SLO Botanical Garden: The Children’s Garden

SLO Botanical Garden: The Children’s Garden

Master plan designs a place of peace, play, learning, and exploration for years to come

The SLOBG is a peaceful destination for residents and visitors, featuring winding paths, Mediterranean plants, and plenty of opportunities to learn and explore. About a decade ago, Education Director Lindsey Morgan and many volunteers set their sights on refining that effect into a devoted Children’s Garden—a free haven of imagination and play for “children” of all ages to enjoy.

A Work in Progress

As with any large project of the heart, the SLOBG Children’s Garden has been a work in progress. Up to this point, all unique features have been designed separately, as their budget allowed. Constructing such an important space has taken significant effort, and according to Executive Director Chenda Lor, the project currently includes two acres of planted garden.

Delightful Features

The Children’s Garden delights, with playful spaces such as the Pollinator Garden, Sensory Garden, and Wishing Tree. The Pollinator Garden is a paradise filled with bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The Sensory Garden is full of plants for children to touch, taste, and smell, and explore using all five of their senses. Children are encouraged to paint rocks at home and add them to SLOBG’s Rock Snake, a serpentine stone sculpture that is growing every day, currently measuring nearly 50 feet in length! “Anyone having a hard day can visit the Children’s Garden Wishing Tree,” Chenda says, “the tender wishes placed there are sure to improve your mood.”

In an amazing addition, Rubes’ comic artist Leigh Rubin has scattered cartoon bunnies throughout the garden—ten in total. These delightful images do everything from meditating to frolicking in the flowers. And, famous for his cows, Rubin even managed to sneak in one or two rabbit-like bovines for giggles. His local creative touch brings the living space into further brilliant relief, and they’re perfect for the space, as there is nothing better than giggling children.

A Cohesive Master Plan

After brainstorming with the SLOBG Children’s Garden Task Force and among our Madrone office team, we developed a Master Plan to encompass all the many elements and ideas in this garden. A key goal is to make the Children’s Garden more inclusive, accessible, and welcoming to many. We want to maintain the whimsical wonder of the existing garden and weave in more of a story and theme that allows for further cohesive expansion in the garden.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of Rick Matthews and Jill Bleher of Madrone Landscapes,” Chenda says. “Madrone Landscapes donated their time and professional resources to create one cohesive master plan, to make our vision for the Children’s Garden a reality.” At Madrone Landscapes, design is often the first phase of our services, and this is one of our favorite efforts to date.

The new master plan for the SLO Botanical Garden Children’s Garden is a labor of love and whimsical wonderland, filled with bright native plants, edible gardens, and an outpouring of effort to make sure its magnetic qualities enrich the family experience upon visiting.

Interactive, Creative Spaces

In all, our cohesive master plan establishes four main areas: the Fun Zone, Fairy Land, Food Forest, and Exploration Loop. These creative spaces were all designed with inclusivity and accessibility in mind, as well as the opportunity to expand the garden at a future date.

The Children’s Garden is shaping up to be a unified and beautiful love letter to childhood curiosity and exploration. Equal parts interactive, living plant museum, and playground, an established story and theme leads children through self-led activities, scavenger hunts, group activities, sandbox games, a veggie house—all contributing to the fanciful but concrete and profound beauty of nature.

Madrone Lends a Hand

“SLOBG will continue to make improvements for years to come—thanks to the support of our generous Central Coast communities and partners—so visit often and enjoy the progress!” said Chenda. “SLOBG couldn’t do it without the generous help of Madrone Landscapes. They donated their time, carefully listened to our needs, and helped us develop a master plan to reach our goals. They have been incredibly responsive and organized. Thank you, Madrone!”

Madrone Landscapes is honored to be part of such an important project. Nicolette Sowder once wrote, “Gardens and children need the same things—patience, love and someone who will never give up on them.” We have designed this garden with lots of love and patience, and we hope that it remains a place of peace, play, learning, and exploration for years to come.

Tickets are available online at www.slobg.org.

Partner Profile: Dorman Hydroseeding

Partner Profile: Dorman Hydroseeding

For Charlie Dorman, work has always been about doing what brings him joy. Discovering the emerging process called hydroseeding was literally an answer to Charlie’s prayers. He had wanted to start his own business, and after a preacher encouraged him to pray specifically for his question, Charlie prayed for a job where he could work outside and see new places. Three days later, a friend asked if he wanted a job hydroseeding. The job meant more pay and overtime, and Charlie made the move. 

A few years later a friend wanted to invest in a business. They found a barely used hydroseeding machine. “It was a little rusty on the outside, but the inside looked brand new,” recalls Charlie. “We bought the machine and a used truck, put it all together, and we started our own business.” He remembers his first job was on Cinco de Mayo. The year was 1978. Six years later, Charlie bought out his partner and the family-owned and operated company now provides lawn seeding and erosion control services for public and private clients throughout San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Monterey Counties. 

Hydroseeding is the process of mixing the seed type into what is called a slurry. Charlie begins with shredded wood fiber mulch which is scientifically ground to specifications. The mulch has a vegetable dye in it that is a carrier for all the other ingredients (fertilizer, Ecology Control M-Binder tackifier, and other additives). It’s all combined with water and blended in a tank with agitators to form a slurry that is then pumped through a hose and sprayed onto the ground to establish vegetation and control erosion. By keeping the seeds moist, they can germinate, and after five to six weeks, you can give the grass its first mowing. 

As the longest applicator on the Central Coast (maybe in California), Charlie has his hydroseeding family and Madrone Landscapes among them. He and Rick Mathews go “way back” (he estimates probably not 40 years, but definitely over 30). He reckons they’ve collaborated on dozens and dozens of projects. “It could be more than 100,” he postulates. “If we had only done three jobs per year, which would be a low average, that’s 90 right there.”

Charlie enjoys working on the “really cool jobs” Madrone designs like wineries, houses, and ranches. Typically, the project involves restoration work and putting things back to nature. “When you move the dirt and change the grades of soil, you have exposed soil,” he describes. In consultation with the premier supplier of native seeds, Madrone designs a mixture that will fit the habitat. “Some days we’ll do several different mixes at one location,” says Charlie. 

When it comes to identifying what is unique about Dorman Hydroseed’s 30+ year relationship with Madrone, Charlie points to the company’s trustworthiness. He considers it uncommon in today’s world. He also appreciates how organized the company is and the great people he works with. 

Interested in talking to us about your landscape? Contact our team at [email protected] or (805) 466-6263.

Partner Profile: Red Frog Compost Teas

Partner Profile: Red Frog Compost Teas

A long-time Madrone Landscapes partner, Red Frog Compost Teas specializes in compost tea for soil and plant health. They ship worm castings, compost teas, and hydroponic and compost tea aerators/air stones nationwide and service farmers and gardeners around the world.

Owner Erik Gorham initially started the business to find natural fertilizer that would help his garden vegetables grow. His goal was to pack as many nutrients as possible into the fertilizer, helping “turbo-charge” his garden and ensuring the plants could use the soil nutrients. He met his goal, and soon people wanted to buy the product.

Soil cycle

Red Frog manufactures the compost tea blends with 24-26 superior ingredients, including worm castings, alfalfa meal, rock dust, Alaskan forest humus, kelp meal, volcanic ash, and amino acids to feed the soil’s bacteria and fungus. Humus and compost products further add to the microbial content to give plants the very best food sources. Red Frog’s line of compost teas includes a Premium Blend, Vegetable Blend, Bloom Blend, and mineralized and aged compost. The company produces all of these products in Templeton.

Red Frog has partnered with Madrone for almost as long as the company has been in business. “From the beginning, we’ve had a very close relationship,” explains owner Erik Gorham. He appreciates the culture that founder Rick Mathews and general manager Daniel Mazawa have created and values their feedback.

In addition to owning Red Frog, Erik also works as Madrone’s operations manager. Because Madrone was drawn to a natural way to promote healthy landscapes, Erik began working with the team to fine-tune his tea blends. He invited Rick’s input on the details and development of the product. “Madrone has given me a place to test things. I get to see how our products are working on a daily basis. It’s nice to get that feedback from Madrone and their customers.”

Compost tea application

Red Frog and Madrone regularly collaborate on a variety of projects and programs to promote healthy habitats for humans to exist. It stems from the business philosophy of both companies to treat all clients, vendors, employees, and the environment with the utmost respect.

Learn more about our maintenance program. For more details, contact us at [email protected] or (805) 466-6263.

Partnership with One Cool Earth: Updating Atascadero Outdoor Classrooms

Partnership with One Cool Earth: Updating Atascadero Outdoor Classrooms

Late in 2019, Madrone partnered with One Cool Earth, a non-profit organization that creates garden-based school programs. We committed crews to improve and maintain gardens at six Atascadero School District schools. Shortly after our discussion, the entire program was put on pause as schools employed health and safety measures.

As kids head back to campus this month, Madrone has been busily preparing the outdoor classroom sites. Our team worked on each garden used for One Cool Earth’s Earth Genius program, rejuvenating and preparing the sites for a new school year. From mulching and weed abatement to repairing hardscape, we spent a few days ensuring that each school can rely on a garden space that will enrich them throughout the year. One Cool Earth educators can now visit each week and rely on a revitalized garden to teach about nutrition and the environment.

Madrone and One Cool Earth share and reinforce one another’s values: giving back, stewardship, and innovation. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.

 

Partner Profile: SiteOne Landscape Supply

Partner Profile: SiteOne Landscape Supply

This is a state-of-the-art irrigation valve manifold installation for Hotel SLO to supply irrigation for planters on 5 levels from ground level to balconies to roof.

Evan Moffitt

Evan Moffitt, CLT, CLIA, PCA, at SiteOne Landscape Supply, has been working with Madrone for over four years, delivering everything from irrigation and pavers to lighting. Evan and SiteOne are reliable partners for anything we might need for our landscapes, assisting us on over one hundred projects for varying clients and spaces.

SiteOne offers a comprehensive selection of top-brand landscape supplies, from irrigation to lighting, throughout North America. “We carry nearly everything Madrone would need, so its about getting what they want,” said Evan. After so long working together, we know exactly how they deliver, and they know what we order. Being able to count on their services has come as a huge boon time and time again.

When it comes to philosophies we share, we both work hard to deliver our services on time, valuing urgency and good communication when it comes to others’ time and work. “We understand each other very well,” said Moffitt. “They have a great team culture. A lot of people there work well together, they have a great support and management team to get the projects done, and they communicate well.”

While SiteOne doesn’t always have the opportunity to get out to the site and see the results of their reliable supply, we know our work benefits majorly from their ethics and consistency. We’re grateful for the many years we’ve worked together to develop landscapes of which we’re proud.

 

Hotel SLO’s planters, on 5 levels from ground level to balconies to roof, are supplied irrigation by a state-of-the-art irrigation valve manifold. See above.

Fire Safe Landscaping at the Mid-State Fair

Fire Safe Landscaping at the Mid-State Fair

Learn how to make your landscape defensible during fire season

At Madrone Landscapes, we have dealt with properties in high fire danger areas for decades. There are many ways to enhance a property’s defensibility, whether through plant selection and design or irrigation and water system strategies.

Visitors to the 2021 Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles will be able to see for themselves some of these best practices at the Fire Safe Demonstration House for view from July 21st to August 1st. The model property will show strategies for living in fire-prone areas around the Central Coast, especially appropriate as fire season comes upon us.

The multi-phased project will be developed over the next couple of years, and Phase One is getting ready for this year’s Fair. After re-grading, tearing out old plants, and doing a weed abatement, Madrone transformed the space into a simple gravel landscape (one of the best options for fire safety). The open gravel area will accommodate shaded seating, a proposed “Hydration Station,” and educational messaging to help people visualize how they can keep their properties fire-safe. A future phase will feature a mobile multi-media educational exhibit, and the occasional visit by a fire truck.

This community education exhibit was created by the Fire Safe Council, spearheaded by Turko Semmes with Madrone Landscapes lending assistance. Semmes and Company built the structure, demonstrating closed eaves and partial straw bale, the latter being three times more fire-resistant than the average material. Also contributing to the fire safe landscaping message is the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden (SLOBG), whose Fire Safe Demonstration Garden can be viewed daily at the SLOBG grounds off Hwy 1 in San Luis Obipso, near Cuesta College.

Come visit the Demonstration House, a welcome respite from the hot Paso Robles temperatures, featuring shaded seating areas and the only hydration station at the Fair. Bring your water bottle and swing by for a fill-up!