Then and Now

I found some old pics. Enjoy!

May 25, 2016
July 8, 2019
April 30, 2016
July 8, 2019.
August 21, 2015. Converted lawn into veg beds.
July 8, 2019. Some of these plants are edible!
April 28, 2016. Chicken house under construction.
July 8, 2019

Clearly it’s a mess no matter what I do. Nonetheless, I think I like all of the “now” views better.

Plants in the mail!

Back when I was really into cars the running joke was about how you should always have your car parts mailed to your neighbor, so your wife doesn’t see how much you’ve been ordering online (and how much $$$)… Well, it’s no different with plants, but this time, it was fellow blogger Lance Garden Riots who had the order sent to me!

Now, to be fair, he didn’t really do it to hide it from his wife. It’s because we went in on the order together to save on shipping, and the delivery timing coincided better with a time I’d be able to receive it.

It’s always interesting to see how plants are shipped. I was impressed with this method!

plants in a shipping box

Flowers by the Sea is a mail order nursery specializing in Salvia, a genus that I find particularly interesting, not only for their utility to pollinators, but also because so many are drought-tolerant heat lovers and that’s a pretty important niche in any west coast garden especially inland.

Continuing with the unpacking, under the layer of peanuts there are plants, each in a 4″ pot, very carefully wrapped in 2-3 sheets of newsprint:

plant wrapped for shipping
Salvia pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’

The first one is Lance’s – Salvia pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’ aka Giant Purple Desert Sage. It doesn’t look giant here but the foliage smells wonderful – that classic desert sage scent. I can’t wait to see what Lance does with it!

plant wrapped in paper

The taller plants had been folded over inside the paper – you can sort of see that here (I’ve unfolded this one). There was very little breakage.

salvia plant in pot

The above pictured was the only plant that had any of its soil come out of the pot, and as you can see it was only a bit of a dusting.

unboxed mail-order plants
The whole shipment

Here they are all unboxed. My two are the Salvia africana-lutea ‘Kirstenbosch’ (in front with the brown flowers) and the one directly behind it which is Salvia x jamensis ‘Full Moon’. I had also ordered S. semiatrata but unfortunately it was out of stock by the time they shipped.

Now here they are one day later – they’ve unfolded a bit and I have all the confidence in the world that they’ll continue to do so and in a week there will be no remaining evidence of having been folded over for shipping. Pretty neat technique!

boink

In other Salvia-related news, I’m changing up the area by the front door which involves removing (finally, phew) the gigantic ‘Hot Lips’ as well as (at least most of) the culinary sage ‘Berggarten’. Both are very successful plants there, but dangit, I want more interesting things in that highly visible area. Honestly I’ve been sort of stuck, design-wise, in this area for a while (analysis paralysis, anyone?) but my housemate Kate got me unstuck. Basically, she said the Hot Lips is boring and the red and white color is pretty gaudy, and the culinary sage is just an oversized blob that belongs in a less prominent spot, if we’re going to have it at all. Despite my myriad excuses for leaving those plants (both of which came with the house) in place for so long, I knew immediately that she’s absolutely right.

Anyway stay tuned – here’s a “before” pic:

culinary sage plant
So very successful. But I’m over it.

Lastly, I’m happy to report that my S. discolor made it through the winter in its pot, protected under my patio right up against the house. Now it’s out in the garden looking very pretty!

Salvia discolor and that’s Digitalis ‘Honey Trumpet’ at left

Happy gardening.

Check-in: why am I doing this, again?

My gardening motives over the last 5 years:

Five years ago: Food Forest omg omg grow all the foods eat the plants!! And native plants, grow all the natives!!!1!

Four years ago: I’m not really sure I want to grow kiwis. Tomatoes are not very pretty plants. Oh well, have to grow em. Watering is hard; maybe I’ll set up rainwater catchment. Wow Rosa nutkana is 12′ tall already. Hm.

Three years ago: Jesus CHRIST this is a hell of a lot of work. I do NOT want to have to build a kiwi arbor. It’s hot out here. I need to plant some shade trees and I do not need any more pears. Damn, rainwater catchment really does not work in a dry summer climate unless you have 18,0000,00000 gallons of water storage volume. How little can I water the tomatoes?

Two years ago: Oh heyyyyy xeriscaping (bats eyelashes). God it’s hot out here. Ima plant me some more trees.

Last year: I want nothing but manzanitas, weird Australian shrubbery, anything silvery, and everything also must have microscopic leaves. Oh and if there are flowers in peach/orange/pink tones, bring it.

Also last year: I finally came to a realization that cannot stand all the rectangular garden beds (not really raised; more like edged with wood) that I’d built in years prior. I hated the right angle turns I was constantly making. I hated wrestling with the hose around corners and too-narrow paths. And I started to not like the extremely variable overall form of the garden – tall plants over here one year, over there the next; vines here then there… I was craving more consistency.

Typical raised beds with wide paths all perfectly graveled, vegetables growing way up off the ground and nowhere near native soil is NOT the direction I wanted to go. I have GREAT soil – it is deficient in nothing and beautifully textured Latourell loam. So ixnay on the idea of wider paths and taller beds; though that would certainly help with the hose struggle, I just don’t want to garden that way. What I really want is curving paths and organic shapes for beds; foliar screens and room dividers; deliberate and artistic contrasts in texture and form. Not ready to completely rip everything out and start from scratch, I set about removing all the 2×6 cedar edges as beds which I had been growing vegetables became available over the course of the season.

Paths have started to form; I’ve lined some with bricks and others with old hoses, which I prefer, but old hoses are in limited quantity while bricks are abundant. I started thinking even more in terms of water-use zones, and considered automatic irrigation in some key areas. At this point I have given up at least half of the space that was formerly allocated to vegetable gardening and I’m preparing to lose even more.

new garden path marked by hoses
Look, hoses AND bricks here

As one who sees herself as an avid vegetable grower, this is a big and somewhat challenging adjustment. I never thought I’d be one of those gardeners who says, “yeah, I used to grow tomatoes….” But here I am. Priorities change and I guess gardens change along with.

Now, lest you think I’m done yet, I assure you I am not. Under these lovely (ahem) covered wagons are a dozen tomatoes (most grafted), about 40 peppers and a whole bunch of melons of various types.

Irony.

It’s totally ironic that I’ve always disliked that white shed roof, and I’ve been pretty vocal in my complaints about it, but then I go and make all these ugly-ass hoop houses. Do I really want to look at this? The honest truth is that no, I don’t. But I still love growing the plants that are under them, and I’m not yet ready to say this is the last time I’ll do this.

On top of, and in the midst of all that, as of April I have a new housemate. I want to incorporate her ideas about gardening and what she wants to grow, and perhaps satisfy her ideas about aesthetics as well, even when they differ from mine.

This is all potentially a lot of pretty quick change for me, and I’ll be the first to admit that I can take a long time to adjust to change, especially the type that feels like it reshapes my trajectory, I guess because clear trajectory feels hard for me to come by in the first place!

That said, I DID manage a project along the lines of a trajectory that I’d already started playing with in the front yard: a dry garden area; in this case a bit of a berm. This was where I grew tomatoes last year:

ducks help dig a new garden bed
Debug team is helping. So helpful. And housemate’s foot (she IS helpful for real!).

We raked the wood chips off, broke up the clods, and into that went about 5 bags of pumice (1 cu. ft. each). These bags are about $5 each from Concentrates which is right down the road from me. Easy.

plant placement in garden
Almost all are treasures from plant swaps and friends

It doesn’t look very berm-y in the above photo, but the next one might give a better idea. I had amassed quite a collection of plants that like things on the dry side and love good drainage.

ducks in new garden bed
Almost done.
Another view, two weeks later. Lots of new growth on Bulbine frutescens (the green thing this side of the poppies).

It really doesn’t look like much, but such is the nature of new plantings. I don’t love the look of the pumice but I’m willing to put up with it while I figure out a mulch; I’m not ready to commit to gravel so it’s probably wood chips or nothing. I’ve added some bits of fencing and a big pot shard to protect little plants from the ravages of dogs and hoses.

Speaking of the ravages of dogs, do you have ANY idea how hard it is to establish new shrubs when you have two large-to-giant male dogs who get into pee wars? The damage is very real. After four or five outright deaths, I’m finally coming to grips with having to just fence around plants. I’ve been reluctant in the past because if I fence off one plant, the focus will simply shift to another. While that is true, it is also true that some plants can take more pee than others.

I finally did this, in addition to multiple other fences around individual plants:

garden fence to keep dogs out
Fenced off are a young Eucryphia (among native blackcaps) and a couple of Carpenterias. Yes those are potatoes from 2 years ago at front right. Shut up.

I know, it’s gross and it seems silly; why even let your dogs back there at all, you may wonder. I’ll tell you: I want to have my cake and eat it too in getting these shrubs established, while allowing the dogs their backyard pee breaks since apparently it’s too hard to take them on walks out front so they can pee on the neighbors’ shrubbery. Besides, even if we made that a habit, these dudes would still have to mark, and mark on top, and on top, ad nauseam. Even just marking, when the dogs are 70lbs and 100lbs, is significant.

Anyway. I’ll conclude with a list of what I put in that new bed, and a photo of my favorite of all of them.

  • Two Agaves maybe salmiana or havardiana
  • Three Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’
  • Three Anaphalis margaritacea
  • Bulbine frutescens
  • Sinningia tubiflora
  • Hesperaloe parviflora
  • Eryngium ‘Neptune’s Gold’
  • Penstemon pinifolius
  • Dasylirion wheeleri from Cistus, couldn’t resist it at Hortlandia
  • Callistemon pallidus ‘Eleanor’ from The Desert Northwest (also a Hortlandia purchase)
  • Aquilegia chrysantha var chaplinii from Xera Plants – really cool blue-purple foliage, this one is from New Mexico/Texas.
  • Arctostaphylos pumila ‘Gray Form’ also from Xera.

Thank you to my crazy fun gardening friends for the unsourced plants listed above, and to our stalwart local nurseries as well. These are all plants I could look at for days, months, years. And yes, I’ve answered my own question, haven’t I? THIS is why I am doing this.

Sigh… here’s my favorite, the Arctostaphylos pumila naturally. I didn’t get a great photo so you’ll just have to trust me that this plant is incredibly charming and very, very pretty.

This. THIS is why I’m doing this.

Thanks for reading!