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.

Morro Bay Celebration: Dahlia Daze and Cypress Nightz

Morro Bay's city flower is the Dahlia--did you know? And early this year the city's fine folk voted to make the official tree the Cypress. Together, this is cause for celebration. Taylor Newton of Newton Cultivation (Taylor's nursery near the roundabout in Morro Bay that blasts classical music for the benefit of his plants) is a member of the Morro Bay Tree Committee, as is Gabriel. Together with the group's other constituents, Taylor and the Dahlia Society put together a celebration at the Morro Bay Community Center to meld horticultural inquiry and education with community fun and festivities.

Things kick off this Friday, August 26th, at 5:00 pm, and continue from 10:00 to 5:00-ish on Saturday the 27th. Enjoy presentations and booths of Kevin Larkin, president of the Dahlia Society of California, local Master gardeners, closet horticulturalists, Central Coast arborists, the California Native Plant Society, Dahlia-lovers, the California Rare Fruit Growers, and more. Also enjoy food, fun, wine, cheese, dancing, and the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band. Bring your friends, bring your neighbors!

We'll be at the walk 'n' talk presented by Matt Ritter, associate biology professor at Cal Poly on Saturday morning. Hope to see you at there!


Princely Protea for our Central Coast

Not all magic is from the world of Harry Potter!

With the highly anticipated release of the final Harry Potter movie, magic is in the air! This month we're featuring a little bit of magic whose plant ancestry goes back 300 million years to the family of Proteaceae. Sounds like Poseidon's cousin, right? It very well could be--this exotic plant line has its origins in the coastal mountain ranges of South Africa,one of the earth's five unique Mediterranean climates. As diverse and varied as the continent they originate from, Protea will add a magical touch to your garden and your home. Protea enjoy wet-dry cycles making them ideal for our central coast climate. With their unique shapes, their flowers add beauty and distinction to Los Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos, and Cambria landscapes, and cut flower arrangements as well. When the blooms in your vase reach the end of their colorful life, simply empty the water into your garden and tuck them back into the vase. You’ll end up with lovely intricate sculptures of dried material that will make unusual and attractive decorations to adorn your home. An amazing magic trick you can perform without the need for a trip to Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley!

Kangaroo Paws Hopping Into Central Coast Landscapes

While you're still going to have to visit the zoo to see the marsupials, you may have noticed these stunning plants adding vibrancy to local gardens. These flowering plants have long, flattened leaves with striking tubular flowers coated with dense, fuzzy hairs. The claw-like paw formation of the flowers gives this garden gem gets its name. Although they have no fragrance, bright crimson, magenta, pink, and yellow flowers naturally attract birds and other curious pollinators. Kangaroo Paws love open and sunny places in the garden, making them ideal for life on our Central Coast. These plants need excellent drainage and thrive with little water. Kangaroo Paws offer your garden the beauty of Western Australia, without the need for a passport!

SLO Solstice's Extraordinary Expo

Tuesday, June 21st was the longest day of the year, and SLO Solstice's event made it extra-extraordinary. Hosted by Sunset Honda and REC Solar, Solstice held their annual Green Mixer at Sage Eco Gardens in Los Osos. Our own Maggie Ragatz represented the SLO Botanical Garden at a booth at the mini-expo, promoting the Botanical Garden's fundraiser raffle whose list of prizes includes world-class meals prepared by local chefs in your homes, a pair of brand-new kayaks, and even a trip to South Africa (to look at all the Mediterranean plants, of course!).

Solstice supports a different community organization each year, and this year's beneficiary was Woods Humane Society. Food and drink were provided, including Joy Cup, Be Love Cafe, Central Coast Brewing, and more. Two-person band "Acoustico" graced the stage and provided the perfect accompaniment to the backdrop of Sage's incredible nursery. A first-rate sunset (yes, even in Los Osos!), distinctive plants, and Green folks all around--the Summer Solstice was heralded by a stellar event.

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)

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!



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!