Smoke-filled visit to Troy McGregor's fusion garden

Last Saturday the air quality index in Northern California was firmly in the unhealthy-bordering-on-hazardous range. Not as bad as in Southern California, Oregon and Washington, but still bad enough. 

Not that I let myself be stopped by that. Sick of being cooped up inside, I made the 1-hour drive to Martinez to pick up some plants from plantsman extraordinaire Troy McGregor, former nursery manager at the Ruth Bancroft Garden and now in business for himself creating low-water landscapes. Troy is one of the chief enablers of my plant hoarding; may the universe bless him for that.

I've blogged about Troy's garden before (October 2018 ⏐ September 2018 ⏐ April 2018), but it's constantly evolving so there's always something new to see. Troy used the downtime resulting from COVID-19 restrictions earlier in the year very well—all too often, landscape designers have no time for their own space.

The biggest change is the addition of a chicken coop in the backyard. But it's not a haphazardly thrown together structure, it's a fowl log cabin:

And it has a green roof planted with all kinds of succulents, including gasterias, echeverias, agaves, and mangaves:

I don't want a chicken coop per se, but I do want that green roof!

Speaking of chickens, there are four of them, looking very much alike to my untrained eyes. They weren't shy around me, but they also weren't very cooperative when I asked them to hold still for photos: 

Three chickens and one ×Mangave 'Espresso'
The bamboo to the right of the chicken coop has started to flower. That's a terminal event, meaning the likelihood of it dying is very high. Troy will replace it with a narrow-leaf bower wattle aka Acacia cognata. You'll see in a photo below.

Buddha disappearing in a cloud of Asparagus virgatus

The focal point of the backyard is this rock landscape

Fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis) is the king of the hill. It was Troy's first plant from the Ruth Bancroft Garden and looked fairly pathetic, having only three leaves. It's changed quite a bit since then, I'd say!

Queen of the hill

Cotyledon orbiculata var. spuria

Banksia nivea

Banksia alliacea (formerly Dryandra nervosa)

Beautifully marked trunk of Aloidendron 'Hercules'

Ferocactus latispinus

Aloe capitata var. quartziticola and Agave geminiflora 'Leaping Lizards'

Troy is originally from Australia, hence the sheep

Happy sheep and Encephalartos lehmannii

Tall planters with Euphorbia lambii as vertical accents. The tree on the right is the Acacia cognata (standard form instead of the more commonly seen prostrate 'Cousin Itt') that will replace the flowering bamboo to the side of the chicken coop.

Moving to the front of the house:

This spot used to be home to two clumps of Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze' that had gotten too large (see April 2018 photo)

The new planting is much more to scale. Perfect specimen of Leucadendron 'Ebony' on the right.

Banksia robur currently in bloom in a larger container

Banksia robur flower seen from the top

Crested form of Echeveria 'Mahogany'

Masterfully layered planting against the front of the house. The aloe is 'Erik the Red', the silvery plant behind it Senecio decaryi.

Agave 'Snow Glow', Echeveria cante & co.

Table-top dog planter

Dyckias, aechmeas, and echeverias

Aloe broomii

Aloe pluridens

These cool metal ants...

...are made by the county agricultural inspector Troy takes plant shipments to that require a phytosanitary certificate

Agave 'Mateo' (Agave bracteosa × lophantha)

Arctostaphylos viridissima 'White Cloud'

I can't wait to see what Troy will change up next!

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  1. Wow he has some choice, choice plants. What is the tall, silvery beauty behind 'Erik The Red'? Fabulous Banksias. The Lomandras got scary big. I hope 'Plantinum Beauty' doesn't do that.

    Dream garden! Worth braving the smoke for.

    Aside: clearing here, and beautiful weather predicted for next week--mid 70s. :)

    1. No, I think 'Platinum Beauty' is much smaller.

      The silvery plant is Senecio decaryi.

      Great forecast for next week. Looking forward to seeing you!

    2. Hmmm... sounds like travel is in your future! (jealous)

  2. Ok, so I am going to respectfully beg for you to allow me to meet you there the next time you visit. I can socially distance with the best of them.

  3. Gorgeous garden and plants. Too bad we have to work for a living as the stay-at-home has allowed us to play in our gardens and do so many great things.

    1. LOL, definitely a positive side effect of being cooped up at home!

  4. That's a lotta fabulous plants! I'm wondering why the Fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis) is in a cage? The chickens? Some other critter?

    1. I believe it was originally to prevent the cats from scratching the trunk. Troy, please correct me if I'm wrong.

  5. I love that chicken coop, especially the roof! Loree asked about the cage surrounding the fan aloe's base before I could. I hope my fan aloe looks that good someday.

    1. See my reply to Loree. I find Kumara plicatilis to be a fast grower in the ground. It wants to have free root run. Is yours in a pot?

  6. Very cool chicken coop! I also love the king (and queen...) of the hill, and frankly the hill itself is quite fabulous: love the rock Troy placed there; knowing where to get amazing rocks is a benefit of being a landscape designer. Troy's talent shows in every photo of eclectic and colorful vignettes.


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