Garden tours are to shelter publications what theater is to the television. Each has its place and purpose. Television and magazines will never go out of style for they are the scouts and advisers we can turn to 24/7.
However, how much richer it is to participate. To go outside; to celebrate creation with actual creators: to be present for unscripted, unedited moments. This is where the threshold is crossed from fleeting appreciation to memorable joy.
To experience a garden or growing ground with all sorts of lovers of gardens, there is simply a vitality from the live garden tour which can only be silhouetted when communicated in two dimensions.
My work and pleasure as an active member of the community of garden communicators- authors, bloggers, editors, photographers, neighbors chatting over fences- is to encourage observers to take that next step. To actually engage in the wonders found through partnership with the three dimensional, ever-changing world God created for our pleasure.
|Ever-smiling, local garden designer and national garden writer, Joan Bolton chats with San Marcos Growers GM Randy Baldwin|
With broad strokes, God created the world in 7 days. Then he left the detail, maintenance and improvements to us.
After brief introductions, 17 garden lovers followed Randy to meet the 1800 plants species San Marcos Growers is raising in everything from 1 gallon pots through 36 inch boxes.
What we saw...
The plant paparazzi recorded.
Aloe 'Erik the Red'
Each specimen's most compelling angle immortalized, even when it meant contorting our own into unflattering positions.
Art in the garden grants reason to pause. To focus on what otherwise might be passed by.
This giant drill bit rises as a twisted exclamation point. If the planting over-takes this visual punctuation, it will be easy to replant the vertical element.
These rusted fish silhouettes leaping through waves of grasses reminded me of a recent conversation with Garberville woodworker Charlie Mott. Long after we met in first grade, before his love of surfing and desire to live in forested lands put our lives on separate trajectories, my cherished childhood friend and I recently discovered that we each went on to develop deep love and respect for the natural world.
In Southern California where I live, Joe and Jill citizen are just now becoming aware of how serious this current drought may be. Where my friend settled, up north in Humboldt County, people see where their water comes from. Where the Salmon can't dive deeply beneath the water's surface - the fish can't leap out of the way of otters.
That visual holds more dramatic impact than the color chart on our water bill.
|Art imitating life|
Sculpture in the garden offers added interest both before plantings mature and in the off seasons. As both gardener and sculptress, Berkeley-based artist Marcia Donahue hybridized her two loves into this delightful stand of 'Bambutus baldwinii' . Taking elements of the garden where the sculpture marries elements into a vignette- the artist grafted ceramic lengths of bamboo with renditions of arbutus (strawberry tree) fruit. Note the whimsical touch of life given the sculpture where it appears little bamboo shoots are trying to run away from the mother sculpture.
|General Manager Randy Baldwin shares the garden space which inspired Donahue's sculpture with an attentive Sharon Lovejoy.|
Santa Barbara author, landscape designer and plant personality Billy Goodnick, the local coordinator for the day's itinerary, wrote a wonderful piece outlining Marcia Donahue's unique interpretation of vertical gardening for Fine Gardening in 2011 which you can link to here.
The vintage vibe and imperfection collaborate to lower urbane elevated blood pressure down to country comfortable.
This magic place, deep in a forest of bamboo, was not what I expected from a nursery whose General Manager, Randy Baldwin explains "Drought is our best salesman."
|Writer, author, designer, horticulturist and PBS personality Nan Sterman takes a plant's portrait|
National Director of GWA Region VI, Nan Sterman, exults the virtues of San Marcos Growers. "They have a fantastic collection of plants, always something new and always plants that are interesting... the quality is unsurpassed, and they really “get” the concept of plants suited to the Mediterranean environment. They also have one of the best websites around in terms of providing the information you need to make decisions or know how to use a plant in a design." Her hard-won compliment continued "I always get incredible customer service from them- often above and beyond."
Randy did the talking. Under the gathering of pewter tinted skies, he shared the grower's connection to the $6,000 plant sold at auction at Lotusland's first rare plant. The story is found on their website at Calicarnea.
San Marcos is a quality wholesale nursery. While its plants have the distinction of having some of their own selected for the New York Rockefeller Center and Disney World in Orlando, it is primarily a high quality regional provider of water-wise wonderful plants. Click here to locate a retailer in their primary delivery areas.
For my own garden- these are two contenders to bring my gardens water needs down while keeping the romance factor up
Peer across the fine knitted foliage- look closely and you can see the lady bug nearly sinking into easy chair provided by the green stubble covering the bonsai-sized shrub crassula sarcocaulis 'Ken Aslet'.
I will share soon what Randy shared about how to propagate Aloes.
For now I leave you with an image of a perennial foxglove which stood out like a starlet amongst thorny characters. Can't you see its potential to hide Easter eggs under?
Digitalis 'illumination flame' is yin to the neighboring plant's spiky sword's yang. A spring bloomer, this charmer swept away the competition on the garden show circuit, winning Best New Plant at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2012, the Greenhouse Grower's Award of Excellence in 2013 and the People's Choice Award at the New Varieties Showcase at the 2013 Farwest Trade Show in Portland Oregon.
Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.
Lydia E Plunk
PS- GWA stands for Garden Writers Association