Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Wrap Up

I lost track of posting during 2013, but never stopped taking pictures... I was inspired by Les at Tidewater Gardener and his 2013 photo wrap up! Here are my top 12 pictures from 2013 to get caught up on 2013 and ready for 2014. Some are from my garden, while others are from other places, but all of them show what 2013 was like (other than DRY!):

1) Tale of the Redbud Tree:
During early spring (left) and then in late April (right)
This tree was only in the garden for 2 years. While it was always beautiful in the spring, by early summer, it was showing severe stress, and grew leaves only at the tips and were always sun burned. So this winter, it came out, and will be replaced in the spring with a Palo Verde (hopefully Desert Museum!)

2) Joshua Trees after Blooming:
Joshua Tree Seed Pods
Even though we had very little rain, the Joshua trees all bloomed, and made their funny looking seed pods. I actually did post about this: here We'll see what happens in 2014, given we've still had (almost) no rain.

3) The Beauty of the Hills:
Views out by San Francisquito Trails
Earlier in the year, I got a chance to explore some of the off-road trails in the area. The whole area is gorgeous, and I took a ton of pictures (four shown above). Sadly, in June of this year, the massive Powerhouse Fire   swept though the area, burning everything, including several homes. It will be years before the area is reopened.

4) The Irises Bloomed!
For the first time ever...
For the first time in 4 years, I found a spot the Irises liked enough to bloom. Turns out they're blue! Of course, I rewarded them by moving them to a different spot later in the year...

5) The Optunias Had a Good Year
Flowers and Fruit!
The Optunia macrocenta absolutely exploded with blooms, and I took several pads to plant on the hill side. Over 2 years, this plant has done very well for me. The larger Optunia (Ficus-Indius?) bloomed for the first time, and made fruit! I waited too long to pick them however - remember that for next year!

 6) My Favorite Plant Combination:
Shown here in Early November
Speaking of optunia macrocentra - here is a my absolute favorite plant combination this year. A red-purple castor bean (grown from seed no less!) growing over the purple optunia. This is definitely a combo I'll have to repeat! I wonder if the castor bean will reseed on its own? We had another super cold winter (due to the same arctic front I read about on other blogs), so this year's plant is definitely toast!

7) At the Huntington Gardens:
My favorite plant's last show (May)
One of my favorite places to visit is the Huntington gardens. While I was there in May, I saw that one of my favorite plants there (a giant agave) was pushing out a bloom stalk! So sad! But it turns out there was massive construction coming to that area of the gardens, so maybe it was good it put on this one last show...

 8) Finishing the Side Front Yard:
More Optunias
I've had a hard time figuring out what to do with this part of the front garden - there are no sprinklers except for the neighbor's irregular overspray, and it's on the north side of the house. I'm not sure the Optunias I have there will survive this winter, with the neighbors still watering their grass two or three times a day, but I think the combination gravel garden will definitely be staying!

9) And Redoing the Back Hill Side:
A blank slate in late August
Out of all the parts of the back garden (which was installed in 2012), the hill side has fared the worst. Finally this year, I got a new gravel path installed at the top, to help keep down the weeds, and cleared all the half-dead plants off the slope. Now, I just need to find things that will grow in full desert sun, with limited water, in mostly clay soil. Should be easy, right? This will be one of the main planting areas for 2014, as I try new plants.

10) Inspiration from Descanso Gardens:
Recreated in my back garden
Early in the year, I saw this planting bed at Descanso Gardens. I loved the combination of agaves, grasses and gravel. I recreated in two of my beds in the back garden, using Agave "Shark", "Blue Glow" and "Kissho Kan" with blue fescue grass. Kissho Kan has required winter protection this year, and the blue fescue may need replacing as well, but this combo looked great all summer and fall.

11) I grew things from seed!
Morning glory
I know Morning glory is basically a weed in some parts of the country, but I loved this combo of yellow and blue. Especially since I have had very limited success growing things from seed and having them survive, I was very surprised that in 2013, I was able to grow morning glory, castor bean, and several others (including cypress vine, bower vine and Nasturtium).

12) Blooming Chocolate Chip Manfreda:
The plant is about 8 feet below this...
Certainly one of the most interesting things to happen in the garden was that the Manfreda undulata "Chocolate Chip" put up a gigantic blooms stalk with this flower on the top. The hummingbirds had a field day, and now I have a pipe full of pups I need to divide and find homes for. This is another plant that has done very well in the back garden.

Now we're on to 2014. I have no idea what this year will bring, but hopefully some rain will be part of it. Happy new year!


  1. Here's to a great new year with just enough rain for you!

    1. Thanks! I'm hoping for rain too! Happy new year!

  2. I may borrow that castor bean/optunia combination - it's certainly a winner. I'm impressed that you can grow so much out there in the Mojave desert! I feel guilty about complaining of my struggles in zone 10b.

    1. I love your garden Kris, and your views are amazing! And someone has to grow all those awesome plants I keep dreaming about. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I also really like the castor bean and opuntia together. Lately I have been drawn to any combination of silvers and burgundy/reds. Thanks for sharing your photos and for posting the link on my blog. Happy new year to you!

    1. Happy new year to you Les! Silver and reds sound like a great combination! I may have to try some that this year. Thanks for commenting.


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