Other People's Gardens
We went to visit some friends in Santa Barbara this weekend, and I got some great ideas from their garden. They started out with just about as dire a situation as we did, but on account of not having to wait for the giant hole to be filled with dirt they have a bit of a head start on the gardening.
For example, I really enjoyed this view across their garden, with the combination of beds that rise up, paths that curve, and containers. I was admiring their pathways, because my own garden paths are stalled in must-be-more-creative mode.
The hillside is still in progress, but you can see where it is going and how amazing it is going to look when they get done. They're still removing the oleander you see in the top right, and the geraniums in the center keep coming back, but almost everything else is new since we visited them last year. See those fancy tomato cages along the wall? That is gardening with style.
Here's something I'm going to pilfer: in a yard with not much for topography, dramatic fake hills look fake and awful, but these slightly sloped beds actually look natural and lovely. I hadn't considered just sort of sloping up the beds slightly; that could define the planting areas we have more clearly and help me with my path problems. (And yes, that is Rosie: we brought the dogs along and they only destroyed one or two things and possibly scared the heck out of our hosts' cat in 24 hours of visit.)
Somebody once said to me, in response to my dislike of orange flowers, that "California Poppies are a neutral in the garden." When I see combinations like this, I can see how that works. I still don't like orange flowers, though.
The flower that really makes the bed (and appears to be taking it over) is the Salvia microphylla, aka "Hot Lips." It's kind of a loud flower, not really my style (looks like a nautical flag), but it works so well here that I couldn't help but admire it.
On the other hand, I am going to have to see where I can get mimulus like these. That red is amazing.
Look at the mimulus. Love it. Even orange flowers look good with it, so it must be something special.
Here's a nicely grown-in path with
thyme some little blue flower in between the pavers. (Our hosts wrote and told me it is not thyme, so I must look this one up.)
One neat invention our hosts showed us: their battery-operated snail fence. See the two wires on insulated posts around the top of the bed?
They come round and connect to this battery over here, so when the snail or slug touches both wires, it makes a circuit and gets a shock. This has kept the critters out of the lettuce bed very nicely, and there's no danger to humans or pets because the output of a battery is not strong enough to do much for us. I gave up on growing lettuce because of slug predation, so this might be just the ticket (or copper foil).
And for those who wondered, here's a delightful diagram (with sources for materials) of how to make your own electric snail fence, courtesy of our hosts:
posted by ayse on 05/21/06