Luxury to a gourmet cook is stepping outside and harvesting fresh herbs from your own kitchen garden.
Craig Bradley and his wife, Jeanell, planned their garden so one of two patios lives like a second dining room, complete with fireplace. Herbs of every variety grow here and entertaining is easy and sheltered from sea breezes. Driftwood sea life hangs on the wall, and attractive pots of succulents grace the top of the fireplace and flank the kitchen wall. An espaliered lemon tree, flush against the fence, hangs heavy with ripe yellow fruit in mid-winter, testament to a temperate courtyard entry.
A 1,600-pound bubbling tiered fountain with Spanish influence hugs the casita wall. Placing it was an enormous effort for Bradley and three of his friends, who were treated to gourmet barbecue for their hard labor.
Two walls of the casita by the entry showcase a collection of ceramic and concrete faces, several depicting Green Man, the spirit of the forest. Artistic efforts of the entire family appear throughout the garden.
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Bellguard pavers look like tidy flagstone and are used throughout both patios. The simplicity of the pavers enhances the Zen-like stone fountain centered in the backyard. It beckons local birds with the music of falling water. A dry streambed meanders underneath a stone bridge.
There are no straight lines here, just curves that lead to seating areas and growing areas. A real treasure is the seating area near a rusted steel fire bowl with nautilus design cutouts. Under the stone bench, son Connor planted a selection of echeverias. Raised vegetable beds are located at the back of the garden.
The side of the garden that faces the street will eventually be screened by well-placed variegated Italian buckthorn shrubs and colorful coprosma hybrid shrubs in rose, cream and green. Large multi-trunked fruitless olive trees add height and a pleasant shade of green.
This lovely garden didn’t come together accidentally. Hope Merkle, owner of Los Osos Valley Nursery, worked with the Bradleys to ensure success.
“That was such a fun garden to work on,” Merkle said. “It was like painting with flowers.” There is great variety in leaf color and texture in the garden and an intricacy that charms. She selected five truckloads of plants, then used three truckloads to complete the job. Her son, Austin Lee, worked alongside Craig Bradley as they brought in mushroom compost and prepped for planting.
“Hope is just a fantastic person,” Bradley said. “She has local plant knowledge of what will grow in different areas of the garden.” The developer had moved different materials to odd locations on the property, making drainage difficult in some places.
Before they could begin planting the backyard there was a lot of work to do. Something had to be done with the concrete barbecue, concrete patio and big lawn with huge boulders around its perimeter. All that concrete and grass was removed, and then Zamora Landscaping & Construction took care of the hardscape work.
“Jose (Zamora) really has a good work ethic. He works on one job at a time and is dedicated to getting your job done right,” Bradley said. Zamora had the equipment to repurpose the boulders into streambed and accent locations.
The home’s entry features octopus agave, a beautiful elephant food (portulacaria afra) with red stems accenting tiny green leaves. Well-placed boulders accentuate frilly echeveria hybrids and a selection of daisy-like aeoniums. Parrot’s beak groundcover in fuzzy gray-green with orange blossoms that parrot the name are located near an aloe so showy it looks like it could tango.
The low groundcover on this side of the home is grevillea. Yucca bright stars, coral aloe and blue wave agave lend emphasis to a low boulder. Ornamental grasses wave while the showy Australian shrub kangaroo paw (anigozanthos) and Leucodendron “Winter Red” add color.
Luxury to garden enthusiasts is being able to visit thoughtful gardens like this one. Fortunately, it will be on the 2016 Spring Garden Tour in April hosted by Morro Bay Branch AAUW. Proceeds from the $10 ticket provide local student scholarships.
Garden tips from Craig and Jeanell Bradley
▪ Every member of the family is important when planning a garden. Remember to provide space for all, including dogs.
▪ Look around the neighborhood and see what’s working for others, then give those plants a try.It’s important to get bids from at least three contractors.
▪ Succulents need good drainage and little water.
▪ Take time to enjoy the beauty.