Sanctuary garden design

Originally introduced by Juli, I've met Terry Hershey before but in early November I had the opportunity to get to know him better as I participated in a workshop he gave in San Diego. You can visit Terry's web site (www.terryhershey.com) to find out more about him, but in case you are not so inclined, here's a snip from his biography. 

TERRY HERSHEY—author, humorist, inspirational speaker, dad, ordained minister, golf addict, and smitten by French wine. He divides his time between designing sanctuary gardens and sharing his practice of “pausing” and “sanctuary,” to help us do less and live more. Terry’s book, The Power of Pause, offers the permission to slow down and to be gentle with ourselves, in a world that demands More-Bigger-Faster. Most days, you can find Terry out in his garden–on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound—because he believes that there is something fundamentally spiritual about dirt under your fingernails.
The workshop focused on the idea of sanctuary -


Garden Adjectives

Juli and I argue about the garden - It's one thing that is sure to spark an argument.  We have a garden guru / counselor / designer who has agreed to coach us lightly through a design process and our first assignment was to come up with five adjectives that describe how we want to feel in a garden.

I came up with the following not_five adjectives.  Sitting with this a while in draft form on the blog has given me the chance to define and distill them as well as to link associated or somewhat duplicative ideas (for example, Wonder and Appreciation came to be linked in my list, though they started out as separate adjectives).

When I first formulated the list, I had a tendency to fall into the trap of defining how I wanted the garden to be.  I found that a way to help guide the process in the right direction was to start each item with the phrase, "I want to be/feel _____".  The parts of the list that I couldn't phrase in such a way belong in a different list.  There were two such items on this list prior to its most recent revision, but there were more earlier. 

  1. I want to be Surprised and have my Curiosity Stimulated - I want to take a turn down a path and see something that is only visible from certain vantage points.  I want to have my curiosity stimulated to find out what's behind a gap in a hedge.  I want to have whimsical add-ins to the mulch, objects hidden among shrubs, funny or interesting or meaningful garden art.  I want to find unexpected pollinators buzzing about. I want to see something that makes me take a closer look and photograph the moment.  Blooms, bugs, birds, movement, hidden features, nooks.
  2. I want to feel a Sense of Discovery - This is linked to Surprise and Curiosity.  An example might be to discover ethnobotanic uses for a plant or to learn by experience what grows best and what garden practices help.  I think this is telling me that I want to garden rather than just be in the garden.
  3. I want to feel Wonder and Appreciation - I like to see unexpectedly heavy blooms, birds dive bombing among the plants, interdependence of one plant on another, flowers blooming in cracks
  4. I want to feel Joyful
  5. I want to feel Peaceful
  6. I want to feel Sheltered - There should be spots that cradle and surround
  7. I want to feel Restful - I want to be able to pull up a chair and rest while watching the garden move gently around me: in the breeze or with wildlife or to be still in the heat of the day.
  8. I want to feel Energized - Energy of others may be contagious.  If the garden is full of wildlife (I'm definitely counting insects here) and motion and the stored energy of newly emerging growth at the right times of year then I would find that energizing.
  9. I want people, pets, and wildlife to feel Nurtured - I guess this means that I'd like them to share the feelings that I've listed above. 
A related concept I found the on the web reads more like a bill of garden rights or a manifesto.  There's a high probability that it came from Mother Nature's Backyard.  I originally copied it as a group of well-formulated ideas, but I didn't keep track of where I found it nor if had I made modifications to it. 

We deserve shade, beauty, and places that call us to spend time outdoors.

Beautiful - Trees, shrubs, flowers, diversity, seasonal interest, natural.

Purposeful - Gardens that tell a story, you write the narrative.

Functional - Save water, provide habitat, recreate microenvironments and ecosystems.

Experiential - Invite people into the garden, paths, benches, garden art, feature plants.

Restorative - Healing places. Both the land and the visitors experience a new wellness. Ecologically sound.
Designed - Hodge-podge plant combinations are not pretty, regardless of why they were planted in the first place.

Things to avoid (I don't think we will have problems avoiding these)   
A bunch of random succulents and exotic grasses.
Extensive bare earth or gravel in the name of drought tolerance. 

Juli came up with these adjectives

Overwhelmed senses - sight, smell, sound.
A place to pause/sanctuary
Excitement - wonder

Seems like there's common purpose, doesn't there?

Rain 0.8"; 1.91" total for the season

11-26 0.70"
11-27 0.10"  at 11am

This brings the total rainfall to 1.91" for the season, which is near the median rainfall at this time of year for my area of Southern California.  Our usual rainiest months are still ahead of us.

Sent from my iPhone at great expense



Plants that didn't make it

This Coffeeberry (Rhamnus of unknown species, but intended to be californica) languished on my back slope for years. This one was the success story. One or two others died off earlier.

It could be that the roots were stunted right from the pot, or it could be that they grew that way.
I often bury plant stakes in the vicinity of the plant.  Here's a couple.  I had hoped that Ericameria ericoides (Mock Heather) would be happy enough to self seed.  The two that I planted grew for a while but I think they were shaded out.
Coreopsis gigantea was a winner for a couple years, but I think the soil didn't drain well enough and it turned into a pile of mush this year.  I'll try again this year in a new location with better drainage and no summer water.

Erysimum capitatum (Western Wallflower) was one I tried as well.  It didn't self-seed, though I think it bloomed well enough.



Back slope California native garden plan

Here's a Google map of our back yard with the planting plan indicated on it with scaled circles. The plantings fill a steeply sloped hillside that flows down to the right and ends at a path that borders a property line fence.

This plan derives from one originally made by Ric Dykzeul and executed by me.  Some of the plantings were successful and others were not, for reasons that I try to capture below.  After the break is Ric's plan and my comments.


Spa equipment enclosure

Southern California Edison was doing work overhead and knocked down the side of the spa equipment enclosure.
It was just termites holding hands inside, and I didn't have the heart to take them up on their offer to pay for repairs. Original design was poor, but like a lot of things on my house I guess it got the job done for the prior owner.


0.36" rain this season

Our rainy season started off with a nice nearly 0.2" of rain that fell overnight

17-Oct 0.19"

This was then followed by unseasonably hot temperatures for a few days.

Then a nice cool-down.

23-Oct 0.03"
30-Oct 0.14"

Current conditions for the drought are captured here: http://www.californiadrought.org/drought/current-conditions/, which mostly speaks to the water year(s) just ended:

...the 2012-2015 period encompasses the driest four consecutive water years in California since 1895, with statewide precipitation at only 62.2 inches. The second driest four consecutive years was 1917-1920, with 63.1 inches of precipitation, when California had a much smaller population and far fewer acres of farmland.
The forecast for the 2017 water year is still uncertain. The weakened La NiƱa conditions offer the possibility of a wetter year ahead, but forecasters remain wary. It will take a long time before the end of drought finally arrives as the state needs multiple, consecutive wet winters, and ideally cooler years, to increase soil moisture and allow the mountain snowpack to accumulate....