Collaboration Spotlight: Mission San Antonio

Collaboration Spotlight: Mission San Antonio

Rich History and Old-Stock Mission Vines in Our Backyard

Located on 86 acres of the former Milpitas unit of the Hearst Ranch, the Mission San Antonio de Padua features a large church, a museum, and a gift shop. In 2020, as part of the Mission’s ongoing restoration project, we joined the team to complete a renovation of the Mission’s courtyard garden. Working together with Joan Steele, administrator, we were able to create a beautiful garden designed to showcase the many native plants used by the Salinan Tribe. Although the garden is new, these grounds are rich in history (this year marks its 250th anniversary!), and we asked Joan to highlight one of the few original features remaining in the courtyard garden: its original grape stock.

Heritage grape stock cutting purchased through the Mission San Antonio gift shop.

“The cuttings would have been brought either from Mallorca, Spain, in the 1700s and/or from the area around what is now Mexico City,” explains Joan.

The Franciscans knew they would need to plant a vineyard in the New World to have wine for daily Mass. Following construction of the first irrigation system (aqueduct) in California, the Franciscans and the Native Salinan Tribal Members planted the first vineyard on the Central Coast.

They built an adobe wall around the vineyard to keep the animals out and built a house for the “vineyardist” within the vineyard. As the vines flourished, the Franciscans built two large wine vats and a wine cellar (one of the vats and the wine cellar are still visible today as part of the Mission museum). By 1841 there were 4,000 vines in the vineyard.

The Mexican government secularized the Mission in 1834. It was temporarily abandoned in 1844 and the vineyard continued to decline. Prior to his death in 1882, it is believed Fr. Dorothea Ambris moved some of the vines from the declining vineyard and replanted them inside the Mission courtyard and out in front of the Mission to better care for them.

Joan shares that in 2011 the Mission sent samples of these vines to UC Davis for DNA testing. It was discovered that the grapes are “Mission” grapes – also known as Criolla Chica in South America and Pais in France. While this varietal is no longer available in Spain, this type of grape stock is still used widely in Central and South America to produce the local table wines.

“We are very proud of our historic vines, still producing wonderful annual harvests,” Joan notes. “It is one of our long-range goals to reestablish the vineyard at the Mission, using cuttings from the original vines. We hope to engage the cooperation of local university students to rebuild the adobe walls around the vineyard and grow the historic vines for many years to come.”

Currently, the Mission has some cuttings available through the gift shop when it is open on the weekends. Visit www.missionsanantonio.net to keep abreast of the changing schedule due to COVID restrictions and staffing requirements.

On the Boards: Atascadero Rustic Modern

On the Boards: Atascadero Rustic Modern

With five acres of beautiful blank canvas, this private residential landscape presents an expansive front yard and a nestled tier design, providing a balance to the home’s modern architecture and the surrounding Atascadero hills.

Focusing on the acre immediately surrounding the home, Madrone created a grand main entrance and separate outdoor “rooms” with a cohesive rustic modern style. A main path leads to a wide staircase and covered patio, providing a majestic entry experience with magnificent views. Separate hot tub and fire pit areas rest below the main level, providing spaces for relaxing during the warm North County evenings. Around the back of the house, a private courtyard provides a more sheltered gathering space with outdoor kitchen, deck, and water feature, perfect for entertaining or simply enjoying a cup of coffee on a chilly Atascadero morning.

The plant palette, featuring Palo Verde trees and Agave, relies on textures and form to reveal the variety among the greens, yellows, blue-greens and whites. Modern elements such as straight lines, evenly spaced plants, concrete, and corten steel blend with natural materials such as gravel paths, boulders, and masses of flowing grasses to make each space separate and unique while still bringing everything together as a whole.

On the Boards: North County Rustic Modern

On the Boards: North County Rustic Modern

A redesign in Paso Robles at 10,600 SF, this North County backyard landscape creates a rustic modern outdoor sanctuary—befit for its owners and the home it surrounds.

This project redesigns the entire backyard, re-envisioning every space to include custom features like a live wall, firepit, and a new outdoor kitchen and dining area. It blends historic elements and flora native to the California Central Coast with these new modern features to create a comfortable, aesthetic balance.

The design includes points of interest and focal features such as a dry creek, raised garden beds, horizontal fencing, and landscape lighting. Stately oak trees create a canopy with moonlighting over the activity areas.

With all the custom elements in this project, there have been many details and revisions to keep up with. Communication between the install crew and the design team has been increasingly important with each adjustment.

From the design-build teamwork to the inspired design, this North County landscape is a wonderful example of creating an outdoor sanctuary with varied gathering spaces that are both functional and aesthetically beautiful.

 

Fire Season is here. How can your landscape help?

Fire Season is here. How can your landscape help?

Fire Season is here again.

As we cope with the grave threats to public health from the COVID-19 virus and its surreal, devastating effects on our culture, one could almost forget that we are deep into the wildfire season here in California. People are experiencing a whole new level of home life now, both in- and out-of-doors. But as the wildfire threat increases through the summer months, the question remains: How can your landscape help?

In Northern California alone, nearly 9,000 buildings were destroyed in 2017 and 44 civilian lives were lost. Not to mention later in the year, we subsequently watched as the southern portion of our state endured fires so severe, that a State of Emergency was declared. It’s a sobering reminder of the threat posed by living close to nature, as record heat and low humidity continues to intensify by the year. Property owners are at risk, to be sure, but what can we do to minimize those risks? Is it possible to improve the defensibility of our properties by landscaping wisely?

The answer is yes.

At Madrone Landscapes, we have dealt with properties in high fire danger areas for decades. There are many ways to enhance the defensibility of a property, whether it is through plant selection and design, or irrigation and water system strategies. Fire-resistant plants selections are available, but it is every bit as important that your plantings be well-spaced, properly pruned, and adequately watered in order for them to perform their fire-resistance function. Also, eliminating plants entirely from around structures may do more harm than good. Properly chosen plants can catch air-born fire embers, letting them die out harmlessly, and plants’ roots are often vital to control erosion in the event of a fire.

For ways to make your home more fire safe inside and out, see the Homeowner’s Checklist of from the SLO County Fire Safe Council.

Defensible Space – Defensive Landscaping

What you plant in your yard, and where you plant it, can be just as important as how your home is built. When in the path of a wildfire, your garden and lawn can become fuel for the flames. But, by learning the different zones around your property, you can create a more fire-safe home.

ZONE 1 Garden Zone: 0-30 feet from the outside walls of the building – This is the most important zone, as fire in this area will present the greatest danger to your house. This area should be kept irrigated and clear of debris at all times.

Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 1

  • Plants up to 18 inches tall that are low-volume (not thick and bushy)
  • Plants with a high moisture content, such as succulents
  • Grasses a maximum of 3 inches tall
  • Tree branches trimmed 10 feet up
  • Area is irrigated and kept clean

ZONE 2 Greenbelt/Fuel Break: 30-50 feet from structure – The goal of this zone is to reduce the available fuel in order to slow a ground fire. Larger shrubs and trees can be introduced here, as long as a distance that is twice their height separates them. This will prevent the ‘fire ladder’ effect, where fires jump from one clump of shrubbery or trees (fuel) to another. Grass in this area should be mowed to 6”. This area should be kept irrigated and maintained.

Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 2

  • Succulents, small to medium shrubs
  • Trees at least 10 feet apart and tree crowns 10 feet off the ground
  • Grass a maximum of 6 inches tall
  • Shrubs separated by two times their height, so a 6 foot shrub will be at least 12 feet from its neighbor

ZONE 3 Transition Zone: 50-100 feet from structure – The major effort here should be to thin existing vegetation and remove debris. Grass should be kept at 18”.

Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 3

  • Low to medium height plants
  • Plants grouped in “islands” for water efficiency
  • Dead branches and leaves removed

ZONE 4 Native or Neutral Zone: 100+ feet, depending on conditions – The primary goal of this area is to reduce fuel buildup by mechanical clearing or occasional prescribed fires.

Top Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Zone 4

  • Grass mowed to 12 inches
  • Vegetation thinned and ground kept free from litter

Landscaping in fire-prone areas should try to create a fire safe buffer – a defensive space – around your home. The home’s roof and gutters should also be cleared of any plant materials like leaves and pine needles. Taking these measures can make it easier and safer for firefighters to save homes from wildfires.

Fire Safe Demonstration Garden

The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden has a new Fire Safe Demonstration Garden located at 3450 Dairy Creek Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405. They are open daily during daylight hours. The Gift Shop and Office are open 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Friday.

Get more tips from the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s Fire Safe Landscaping Brochure.

On the Boards: Paso Robles Southwestern Residence

On the Boards: Paso Robles Southwestern Residence

At Madrone we thrive on bringing a vision to life for clients who fully embrace a style not usually seen in the Central Coast area. For this project, we began with an existing palette that features warm colors and solid, hard materials that are reminiscent of a Southwestern-Baja aesthetic.

A solid foundation of existing hardscape features, mature trees, deck structures, and a koi pond were a great starting point to designing a new planting plan, hardscape updates, and upgrading the irrigation infrastructure.

We found a variety of ways to re-use materials already found in and around the home. The same type of flagstone originally used in the backyard is now reflected in the side and front yards, and a new deck platform matches the existing backyard deck. While the plant materials vary from the front yard to the back, a similar set of accent plants are carried throughout. Succulents and silver-toned specimens were used as accents amidst a colorful drought tolerant plant palette. Warm-toned, angular gravel was used in place of traditional wood mulch to bring the essence of the Baja heat. 

Healthy, existing trees were kept, and new trees of the same type were added in other areas in the yard to offer moments of shaded relief. These small design details bring the new and old together to create a single, cohesive, overall vision.

Our collaboration with a client who doesn’t shy away from what they like, and is flexible to suggestions, helped us transform this landscape into a true oasis.