Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Part 1- GWA Santa Barbara Garden Tour~ San Marcos Growers

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.

Feather Logo

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.  

But Juli ( pronounced Yuli) stole the show. And quite a few hearts.  A Hungarian Vizsla, Randy's daughter located her through a Temecula breeder of the cyclonic short haired hunting dog. Juli will be 4 this tax day, when she will undoubtedly celebrate by clearing away rabbits, gophers and all those pesky critters other growers suffer through. To fall in love with Juli, see some downright swoon-alicious photography of San Marcos Growing grounds, hop over to Nikkipolani's review of the day here.

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


nikkipolani said...

Ahhhh. So lovely to have proper names of things (says she who didn't manage to take any notes!). I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on our time with Randy. And I quite agree with Nan about the San Marcos website -- a fabulous repository of Mediterranean plant info. Cracks me up that we both got a shot of Juli (probably at the same moment) but from different angles.

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful! I am sure John and I would love to go shopping there to replace some of our drought resistant plants. (Yes, I know, it's wholesale)
I can imagine you were in garden heaven that day!
It appeared to me to be cold as the one lady in the photo with Randy had on a parka and a red scarf around her neck but then Randy had on a short sleeve tropical shirt. ??? What was the temp?

Anyway, enjoyed the tour!

XO Trisha
p.s. Now to go read your friend's blog.

Lydia said...

Nikki- I am beyond thrilled that you and Roomie made it up to the event. We need to start a Juli fan club.

Trisha- I would be happy you take you to the local nurseries who carry San Marcos plants.

As the clouds settled in, the temp was warm enough for me to not wear a jacket- but for people to cheer when Gerry brought it over and helped me in it.

Joan S Bolton said...

Thanks for so richly describing our tour, and for all your efforts to coordinate and arrange the delightful day.
I'm also so honored to be the top photograph! What a surprise!

PS to Trisha: It was about 50 degrees, with gray skies, when we arrived. Randy was definitely the only one wearing a Hawaiian shirt.