Sunday, February 18, 2018

The garden holds it's breath...

Scary things are happening... Aloes almost crushed by ladders...
 Plants a bit trampled, or covered
I wanted to redo that bed anyway?
 Scraping the paint off the deck means blue flecks are everywhere...
 The front garden hasn't been spared...
Good thing the roses got pruned last week?
Better to do this in February, I suppose. Next weekend, recovery can start and planting can resume. The crew has been very careful, which is appreciated!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

xMangave Report - 2017/2018

Like many other people, i was enamored with the new xMangave introductions in 2017. I got several in 2017 - some from Plant Delights, others from various local-ish plant sales.

Ones that I added in 2017:
Purple People Eater PPAF
Lavender Lady PPAF
Silver Fox PPAF
Tooth Fairy PPAF
Mayan Queen PPAF

'Catch a Wave' PPAF - from the Huntington sale
Inkblot PPAF - from the Huntington sale

They joined some that were already in my garden:
Moonglow - in the ground
Kaleidoscope  - in the ground
I also have "Pineapple Express" but the gophers ate half of that one. It's trying to recover, so fingers crossed but it's been 2+ years, and it's still not very happy.

I really like these plants - they are so cool-looking! Plant Delights and other places call them "tropical" zones, or 9B plants, so i was a little worried what would happen this winter. Most of the plants are in pots, so i could take them inside. But i never did, and we've had some cool nights with lows of 23 deg in January and 20 deg in December. Here is what they look like at the end of January:

Mayan Queen, Inkbot and Catch a Wave are all newly planted in one of the tubes. This may turn out to be too much sun for them come summer, but so far, they are ok.

this is Catch a Wave - not very happy right now, but not due to cold damage. 

Inkblot is just happy to get into the ground

Mayan Queen is very purple! 
Moonglow has been in the ground for a while - and got about a quarter eaten by stupid gophers last year.
no cold damage, although the colors are usually more vivid than this. 
This is one of my favorites - Tooth Fairy. This one is in a pot, but sheltered by a big Agave 'Crazy Horse' on one side, and eremophila on the other side.
happy, and mostly not affected by the cold
While xMangaves are listed as full-sun plants, some sort of sheltering from full desert sun in the summer seems to be a good idea. Silver Fox (below) is also in a pot, but gets afternoon sun most of the summer. He hasn't always been happy about that.
very silvery right now- that leaf damage is more likely due to sun vs. cold
 'Lavender Lady' (below) seems to be the most finicky of the bunch right now. Also in a pot, she seemed less than pleased by the amount of water she got over the summer (too little - one of the other plants was blocking the sprinkler). I think the stress is what made her susceptible to cold damage:
new leaves seem to do ok - she might need a better spot
 Purple People Eater (i always want to call this one and Tooth Fairy by the wrong name...) is half hiding under a Callistemon and also in a pot. She's a lot happier since the summer, when she nearly curled up on herself for some reason.
such a pretty color!
It seems like in my garden, kept fairly dry and a little sheltered, but not with any special measures, these new xMangaves are solid zone 8B plants. Good to know!

Kaleidoscope (in the ground for 2+ years now) shows the most manfreda-like behavior in the winter, dying down to the roots in some cases, and showing a lot of cold damage. Scared me a bunch the first winter! This year, she looks like this - not great, but still showing some of that color. 
not as good as late spring though...
In addition to these, i have some manfreda (chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip) and Mangave Cappuccino, Macho Mocha and Espresso. I'll have to take some pictures of them next time - they look very different from these.

I remember my landscaper saying something about not having too many different plants - i'm not sure "one of every kind of xMangave" is what he had in mind... But i'm going to keep trying! I saw there were some new introductions for 2018 also! I tell myself that the scrubs & other large plants, and similar forms, keep it all from looking too hodge-podgy. (i might be wrong about that, but i don't care! :) )

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Front Garden Fall/Winter Project

For this fall/winter, i want to re-work the part of my garden that was the first bed i even put together. It's in the front garden - right up next to the house, and is about 6 years old now.

Funny story - when i first bought the house, the yard was horrendous. So bad in fact, that both of my very nice neighbors said some version of "hello, welcome to the neighborhood, when are you fixing your front yard?" Since i wanted to get it done quickly, i mostly followed what was already there (grass, a tree, etc) except for this area right by the house. I created a "stone pond" with a long, skinny planting bed around it. This gave me the chance to experiment with a lot of plants, even as the rest of the garden slowly took shape around it.

Here is what it looks like today. It's hard to capture the whole bed in one picture.

view from the front door walk way

View towards the front door walkway
You can see the "stone pond" in the middle, which worked out pretty well. There's a few "statement plants" in the bed - whether they started that way or not:

  • Furcraea foetida (mauritius hemp) - this one started tiny and was not supposed to survive. oops
  • Yucca recurvifolia - this one now has 2 heads, and has recovered from the accidental "pineapple treatment" the landscaper gave it
  • the grasses - whether the mexican feathergrass or the purple fountain grass
  • not quite as stand out any more, but there are 2 hesperaloes in the bed - one red and one yellow
  • that lantana is the only one that's survived multiple mojave winters...
  • Not really in these pictures, but by the front door is the Camillia sasanque 'Yuletide'.
The part of the bed that's closest to the house is a bit of an overgrown mess, but i like all the plants...
the camillia - i'm thinking clean up and new mulch?
 This part in particular is a mess:
remove the pups, mulch & maybe some low ground covers?
 There are also some plants between the house and the furcraea - i'm thinking of digging those out and replacing them with something lower? There used to be a path there too, but there's no point to that anymore. I'm thinking cramming this bed full of plants is better alternative, but mostly lower forms, so the spiky furcraea can stand out on its own. Maybe some more lantana?
that grass needs to move also - just to deconflict a bit with the other plants
The red yucca probably needs to be dug up, divided, moved a bit, and then replanted. And maybe some low sedums as a companion?
The other half of the bed has one big problem that has to get fixed before anything else - Bermuda grass! So I'll probably start by digging all that out. Then:

i like most of the plants around the yucca - i'm thinking clean up and wood mulch? 
 The front most part of the bed has the big purple fountain grass in it. I'm thinking the mexican feathergrass needs to be removed, and then the purple grass in it's place? This seems like too much grass.
the problem is that purple fountain grass looks horrid for 3 months each year
The feathergrass on the right in the picture above has been there since i first planted the garden (or some version of it). I've tried planting other things a few times, but they never "look right". So maybe it gets to stay?

This part of the bed also needs more low, round-ish shapes - too many spiky things right now. And i'd like something to "billow" over the gravel path in the front, to make it look more lush.

I really want this bed to be "cramscaped" (to steal a term from Loree!) so that it contrasts with the rest of the front yard, which is a bit more "desert-bare" (not really, but relatively...)

from the street

straight on - you can see how the rest of the front garden is more open
I think i'll start with a continued clean up & digging out the bermuda grass.The house will also get painted in February, so moving some of the plants near the house is probably a good idea anyway. Then compost, maybe some new mulch & rocks for the "pond", and then new plants! New plants is my favorite part :)

Any and all other good ideas welcome!  

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year's Eve!

Even though it feels a little bit strange for it to be ~70 degreesF on the last day of the year, it does mean that I got to do a bunch of work in the garden the last few days! Being on break from work and having nice weather meant i had a chance to get started on a number of projects in the garden. Which was great, since that hadn't been the case so far...

But rather than showing a bunch of project pictures, I got distracted by some pretty contrasts in the garden. Here's to hoping that there will be contrast in how much time i can spend in the garden next year also!

spiky and soft (agave shawii and epillbium canum)
this is one of my favorites every year - giant opuntia leaves and delicate cassia (or senna, or..)
different shades of "green" plants  (brown, green, white, blue)
a succulent that's surprisingly alive surrounded by russian sage litter that's very un-surprising
very spike & big and very small & fuzzy
 Ok, one contrast that's a "before and after" - i finally cleaned up some of the overgrown planter pipes! Here is the before:
randomness and the only place i've ever had too much sedum...
 ...and after:
replanted with the cholla back and new xMangaves... and the "chocolate chip" cleaned up too!
Hope everyone has a great New Years Eve, and best wishes for 2018!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter Plans & Conservatory Visit Pictures

My winter plans did not involve so much work! But work disagrees, so working in the garden has taken a back seat to work-working. I'm still sneaking in drawing up garden plans for an update to the front garden however! And some exciting things are happening inside - new windows and a new bathroom, which means room for more plants! (and a non-leaking shower). And soon the house will be painted too.

So while i haven't had as much time in the garden as i wanted (much to the gophers' relief, i'm sure), i have been dreaming more about my visit to the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is visiting the conservatory the day after Thanksgiving. Here are some more pictures to remind me...

There are creepy new statues that seem new?

This year, it seemed like there were more anthurium blooms?

so much texture and color and green!

sometimes i'm reminded of these plants in meetings... i have no idea why? :) 

the color on this one was gorgeous!

green and dark red... so pretty!
 I wonder what Mr. Subjective at Plants are the Strangest People would think of these? His pictures are certainly much more precise than mine!
a giant bromeliad - and so perfect

Looking over the large pond, to the new bridge. A bit more open this year
so pretty... and the overcast day made for better pictures than normal!
And then there was this! Not at the conservatory, but at SF MOMA (which has a pretty cool vertical garden/green wall) - a "physical representation of a data cloud" - you can read more here

Overall, it was a great visit to San Francisco!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pruning Help Needed For Palo Verde!

For the back garden, there's two plants that i think i really need to prune, but i'm not entirely sure how? They are both in the same bed. Maybe seeing pictures will help me figure it out (and if anyone has any ideas/advice, please share!)

The first is my Palo Verde tree. It's about 2 years in the ground now, and has grown quite a bit. In fact, probably too much, as became clear after a wind storm this summer.

something not quite right...
 An entire branch (almost as thick as the trunk) broke off!
That was not a very clean break - it looks much better now (a few months later)
 The branch was pretty much big enough to be a tree by itself:
it may have also taken me until this weekend to get rid of the branch... oops.
With the branch gone, its just even clearer that the tree needs some substantial pruning. I'd like it to be an actual tree, not an overgrown bush.

Looking at the picture below, i'm thinking the bottom 4 branches have to go?
ignore the cables - they don't do anything any more, and will be removed at some point soon.
Maybe all the branches up to where the trunk branches, minus the really big one?

This is kind of hard to see, but all the branches are on one side (forward in the bed), so getting rid of them will hopefully make the tree more balanced, and less likely to fall over at some point?
note to self - trim the grasses...
You would think that having that entire branch fall off with no noticeable bad effects would make it less scary for me to consider pruning off some more...but apparently not! Looking at the pictures does help - as does imagining what all i can plant under the tree once i can get in there.

I'm thinking i'm just going to have to dive in and do it! Any sage words of advice?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

My Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide' always reminds me that it's almost Thanksgiving!





Sunday, November 19, 2017

Productive Day!

My day may have started rather unproductively (sleeping in until noon!) but i ended up getting a lot done!

Here's the list from last time:
  • Fix pipe <-- Done! It ended up being very easy...
  • Trim acacias & uncover agaves in the front <-- Done! i did create an entire garbage can full of trimmings, but the little agaves can breath again
Still left to do:
  • Clean up the 'stone pond' bed in the front garden <-- i did clear out a bunch of grass and removed a bunch of gopher mounds, and cleared all the dirt out of the rocks. Now i just need to figure out what to do with this bed!
  • Trim up Palo Verde tree <-- No progress yet on the tree itself yet, but i did finally break down a giant branch that broke off a few months ago. To be honest, i'm a bit worried about pruning the tree!
  • Clean up right back patio bed <-- no progress yet!

I didn't take many pictures today, but here is what the acacia looked like before:



It's now about half that size. I'm not sure this one will stay long term, although i love the easy green it provides, with cute yellow flowers...

I also seem to have a new friend/permanent resident:

That's a bad picture, but there's a new, small, purple-headed hummingbird (looks like a male Costa?) that's decided my garden is it's home. Hummingbirds show up all the time, of course, but generally they don't really care much for humans getting near.  This one is happy to sit above my head on the patio, or in the branches of various bushes and let me get really close. He will also buzz me if i'm getting in his way. He's territorial in a strange way too - happy to share the feeder and some of the plants, but aerial battles ensue if another hummingbird tries to sit on his perch or drink from one particular aloe bloom. I'm hoping he'll stick around for the winter!

Next time, i'll try for better pictures! Hopefully renovating the beds will make for more exciting pictures than hacking my way through the bush!