Pondering A Natural Slope

 Back in October when we visited Point Lobos,  I took some photos of the northern sage scrub slopes in order to study the look of a natural California slope--planted by nature.

Many of the resident native plants are very familiar:

Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) 

California coffeeberry (Frangula formerly Rhamnus californica

Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea)

California Lilac (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus)

California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica)

Seaside Woolly Sunflower (Eriophyllum staechadifolium)

California Goldenbush  (Ericameria ericoides)

 Dune Buckwheat  (Eriogonum parvifolium)

Though our dry season visit meant the slopes were less flowery than in spring, it is worth noting that dozens of different wildflowers are also present in the shrubbery,  including:

Mimulus

California Poppy 

Rosa californica 

Sidalcea malviflora 

Erigeron glacus

several Lupines

Douglas Iris

Sisyrinchium bellum

However, I was more curious about finding overall visual patterns on the slopes than about the individual plants.  Study showed there were some--the evergreen Baccharis seem to create lines within a mix of silver Artemisia californica and summer-brown Eriogonum parvifolium.  

More subtle than many human planned landscapes. 
The patterns seemed linked to terrain: different species hug different places--small gullies will be more moist, the higher areas drier. 
 A change in elevation and distance from the adjacent Pacific also meant a whole new plant community--the darker green band beyond the sage scrub is mixed Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) and Oak (Quercus agrifolia) woodland. 
To consider for the front slope reworking:  one thing the front slope does not have is gullies.  Creating even just subtle ones, then tucking one type of plant into them, say of a dark green color, might be potentially interesting, to evoke in miniature the oak studded hills that are so iconic "California" 




At home in the garden, we had more rain yesterday, another .75"-1" (19-25 mm).  A bit more is predicted as likely for this Saturday.  

Comments

  1. The gully idea is interesting. I look forward to seeing what you do with that within a more modest area. Seemingly, it would be a good way of giving selected plants extra water while preventing others from having wet feet (as if that's likely in our climate). We're up to 2.57 inches of rain for the seasonal total here, with 0.75/inch added between yesterday and this morning.

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    1. Also the gully idea is maybe a less expensive thing to do for non-plant interest than adding boulders--the shadows created. No "wet feet" here, except human and Samoyed.

      Wonderful rain...everything looks so clean now!

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  2. I like to see those patterns too-most of the photos I have taken of natural layers are in Mendocino County. I love looking back on those photos though they are irrelevant to my small garden. I am interested to see what you might incorporate into your slope !

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    1. I doubt I'll be very successful, but it's good to have thought-experiments.

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  3. Interesting. In parts of CA that we have driven through there appeared to be nothing growing on the hills other than an occasional oak tree. These hills you are showing are quite lively with plants. An inspiration.

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    1. There's surprising stuff on them there hills, but hard to see unless close-up!

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  4. Just finished re-reading Rick Darke on studying patterns formed by natural plant distribution, and abstracting them for garden use, and here you are putting the method into practice!

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    1. Huh. Is that in a book? Title?

      I'm sure Mr. Darke is better at it than I am.

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    2. It's not a book in itself, but a big theme in both 'The American Woodland Garden' (2001) and the sections he wrote in 'The Living Landscape' (2013, with Doug Tallamy).

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    3. Thanks, Nell, I'll have to look for those.

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  5. These are excellent observations! I'm wondering if you can use rocks to direct the flow of water, slow it down to create spots with more moisture, etc.?

    At the last UC Davis Arboretum plant sale, I got a prostrate California sagebrush (Artemisia californica 'Canyon Gray') that might look good on your slope. It spreads to 6 ft but is only 1 ft tall. Very little water needed. But since it covers the ground, it would help retain moisture for plants that might want it.

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    1. The soil is like a sponge. Rain gets sucked up. Have never seen run-off. Just too dry!

      Sounds like the UC Davis sale was a good one. A. californica grows right in the neighborhood here, so I know it would work.

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  6. You've shared an inspiring set of images, and I love the "gully" idea—although I reject the notion that your front slope needs improving. I remember it as rather perfect.

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    1. There are some empty spots now that some big Agaves have bloomed and been removed. I thought some re-working would be a good idea since there is room to maneuver. And of course, gardeners learn more as they go along...

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  7. You remind me of the research that inspires, which plants together, at Kirstenbosch display for Chelsea.

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  8. I like the gully idea. I always think of my garden as a flat plain, except for the different height of the plants.

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    1. Here where it is so dry most of the time, a gully is a place for a little more moisture to settle.

      One thing about flat gardens--easier to walk around!

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