Friday, August 7, 2015

Three Lawnless Gardens: Time, Patience, Style

 Time.  Driving past this place...I wondered.  Hoarder house? Hardly, we discovered.
A garden buddy and I stopped and parked to have a look.  It was a big surprise--a glance when driving by is nothing like walking and looking and looking...
 It was a marvel of mostly California native plants.
 An urbanite (recycled concrete) driveway...
 A peek at the back garden looked even more intriguing.  As we admired the array of Ceanothus, native Salvias, Agaves, cacti, a family member emerged and we chatted.  He kindly invited us to have a look at the back garden, too. 
We walked past Salvia apiana...
 ...Manzanita, Parkinsonia, Calliandra californica, Agave shawii...
 The back garden was just as amazing.  The home has been in the family for 60 years.  It's not a plant-shoppers garden.  It's a slow, casual collection built at a leisurely pace over decades.  Plants allowed to just grow, and grow...
 ...and grow.  A dragon fruit plant growing all the way up a huge, healthy pine. 
 A special spot for loved plants.
 Passionvine to feed butterflies
Appearances are deceiving.  The front garden was purposefully wild, not neglected.  It was refuge for songbirds.  The house was carefully maintained.  Someone was there cleaning pine needles off the roof.  
 Move that 500 lb Cereus a little to the left, please!
 The garden was perfumed with Stephanotis
 After our visit to the back garden, we returned to the front.
 Places to sit under the Parkinsonias.  An urbanite wall sprouting succulents
 A chair welded together from pieces of scrap metal, decades ago.


 There were weeds here and there.  It didn't matter.  This garden is a place for relaxation, not for obsession, nor for compulsive purchasing.  There is no rushing in this garden. 

 Even the Agaves are in no hurry to bloom.
 You can't know what is there, sometimes, if you rush. 
Patience.  The next lawnless gem of a garden is one I've been watching for years.  It has slowly become perfect.  Plants have been moved.  Trees have been planted only to be replaced.  The lawn is long gone.  The house as we discovered, is one hundred and one years old.  It started existence in a sea of orange groves.  Now it's a corner lot at the intersection of two somewhat busy residential streets.  

We parked around the corner and approached from the south side.  A a group of Agonis trees, fairly new.  They've been pruned and shaped to a strong, healthy structure.  Rosemary and Ceanothus nearby.
 Past the Agonis,  a corner of the house comes into view.  Crassula ovata, agaves, a new Bougainvillea for the trellis.  Marvlous old Craftsman house.
 A group of Cypress for the corner
 Past the Cypress, two more Agonis, and a view of the river-rock porch.  At the base of the river-rock,  foxtail ferns (Asparagus denisflorus 'Myers').

 Simple, elegant.  Uncrowded. 


 My garden-buddy was brave enough to knock on the door and meet the owner/gardener, who did the entire garden singlehandedly over many years, moving, changing,  refining.  The only help was with the trees, too large for one person to move.   Well done! 
 Style.  The last garden was right around the corner from the second.  Not a homeowner's personal achievement, this one was likely done by a professional, but--it's striking, and certainly xeric.  
 A new garden installed around an existing olive tree.
 Remember dry stream beds?  It was a standard feature of lawnless gardens for a while.  Sometimes they are actually necessary for drainage.  Sometimes it seemed they were a way of reducing the need for expensive plants by filling in some space with stone.  Not used as often these days. 
 Love the red door, and the olive tree.  The reason for the scraggly grass?  It might be that UC Verde buffalo grass stuff.   Is it necessary?  It looks okay.  A remnant homage to lawn once there.
 The plants looked happy and healthy.
 The small squares of concrete seem proportionally too small, and random.  Big concrete rectangles (echoing the windows in the front door), non-meandering, a better idea? 
 Pretty well done.  It lacks the personal magic of the first two, and what a difference in terms of the cultural shift of "home".  Time: a family garden that becomes a history of decades.  Patience: a garden that is carefully and lovingly crafted and recrafted over years.  Style:  a landscape that is purchased and installed based on good taste, current style, and money.  What has become of our everyday California lives, from the 1950's to now?  

 

25 comments:

  1. Great Post! Loved the first two very inspiring drought tolerant gardens and to be honest couldn't care less for the last one. I always think it is so much more difficult to create a beautiful drought tolerant garden than one with regular watering needs. But the first two gardens show that it is possible. It just seem to take a long time...
    Christina

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    1. It is difficult, and it does take time, but it is possible. We'll get there, right? :^)

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  2. I loved the family gardens you found, the kind not often seen on tours or conceived as showpieces. And I can't believe you were knocking on doors!

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    1. Hah! I would never. My friend was the brave one!

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  3. All three are gems, special in their own. But I'm particularly taken with time. The kind of garden I'd like to explore again and owners I'd like to meet.

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    1. The owner is a D. Phil. environmental scientist and would be fascinating to meet.

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  4. You find the best gardens. I thoroughly enjoyed your photos and comments. The first garden ("Time"), wow, a dream. I would be happy to live and garden in that space. There's something about reused concrete that speaks to me. And that rusty old chair is sublime.

    P.S. I was so glad to see Agave shawii. I think it's criminally underused in residential landscaping. Is it a question of availability?

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    1. I rarely see shawii for sale...wonder why? it's a fine species...glad you liked the post, thanks!

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    2. I don't think I've ever seen shawii for sale. I don't have it in my collection.

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  5. The first two gardens are magical! A good lesson for me to relax a bit and to stop trying to cram everything I couldn't grow back east into my small lot.

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    1. Space between plants enables the eyes to appreciate each plant. Also uses less water. Remember the Gardener Guy TV show? He had that bed of conifers with lots of space between each. It looked good. More weeds, but in a drought, weeds are not a big problem.

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  6. I'm so impressed by these. The first 2 are deserving of inclusion in one of the Theodore Payne tours. I wonder if dragon fruit plants can protect pines against the beetles that seem to be decimating so many of these trees? It's becoming unusual to see an unblemished pine in my area.

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    1. Several dead pines in this area, too. I do not think pines are a great choice for So Cal, beetle or no beetle. The one with the dragon fruit was super healthy. Whoever maintains it knows trees.

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  7. Fun to see and hear your comparisons between the three. I agree with you about the third one looking a bit contrived. It doesn't have a fraction of the soul of the other two. That Cereus is fantastic, and I liked the use of "urbanite" in both walls and floor. Thanks for the funny word for it - it was new to me! I always like to increase my vocabulary - the best one I've heard since discovering "cram-scaping".

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    1. "Urbanite" was out there in the blogosphere long before I used it. Isn't it a great word? Now "cram-scaping" is new to me, love that!

      I like the 3rd garden a lot--it is well done and the plants look very healthy--just doesn't have the same level of heart as the others.

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  8. What a wonderful post! I particularly enjoyed that first garden and simply fell in love with the salvia apiana that you pointed out. I immediately looked it up and found this funny post from La Pilitas Nursery. http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/604--salvia-apiana
    Check out what they say in the fourth paragraph! I'll definately stop by this nursery whenever I get to California again.

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    1. Me, too. The apiana foliage is so silver-white. Love silver-white foliage! It does need a little grooming to look its best. It grows native right in this area. I think I need to get one. The Las Pilitas comment is very funny. Sweat lodge--people and their kooky fads.

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  9. Excellent, all three. So glad you've teamed up with a knocker. Now take her back to that intensely planted cactus garden with the wide hellstrip still planted with lawn and a few agaves!

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    1. She wrote and mailed them a note, actually. Hasn't heard back.

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  10. "Time is of the essence"? If we live long enough, we may eventually create the garden of out dreams.

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    1. Practice makes perfect?

      Or Mother Nature will create it for us. :)

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  11. They are all pretty awesome. I love the urbanite at house #1. I would love to see more of house #2--it looks like it's amazing. I also love the red door on house #3 and the landscape design complements the house.

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    1. It's a beautiful Craftsman house, probably the original home in the area now all filled up. I've always loved driving by it. They are taking really good care of it. Yes, that red door--so cool!

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  12. Oh, that first garden. Hope succeeding generations continue to care for it with love. You do such wonderful garden tours!

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    1. It was a lot of fun seeing them, and meeting the gardeners. Happy you enjoyed the post, thanks!

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