by germinatrix | July 29th, 2009
Over the July 4th weekend, I was visiting The Denkers in Baywood/Los Osos, CA – such a beautiful part of the California coast … and Jan and I stayed in one of the most charming hotels ever – the Back Bay Inn. I had no idea when I booked the room that I’d be staying in a loft overlooking the freshest, frilliest little garden I’d seen in a long time!
When we picked up the keys to our room, we’d just driven five hours through 4th of July weekend traffic (the drive usually takes three hours!), and even though it is a wonderful, scenic trip – we were exhausted and a little bit over each other, to be frank! We just wanted to shower – so we headed off in the direction the friendly woman at the front desk pointed out, and strolled right into this little patch of prettiness!
I was THRILLED. Jan had to take all our stuff to the loft without my help, because I had to run around like a terrier on crack, snapping pictures and calling out unexpected plant combinations.
It was a very young garden, possibly under two years – the structural elements were still small and it was very annual-heavy … but it was exactly that exuberant use of annuals that delighted me!
‘Bones’ are very important in a garden. It is well chosen, carefully installed hardscape, and purposeful planting of strong, evergreen shrubbery and perennials that gives gardens their year-round structure. In the baby stages of a garden, however, annuals can be a big asset, because their ‘thing’ is to grow quickly – they are born, they mature, and they die and set seed in one season (as opposed to perennials that need time to establish and ‘get their roots under them’). Annuals can fill in the holes left by the proper spacing of young plants, and they give the garden an almost immediate sense of fun and accomplishment – all for pennies and no long-term commitment. Later, as the perennial, shrubbery, and tree layers grow in, the flowery frilliness of the annuals can be edited, and the garden moves into its more mature life.
Of course, it’s all in the choice of the annual.
The Back Bay Inn garden is a raucous blend of poppies, zinnias, bachelor buttons and cosmos popping up between salvias, lavender, leucadendron, fan palms, and lavatera. It shouldn’t work for me! I am a HUGE stickler for plant architecture – if I don’t see repetition of strong form and a distinct visual through line, my eye gets tired and all I see is garden A.D.D. But here I looked closer.
I saw that there WAS a through line; and continuity, and repetition – but it was soft. Daisies were used with abandon, stitching together the main strolling garden and the seaside paths. And then, there was the elegant use of my favorite grass, Nassella tennuissima. This beauty really comes to life in when tickled by the breeze – it dances and sways and captures the sun like nothing else. Here, Nassella was perfectly deployed to take advantage of the winds coming off the bay. I was absolutely on board with the soft architecture of the garden at The Back Bay Inn, and while I can’t see myself going as far into flowery flowerdom, I am definitely going to use some of the combos in future plantings.
Unexpected inspiration! It’s often right in front of your eyes!