Saturday, February 18, 2017

Garden Progress, Agaves & Lessons Learned

Even with all the rain the last few weeks, I'm making progress on all the projects/problem areas I identified earlier this year. One particular horrible bed (left of the patio) has been cleaned, new drip lines installed, plants moved and cut back, some new, low-risk succulent cuttings and a layer of new mulch:
cedar mulch because it's the one i dislike the least. 
you can see some of the new drip lines on the left
the other side of the bed has new rock mulch
The new mulch stayed in place through the crazy rain we had last night! This morning, the weather was perfect for continuing the clean up, and noticing some of the spiky goodies, like agave agave lophantha quadricolor hiding under a carex testacea - this keeps the agave happier in our crazy hot summer sun:

This bed still needs a lot of cleaning, but the combination of yucca (need to remember which one), aloe (the biggest one in my garden!) and agave ovatifolia looks good regardless. I also really need to think about pruning that lowest branch off that tree, so it's less of a bush...

Speaking of agaves - there are three in this picture: a. 'Crazy Horse', a. shawii (in the back, with all it's pups) and the one in the foreground that i've lost the tag for.

While not one of my original spring projects, 'Crazy Horse' really needs to come out that tube. I think that will be next weekend's fun, or maybe tomorrow. But i really can't let it go much longer, lest it end up like my biggest (and still favorite) agave: 'Mr. Ripple':
(please ignore all the gopher damage to the DG - still on the list to fix)
He's not coming out of that tube until after he's bloomed, and even then, it will be interesting. And i even knew that he would get too big, since i told myself to move him 3 years ago: right here. He was so cute and little then. And of course, i've never found another Mr. Ripple since... I'd like to say that i learned my lesson about planting for final size, etc, but probably not.

Given all the foliage in the pictures, I'm linking to Digging for Foliage Follow Up (even if i didn't do a bloom day post to follow up on). Now let's hope for some more gentle rain and nice gardening weather as we get into spring!


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Garden Visit - the Getty Center (1/27/2017)

No pictures from my garden this weekend, because seriously, how many weeks in a row can I take pictures of the same mess? Instead, I visited the Getty Center on Friday, and took way too many pictures. The Getty is great for inspiration on how to put gardens together as art, because that's the approach they take in the Central Garden, and also shows how you can take a more constrained approach, since that's how much of the plants on the actual museum grounds are arranged. There are a lot of sources that explain why that is better than i ever could - needless to say it creates an environment that has a ton of inspiration!

It also helps that the weather on Friday was gorgeous - this is so cal winter at it finest, and why i probably can't live anywhere else any more:
That's the pacific ocean. It was actually a bit chilly, if something like that could be said about 60 degree weather in January.

I love the way these containers with succulents pop against the all-white of the buildings and courtyard:

 These are always a must-visit for me. Some of the plants are updated each time, and some are left to growth. This little aloe is putting out a bloom stalk:

There's always an agave...

Remembering correctly from a tour i once took, all the plants are technical in containers at the museum - even the large trees like these:

That's one of the reasons they prune many of them the way they do. Another large 'container' is the cactus garden, which you can't walk into:
 
This year, the plantings seem heavy on the cacti, lighter on the agaves. The view extends to include the vistas of the greater LA area in the background. I love all the large barrels in the cactus garden.
 
 Also, this might be exciting only to me, but look at that snow pack! The view is nice too...

While i really like the plantings in the museum, i always struggle on how to apply it to my own garden, not having any large white travertine walls. The closest i can get is the container plantings at the top of the wall... I want to re-try some of those for this year, although that probably means fixing the irrigation first.

But now on to more inspiration, rather than practical thoughts about sprinklers and summer heat waves. The Central Garden is the opposite of the previous pictures. None of the plants are labeled, but there are some many beautiful combinations...

Starting with this gorgeous red/black plant - a leucadendron 'ebony'. where can i get one?


the main beds of the central garden are a riot of color while still somehow conveying "winter".

I want this plant too. I also like the colored twigs in the background. The Getty moves and removes plants throughout the seasons to get the right "feeling", although red and yellow are the main accent colors all year. Such a great example of how to stick with a color theme while the garden and plants change...

Another view of that same side...I like how the beds are still green while the trees aren't.

sigh...brugmansia... one of two in the garden. I have tried so many times with this plant and they hate the desert. Not enough water. This one was blooming in January.

The view up the "river" shows what "winter" looks like here - leafless trees with pops of yellow and red in green. So pretty.

This view has always been one of my favorites. I love the textures and colors here. I really want one of those phoriums - i planted two in the garden last year. One is still alive (sort of).

More leucadendron - i think this is 'Safari Sunset', popping against the blue sky.

A great combination of plants & color here - i really want to try "cousin Itt", but i'm afraid it will get burnt to a crisp. I guess there's one way to find out...

How to do succulents as a ground cover, by the Getty. I want to try this in my garden this year, although most of these wouldn't be hardy in zone 11. If i remember, i'll have to go back before they replace these plants to see how they grow in.
 A bit of a blurry picture, but it makes me wonder whether oxalis would like any part of my garden?

it was a great day of looking at plants (and art - eventually, i went inside) and getting ideas for this year. It will be a few more months before i can reasonably start planting anything, but these pictures get me motivated to keep at doing the clean up and fixing that my garden needs!

(Progress this week - no new gophers in the traps (yay!) and no new mounds either. The roses are cut back, and starting to make progress on cleaning up the hill side beds. next up - rescuing some of the yuccas...)


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Weekend Gardening - 1/22/2017

It's still raining! So far, the rain here has been the good kind - not too much or too fast, and the garden is just soaking it in. We're supposed to get another storm this Sunday, hopefully it will keep going this way.

I didn't get to spend a lot of time in the garden this week, but some progress and decisions have been made... All the piles of trimming are now gone, Fingers crossed the gophers are too - it's been a week without anything showing up in the traps. I decided to remove the opuntia rufida in the left bed - which means there's now an even bigger empty spot:
I have some plans for replacement plants - once the ground is drying i'll plant some sections of the cholla that was removed, and a pad off a small optunia that has orange flowers that a friend shared. Next up for this bed is digging out and replanting these old grasses so the agaves have more room.
That's A. 'Blue Glow' and A. 'Royal Spine', also known as 'little shark', according to google. I've also figured out how to adjust the sprinkler layout in this bed, which i'll implement as soon as the rain stops long enough to test it. I have to remind myself not to start thinking about buying plants yet...

The other Royal Spine celebrate it's freedom from the opuntia by looking pretty in the rain this morning:

Since I'm not getting much work on this rainy sunday, here are two more agaves that caught my eye in the rain;
That's agave 'cream spike' (or a. applanata 'Cream Spike', or a. parryi 'cream spike', which is how it was labeled when i bought it). Whatever it's called, it's pretty, and i want to it hurry up and make more offsets.

I think this next one is a. shawii. The rain makes its teeth look even redder than normal:
 Next up for the garden is more trimming (the sage bushes, and soon the grasses) and weeding. I'm also trying to figure out what to do with the hill side and how best to clean it up. But for now, i'm going to enjoy the rain some more!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekend Gardening - 1/14/2017

We're getting more rain! While that makes it harder to get a lot of things done in the garden, since everything is wet, it's so good to see how good the plants look with rain drops on them, and in the winter sun when it does peek through the clouds...


The sunlight was making the leaves transparent this morning!

The opuntia is extra thick with all the water!

The rain washed all the dust off this agave, but not the leaves that are stuck in it's spines:

I'm hoping this eucalyptus will be alright... most of it looks good, but all the branch tips are discolored like the picture below.

Progress on cleaning the various messes is slowly being made! Most of the giant piles of trimmings have been removed and recycled. The russian sages have been cut back early, to get at the gopher mounds and suspected sprinkler repair. I've put traps in the gopher tunnels, and so far, there is at least one less gopher in my garden. The sprinkler repair is still puzzling me - when i dug up the line, there was no damage. Instead, the runoff appears to be related to the water hitting the garden wall and pooling?

I've also managed to clear off most of the leaves out of the acacia in the front garden:
The leaves that came out were chopped up and i worked them into the soil in a couple of places. There are still a lot more leaves in the front garden, but i'm going to let them dry out some before trying to clean them up. There is still a lot left to do, but first i'm going to enjoy more of this rain!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weekend gardening - 1/7/2017

At least for now, going through and finding all the things that need fixing in the garden was helpful! This weekend I managed to get started on some things to fix, although not as many as I hoped because 1) i ran out of room in my green waste bin, and 2) it was raining! I've asked for a larger green waste bin, but the rain i'm just going to gratefully watch. I was able to get some pictures of the pretty things in the garden this weekend, while everything is clean from the rain!

There are flowers! In the back is an Agave 'Crazy Horse' pup. 

 The Whale's Tongue Agave always looks good

This agave lophantha splendida was mostly dead about 4 years ago. Now, its a super bright green spot each winter when the russian sage is dormant.

this vignette is one of my favorite views of the garden year round. I think this yucca rostrata is almost big enough to have a trunk!

While cleaning out the horrible bed i showed last post, i noticed one of the aloe's is blooming! This is exciting, because for years, i've had no success... not sure why now is different, but i'll take it!

I spent quite a bit of time cleaning out the horrible bed with the leaning cholla, etc. Sadly, when i tried to re-right the cholla, it was clear that the root ball was broken. So i dug up the whole plant, and separated some segments that I'll replant once they've callused over and the rain is gone. Meanwhile, i'm trying to figure out what to do with this:
This opuntia rufida (not microdasys, according to google) is one of two - there's a better looking one on the other side of patio. It lost half it's arms late last year, and the remaining part is learning over a very pretty agave. O. rufida is also a pain to maintain, because of the glochids. Also, while i was always worried about their hardiness, they grow super fast, so they need a lot of pruning. 

Given all of those things, I'm debating whether to keep it where it is and try to prune it into a better shape? Pull it out and restart from a segment? or pull it out all together an replace with something else, likely another opuntia, so it will complement the other side? If I pull it out of the ground, i'll also have a chance to dig out the bermuda grass that's been growing there. I guess i'll have until next weekend to decide!

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!