Monday, May 6, 2013

Sometimes you just have to wait...

Patience is not one of my virtues.  When I have a question, I want an answer - now.  When I encounter a problem, I want to solve it - now.  When something needs to be done, I want to get it done - now.   While that disposition generally served me well in the business world, it doesn't always play as well in the garden or in other areas of my life.  I'd like to say that the garden is helping me gain the patience I lack but I can't quite say I'm there yet.

When we bought our current house almost 2 and a half years ago, I told myself that I had plenty of time to implement changes to the garden, to make it mine.  I planned to give myself time to understand weather patterns, to identify which plants would thrive here, and to envision what structural changes could be made to show the garden as a whole to its best advantage.   Did I do that?  Not really.  I made a stab at charting changes in sun exposure month-to-month.  I checked out which plants grew in neighboring gardens.   I prioritized the garden areas I wanted to tackle.  But then the garden started making its own demands.  I lost patience with my methodical planning process and jumped into action.  Areas that I hadn't planned to touch in the early stages, like the slope at the back of the property, which I wrote about here and here, demanded attention.  The dry garden area, also initially a low priority, needed work as well as I needed a pathway to get to the sloped area.  And so it began.  A little work here, a little work there, and suddenly these areas became the focus of my efforts, almost without my realizing it.  No master plans.  I don't even have "before" pictures.

Still, despite my attempt to fast forward my garden renovation, plants require time to settle in.  This is true of even plants bought in larger sizes, although I usually try to buy small to give the plants time to develop in situ.  And, no matter how carefully selected, some plants don't adapt well where they're put and have to be moved.  It takes time for plants to gain stature and weave together to form pleasing associations.  Patience is required.  Much as I'd like to turn the page and have a full-blown garden instantaneously as depicted on TV, that doesn't happen and I realize that I probably wouldn't be satisfied with the product 3 years out if I did succeed in creating that kind of instant effect.

Here's a look at one of my more slowly evolving constructions.  I call this my "glen" but it's relatively small, perhaps 12 feet wide by 40 feet long.  It's tucked away out of the view of the rest of the garden.  It can be accessed by a path running from the side yard or from a narrow path between 2 hedges running from the driveway parallel to the street.

A dirt path leads down into an open area laid with low groundcovers, including Dymondia, which the raccoons dug up over and over again after planting, preventing it from knitting together as I'd planned

I've recently tucked in some yellow plants, Euryops and Bidens ferulifolia, to provide a little punch

The germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) I put in the 1st year is finally gaining size.  Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) divisions were added more recently.

Roses (probably R. chinensis 'Mutabilis'), put in by a prior owner, are blooming more since the Eucalyptus tree in the area above was removed.  The manufactured stone wall behind this bed was constructed by my husband to hold back soil that was eroding into the dirt path from the bed that formerly held the Eucalyptus.

The area slopes down from the side yard, visible at the top of this photo, so the 2 areas need to relate to one another

The bed curves under a preexisting Ceanothus hedge, below which I've started to add succulent cuttings that do well in the fast-draining soil

View of pathway leading toward the driveway

It's a peaceful area I'd like to do more with.  It doesn't yet have a coherent feel.  It's irrigated but the sloping bed dries out quickly so I'm using mainly drought tolerant plants, some of which I've relocated from other areas.  With the exception of the flat area below the stacked rock wall, the area gets only partial sun.  The wall stopped mid-way through the area and, while I cobbled together some rocks to extend it toward the side yard pathway, the wall needs additional work (i.e. the addition of purchased stone).  With this area, rather than hauling in mass quantities of plants to fill in the empty spots, I'm trying to exercise my patience and let the area tell me what it needs.  It'll come together eventually.


  1. I find it hard to be patient, too, sometimes, despite having a patient personality. I've gotten mad at plants and ripped them out only to regret it later.

    When I was planning my current garden, I asked myself what I needed the garden to provide and how I wanted it to make me feel. The answers were wildlife, an escape, and happy. But I also needed color as well as quiet spots with a cottage garden, suburban prairie feel. It might not have made sense to anyone, but it made sense to me and was a great guide in my designs.

    Try that approach to help you gain a sense of what you want. It might be helpful! I think it already looks great!

    1. Good advice, Tammy. I'd originally planed to make that area my little secret retreat but, when I hacked the heck out of the hedge along the street, I created a public view into the area so the "secret retreat" idea went out the window. I probably just need to spend some time down there letting the space tell me what it wants to be.