I was thrilled to learn upon arrival that their front and back yards are primarily dry shade gardens. Live oak trees cover most of the yard. I am always looking for help with my dry shade front yard, and little did I know at the beginning how fortunate I was to be learning from these professionals. The
And wow, what a garden. The only downside of the visit was that we weren't allowed to take photographs, but I'll do my best to still give you a picture of it.
This urban garden is a plant collector's dream, jam packed with agaves, palms, and cycads, architectural power plants, which are softened and sweetened by plants with finer textured foliage. Because of the shade, the
The garden is also tough and low maintenance. It has to be. The
Scott started this urban garden in 1999; the house and lot were what he could afford at the height of the dot com boom. The front yard was essentially a parking lot; the backyard held a bicycle half pipe taller than the house. The only amendment Scott made to address the heavily compacted soil was live oak leaves from his trees that he spread across the lot. On occasion he and Lauren have added rabbit food—alfalfa pellets—from Callahan's to reintroduce microbes into the soil.
Scott's gardening style is casual. His plan, if you can call it that, includes strewing seeds across the yard and waiting to see what grows. Part experiment, part laidback
(Scott's more infamous seeds came a palm in the parking lot at Expose, a nearby, ahem, gentleman's club. Lauren jokingly chastised him for adding that particular detail, but he assured her that he was there only because the way the palm was trimmed made it easy to see and "rescue" the seeds.)
One of the changes Lauren made was to add a circular space in the back to give the area more structure. Originally
I really can't do justice to the number and variety of plants in the garden. The
So I will try to highlight the unusual plants or just the ones that caught my attention.
In the front yard, Lauren pointed out golden groundsel, a small, ground cover. Its yellow flower isn't spectacular, but the foliage looks lush even through the summer. The giant groundsel also has dark green, wet-looking leaves.
While gardens are often used to soften or highlight a house's architecture, the
Palms and cycads are not my personal favorites, but I really liked the foliage on the silver Mediterranean fan palm, which is listed as a full sun plant but is growing well there in part shade.
The only flowering plants in the front yard were cyclamen. They are blooming now, but Lauren likes them because the foliage remains attractive for most of the year. And, if I remember correctly, they come back regularly. In the back yard, they grow hardy cyclamen, c. hederifolium, at the base of the trees.
In the one full sun area, in the backyard, the
Many of their bulbs were in bloom. Some of Scott's favorites include Blue Magic iris, which has beautiful reflective foliage in addition to the pretty flowers; grand primo daffodils, an heirloom variety that comes back each year; and toadshade bulbs, which have interesting foliage.
Among the other standouts were the sunquat, sour orange, Mexican grass tree,
At this point, I just have to stop myself because while I took notes, I was only there for little over an hour, which is isn't even enough time to notice all the plants, much less take notes on them all.
The garden really is full, too full, both Lauren and Scott admit, but when you hear them talk about each plant—each seems to have a fascinating history—you understand why they want them all.