If you had to give your garden a name…what would it be?
Well, I’ve always thought I would love to name my garden “Journey’s End”, because at the end of the day, isn’t it lovely to come home and walk around your garden and deadhead a few flowers and just enjoy your garden? Well, I proposed this idea to Bob, who promptly nixed it, he said it sounded like the name of a cemetery!!! So, since my garden name was shot down, I haven’t thought up another that I like as much!!
Did you do all the landscaping and gardening yourself, or hire a landscape architect?
I’m really good at designing houses, in fact I wanted to be an architect in college, but I let my fear of math, determine my major.. However, designing outdoor space uses an almost entirely different way of looking at things. You have to take into account the vastness of the outdoor space, the height of the trees, along with ways to highlight the home’s entrance. We used a wonderful landscape firm to design our yard. Our property is big, (almost 2 acres), and the homes sit perpendicular to our street . We knew we wanted to make the view, from our home, the focal point. We are in the coastal foothills, in North San Diego County, and on a clear day have a peek of the ocean and the most beautiful sunsets. We wanted the yard to focus on the view, but still feel intimate and welcoming. When we rebuilt our home, we made the focus, on outdoor space. Almost every room has doors that open onto the garden, and in the entry- three doors!! We also wanted the design to incorporate an outdoor kitchen as well as great entertaining areas. We used Schnetz Landscaping, from Escondido. They came highly recommended, but most importantly they understood the climate and the need for drought tolerant landscape, that still looks lush and inviting.
After the plans were developed and approved, they gave us the bid to do the work, and we literally almost fell over! We ended up breaking the landscape into phases, and I ended up being the general contractor and bidding the yard out to the different trades. We had a lot of concrete work, as one of the things we loved about the plans were the seat walls around the deck, which took away the need for railings. We are also on a hill, so we needed lots of steps and walkways added. So the concrete and brickwork took the majority of our budget. The deck was added by our contractor that did our remodel, and it really added an outdoor living room, in our yard. The landscape focuses on plants that are native in a Mediterranean landscape, so most are drought tolerant and thrive here. We are in the middle of the major growing area for about 75% of all plants shipped around the US. So, plants in this climate are very happy!!
Now that the garden is established, we do most of the pruning and deadheading ourselves. We do have a gardner, who does all our drip systems and irrigation for us. He will come in several times a year with some others to do some major cleanup and plantings. Twice a year we have to do some tractor work to keep the weeds down on the unlandscaped sections of the property. We are looking at adding a barn and some more walls and garden areas, but we will do it slowly, as time, money and water permits!!!
Where does your inspiration come from for your garden? Other gardens, magazines, travel?
I think all of the above!! I am a huge magazine “junkie”! I have years of articles, that I have torn out and filed in folders. Of course, now there is Pinterest and Instagram, of which I also use, to add to my garden ideas. I love visiting gardens, when I travel. This is especially true, when I am in areas such as Italy and the South of France, where the weather and topography are so similar to Southern California. I take tons of pictures, and love to focus on the details, that make the garden so memorable. I then try to recreate that at my own home. Even if I am in a much cooler climate, such as Northern Scotland, I still look for details, that I can use in my San Diego garden. I also have quite a collection of garden books. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down with them and dreaming up new ideas for my yard!
Do you have deer in Southern California?
Any tricks for keeping them out of your garden?
We don’t have a deer problem here, BUT we do have RABBITS! They are really such a problem in the garden. I have several plants that never even stood a chance in my garden, because evidently they were on the top of the list for most delicious plant ever, for rabbits, such as the bush morning glory. Even with chicken wire around the plants, the bunnies figured out how to get in and destroy the plants. The rabbits also love roses, but luckily, most of my roses are big enough, that the blooms are high enough up, that they escape the little devils!! We have had to surround an area, of roses next to my deck, with chicken wire, but luckily, we can lift it out when we entertain! We also have gophers! We have learned to plant most things, especially trees with gopher wire. My vegetable garden is in 3 foot high raised bed gardens, with a fence around it!
What is your favorite shade plant?
Favorite ground cover?
My favorite shade plant hands down is Hydrangea. I have several varieties. My Oak leaf hydrangeas are in a very shady spot by my front door, they get a little dappled afternoon sun, but mainly shade. I have several macrophylla or Big Leaf Hydrangea that can take the more direct sun out by my gate, on the North side of the house, but on the hottest days, I still have to shade them with an umbrella or they will burn.
My favorite sun plant, down here, is the Matilija Poppy, ( Romneya coulteri). Each year they send out more runners, so now in my 3rd Spring in this garden, the Poppies are magnificent. I lived in Danville, in the Northern California Bay Area, for over 35 years. Now, I have had to rethink a lot of my favorite plants. I used to have lots of lilacs and antique roses, which did well in Northern CAlifornia. I also used almost exclusively pinks, whites and lavenders in my garden. Now, I have a lot more oranges, yellows and red. I can now have Bouganvillia, which I love, as well as a lot more succulents, down here.
I have a Southwest facing sloping yard, so I do use a lot of ice plant, as ground cover, here. They hold the soil, grow easily and most importantly SNAKES don’t like ice plant!!! I have gotten a lot of cuttings from my neighbor that miraculously, seem to grow in dry, hard, clay soil. They bloom beautifully in the spring, but I also have to keep them from taking over all the plants, as they can be very invasive. I use Coopers Hardy Ice plant, which has a bright pink-purple flower, as well as one with a yellow bloom.
My favorite rose is most likely an Antique Climbing Collette. I had one in Danville that enveloped a garden arbor and bench, and was just spectacular. I am trying to grow one here, so we will see how it takes the hotter weather. Other climbers, I love are the Climbing Sally Holmes and Cecil Bruener. We have a Cecil Bruener rose that was first planted at my husband’s grandmother’s house in 1933. When her home in Burlingame was sold, and torn down (for a mega mansion?) we dug up the rose and brought them to our Danville garden. When we moved from Danville to here, we dug it up again, placed it in a large pot and brought it down here. We finally transplanted it this winter, to its new home next to our front arbor. We are keeping our fingers crossed it will like its new home! I also love Iceberg roses and have many throughout the yard.
What gives you more pleasure, a vegetable that you grew or a flower that you grew?
Wow, thats a tough one. Can I say both? I love to go out in the morning and cut a bouquet of flowers, bring them inside and place them throughout the house, where I can admire them all day long. However, come dinnertime, there is nothing better than going down to the vegetable garden and picking some fresh tomatoes, basil and shishito peppers and being able to create a meal, from what I’ve grown! I guess I need beauty as well as sustenance!!
Can you share some of your gardening books with us.
I started gardening, about 40 years ago. I grew up on an avocado and orange grove in Orange County , and we always
had abundant gardens. In fact, many of the shrubs I know today, I thought were trees when I was a child!! We had a gardener, though, so I really didn’t learn the fundamentals of gardening until we became homeowners in the Bay Area.
One of the first books I bought was the Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. I learned a lot of the basics from that as well as the Sunset Western Garden book, probably the “Bible” of Western gardening. Down here, I use a lot of planting ideas from the book “the Bold, Dry Garden,” lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden. This book is valuable no matter if you are in Southern or Northern California. Ruth Bancroft ‘s garden is at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek and is full of Inspiration!! I also enjoy books that focus on the hardscape of the garden,such as “Architecture in the garden”by James van Sweden and Garden planning and design. I think if I could, I would love to takes classes and become a landscape architect!! I only need to live about 50 more years for all the ideas I have!!
What gardening tools are essential to your needs?
My number one tool is a small pair of bypass gardening shears. I use Garden Elite, and I can deadhead or prune almost anything in my yard. I also will go out in the garden with some heavy duty kitchen shears to cut a bouquet.For weeding, I will never get rid of my Hula Hoe!! It makes weeding, almost enjoyable….(did I really say that!!)
Do you compost?
My Italian tells me you can put paper towels in the compost, did you know that?
We do compost, but right now 90% of our compost goes to my neighbors chickens, of which we get free eggs in exchange!! One day, I do want my own chickens, but until then, I think I have a great deal! I didnt know you could compost paper towels, but I should have figured it, since I do know you can compost coffee filters, which are similar!!
I also watched the documentary, “Kiss the ground”, recently. Are you aware that we are running out of top soil in 60 years time, if farming habits do not change. What kind of soil do you have clay or sand or…..
I have added that documentary to my list to watch, as I was not aware of that. We have very hard clay soil here. We brought in a lot of amended organic mulch to break up the clay. We also brought in several truckloads of soil, to give our garden a good start. We used an amended topsoil from a bulk distributor, KRC in San Marcos. I like to add egg shells and coffee grounds to my roses. Years ago, I learned that, and my roses have loved it. I’d like to say I’m 100% organic with my roses, but I’m not. I do use a systemic rose fertilizer, to help defend my roses from black spot and fungus, as well as Safer spray. We can get cool, foggy mornings and evenings, from living close to the coast, and the roses don’t like that, they can develop powdery mildew. When I’m planting flowers I use a B-1 transplant solution, fish emulsion and then a granular time release fertalizer such as Osmicote.
What brings you more joy?
Creating a Garden or decorating a home?
(thats a hard question, I know!)
Wow, you’re right. Can I say its a tie? I think they are both similar in a lot of ways. Especially, if you compare the building of a house to the construction of the hardscape of the garden. Then, I feel you have much more control with the decoration of a house, then you do with the actual garden itself. I’m always looking to capture a feeling in my home and garden, and I do that by designing a series of areas to look at or places to wander to, whether inside or outside.
The garden can start off with a set design, but nature always finds a way to take over and add or subtract in ways you either love or hate!!! I have some Lion’s ear (Leonotis leonurus), that has taken off and multiplied beyond belief. So, I have huge swaths of bright orange throughout my garden now. Inside your home, that would never happen, (unless your throw pillows started mysteriously multiplying!!). So I think I love the surprise that the garden brings, as well as the structure that my home allows.
Leave us with a quote that sums up who you are.
I think that my favorite quote, that sums me up best, is by E.B. White:
“It’s hard to know when to respond to the seductiveness of the world and when to respond to it’s challenge. If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
Thank you so much, for allowing me to share my garden philosophy with you!
I hope you have enjoyed it.
MARTHA CAN BE FOUND ON INSTAGRAM HERE!
HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTHA………65 NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD!