Home & Garden

Philip Carey home: Turning dreams into reality

This Sonoran Desert mural, painted by Philip Carey, adds another dimension to his cactus and succulent garden. See more photos of the garden
This Sonoran Desert mural, painted by Philip Carey, adds another dimension to his cactus and succulent garden. See more photos of the garden The Tribune

When Philip Carey studied Exhibit Design at Long Beach State College, he never dreamt that he’d become an artist. But since his retirement 2-1/2 years ago, he has produced three volumes of Dream Books, with cartoonlike drawings based on his “numerous, vivid and wacky dreams.”

He draws while the images are fresh in his mind the next morning. Two exhibits of his art are scheduled during February, in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo galleries.

He began his career in exhibit design at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles, continued at the Roberson Museum in Binghamton. New York, and concluded after 20 years as an exhibit designer for the California State Parks system.

After retirement, he moved to Morro Bay, where his daughter helped find a rental cottage for her widowed dad. The small cottage suited him, but the neglected garden did not.

Drawing upon his design experience, he envisioned a small project near the back door. He showed his landlord his colored plan depicting four raised rockwork beds that he proposed building. With his landlord’s approval, Philip created those beds, designed as miniature landscapes, using succulent plants that he already had purchased, though with no place to plant them.

Later, Philip offered to paint the back shed. Not one to settle for a bland job, he painted a 30-foot mural depicting a southwestern desert. It’s a perfect backdrop for the everexpanding back garden, where he’s laid out pathways and built additional raised beds, along with some boulders, droughttolerant grasses, shrubs and small trees.

A more welcoming front entry was another of Philip’s early projects. The narrow concrete walkway was widened to six feet by laying two rows of concrete squares along each side. Potted plants inhabit the additional space, some raised on platforms to bring them near eye level.

Philip has dubbed one raised bed in the eastern side garden “Escarpment East” because its steplike tiers, tilted flagstones and drifted gravel resemble a mountainous faulted terrain. He’s planning an “Escarpment West” across the main path, near the rear corner of the house.

With every new bed, Philip follows this procedure: After clearing the space of weeds and unwanted plants, he covers the entire area with landscape fabric for weed control, and to keep mulch from sinking into the soil. He arranges the potted plants, cuts openings in the landscape fabric to install each plant, then covers the area with ‘walk-on bark’ mulch.

Philip acknowledges being an incurable plant collector. When he visits Nick Wilkinson’s Grow Nursery in Cambria, there’s always some new succulent he can’t resist. But he also buys end-of-season bargain plants at Ace Hardware.

Recently, when he dis covered a new variegated sedum, he bought enough to fill a new bed he’s planning for the front yard. He currently has a sense of urgency because his garden will be opened to visitors during the American Association of University Women’s Annual Garden Tour this April.

Sharon Crawford is a freelance writer who lives in Los Osos.

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