In a previous post I took you to Grow Nursery in the town of Cambria on California’s Central Coast. Two miles away on Moonstone Beach Drive is Cambria Shores Inn. What does a motel have to do with a nursery?
Here’s the answer:
The Cambria Shores Inn features a veritable extravaganza of succulents that makes you slam on the brakes as you approach.
It turns out that the Cambria Shores Inn’s landscaping was designed by Nick Wilkinson, the owner of Grow Nursery (and Left Field in San Luis Obispo). The motel is owned by his mother and stepfather, Leslie and Kim Eady.
This May 2015 articles from the San Luis Obispo Tribune describes the beginnings of this project:
Renovations began in 2006. Nick Wilkinson was an art major with an intense interest in plants and landscaping. He drew freehand sketches of how the garden would look after nearly an acre of lawn was removed. The turf was torn out down to bare rock. New soil was brought in and mounded to various heights. Additional rock came from local quarries.
Because of budget constraints “everything we planted was small at first,” says Nick Wilkinson in the article. “People commented about the modest size of the plants and had serious doubts about our vision. The following year local garden clubs toured and were impressed by the growth and the beauty.”
Wrestling with the size of plants to buy is something every gardener is familiar with. I found it encouraging to know that this spectacular succulent garden started out small—literally.
Far side of the succulent garden, looking and walking back towards where the first photo was taken
Another issue in the perennially water-challenged Golden State is irrigation. Before mandatory watering restrictions went into effect in Cambria, the garden was watered five times a year. Let that sink in: five times a year!
When the landscape watering moratorium was in force, irrigation stopped altogether. In the Sacramento Valley, this would spell certain death to all but the toughest plants. Our summers, however, are significantly hotter than the Central Coast. Located in California’s Goldilocks zone, it hardly ever experiences temperatures in the 90s, let alone the 100s. In addition, frequent fog contributes enough moisture to keep plants going.
LEFT: Agave ‘Sharkskin’ RIGHT: Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’
After a wetter winter and spring than we’d had in five years, the garden at the Cambria Shores Inn looked picture perfect during our visit at the end of March.
LEFT: Agave parryi and Aeonium ‘Zwartskop’ RIGHT: Agave mitis var. albidior sending up a flower stalk
I’d thought it would take me 15 minutes to snap a few photos, but I ended up spending almost an hour going from plant to plant.
Spotted aloe (Aloe zebrina?) and ice plant. The flowers aren’t open because at 11:00 a.m. it wasn’t warm enough yet.
The flowering agave on the left is Agave gypsophila
This pincushion (Leucospermum sp.) is the very definition of perfection
I had never seen so many flowers on a leucospermum before
Flowering Agave americana ‘Marginata’
The flagstone path I had come from
Row of Adirondack chairs looking out over the Pacific Ocean
More views from the top looking out over Moonstone Beach
Looking towards the inn
I’m glad they snuck in a sign for Grow. Nick deserves kudos for such a seemingly simple, yet surprisingly multi-faceted design. The San Luis Obispo Tribune article compares it to an Impressionist painting—I can see why!
The photos above were taken along Moonstone Beach Drive. While not as dense, the plantings continue in the main part of the U-shaped motel complex. The central area, no doubt once a giant lawn, is now divided into an inviting flagstone patio bordered by succulent beds and fronted by a much smaller lawn.
Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’
Looking towards the motel rooms
Another look towards the motel rooms
The Cambria Shores Inn is located at 6276 Moonstone Beach Drive in Cambria, California. Visit its web site for more information and to make reservations. I think it would be a stunning place to stay. It’s dog-friendly, too!
Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. I don’t know whether that’s at play here or whether it’s Nick Wilkinson’s brainchild as well (although it doesn’t quite look like it), but the landscaping at the motel next door to the Cambria Shores Inn has switched to succulents and other water-wise plants very recently. The plants are still small, but there’s potential here:
I’ll post an update after my next visit. The San Luis Obispo/Morro Bay Area is definitely on my radar now.