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.

Planting in beds in the former lawn

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.)

Slightly raised bed

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.

Poppies go with everything

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.

Salvia microphylla

On the other hand, I am going to have to see where I can get mimulus like these. That red is amazing.

Spilling over the wall

Look at the mimulus. Love it. Even orange flowers look good with it, so it must be something special.

monkeyflower and poppy

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.)

Thyme path

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?

Snail fence

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).

Battery

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:

Snail Fence

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posted by ayse on 05/21/06

5 Comments

Wow.
A snail fence.
Is this available somewhere, or did they come up with it on their own?

It's definitely something they came up with and made on their own. Pretty nifty, huh?

I found your site through stream of consciousness surfing. Your blog is a public service to those of us who think a real reno can be conquered in a few months. The garden pics are beautiful. Good luck with your efforts.

Ha, that snail fence is great! I love the mimulus too, woo!

The blue-flowered ground-cover is (I think) Blue Star Creeper:
http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/1892/index.html
We put some in the back, in part shade along a path, and it has even toughed out the clay soil although it'd be happier in more open soil. But I can't do that without killing the fig tree and lilac nearby, sigh.

We're in Portland, OR. I've seen about 3 varieties at the local nursery so I think it is easy to find. A neighbor has it growing under a small Japanese maple among some tiny hostas and it is just gorgeous, so maybe it can take all kinds of sun/shade conditions?

BigAlice, you're right: our charming hosts e-mailed me that it was blue star creeper and I got kind of wrapped up in other stuff and forgot to edit the post again.

I saw a giant flat of it at the local nursery in SLO, but I'm not sure what I would do with a flat of it, especially because it apparently tends to be invasive here. I may try using it for weed suppression, though. It's very pretty.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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