Click on the photo to see a larger version on Flickr. Click here to see the entire album titled Sub-irrigation » California "Bubble SIP" Drought Tolerant Patio Garden. The album contains an archive of photos taken since the garden was started in August of last year.
To recap, this sub-irrigated patio garden is on a San Diego property that was recently a bed and breakfast. I stayed here when I arrived from Brooklyn last May. What a delightful B&B it was!
With a very comfortable living room and kitchen, I would gladly have stayed for the long term. The owner has excellent taste in art, furniture and artifacts that he used to decorate the rooms. I will not forget the lush patio plants that thread through the property. There was also a rooftop dining deck.
It is most unfortunate that the inn never fully recovered from the recession. The owner is now reluctantly converting the B&B rooms to apartments. I feel bad for him. The inn was a significant part of his lifes work. San Diego has lost a historical property that legions of people enjoyed over the years.
On arrival in San Diego, I made an effort to donate my plant science lab to Balboa Park for use in children’s education. There is, after all a historical botanical building there that obviously needs professional help. Amateur gardening volunteers staff it.
The park manager rejected the donation offer on the strength of an amateur gardener's advice. The email is a public document that I may reveal in a future post.
San Diego taxpayers should know how their money is managed at Balboa Park. I believe it is a San Diego, State of California and National treasure. Make that a World treasure. I immensly enjoyed being in the company of tourists from all over the world this past holiday season. What festive days they were. Many photographs are coming soon.
I have also observed that the park is becoming frayed at the seams thanks to budget cutbacks and the ever-increasing use of amateur gardening volunteers. I have coupled my daily walks with photographing what I observe along the way. I will soon donate this large collection of site-survey photos to the mayor’s office. My landscape architecture training has come in handy for this project.
I believe a day of reckoning is coming in the not too distant future. Budget cutbacks coupled with the drought crisis have taken a heavy toll on the park plants, sub-tropical palms in particular. It is never a good time for this to happen, but this year it is particularly ill-timed. It is the Centennial year of the 1915 Panama - California Exposition in Balboa Park.
Back to my plant science lab and the water conservation patio garden. Fortunately, the B&B owner provided a temporary shelter for my lab. I am forever indebted to him for doing so. As a small token of my gratitude, the patio garden will remain for the enjoyment of future apartment tenants.
Thanks to sub-irrigation, the garden requires very little maintenance. Future tenants can snip succulent cuttings and propagate them as houseplants if they like. I will gladly donate a supply of “bubble SIP” inserts of various sizes along with instructions.
I installed the garden in the extreme heat of this past summer. I did it in a rather impromptu manner, considering the physical stress on my old bones in the heat. No problem, everything is movable for improved esthetics.
On a redo, I would have used more Mexican terracotta planters. It took a while to solve the problem of needing to drill overflow drain holes in the side of these thick clay planters. A simple “trick” (hack?) solved the problem. There is now no need for drilling clay or ceramic planters with bottom drain holes. That is a devil of a job even with the right tools.
The simple solution is an overflow pipe that goes from just below the top of the reservoir bubble down to the existing drain hole in the planter. The key step is to make the drain hole connection watertight. I used Goop clear adhesive. It is my all-purpose choice for plastic gluing. It is almost as versatile as masking tape.
I can tell by Flickr stats that people are overlooking this terracotta and ceramic planter method. Note that I realized afterwards that the overflow drain does not have to pierce the bubble top. There is no need for a hole protected by a piece of screen material if you just cut it short under the bubble top. See larger photos here (5 in sequence). I will post corrected photos in the near future.
It might help to think of this bubble SIP design as sort of a sink with the drain at the top of the sink rather than the bottom. When the water level reaches the top of the drain tube it will flow down the tube and out the bottom drain hole. Again, make sure the bottom connection is watertight or else the bubble will not hold water as a reservoir.
In closing, note that there are a few more plants added to the garden. When the B&B closed in October, I moved some plants from the B&B utility room to my U-Haul locker. They were in the dark for a couple of weeks and then in the back of my SUV for some time.
Older folks will remember John Cameron Swayze and his Timex commercials. “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” These plants have certainly done that...and will do so in the future.
p.s. Please perform a public service by Tweeting, texting or emailing this post to friends and professional colleagues. We desparatly need the energy and technology experience of young people to grow a movement to counter the embedded, reactionary gardening establishment. It is time for them to retire, go fishing or travel the world.
Obviously I do not have my social networking act together but plan to in the coming year. It is time for me to invite some young people and progressive, independant thinking older folks to join the band and march in this parade.
What you have read here about reactionary gardening is just the tiny tip of a massive iceberg. I have more than enough researched and experiental information to write a book. It is long past time to blow up the iceberg.