Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Playing Around In a Doughnut Hole


This is a shot of a relatively new project I've been working on. The house is just back from the beach in Montecito, CA. and we're gradually working our way around the property doing a major garden make-over. This post is also intended dispell the notion that just because I'm a huge advocate of combining plants for their "architecture", foliage and form, I also appreciate a mad spree with color (but with some restraint - of course).

The fountain (above) was already in this bed at the center of a circular driveway - kinda like the hole in a doughnut. Right behind the fountain, in the center of the bed, was a once-glorious California Coast Live Oak with a trunk diameter of about 3 feet, 60 feet in height and with a 40 foot spread.

The plan was to remove most of the high water-using plants that surrounded the fountain, give the entry a fresh look, and cut down on water and maintenance time. But when I looked up at the canopy and saw branches and foliage in significant decline, I suggested that the owner bring in a certified arborist. Long story short - if you look very closely you'll see that there isn't an oak tree. (The trunk you see is a sycamore in another part of the garden.) It was much too far gone, so we started with a clean slate.

The fountain faces toward the house, and the bed is somewhat egg shaped with the point of the ova facing the driveway entrance. I had a general idea of how to create a bed that would look presentable from all sides. The concept was to have a stunning high-point just behind the fountain, that would also command the entire bed from the entrance to the property and create some scale behind the fountain. The large-leaf shrub in the photo above is a Silver-Leaf Princess Flower (Tibouchina heteromala) which will be in bloom in a few months (I'll shoot it when it's in its full glory). Given the intense purple flowers that will dominate, the rest of the bed would be a strong contrast of yellow, gold and peach. There's also a bit of blue around the skirt, using Catmint (Nepeta faassennii - love all those double letters!).

The "big yellow" surrounding the Princess Flower is achieved with Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa 'Grande Verde') and Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea millefolia 'Moonshine').


I fell in love with three other plants while I was shopping. I hadn't used these before and that's the focus of the rest of this post.

The "killer combo" that really got my blood going was the pairing of Euphorbia 'Helena's Blush' with Salvia x jamensis 'Sierra de San Antonio'. The flowers of the sage have a really sweet creamy salmon tone and the foliage of the Euphorbia is splashed with the same color palette as the salvia flower. What I didn't realize is that when flowering season came along (right now) the bracts that appear on the Euphobia would kick the composition up with another burst of gold speckled with green. How yummy!


The Euphorbia became the gooey center of a psychedelic Oreo (made sense when I started writing this sentence - bear with me) because on the far side of this combination, I placed a mass of Ballota pseudodictamnus (Grecian Horehound) because the light gray leaves would really pop the front of the bed from the driveway entrance. It also seemed to cool down the rest of the warm yellows in the bed. To my surprise, the size and shape of the Euphorbia bracts perfectly complements the leaf of the Horehound.


These combos are just a peek at what is turning out to be a study in form and color. As the season progresses and the Princess awakens, I'll post a few more shots. Thanks for sticking with me on this post. It's always a surprise when nature works out this way. The lesson here is to take chances; try new things.

11 comments:

Jean Ann said...

Love the psychedelic oreo...I think I will learn a lot from your blog...and you appear to have the same twisted sense of humor that I do...

The Garden Faerie said...

Mmmmmm.... donuts! But, seriously, your garden is beautiful. I love the way the colors and texture of the Euphorbia and horehound combine, and the fountain in the beautiful rock is inspired. I once created a spiral rock garden around a hemlock, but moved houses before it came into its own!
~ Monica
P.S. I like your blog name. Whether it's meant to mean "the guy who is garden wise" or "wise guy in the garden," I like it!

Benjamin Vogt said...

The euphorbia is very nice (what's the zone on that?), but I gotta go with the fountain--though it seems you don't care for it much. I've given up trying to create one like this due to stone being insanely expensive. I believe I hear the fed gov't will soon be taxing oxygen.

Garden Wise Guy said...

Benjamin (that's my son's name - good choice, mate)Actually, I like the fountain very much. Didn't mean to sound dismissive; I was just stating that it was already there and the plants that preceded my design were not well thought out.

As for the Euphorbia, it's noted at a few websites as adapting to Zones 4-11, so it's got a nice range.

Garden Faerie: Garden Wise Guy is indeed a little of each - humor and (hopefully) a little wisdom. I've borrowed it from the name of my and Owen Dell's regional public TV show (Santa Barbara County, but available on the web - see my sidebar link) called Garden Wise Guys. Lowbrow comedy and wisdom regarding sustainable landscaping.

Jean Ann: Twisted humor would be a genteel way of putting it. Bent, misshapen, mangled, inverted have also been used. My 18 year old son is on his way to surpassing me. As the twig is bent...(er, twisted).

karen said...

I've got that euphorbia too, and have been watching to see what it's going to do. The flowers are quite wild and weird (if they really are flowers). They do indeed go very well with that horehound. I wonder if that would grow here? Might have to give it a try.

No Rain said...

I've always loved rock fountains, especially if they don't have an obvious basin of water to catch debris, which has to be constantly cleaned. The landscaping is beautiful!
Aiyana

Teresa said...

I'm sure it was more fun to have your job and work with a clean palette, rather than have the not so easy task of telling the home owners they had to cut down their aged oak. OUCH! That would've been hard for me. I love my trees! The yellow yarrow is a long way from blooming here. I have a salmon(Salmon and the Pacific NW kind of go together; dontcha think) colored one that is my fave. It starts blooming around July.

Jean Ann said...

OK, I was trying to be PC about the whole thing...guess I will stop trying! Thanks for dropping by my blog and saying hi! I will keep checking back in, as I will no doubt learn much from you, master gardening jedi...

Sue Swift said...

Love that sage. I'm lousy at colour combination, so I'm (sage) green with envy ...

Ewa said...

Dear Billy,
I just tagged you - have a look at my blog. I hope you come to the game :)

kate smudges said...

Yow... the Euphorbia looks spectacular paired with the Horehound and the Salvia. I like this Salvia.

Too bad about the Live Oak. I'm looking forward to see the Silver-Leaf Princess Flower in bloom. I like the colour of Phlomis.