Ken and Darlene Kellett left southern California in 1987 and established a new business, D&K Packaging, in San Luis Obispo.
A former aerospace engineer, Ken is skilled in customized design. His company produces a variety of packing and shipping containers, ranging from decorative bags and boxes for wineries, to floatable packaging for equipment to be air-dropped onto off-shore oil rigs.
The Kelletts moved into their current home in Los Osos seven years ago. Although the grounds had been neglected while the house was vacant, the back yard retained some good features: Arbutus ‘Marina’ trees, some shrubs, a wood deck half-way up the slope, and a sinuous pathway of decomposed granite.
Having had little gardening experience, both Kelletts admired the “green thumb” of Darlene’s father, who had been a landscaper for the city of Los Angeles.
“He would walk through a garden and snip tips of branches; then he’d pot them up in his backyard greenhouse and have new plants,” Ken said. Some of those plants, which he loved to share, now grow in their walled courtyard garden, where they are visible from the living area.
The Kelletts didn’t change their garden immediately. Instead, anticipating a complete garden remodel, they painted the stucco house a vivid terracotta color.
Three years ago, they contacted Sage Ecological Landscapes in Los Osos, and filled in the questionnaire that prospective Sage clients are given, describing their preferences and expectations before their initial consultation.
Their primary requirement was that the garden be low maintenance and drought tolerant.
Darlene wanted color, predominately blues and oranges to complement the house color; she also requested that plants be spaced so that each could be appreciated individually, rather than viewed as masses.
Ken specified a patio near the house that would be more private and wind-sheltered than the wooden deck; he also wanted the patio and pathway to have solid pavers.
Knowing their preferences, Sage owner Todd Davidson and landscape designer Michael Leonard then presented a preliminary plan for discussion and refinement. The final plan incorporated the existing deck, added a paved patio next to the house, re-contoured the slope by the patio with terraced planting beds, and realigned the path.
Rather than running the underground water and electrical lines directly up the hill, those utilities lie beneath the path, which will allow easy access without disturbing plantings.
In the front yard, some mature ‘Dark Star’ Ceanothus were retained. But the overgrown rosemary ground cover was beyond saving. The crew spent a full day digging out its woody roots. A large boulder, previously hidden, now sits prominently near the front door, accompanied by matching rocks along the walkway.
New plants were selected for year-round color. Yellow flowering phlomis and yarrow are set off by low-growing violet-blue geraniums and lavender-gray succulents, Echeveria lilacina.
The Kellets are delighted with their new drought-tolerant garden. As requested, it requires only twice-monthly maintenance by a crew from Sage.