Ocotillo

Another crazy plant! Ocotillo (fouquieria splendens) is a spiny, drought-tolerant shrub native to southwestern America and Mexico. For much of the year it looks like a bunch of dry sticks, ocotillo in courtyardbut after Spring rains it sprouts green leaves and, at the end of each stem, a hummingbird-attracting flower. They are also supposedly edible (I haven’t tried them!) and can be dried for use in a tisane…ocotillo flowerIt pairs well with crown of thorns, as seen here ocotillo & crown of thornsin my newly planted drought-tolerant front garden.

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Descanso in May: Roses

Roses!IMG_0340 What I love about Descanso’s rose garden is that it’s not over-manicured as so many seem to be. Some of the more vigorous types are allowed to get nice and big,
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IMG_5477which make it feel more garden-like and less of a specimen collection.
Some of the arches are more industrial than romantic
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IMG_5473I can forgive the need for low-maintenance structures!

For once I arrived early enough to be able to photograph the beautiful fountain without interruption.
IMG_5476 It reminds me of fountains I’ve seen in some of the California Missions we’ve visited – which makes sense now that I’ve seen this plaque: IMG_5481 I love the mix of practical plants such as olives, citrus and pomegranates with drought-tolerant yet decorative plants. IMG_0341

Terrace Garden

When we bought our house, one of the main attractions was the view. It’s beautiful, day or night.

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But the main garden – a terrace that wraps the house to the south and west – was uninspiring. Serviceable, but fractured and a bit boring.

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And in remodelling the new kitchen and porch, much of it got trashed.

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So once the main building work had quietened down we started landscaping. We wanted a space for entertaining which was water-conscious and wildlife-friendly, in a Mediterranean style to match the house. Pinterest was a great source of inspiration!

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The old spa bit the dust when we extended the porch so we began by getting rid of the old pink concrete.

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Luckily a friend of Contractor John needed exactly that to build a wall, so it went to a good home! Then we marked out the beds, put in a drip system for irrigation, and edged them with salvaged roof tiles, an idea I’d seen at the Old Mill in Pasadena.

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The main part of the terrace is a boules piste (bocce ball court to Americans).

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John had never made one before but I found instructions here. Since we didn’t have oyster shells we used the tiny loose stones from erosion control bags. I can see it getting a lot of use once we start entertaining properly this summer!

The planting is a mixture of drought-tolerant aloes, euphorbias and succulents, California natives and Mediterranean plants. They’ve been in about six weeks now and are filling out nicely.

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The seating area is positioned for the best views. It’s high desert flag, a greeny-grey stone already in use elsewhere in the garden, interspersed with gravel. I’ve planted Corsican mint in some of the gaps, which gives off a wonderful smell when stepped on. The seat can accommodate eight when separated, or pushed together becomes a massive lounger for when we feel like lying around.

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Beyond that, at the back of the house, is the spot of the – future – pool or spa. Currently overflow storage for garden equipment and building detritus!

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And at the other end of the piste is my kitchen garden.

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Have you designed a garden for yourself? What are your inspirations?