Salt air and small spaces can be daunting for any gardener. When Deborah Hannula moved to Morro Shores Mobile Home Park across from Sweet Springs Preserve in Los Osos, she realized that she was in for a new gardening experience.
Her Ventura area garden did not have the exposure to marine elements and the challenges they present when planting.
Hannula is an artist, so she wanted the color of her home to meld with her landscaping. The striking palette she created to unite the front of her mobile home uses deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) and repeats a pattern using striated green, yellow and pink cordyline ‘Cha Cha’, St. Catherine’s Lace buckwheat (Eriogunum) and gray-leafed Achillea ‘Moon- shine’ with its bright yellow flat-topped blooms.
“I matched my house color to a smoke bush and then couldn’t find any to buy. Finally found it at Guerrilla Gardeners in Morro Bay,” Hannula said. Her neighbor had one and she wanted one because it made her feel so happy.
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The burgundy smoke bush she chose (Cotinus coggygria) and planted near the house lends architectural interest and will become a beautiful focal point. All the plants were chosen for their sustainability, whether there’s a drought or not. The deer grass was planted so a friend who weaves baskets would have a steady supply of stems.
“I hate watering anything I can’t eat or use. Everything I plant has some purpose,” Hannula said.
Just opposite the home’s entry, an herb and vegetable garden in handsome elevated planting boxes grows carrots, cherry tomatoes and dill, among other things.
“My grandmother grew dill and the butterflies like it. I use it when I make potato salad,” Hannula said.
The elevated boxes provide privacy as well as food. Hannula particularly likes things that are functional, edible and aesthetic . So far local deer haven’t climbed the front porch steps to help themselves; however, they are regular visitors to the garden, oblivious to the importance of aesthetic composition.
A newly planted agonis (Australian willow) will fill in and bring height without overpowering the rest of the landscape. The low block retaining wall that curves around the corner property is advantageous for viewers and owner alike, containing the hillside so the sandy soil doesn’t slide onto the street.
Hannula lived in her home a year before planting anything because she wanted to observe the garden and the available sunlight in all seasons. The awareness of the variable amount of shade on the north side of her home helped avoid expensive mistakes.
Before tearing out what might be called “a Texas Chainsaw garden” complete with shrubs tortured into cubes and spheres where no flower was allowed to bloom, Hannula knew stabilizing the hillside was a priority. So she retained the cerastium ‘Snow in Summer’ groundcover.
She said she appreciated her friends and neighbors, Sue and Larry Olson, who offered expertise and suggestions as the garden developed, and several neighbors shared plants and clippings. One neighbor even provided a concrete alligator that swims in a pool of blue foliage. A tiny Captain Hook, retrieved from the children’s toy box, floats in a boat nearby.
Repurposed stepping stones seemed like a simple project until none of the stones would stay flat for her. More experienced friends suggested she use a claw hammer and just pull out the amount of dirt needed to put the pavers in. Today the stepping stones line up neatly and shiny bits of colored marbles and stones provide sparkling cheer.
Two pink melaleuca nesophylla were rescued from a neighbor and planted strategically to camouflage the home next door.
Two leucodendron shrubs, ‘Sunset Safari’ and ‘Jester,’ brighten the slope with red and yellow foliage.
Hannula likes Los Osos. “We have lots of double rainbows. We can see the stars at night and get to listen to the waves.”
She tells her friends not to get creeped out by all the silence. After years of living in Ventura and hearing traffic rumble along Highway 101, she said she sometimes finds the single newspaper delivery car an annoyance at 4 a.m., then she laughs.