I have been photographing Leaning Pine Arboretum for years, and it has become one of my favorite gardens.
For a garden photographer in California, seeking landscape settings for mature, appropriate plants adapted to the summer-dry climate, Leaning Pine is just about perfect. It is designed as a horticulture display garden for the ornamental horticulture program of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, so beauty has been a key criteria for introducing plants to the collection.
I see my work as trying to changing the aesthetic of what Western gardeners expect to see in garden photographs, to present gardens that do not fit the typical English or East Coast style. Don’t get me wrong, I love that lush style – where appropriate; but if the media only shows that style, gardeners in summer-dry climates will think that is the best model, and try to mimic it.
Sometimes mimicry is possible, by using cultivars adapted to the formal style often seen in traditional gardens. For that, Leaning Pine has a demonstration garden with shrubs that can take formal pruning.
But more often the garden presents garden beds in a more naturalistic style with looser arrangements.
These gardens are designed with water conservation in mind. Water is certainly important everywhere and most gardeners recognize it as a resource that must be managed carefully in a world with increasing population pressures, but in California and other summer-dry climates (sometimes called mediterranean), water is especially precious.
It does not rain here in the summer. That’s not drought, that’s normal; and the plants that have evolved to grow in this type of climate don’t require summer water. They often look better and are more firesafe with some supplemental water, so the craft of gardening is figuring out which plants can be adapted into cultivation.
This is the beauty of Leaning Pine Arboretum – the gardens are organized by plants native to summer-dry regions, the Mediterranean, Western Australia, Central Chile, the Cape of South Africa, and of course California. Within each of these sections, garden worthy plants native to their region are organized for horticulture inspiration.
The responsible gardener wants to use plants adapted to his or her own climate. This is a key element of sustainability. So it is no wonder Leaning Pine has been a great inspiration in my work. I can see plants from all over the world thriving under the same sunny, dry summer conditions.
I especially love the California native plants that for too long were not considered garden worthy. Leaning Pine has done a great job disproving that idea and has combined native grasses, succulents, and shrubs into classy mixed borders.
All parts the garden are inspiring and I know any photo I take in any section can be useful to gardeners.
From Italian Stone Pines:
To California Desert Willows:
PhotoBotanic gallery of photos from Leaning Pine Arboretum