Sea Ranch Garden’s Most Successful Plants

By: Phil Van Soelen

Phil Van Soelen is the co-owner with Sherrie Althouse of California Flora Nursery, a small, unconventional nursery devoted to California…

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After almost four years and a number of refinements, the Sea Ranch garden has begun to stabilize. Plants that have failed have been replaced; in some cases the replacements, though carefully considered, performed poorly and have also been replaced. The coastal winds, for much of the summer, lash the site with incredible force and in unexpected patterns. The house, garage, and fences altered the winds so that they battered areas thought to be sheltered.

On the ocean side of the house, however, the landscape of meadow and sitting areas is a great success. The meadow of Molate fescue, planted with plugs at eight-inch centers and intensively weeded, has filled in rapidly to form a billowing foreground to the coastal views.

The making of a garden is never really done. That is why the term gardening describes a process, one that is forever ongoing. In such a harsh environment as California’s north coast, the process can be daunting. With patience and perseverance on the part of the client, the designer, and the maintenance crew, stability can eventually be achieved. Nowhere is the phrase “nature abhors a garden” more a reality. Working with nature, however, it is possible to achieve the semblance of “garden” by capturing the essential character and quality of the natural landscape.

Most Successful Plants At Sea Ranch Bluff Garden

The plants in the following list have been grouped according to type. All are California native plants, except for the Leptospermum and the Arbutus.

Trees:
Cupressus macrocarpa
Monterey cypress
Pinus contorta
shore pine

Shrubs:
Artemisia pyncnocephala ‘ David’s Choice’
sandhill sage
Baccharis pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’
dwarf coyote bush
Ceanothus gloriosus ‘Anchor Bay’ (needs deer protection)
Ceanothus gloriosus subsp. exaltatus ‘Emily Brown’
Garrya elliptica
coast silktassel (slow growing)

Leptospermum laevigatum
Australian tea tree
Mahonia aquifolium ‘Compacta’
dwarf Oregon grape (in part shade and out of direct wind)
Myrica californica
wax myrtle
Rhamnus californica ‘Eve Case”
coffeeberry (needs deer protection and out of direct wind)
Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum ‘Claremont’ & ‘Barrie Coate’
flowering currant (needs deer protection and out of direct wind)

Vine:
Vitus californica ‘Rogers Red’
wild grape

Perennials:
Achillea millefollium
yarrow (OK out of wind)
Asarum caudatum
wild ginger (shaded protected area)
Erigeron glaucus ‘Cape Sebastian’
seaside daisy
Eriogonum latifolium
Coastal buckwheat (needs deer protection)
Iris douglasiana
Douglas iris
Juncus patens
Californis gray rush
Lupinus arboreus
bush lupine
Oxalis oregana
redwood sorrel (shaded protected area)

Ferns:
Polystichum munitum
western sword fern (shaded and protected area)
Woodwardia fimbriata
giant chain fern (shaded, protected area)

Grasses:
Calamagrostis nutkaensis
Pacific reed grass
Deschampsia cespitosa ssp. holiciformis
Festuca rubra ‘Molate Blue’

Sedges:
Carex pansa
sand dune sedge (OK in wind)
Carex tumulicola
Berkeley sedge (out of wind)

Moderately Successful Plants (out of direct bluff wind; may suffer some tip burn)
Adiantum pedatum var. aleuticum
maidenhair fern
Arbutus unedo
strawberry tree
Armeria maritima
sea pink
Athyrium felix-femina
lady fern (shaded protected area)
Danthonia californica
California oat grass
Dryopteris arguta
California wood fern
Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’
Festuca californica
California fescue
Heteromeles arbutifolia
toyon

The Installation Team

The following professionals and suppliers helped with the installation of the Sea Ranch Garden:

Landscape Contractor and Landscape Maintenance
Scott Graf, Floriferous Landscaping, The Sea Ranch

Building contractor
Shawn Bettega, Gualala (wooden gates and arbor)

Arborist
Bill Beuchner, Gualala

Plant suppliers
Grasses: David Amme, Berkeley; Walter Earle, Mostly Natives, Tomales
Other native plants: Bruce Hope, Buckeye Nursery, Petaluma,

Lighting
Electrical contractor: Mehl/Bishop Electric Co, Santa Rosa
Low Voltage Fixtures:
pathway lights: Beachside Lighting, Oahu, HI
fence lights: Hadco Lighting, Littlestown, PA

Pennsylvania bluestone paving
Wheeler Zamaroni, Santa Rosa

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