insects.”

THE SCOOP

WHAT: Vegetable-based Horticultural Oil

WHY: IPM is safer for the environment, homeowners, and our crew. It leaves no residual effect on the soil.

HOW: Apply it with a small tank sprayer or spray bottle. Be careful of spraying the oil in full sun because the plant can burn, just a like a human being!

AND ACCORDING TO DAVID: “The key to controlling aphid infestation is persistance! Horticultural Oil may be used year-round during both dormant and growing seasons and may be used for organic production as well. Like rinsing plants with water, repeat application frequently!”

 

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Succulent Senecio

Happy coastal growers, Senecio are one of the most forgiving succulents when it comes to propagation. It’s time for us to start a new batch, so we’re going to take you through it step-by-step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to start a new crop, clip the last 5″ of a plant that is doing well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll see that some of the “leaves” are quite close to the cut–these few should be removed. Snap these off and drop them in your compost pile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll be left with a cluster of leaves at the end and a 1.5 inch stalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve amassed a collection, stack them on your potting bench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plop the newly-exposed stalks into a receptacle with at least 2″ of soil mix (we combine our home-grown compost with a little pearlite).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water them in, keep them warm and safe, and wait for their roots to grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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)
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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.”

 

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Cage-Free Hen and Chicks

We love most every kind of succulent, and why not–they’re beautiful, drought-resistant, and if your conditions are right, they produce elegant little flowers. One of our favorite succulents is Echeveria. Thick, succulent leaves appear as petals in loose, concentric rings or rosettes. Echeveria thrive in the garden and are easy to grow. So easy to grow that they’re often called Hen and Chicks due to the abundance of small offsets (chicks) that the mature plant (hen) produces. The “chicks” are stunning in dish gardens for your home or to pot and give as elegant gifts to friends.

You’ll find echeveria in a kaleidoscope of unique leaf shapes, colors and textures. The leaf colors range from green to blue, purple to pink and even gray. In early summer you’ll find delicate bell-shaped flowers on pink stems; in winter, you’ll notice your Echeveria emerging for its seasonal drink.
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