Home & Garden

Taming a wild kingdom

Los Osos Garden Bill and Mary Perkinson. Photo Jayson Mellom 12-10-10
Los Osos Garden Bill and Mary Perkinson. Photo Jayson Mellom 12-10-10

To say that Bill and Mary Perkinson appreciate old things would be an understatement. Bill, an antique dealer, and Mary, a professional designer, are semi-retired, but remain members of a cooperative antique shop in Arroyo Grande. And both create art of recycled materials.

They love their Los Osos home, built in 2000, with exposed ceiling beams of recycled eucalyptus tree trunks, and walls of windows overlooking the ocean. Other rooms overlook private outdoor nooks that showcase artfully arranged antiques and container plants. Naturally, the modern home is furnished with antiques and recycled artworks.

Home builder Bill Hurley of Dos Osos preserved the coastal dune plants as far as possible. Initially, when it was their second home, they were content to leave the property in its natural state, despite some concern about the sandy soil being subject to erosion.

That attitude changed two years ago, when Mary took the AAUW spring garden tour and visited a local garden that seamlessly melds a professionally designed landscape with its natural environment. That garden was installed and is maintained by Sage Ecological Landscapes. The Perkinsons asked Sage proprietor Todd Davidson to create a similar effect on their property.

Bill was determined to eliminate the aggressive non-native South African veldt grass on the property before landscaping began. Working daily for five months, he hand-pulled a trailer-load of grass. Since then, he’s pulled the tufts while they’re young.

Landscaping began with solid paths and walkways to prevent erosion and facilitate access around the house. A patio facing the ocean, and another with a gas firepit, provide outdoor living options. Around the firepit, a concrete bench has a resin surface with imbedded semiprecious stones that had been collected by Bill’s lapidary father. Maysun Wells was the concrete artist. Later, Dan Watson took the wood used for the concrete forms and recycled it into the Adirondack-style chairs.

A watering system channels rain water from the roof into underground perforated pipes that allow it to seep out gradually. A meadow of dune sedge thrives in the low area where the pipes terminate.

The Sage crew took care to preserve as many native plants as possible. The formerly predominant dune lupine now shares space with native salvias, manzanita, ceanothus, and the dune sedge (Carex praegracilis). A row of Monterey cypress defines one edge.

In the front entry garden, colorful Mediterranean climate plants fill beds and pots. Prostrate rosemary drapes over the edge of a retaining wall. Plants include lavender, grasses, spurge, kangaroo paws and succulents.

Deer and other wildlife wander through the garden. Rabbits munch a portion of the sedge meadow. In addition to a bird feeder near the front windows, scattered grain and a ground-level bird bath attract a flock of quail, and blue jays noisily devour peanuts strewn along the firepit bench. The Perkinsons say, “The critters were here first; we’re pleased they’ve accepted us.”

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