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]m or (805) 466-6263.

Coner Boaen Promoted to Maintenance Manager

Coner Boaen Promoted to Maintenance Manager

It was 2018 when we first introduced Coner Boaen to you. He had recently joined Madrone Landscapes as a service technician and was running his own crew as a project manager for our construction team.

Fast forward three years and we’re pleased to announce Coner’s promotion to maintenance manager.

“It’s extremely gratifying to move Coner into a position of leadership,” says Rick Mathews, Madrone Landscapes owner and founder. “Coner is known for his quality of work, communication, and professionalism.” Our clients appreciate his in-depth knowledge culled from 18 years in the landscaping service and construction industry.

As manager of our maintenance department, Coner focuses on client care and sustainable maintenance. Madrone has long been proud to go beyond simple mow and blow services, a philosophy Coner embraces. “From our Weekly Maintenance or Garden Detail Maintenance services to our Healthy Gardens option, Madrone focuses on plant health, aesthetics, and the effective use of water,” explains Coner.

A key to reliable service is the skillful supervision and training of our expert crews. A natural mentor, Coner regularly finds opportunities to train and educate his team on landscape maintenance practices and procedures as well as client service skills. “Just as every garden is different, every client has their own unique expectations for their garden and how they work with us. Our services deliver what an individual property or garden needs when it needs it.”

Learn more about our maintenance services. For more details, contact us 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.