Sunday, January 1, 2017

The garden in 2017 - The Back Garden

As i mentioned in the last post, i basically neglected the garden for most of the latter part of 2016. So I suppose I should be happy it doesn't look worse? I've decided to document some of the things I want to fix before spring rolls around, hopefully this will help remind me!

*****warning - pictures of garden ugliness ahead! ******

...and this is long, because the back garden needs a lot of work. When I spend any time gardening in the last part of 2016, it was always in the front garden, since people can see that. You're welcome, neighbors!

Some thing are pretty easy. Like maybe clean up all the trimmings from the hillside. The problem is, once I clean these up, I can see what the stupid gophers did to the decomposed granite in this area and that makes me sad...

This bed, next to the patio, shows one thing that worked well (turning the buddleja into a semi-tree - i should cut more of it this year) and things that only half worked (like what to plant under it). Oh, and it's a mess, of course. 

This situation should hopefully fix itself. I started replacing some of the mexican feather grass along the back garden's stream bed with more interesting plants. This is a caesalpinia pulcherrima (bird of paradise), which actually established over the late summer/fall, and should come back from the roots!

This situation will probably not fix itself - an old autumn sage bush that's gotten way too woody, a mess of yucca leaves, and weeds. I probably need to replace the sage bush with something. This is the bed on the far side of the garden, next to the block wall. It also needs cleaning, weeding and more trimming. I did put rock mulch in front of the sage bush (when full, it covers the edge) so that part should look good again later in spring.

This area needs something to help it look better in the winter. This is the widest part of the right side of the garden. I've been trying various low growing ground covers here, but it hasn't really worked yet. Also - why did i leave a dead plant in this picture?!

Continuing to move along the main right side bed, this is the next spot. It's partially a pot area, which needs cleaning, and another overgrown and woody autumn sage. Plus a cotinus coggygria that i really need to give up on. Just to the right of this area is the new acacia purpurea - i'm not sure whether it's decided to live or die yet. It looks kind of sad at the moment. And just to the right of this is a mess of dead annuals that i need to cut back, two more sage bushes that need trimming and then it gets worse (see next set of pictures)

This next part of the garden is the bed in the far corner. It has 2 russian sage bushes, a big pot, and I actually spent some time early in 2016 making it nice with low ground covers and mulch. It no longer looks nice, and it's not entirely the fault of my neglect. This appears to be where the gophers have moved in - mounds near the bottom of the first russian sage:

Also, just for fun, it appears that i have a hairline crack in my buried sprinkler line here - or at least that the conclusion i've come to based on the water runoff, and sink hole. Oddly enough, when i run the spinklers (to test - they've been off for the last 1.5 months), the downline sprinklers work just fine. So it can't be a very big crack. I'll have to dig it up and fix it, probably after trimming the russian sage.

Conveniently, that should also make it easier to kill the gophers, and keep them from making mounds. I also have to regrade this area, and then figure out what survived, and replace plants, plus mulch. The water leak means this area was extra wet, and i think the combo of that + winter cold + actual winter rains actually killed some of the plants.

...but not the gophers, who decided that right next to the poky cactus was a good place to make some more mounds.
and also here - where a small forest of weeds and other assorted debris seems to be covering the cactus (opuntia macrocentra) as well. That should be fun to clean!

And then, having moved all the way to the end of this bed, there are more gopher mounds, covering sprinkler heads (thanks, gophers!) and likely some trimming needed of the desert museum palo verde that's central to this bed - it branches really low, and i'm thinking i'd like to trim one of the lowest branches? Here's another bright spot - that green-ish plant in the lower left is a leucadendron 'Safari Sunset', which has survived it's second winter!

Almost done with the awfulness! Two more major areas that need work - one is the hillside. The right most side actually isn't bad - the right-side Centaurea gymnocarpa needed a lot of trimming, but it and the ice plants are basically making that bed of the hillside silver and green. I do need to cut out a weed tree that's growing in that bed's pine tree, and weed, but for the rest it's good. Not so of the section of hillside just to the left of it, which has dead plants, gopher mounds, and really sad looking iceplants.

 The rest of the hillside is an odd combination of massively overgrown (the other Centaurea gymnocarpa shown here) and weird bare spots. So i'm thinking this will be a combination of trimming and moving plants. Plus, the decomposed granite path along the bottom of the hillside needs to be weeded, re-leveled and tamped down. 
...and gopher mounds. At least the Agava salmiana var. ferox 'Green Goblet' (one of 3) is doing well!
 the random bare spot near the left side of the hill - why does nothing want to grow right there?

And then, there is the worst-est bed - which is so bad, i made a collage of the pictures, rather than showing them all separately. This is the bed to the left of the patio, and it's always been hard. It has a weird sprinkler layout, leading to large areas that get no water (which i should fix!), an odd combo of plants, and it gets absolutely drenched when it rains. I'll list out (some) of the things that are wrong after the picture.
There are:
  1. gopher mounds
  2. a mess of dead plant parts in the areas that get no water
  3. a massively leaning Cylindropuntia that is only getting worse and really needs fixing
  4. a weirdly shaped opuntia microdasys that lost half of its arms when they cracked due to the rains. It's now draping itself over a very pretty Agave 'sharkskin'. The opuntia should probably come out altogether, and be replanted (or replaced with something else, but it matches the o. microdasys that's in the other patio bed, which is the only part of the garden that looks good!)
  5. when the opuntia arm came off, it exposed a weird empty area between the opuntia and the callistemon 'little john', which needs planting
  6. the random autumn sage bush in this bed needs trimming, but at least it's not woody.  
alright, i think that's it. I'm hoping that by listing all this out here, i can get this all fixed before April/May rolls around. I don't have a ton of time each week, especially when work travel starts back up, but reading through old blog posts reminds me of how much i actually do love my garden, so i'll be rolling up my sleeves and getting started!


  1. Your gophers remind me that I should count myself lucky that I only have raccoons and skunks to deal with. I tried planting viciously spiky plants to thwart my critters and that didn't work for me either. It's good to see you pop back up, Renee. I look forward to seeing you chip away at your list.

    1. Thanks Kris! I guess we all have our evil creatures to deal with in the garden. I'm hoping that I'll have some updates to show going forward. Thanks for visiting!

  2. Sorry about all of the gopher damage! You're very brave to show all of this. Looking forward to seeing what happens once you roll up your sleeves and get started. There are some great plants in your garden!

    1. Thanks! I'm trying to look at the bright side - at least i know what all needs to be done now! I made a small start today, which included ordering a larger green waste bin to clear all the trimmings out. Thanks for visiting!

  3. First, kill the gophers! Then the fun can begin.

    1. Yes, i agree! Strangely, i know i've killed gophers before, but they obviously came back, so i fear this will be an on-going issue! Thanks for commenting!


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