native garden tour highlights

When I decided I had some time this last weekend I volunteered at the last minute to be a docent at one of the gardens on the recent San Diego Go Wild garden tour. I was assigned to a garden where there had been a cancellation and I was glad to help out. But I did worry: What if the garden wasn’t particularly exciting? Well, I worried for nothing. It was a really nice home garden with interesting plants used in interesting ways.

Unfortunately, being tethered to one garden on the first day, I missed out on all the other gardens in the central and southern part of the county. But the following day I got a chance to check out Day Two of the tour as it moved to North County. Here are some photos from the weekend. Enjoy!

First Impressions
Some of these are the first things you see at some of these properties. Others are little surprises to discover inside the garden.

Some places to rest, places to enjoy the garden…

Native Plants Mixed With Other Species
None of the gardens were totally California native, though many were in the 75-95% range. People mixed natives with their favorite ornamentals, veggies, fruit trees or–in one case–with a full-on residential vineyard with Cabernet and Sangiovese grapes.

Homeowners Having Fun
All of these were at one stop, where the homeowner really got wild with some of the garden artifacts…

A dead and dried Hesperoyucca whipplei that's been turned upside down and spraypainted to look like a giant flower. (There's a blooming live one in the background.)
A wall of quarried stone and a piece of a broken headstone (the dark piece on the ground). If you stand on your head you can make out the word "beloved."
Pretty cool rock collection. Check out the one on the right!
In the adjacent succulent garden (mostly non-natives) the mower gets a shed of its own.
Mermaid with a cool hat--or is it a rare cannibalistic baritone horn?

Some people were there for the landscaping. But I tried to stay focused on the plants. It’s hard, though. How do you compete with naked mermaids?

Arctostaphylos Baby Bear: This manzanita had been planted seven years ago but was already quite a bit taller than I am. I was impressed.
Calystegia macrostegia: Island morning glory
Fallugia paradoxa: Apache plume
Salvia Desperado: a hybrid of S. apiana and S. leucophylla, a glorious mound of big lavender-pink flowers

Random Vignettes
Some random sights I liked.

Alternating bands of blooming ceanothus and light-green-leaved manzanita
Here's a detail for all of you who like themed gardens, this at the house with the vineyard...
Grasses and a rush aside a long streambed with active water
Not-native poultry

Fremontodendron, ceanothus, bear grass, against a fence made out of dried ocotillo stems

9 thoughts on “native garden tour highlights”

  1. That was fascinating in every detail. Slowly slowly I am learning the names of Californian native plants. Ceanothus and manzanita I would like to grow (if they were my natives!)

  2. I really enjoyed the plant layering, not to mention so much of the hardscape features. I think we last had light like that to shoot in about 3 weeks ago…maybe 3 months?

    The fireplace with the two dark Adirondack chairs looks like I need to be sitting there. Better use my firepit before it gets too warm!

  3. Great photos! You captured beautiful colors in your compositions. All the seating looks so inviting, particularly the two chairs under the oak. And a beautiful arctostaphylos.
    Are those bowling balls on that gate? or abacus?

  4. EE, let’s make a deal: What if you add as many California plants to your landscape as I have of those from South Africa? You’d have a lot of our plants if you did!

    Ricki, thank you! Let’s hope we all get some restorative garden time.

    David, I’ll have to admit that I altered the color balance of the photos a little bit to warm up the cold midday and overcast light. A couple minutes in Photoshop could get light in Albuquerque looking like it does at the end of winter–That distant yellow that you see in clouds is amazing.

    Brent, you asked the question I knew SOMEONE would ask (and now two of you have…) This gate was more for show than for use, so I didn’t actually go through it and get a close look at its materials. It does look like raku or weathered metal, but I wonder if Maggie’s guess about bowling balls might be right. The mermaid garden art was only a few feet away, after all.

    Maggie, thank you. There were lots of great color contrasts to play with, a lot of them strong ones between green and yellow and blue and lavender, the most prevalent of the spring colors people seemed to be using. And I think you just might have hit the nail on the head when you said “bowling balls.” Their color and texture seems like what they’d look like after a few years in the sun.

  5. I’ll be going to my county’s tour, Bring Back the Natives, this Sunday. I always enjoy it, but admit I’m usually a bit disappointed because so many of the gardens are only a few years old (sometimes only a year old). I realize that’s because native gardening still isn’t mainstream, and people get excited to share their new gardens and don’t want to wait, but it makes it hard to get a sense of how plants perform over time. Still, I always get some new plants to add to my palette, and this year some of the talks are on how to replace lawn with natives. I feel a blog post coming on…

  6. Susan, have fun tomorrow! We were lucky in having many gardens that had a chance to get established. At least two were seven years old and another five. I could see how disappointing year-old landscaping might be to look at. I’m always underwhelmed at the TV weekend transformation makeover shows. Gardens take time, and shows–and sometimes garden tours–end up focusing on hardscape instead of plantings. I be checking back for your own post!

  7. Nice, and very different from the gardens I’ve been visiting on various tours. More blues and greys and blondes (not the dumb kind) than deep emerald green.

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