An afternoon on Wichita Avenue

One of my very best friends lives about a mile from me on Wichita Ave.  Her property is large, about 1/3 acre, and it’s more than she can manage so I help her…  I better do some sort of introduction.  I wish it was June when everything looks amazing but, well, now is now.  I’ll show you around and try to explain some of our goals at the same time.

Generally when I first arrive, this is the view.  This photo was from January; the Camellia is blooming in hamburger shades now and there’s an army of Hemerocallis coming up in the left foreground. We’re facing due east here.

the path to the back goes under a leaning Camellia japonica. Note bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica?) just beyond on the right.

Now I’ve walked about halfway back, and turned an about-face.  Looking west now.

looking back exactly the other way, see the bamboo on the left now? Ok, you have your bearings.

The orange house was built in 1900 and I figure those firs are that old as well.  I love them.  Here’s a view all the way to the back of the property from the back door of the orange house.  Just to the right of the path you can make out a trellis.  What’s on that trellis is a single very large and rather overgrown Concord grape.  We’ll be dealing with that in a bit.   The other structures back there are basically storage and/or art studio spaces.  Looking east again:

Between two firs

Did you get my joke? You better get my joke. If not I forgive you, but you live under a bigger rock than I do.

Ok, moving on.  Just past that grape trellis/arbor thing there are some edged garden beds which have been used at times for vegetables, but we’re working toward all flowers now and maybe like 3 tomatoes.  Sort of a cutting garden where no one ever really cuts the flowers.  Now we’re looking SSE.

Grape arbor is on the far right in this pic. Many possibilities here.  Or lots of work, depending on how you look at it.  I figure both.

Another view from the other side, looking ENE:


Now let’s go back up front. Here’s the view back along the north side of the house from the mailboxes at the road.  Behind the mailbox you can make out some roses on the left.  Among the bright green moss are peonies.  That very large rhody to the right just got up-pruned (by me) the day I took this pic which was I think January 17.  It was previously all foliage down to the ground.

big rhody on right

Further back, here’s another rhody that looks like it’s getting some inspiration from driftwood.  All of its foliage is actually off to the left; the rhody foliage you see to the right is yet another plant.  We’re working on removing all of this ivy and the weedy plum, hawthorn, and hazelnut tree volunteers along the fence behind these rhododendrons.  Sorry ’bout the hose…


So that’s about it I think.

What I really want to see for this property are the following:

  1. I want my friend to have less work to do.  I want her to be able to enjoy her spaces without feeling bogged down by overgrown plants and dying plants and plants that need water.  This is priority #1.
  2. Privacy.  The cyclone fences that surround the place aren’t much to look at, and I’d love to see mixed hedges where something is always interesting, be it flowers, foliage, bark, what-have-you.  A sense of enclosure and of privacy would do wonders for this place.
  3. Removal of crappy plants.  Those plum tree groves have got to go.  As with the ivy.  And the horrible clump-forming grass that dares to trip you all the time.
  4. Inclusion of plants my friend loves.  Bright flowers, interesting textures, the muscular bark of manzanitas… she “gets” plants and loves them all, but I know her favorites.  If I had to summarize, I’d say that if a hummingbird would love it, she’d love it.

Those are the primary goals.  I figure this is a multi-year project, and now you know the starting point.

This afternoon we spent a few hours and pruned four rose bushes, one of which is a very large and old (20 years) hybrid tea that I moved here a year ago from my own backyard (it was in an undesirable location).  I also pruned (lightly) a Hydrangea quercifolia, and the aforementioned grapes.  Rose and hydrangea pruning isn’t much to look at so I only have pictures of the grape before-and-after.

This is a single Concord vine, which hasn’t been pruned at all in at least five years.  Do I even have any idea what I’m doing? No. So ok, let’s go by intuition, because why not? Nothing to lose.


Concord grape, pre-prune.  Gahh look at all that “hair”


Concord grape, post-prune.  I didn’t actually use the ladder at all.

I think it went well! Impossible to photograph but you can get a sense of the volume of grapeness that has been removed.  As I was going along I considered making grapevine wreaths, and at one point decided not to do it, saying to myself “ain’t got time for that shit!” But then I thought of a certain friend of mine who I am sure would have my head if I didn’t twist some of these excellent grapevines into circles.  In honor of that friend (if you’re reading this you know exactly who you are):

grapevine wreaths!

There you go! Now you’ve seen Wichita Ave: The very beginnings.  Stay tuned — I swear this will be breathtaking in, say, 4 years. 😉


5 comments on “An afternoon on Wichita Avenue

  1. You made wreaths!!!! I am so proud of you. Kinda made me teary eyed remembering my grandparents Concord grape vines. Yours are better than any I ever made, you’re a natural talent.

    Your friend is lucky to have you, and yes, it’s all doable. You’ve got the knowledge…and the plant love. All you need is time! Oh, now get those Arctostaphylos in the ground so they can start growing!

    1. Aww! Yes, when I realized I had better make wreaths I sort of couldn’t stop. Now I have no idea what I’ll actually DO with them, but whatever.

      And you’re right, time is about all that’s needed (maybe, just maybe, a bit of money…). I definitely have that but my friend is 70-something, so there exists a bit of a sense of urgency because of that. Anything we do will be better than nothing, though!

  2. Absolutely fascinating project and great goals – everyone should have a friend like you who “gets” it about garden priorities. I myself am “between two farms” and know we’ll buy one with neglect. About those wreaths… on easter, just hang eggs on hooks or weave forsythia through; later glue on succulents, in winter, add pinecones; I’m sure you’ll think of something.

    Really looking forward to the updates.

    1. I will definitely post updates! Carol is an artist too (mostly in painting but she’s done fiber arts and various other things too) so she is starting to make the connection and understand the art of garden design. The interplay of colors and forms, the importance of drawing the eye this way and that – she gets all that stuff 100%. We’re also hoping to work in some garden art so it’ll be interesting to see what comes of that. She would LOVE your garden sooo much. If I can get her to actually look at a computer for more than 20 seconds I want to show her your blog!

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