Turfgrass Is SO Last Century

We all know the hidden costs of manicured green grass ~ fertilizer, mowing, water, time... it's endless! But what choice do we have, right? WRONG! The Leave It To Beaver picket fence yard days are gone. A new generation of nutrient-rich, water-wise plant habitat-development is taking over.


Which means: It's time to reimagine your lawn! How better to start creating your home's new ambiance than with the vision of David Fross, co-founder of Arroyo Grande's Native Sons plant nursery, who will be speaking at the SLO Botanical Gardens tomorrow, Saturday June 11 from 1-3p.m. Besides lecturing on why lawn is a yawn, David is a leader in plant identification, a several-times-over published author, and in general is the bee's knees. Prepare yourself for an inspiring afternoon filled with endless planting possibilities!
P.S. Check out Reimagining the California Lawn, co-written by Native Sons owner and plant mogul David Fross, which educates the California garden owner about practical ways to replace their lawn with beautiful water-wise alternatives. Explore plants that are native to California, as well as those native to our Mediterranean counterparts within its pages.


Green Goods' Grand(er) Opening This Saturday, June 11th


We’re thrilled for the grand re-opening this Saturday, June 11th, of Green Goods’ new showroom at 111 South Street in San Luis Obispo! Our friends Mikel and Brian Robertson, Green Goods' owner/brother duo, deal exclusively with Green building supplies, design consultation and construction services. Everything they do speaks to sustainable living through conserving natural resources, cutting energy costs and ensuring healthy indoor air.
We’ll be stopping by to celebrate their new space and enjoy music and delicious food amongst friends. Discover the origins of their passion for sustainability through workshops on clay earth plaster, ECO dream kitchens, greywater, and do-it-yourself floor installations from 11a.m. – 4p.m. Food and festivities to continue into the evening...
Or, if you REALLY want to support your garden, Green Goods offers composting toilets that create nutrient-rich compost while cutting costs on your water bill. How’s that for being Earth-friendly! Hope to see you there!


Plant of the Month: Lupine

Silver Bush, Arroyo, Bush, Pigmy-leaved, Silver Dune, Broadleaf, Dwarf Silver Bush, Sky and more--all varieties of California Lupine, and all with diverse growing requirements. Some are happy in sandy or salty soil, some tolerate clays, some want full sun, while others still love a little dappled shade. California's list of lupines pales in comparison with those cultivated in the rest of the United States. Dozens of species have been either discovered or developed, along with their uses, since lupine is a member of the legume family.

One of the reasons they're successful in both the ornamental and the edible garden is because of their valuable role as a nitrogen-fixer, so consider them as a crop rotator as you cycle veggies through your plot--however, don't ingest, since most aren't edible. The right lupine for your garden's soil is probably out there. This website details certain lupines and their growing needs and potential. Give it a read and then head over to your local garden center to see which is in stock.

If they're not in your landscape, consider taking a drive up the coast to watch for the signs of their purple, blue, and indigo majesty!

(Photo credit to Steve Burgess of Santa Maria, California)

Just A Cup Of Rain For Me, Thanks!

For much of the year, gardeners in our Mediterranean climate gaze at the dusty, golden hills dreaming of the first shower that will bring verdance back to the parched earth. During the summer months, irrigation from our public water supply keeps our plants from drying out, but it's difficult to mimic all the benefits of natural rainwater.

Watering isolated areas of your garden's soil with drip irrigation and sprinklers is good, but often the root zone isn't thoroughly saturated. After a while what the plants really crave is a good, penetrating soak. Whether we get 9 inches or 29 inches, nothing fully recharges the soil or revitalizes the plants like a good, solid rain.


Our garden, composed mostly of succulents, gets watered quarterly—that’s only four times a year. Compare that with your average fine fescue lawn, or Kentucky blue grass, that need a drink at least twice a week. The trick is establishing your plants' roots properly, right off the bat. The way to do that is this:

  • Make sure you have plenty of mulch on your garden for trapping moisture, wherever it comes from.
  • Water for longer periods of time, not in short, frequent bursts
  • Water less often.

This trains your plant to extend their roots far down into the soil, making them more efficient water-seekers. Plants whose roots are too near the surface are high-maintenance complainers!

The Mulvihill Home: GBG Buzz!

We're famous! Our friends at Tolosa Press graciously printed an article we wrote about the historic Anholm House's garden restoration. Head over to their website to download whichever version of the News is your favorite: the SLO City News, the Coastal News, or the Bay News. Then search for "Gabriel" and we'll pop right up. Let us know your feedback, and if you'd love to see your own garden in lights (or in ink), drop us a line. Look for future GBG spotlights in Tolosa Press publications!

Plant of the Month: California Poppy

You've seen them sprouting for about a month now--waxy yellows, creamy oranges, and maybe some rusty reds. Our California state flower, the California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica, begins its season in the cool spring months when rains are plentiful and the days are beginning to think about getting warmer. While we love the ubiquitous melon-colored poppy, this month we're featuring the lesser-known cultivar 'Mahogany Red.'

While Eschscholzia californica is a U.S. native, its certain of it cultivated varieties originate elsewhere. 'Mahogany Red' found its way to being across the pond, in England.We find the 'Mahogany' to be a refreshing spin on traditional stock, and enjoy working it into gardens here or there. The 'Mahogany' often reseeds itself, though sometimes performs as an annual, and is just as drought-tolerant as its orange and yellow brethren.

WonderMondo has set up a website devoted to wildflower chasers. Our state flower is prominently displayed on this page--check it out!



Plant of the Month: California Carex

If you love the look of a lush green yard, look no further than California Field Sedge (Carex praegracilis). You've seen this beautiful grass or its cousins, perhaps without realizing it, dotting gardens throughout the Central Coast, contributing fresh, clean lines and structure.

Growth to its full height, for that truly native look, Carex praegracilis will reach around 18". With heavy foot traffic, or mown biannually (only!), your native grass can be kept at a comfortable 4-6", making it a beautiful place for friends to take an afternoon stroll or a playground for young feet or four-legged friends.

Plant 2" praegracilis plugs 6-8" apart. Contrast its soft texture with a meandering path made of edgy flagstone or smooth cobble.


A little shorter, a little bluer, and just as soft, is praegracilis's Carex European cousin, Carex glauca. While not native to California, we love the glauca's calming effect on the landscape, echoing the neighboring Pacific and calming the mind. The glauca is more compact, and more tolerant of foot traffic. In fact, gardeners throughout the county use it successfully in their plantings but also as their driveways. Replace your concrete with glauca and bring a grassy ocean to your doorstep. Plant either glauca or praegracilis to rid yourself of the heftier water bill that comes hand-in-hand with typical lawn grass.

Reimagine Your Lawn!

One of our favorite resources at Gardens by Gabriel is Native Sons Nursery in Arroyo Grande. Their plant material and their crew are oriented toward sustainability--and we're oriented toward them!

A recent publication, Reimagining the California Lawn, co-written by Native Sons owner and plant mogul David Fross, educates the California garden owner about practical ways to replace their lawn with beautiful water-wise alternatives.

Explore plants that are native to California, as well as those native to our Mediterranean counterparts within its pages.

Why do leaves look so vibrant after a rain?

Rainwater is naturally distilled through evaporation prior to cloud formation, and is thus one of our purest sources of water. It also contains small doses of fertilizer and is considered ‘soft’ because of its lack of calcium and magnesium. Soft water is easier for plants to absorb the nutrients from, so after a rain everything from creeping grasses to towering redwoods takes on a healthy, vibrant glow.

This abundance of soft, nutrient-rich water, coupled with the cooler weather conditions, makes the rainy season an ideal time for planting. In the summertime plants undergo transplant shock once they're put in the ground. New roots dry out easily in the heat, and lack of water contributes to growth-stunting stress. The climate from late fall through spring, however, is a low-stress environment for new roots and shoots to take hold.



Coastal Gems: The Protea Family

Our central coast is blessed to share a Mediterranean-style climate with 4 other zones around the globe. This means we have the ability to feature plants in our gardens from an incredibly rich and diverse palette that are well-adapted to our growing conditions. Many of these fascinating shrubs are just coming into bloom now, so I’m highlighting the Protea family as one to watch.

Taken from the Greek, the Protea family was named after the legendary sea god Proteus, who could change his shape at will. As you will see, the family name was inspired by the surprising diversity offlowers and foliage across the different species.

Leucadendrons are probably the most popular of the Proteas for their year-round beauty and ease of garden culture. Hailing from South Africa, their chameleon-like ability to change their leaf color from green to burgundy and blush tones, to shades of yellow throughout the seasons makes them an outstanding garden subject. The various species range from dense 3-foot shrubs to 15-foot trees, so there’s usually a niche in any garden that could benefit from one, as long as the soil drains well.

Arguably the most exotic branch of the Protea family are the Leucospermums, or "Pincushions." These intriguing flowers might have caught your eye highlighting a vase arrangement or creating a showstopping garden presence in a coastal planting. The waxy, spider-like flowers will light up your garden from late winter into spring with radiant shades of orange,

red and yellow. The fuzzy foliage is an attractive attribute as well and comes in shapely lobes of green and silver, tipped with red.

The last arm of the Protea clan in this brief synopsis are the Banksias, an incredibly variable group ranging from low-growing species that will spill over walls, to dense shrubs and 20-foot trees. The flowers resemble fuzzy, elongated pine cones, with a texture that begs to be touched. They come in nearly every color from brilliant golds and yellows to vivid violets, oranges and fiery reds. Their foliage varies from pine needle forms and fern-like sprigs, to slender leaves whose edges appear to have been cut with a pinking shear. Their bold character makes them a fascinating background subject or a striking middle-of-the-border shrub as well.

With so many different Proteas, and so little space, how do you decide which ones to plant? Besides their outstanding beauty, they are very low maintenance plants and are versatile enough to fill a variety of garden functions:

  • Try using a stand of Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’ to make an attractive privacy screen
  • Employ creeping banksias to tackle a tough slope
  • Plant Leucospermum reflexum, 'The Skyrocket Pincushion,' to anchor the back of a colorful perennial planting.

The key to successful Protea cultivation is to provide well-drained soil, moderate temperatures, and low soil fertility. If you're on native clay, build berms with excess soil to facilitate better drainage. If your garden is a coastal sand dune, then you're in luck and you'll be able to grow these plants to perfection. All the Proteas mentioned above are coming into their peak season shortly so keep your eyes open for these botanical gems, and let us know what catches your eye!