Judy Straw loved living in one tiny unit of the beach-side triplex in Cayucos she had rented since 1986. So when the opportunity arose, she bought the property, which includes a separate small cottage in addition to the three-unit building she lived in. As each of the other tenants left, she gradually expanded her space to incorporate the other two contiguous units into a single cottage; she retains the separate cottage as a rental.
Judy and her husband, Reg Whibley, also have homes in Morro Bay and near Lopez Lake. A single dwelling could not contain the artistic outlay of this imaginative couple. Both delight in converting throw-away objects to practical uses and creating whimsical art works that embellish all their homes.
A stunning example is the fireplace Reg built after the original fireplace and chimney collapsed while remodeling the cottage. Constructed of river rock, shaped like the Eiffel Tower, and open on all four sides, it’s a dramatic centerpiece for the enlarged living area.
Since the cottage is beside a public access path to the beach, Judy has delineated her property with an old-fashioned cottage-type garden in a raised bed. A wave-patterned wooden fence between the path and her entrance patio partially blocks views into the house from passersby, yet allows glimpses of mature potted plants.
The back-yard patio was designed by Reg and professionally installed in 2007. Reg built the two outdoor fireplaces and incorporated a rustic tree-trunk bench into the patio’s back wall. Judy contributed some personal mementos incased in resin -- some of her mother’s tiny perfume bottles, bits of beach glass, and segments of a shattered car window.
Until two years ago, the couple was content with their patio, surrounded by a patch of grass. When they began considering garden improvements, Judy visited plant nurseries for ideas. She was awestruck by the dramatic forms of the succulents displayed at Grow, the Nursery at Moonstone Gardens. Impressed by the expertise of owner, Nick Wilkinson, the couple asked him to design and install their new garden. Reg had just one request: “don’t make it look like the desert.”
Nick already was considering succulent plants that would visually relate to the beach environment. Some of them resemble plants that grow on the ocean bed; others are shaped like starfish or octopus. To keep expenses down, most were planted from 6” and 8” containers. The garden appears more mature because varied sizes of similar plants are grouped together, as they would grow in nature.
Gabriel Frank of Gardens by Gabriel installed the drip irrigation, and his crew does twice-monthly maintenance. Gabriel and his crew recently extended the plantings down the slope, having stabilized the soil with netting, and topping it with “gorilla hair” mulch.