Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lawn Removal Progress Report

In late September, we had our remaining sod removed.  Afterwards, my husband and I began what turned out to be a longer and more difficult project than our prior projects removing the lawn on the north and south sides of the house or even last year's project with the main front lawn area.  While we recognized that the areas we cleared this year were larger, we closed our eyes to just how much more area our newest project involved.

Removing the sod was the simplest part of the project.  We paid a crew to strip the sod and haul it away, which took one day.  But, having learned from prior experience that removing the grass roots and plastic sod netting, then adding topsoil and amendments to improve soil quality and drainage makes a major difference to the health of future plants, we spent a good part of October digging.  Much of our soil is heavy clay and a lot of it is embedded with rocks, the legacy of the rock quarry that once operated on our site.  The good news is that we've made considerable progress.  The bad news is that we have the aches, pains and battle scars to prove it.

We're done digging in the backyard.  We've added about 4 cubic yards of topsoil.  Our new path, consisting of 3100 pounds of flagstone, is down.  And I've planted creeping thyme alongside and between each and every stone - 13 flats in all.

Photos show, from left: the state of the backyard lawn prior to removal, the space after the sod was stripped away, and the area at present with flagstone laid and creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum 'Minus') planted

Closer shots show all the empty space.

North end of new flagstone path

Mid-section of new path

South end of new path, which links to the existing flagstone path, creating a continuous path circling three-quarters of the house

I've slowly begun the process of filling in small portions of the new garden area we've gained by taking out the lawn.

I added Argyranthemum and Briza media (aka quaking grass) here

I planted 3 Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara', a compact grower, Geranium 'Rozanne, and Salvia chamaedryoides 'Marine Blue' here

In this area, I planted Ozothamus diosmifolius (aka rice flower shrub), Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' divisions I took from plants in the front garden earlier this year, 2 Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' (1 moved from elsewhere in the garden) and a few Santolina virens 'Lemon Fizz'

I added Seslaria autumnalis 'Campo Verde' (some moved from another area of the garden), Alternanthera 'Joseph's Coat' and Gazania plugs here

This area is marked for renovation.  The Stipa tenuissima, Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' and Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' will remain but I'm planning to add Agave attenuata, Leucadendron 'Red Devil' (a compact form), Coprosma 'Pacific Sunset' and Carex testacea (shown still in pots above).

There's a LOT more space to fill.  I have plans for some areas but not all.  Integrating them to create a coherent landscape remains a concern.  Meanwhile, we've started work on the neglected front area along the street as well.

Photos show the ongoing metamorphosis of the area inside the hedge along the street, from left: grass lawn prior to removal, area after the sod was stripped, and the current work area with a shade to screen us from the sun as we dig

We've had numerous setbacks in this area.  The soil here is heavy clay and riddled with tree and hedge roots (in addition to rocks!), making digging particularly difficult.  We discovered that those roots have cracked several irrigation pipes while careless digging damaged others, requiring my husband to spend countless hours on plumbing repairs.  (Happily Unfortunately, I have no expertise when it comes to plumbing...)

We also need to install a path to the street here for use in hauling our trash bins for the weekly pick-up and, as we couldn't find anyone willing to accept a contract for the job, my husband is building it himself, using railroad ties and gravel

After clearing sod netting and adding a thin layer of new topsoil around the ornamental pear tree, I planted woolly thyme as a groundcover

I took a break for a plant shopping trip to Santa Barbara County with a friend last weekend.  Much of what I bought is intended for the backyard but some also went into filling holes in the front and side yards.  It was wonderful to focus on the fun stuff, if only for a while.

From the upper left: 2 more Aloe 'Johnson's Hybrid' were added to surround the one I planted earlier; 3 Cordyline 'Renegade' replaced the spindly Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' I had in the south side garden, to which I added cuttings of Pelargonium tomentosum; another Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' was added between Echium 'Star of Madeira' and Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream'; and I found a Correa 'Ivory Bells' to complement the Corokia in another of the front beds

After a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, I'll be back to digging in the front this coming weekend, although I may fit in another nursery run if I get a chance - I do still need a lot of plants and I want to take advantage of the rains expected to accompany El Niño to get the plants established before drought conditions take hold again.  In addition to the empty spaces in the backyard, we pulled out 2 more sections of mostly dead Ceanothus hedge so those areas need planting too.

The Ceanothus weren't especially tall but they were very wide and their removal left large expanses of exposed soil in these areas, which slope down from the main area of the front garden toward the street on the southwest side

Best wishes to all of you celebrating Thanksgiving this week.  However you're spending the holiday, I hope you enjoy it!

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, November 23, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Camellias at last

Despite another spike in our daytime temperatures and Santa Ana winds that made the air so dry I've felt as though I was undergoing mummification, the blooms on my Camellia sasanqua were finally plentiful enough to cut for this week's vase, which is fortunate as there was little else to be had in terms of flowers.  I kept the arrangement simple again this week.

Front view

Back view, which this week I like as much or more than the front view

I used just three plants - or 4 if you count the fact that there are two forms of Camellia sasanqua, both of which I inherited with the house and neither of which I can identify.

Left to right: NoID Camellia sasanqua, Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' and Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Lava Rose' (formerly classified as Solenostemon scutellarioides aka coleus)

If your eyes are sharp, you may have noticed that some ants hitchhiked in with the Camellias.  This is common but, more often than not, I notice them before arranging the flowers.  This time I didn't see them until I looked at my photos, by which time most had taken cover elsewhere.  The vase sits on the dining table so, unfortunately, I expect they'll show up for breakfast one morning this week.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other participating gardeners have found to put in their vases this week.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Foliage Follow-up - November 2015

I was late getting my Foliage Follow-up post together.  On my first pass through my garden I had a hard time getting excited about anything.  Then I decided that had more to do with my mental state than my garden so I went out again and took a closer look.

Out along the front walkway, I noticed that Coprosma 'Fireburst' was finally living up to its name.

A couple of months ago, I was seriously considered replacing Coprosma 'Fireburst' but it seems to have developed a deeper color now and it looks good against the Artemisia 'Powis Castle'  I used to replaced the Geranium 'Biokovo' that fried in this setting

I took a closer look at two of the Coprosma on the other side of the walkway and decided that they were also working out fine.

Coprosma 'Evening Glow' with Phormium 'Maori Queen'

Coprosma 'Inferno' with another Phormium 'Maori Queen'

Then I took time to take closer looks at three of the succulent pots I put together earlier this year.  While some of my older creations are seriously in need of a refresh, these three are looking snappy.

I don't have a definitive plant IDs as everything I put in this pot came unlabeled but I believe it includes Aeonium 'Sunburst', Echeveria 'Blue Curls', Echeveria elegans, a green Echeveria I can't ID, Kalanchoe luciae, Portulacaria afra variegata, and Senecio radicans

The trailing succulent is Senecio jacobsensii.  I can't ID the trailing succulent in this pot, although I think the seller told me it's a Crassula.  I believe the other succulents include Echeveria agavoides, Graptosedum 'California Sunset', and Portulacaria afra variegata.

Remarkably, all but the bronze Aeonium here came with labels!  The bird-bath style planter includes Agave titanota 'White Ice', Graptosedum 'Darley Sunshine', and Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce'.

The sun shined through the foliage of other succulents I had planted in the ground, making them glow.

Agave 'Joe Hoak', picked up at my local botanic garden's spring sale 

More Graptosedum 'California Sunset' along with Aeonium 'Kiwi' and a noID variegated Sedum

Kalanchoe variegata 'Tricolor'

At this point, I was getting excited about all kinds of foliage so I'll share a few more plants that caught my eye before I end this post.

Adenathos sericeus (aka Woolly Bush), still in its infancy

A new Leucadendron 'Jester' picked up last week to complement the Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' behind it and the two Grevillea 'Superb' on either side.  

I started filling in some of the narrower areas alongside my new (and still partially completed) flagstone path through the backyard using Seslaria autumnailis 'Campo Verde' and Alternanthera 'Joseph's Coat' (highlighted on the right)

These Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic' were planted at the bottom of our back slope in January, where the giant Yucca elephantipes once stood to serve as a screen between us and our neighbors to the south.  I recently replaced the third shrub, which died during summer's heat (planted outside the photo's frame on the right).  The raised planter and wood barrels belong to my neighbor, who has taken measures to protect her sweetpea seedlings from the local raccoons.

That's it for my November foliage highlights.  Visit Pam at Digging, the host of this monthly meme, to find more fascinating foliage.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, November 16, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Nothing fancy

There's nothing like hard work in the garden to keep dismay and sadness at bay so I spent most of the weekend there.  When it came time to create an arrangement for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden, I had a limited amount of energy left and therefore kept my selections simple.  Not that I had much choice to begin with - while there are flowers here and there, few are available in any quantity.  I focused on my orange Zinnias, which are on their way out, and Tagetes lemmonii, which has just begun blooming (and which I inexplicably left out of yesterday's Bloom Day post).

Here's what I included:

Clockwise from upper left: Coprosma 'Inferno', Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', Tagetes lemmonii, and Zinnias

The vase is currently sitting on the dining room table but it may not remain there.  While I find the scent of the Tagetes, described as a mix of marigold, lemon and mint, pleasant, my husband does not.  Unless he goes nose blind to the scent, the vase may have to be moved into my office - or perhaps outside.

It'll be too bad if I have to move it - the colors are perfect in the dining space

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other bloggers have gathered from their gardens.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bloom Day - November 2015

This Bloom Day arrives at a difficult time.  I suspect that, like me, you're sick at heart over the news out of Paris.  After 9/11, I hoped that we'd find a way to end the hatred and inhumanity that leads to such acts of terrorism.  After each new incident, I wonder what we can do.  A blog post is a small thing but bloggers create communities based on shared interests, which in turn support friendship and goodwill.  And friendship and goodwill is a start.

Periodic temperature spikes, hot Santa Ana winds, and dry conditions have left my November garden low on floral color.  My Senna bicapsularis, the star of last November's Bloom Day post, has already dropped most of its blooms and many of the other plants that provided color at this time last year have failed to make an appearance yet.

The biggest splashes of color are provided by:

Barleria obtusa, which is a brighter blue than this sun-soaked shot suggests

Bauhinia x blakeana, which though ruffled by the Santa Ana winds, has maintained a good many blooms 

The delicate blooms of Camellia sasanqua (no ID) wither when temperatures soar but the row of plants along the back of the house continue to pump out new flowers

Rather than a "splash" of color, it may be more appropriate to say that Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' offers floating bits and blobs of color

The grasses, especially Pennisetum 'Fireworks' and Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' continue to make a big impression

Other spots of color can be found in corners here and there:

Clockwise from the upper left, the blue and purple flower contingent includes Brachyscome 'Enduring Blue', Duranta 'Sapphire Showers', Eustoma grandiflorum 'Borealis Blue', and Hypoestes aristata

Clockwise from the upper left, the pink and red flower group includes the one and only bloom on my Stapelia grandiflorum, an Echeveria bloom, the last bloom of Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Pink', Grevillea 'Pink Midget', burgundy and pink forms of Pelargonium peltatum, Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom', and Rosa 'Pink Meidiland'

The white, yellow and orange group includes, at top: Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Agastache 'Sunset' and Gaillardia 'Gallo Peach'
Middle: Gazania (one of the few not eaten by squirrels), Grevillea 'Superb' and Lantana 'Lucky White'
Bottom: Osteospermum 'Blue-eyed Beauty', Rosa 'Joseph's Coat' and Rosa 'Medallion'

Visit Carol, our Bloom Day host, at May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming elsewhere around the world.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, November 13, 2015

Raccoon Picnic

The raccoons have put me back on their visitation schedule, stopping by several times a week.  I know they've been here because they leave their usual calling card at the fountain, picking up the seashells from the top tier and dropping them elsewhere in the backyard.  I also find the occasional muddy paw-print.  They've done some digging, upending small plants here and there, but nothing akin to the rampant damage they've caused in the past (see herehere and here).

I thought maybe my Magnolia cone obstacle course might be having a positive effect.

After planting a Dasylirion longissimum (aka Mexican grass tree), I used the prickly cones that fell from the Magnolia tree to create a barrier around it in what I thought might well be a futile effort to keep the raccoons from digging in this area

The Magnolia cone barrier clearly wasn't impenetrable.

Cones were knocked out of place and there was evidence of some digging but it wasn't extensive

Then I noticed that cones had been moved, in large numbers, to the tree stump at the edge of our property.  It didn't seem that the squirrels could be responsible - they ignored the area.

The timing matched other evidence that one or more raccoons had visited overnight

To test my theory that the raccoons were using the stump as a picnic table and my carefully constructed Magnolia cone obstacle course as their buffet, I removed all the cones I found on the stump, set up the area around the Dasylirion with new cones, and waited.  Two mornings later, the raccoons' calling card in place around the fountain, the cones were back on the stump with smashed red seeds strewn about.

So, I guess the Magnolia cones served a purpose, if not the one I intended.  They've distracted my uninvited visitors, giving them a new focus during their nightly foraging exercises.  Still, in my book, eating the Magnolia seeds beats digging for grubs and destroying my planting beds.

Do you think they'll mind if I fill the decayed center of their picnic table with soil and plant it?  I was thinking that a fern might be nice there.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: A golden sunrise

My cat, Pipig, hasn't adjusted to standard time.  She's up early and, when she wants her breakfast, she can be very persistent.  She jumps on the bed, sits on my pillow, and licks my face until I either get up or pull the sheet over my head.  Monday morning, I gave in and got up, arriving in the kitchen as the sun was rising over the harbor.  Ignoring Pipig and her breakfast demands, I grabbed my camera and clicked a series of shots of the sunrise.

I decided to use these photos as my post for the Wednesday Vignette meme hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum even though I posted another sunrise shot barely 2 months ago.  Although both featured harbor views, the color of the light was dramatically different.

The photo on the left was taken on September 1st.  The photo on the right was taken on November 9th, angled slightly further south to show the entrance to the Los Angeles harbor, which is called Angel's Gate.

As for Pipig, she follows a predictable routine.  After breakfast, she harasses me until I take her out for her daily romp.  I usually give her 5 to 10 minutes outside under loose supervision to investigate, stalk lizards, and chew on the ornamental grass - unless she manages to slip out of my sight, in which case it can take me another 20 minutes to round her up.  Then she goes down for her nap, which generally runs until about 5pm, when she starts hollering for her dinner.

Curled up in her own bed in mid-afternoon, I called her name several times before she deigned to raise her head an inch to face in my general direction

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party