Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wide Shots - September 2014

Fall is officially 3 weeks away but, with Labor Day behind us, my fall planting plans are moving into hyper-drive, despite the fact that our daytime temperatures remain in the mid-to-upper 80sF (27+C) and no significant rain is expected until November.  I reached an agreement with a local landscape service on a price to remove my front lawn, which will make a dramatic change in the garden's overall look and feel.  While waiting for that work to begin, I've been researching landscaping ideas for lawn-free front yards and drought-tolerant plant selections in general.  I've started scouting the local nurseries too.

The birds aren't concerned about fall planting so long as the fountain keeps flowing



The wide shots of my garden, undertaken in connection with a meme started by Heather of Xericstyle last year, have been useful in my planning process.  In the case of the backyard, most of what I'm planning to do there involves filling in the holes in the borders created by the summer's heat- and drought-related plant losses.  The wide grass pathway between the borders will remain in place for now but I expect it'll go next year.  I couldn't face pulling it out this year given the expense and work associated with the overhaul of the front yard.

There are several pots sitting in the backyard borders, like the one with Rudbeckia shown here in front of the fountain, as temporary replacements for plants that fell prey to the heat and drought 

I have a working list of the plants I'd like to introduce in the extended fountain bed (described here) when the weather cools

There's an empty space under the peppermint tree (Agonis flexuosa) at the mid-point of the border on the right I need to fill but I've yet to be struck with inspiration



In the south-side garden, I'm focusing most of my attention on replanting the bed alongside the arbor.  When we moved in, this bed was occupied by a 60 foot (18m) Eucalyptus tree, which was removed at the instigation of a neighbor as it blocked her view.  The soil in that area is very dry, fast-draining, and light.  It's also the prime focus of the raccoons that pay me regular visits, perhaps because it's so easy to dig.

The arbor and most of the plants along the exterior edge of the bed on the right of it will be kept

The plants in the center of the bed as well as the Helichrysum, shown in this picture in the background on the right,  are slated for replacement.  I've already picked up a Grevillea 'Bonfire.'  Other plants on my shopping list include Agave 'Blue Glow' (I'm hoping it'll deter the raccoons), Lomandra longifolia, and Correa 'Dusky Bells.'

The sad Zinnias on the right side of the pathway in this picture will be pulled.  I've already added Grevillea juniperina 'Molonglo' and, while it's small, will fill in with some low-growing succulents.



I have to admit that I'm VERY nervous about pulling out the grass in the front yard.  I'd originally planned to take out only a portion of grass up front this year but, given our ongoing drought, as well as the current condition of the front lawn, it seems appropriate to bite the bullet and take it all out now.  We're going to cover the area surrounding the Magnolia tree with decomposed granite, expand the existing borders a bit, and add stone pathways.  I'm also considering the addition of boulders and large plants to create a visual break between the Magnolia and the south-side garden.

The lawn on both sides of the front walkway will be removed all the way to the side yard path


The vegetable garden remains woefully neglected.  Rather than filling the raised planters with vegetables, I may use them as temporary holding areas for plants to be installed elsewhere in the garden during the fall.  At the moment, the only concrete plan I have for that area is to move my Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost,' presently in the bed I intend to renovate in the side yard, to the bed alongside the garage.  Acer 'Sango Kaku' has thrived there so I'm hopeful that the new location may be hospitable to 'Purple Ghost' as well - although it's not dead, it's barely hanging on in the side yard.  (I've blamed the raccoons for its condition but the Santa Ana winds that blow through that area are part of the problem.)

Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' is intended to fill the blank area below the garage window to the left of 'Sango Kuku'



I cleaned up the dry garden a bit in August, clearing out plants that weren't doing well to make room for the ones that remain.  I've replanted the statice (Limonium perezii) and added more hairy canary clover (Dorycinium hirsutum) and a few succulents.  The Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' badly needs to be cut back but I'm waiting until the weather cools.  I'll probably add more succulents and another Leucadendron salignum too.

A somewhat neater dry garden

The hummingbirds continue to visit the 3 Cuphea shrubs at the front of the front of this border despite their drought-stressed appearance


I've no specific plans for the back slope, which I'm currently letting get by on its own.  On the other hand, I'd planned to do some work in the lower area running along the street before my attention shifted to the front yard.  Time, energy and funds permitting, I'd still like to extend the dry stacked wall down there but my guess is that it'll be spring, at earliest, before I get to that.

For unknown reasons, the prior owners left the stacked stone wall along this slope half-finished.  As a temporary measure, I extended it with stone picked up here and there in the garden but I need to haul in stone and properly complete the wall as a precursor to replanting the slope.



That's it for this month's wide shots.  I expect I'm going to be quite busy.  I'll keep you posted on my progress!


All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

23 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to seeing all your future renovations, but especially the front garden. I pulled a lot of grass out of my front in late winter this year, and replaced it with gravel, and I'm so happy with it. I did put back a smaller circle of lawn, but I would have been fine without it. I like the sound of your plans for the front. It is scary making such big changes. I found I couldn't focus on more than one area at a time either.

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    1. I think what's throwing me, Alison, is that it's a sudden shift in direction. I'm a planner (even if I do frequently go off the map the moment I set foot in a nursery). I wasn't planning to make a change this big in one fell swoop this year so I feel behind even at the starting line. I keep reminding myself that everything I've done in this garden has been an experiment of sorts and, if one plan fails, there's always a B, or C or D.

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  2. C'è poco da dire! É una meraviglia! Complimenti per tutta la struttura e le piante!

    Un saluto :)

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  3. Kris, it's going to be fabulous. I think you're headed in the right direction. You have so much room for big grasses! And big agaves! And shrubs! So envious of the scope you have here. I think using the veg beds as a holding area is a great idea. The plants should temporarily heel in beautifully there. Good for you taking the bull by the horns!

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    1. It's the scope that's made me nervous, Denise. I tore out the lawn in my former, tiny backyard garden without a second thought and never looked back. In that case, there was no front garden, unless you count the strip of soil along the driveway. In this case, it's a big area and right up front - and I haven't even got the back and side gardens together yet! Yikes! I appreciate the vote of confidence, though.

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  4. If I understand you the right, you will remove the lawn and replaced it with gravel / rock.
    I think you have a very nice garden in spite of the drought.
    Hope it was reasonably correct translation.
    Have a good day
    Mariana

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    1. You understood correctly, Mariana. "Decomposed granite" is a type of fine gravel used a lot here in Southern California. I'll probably add larger rocks, as well as stone paths, too.

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  5. I feel excited just reading your plans Kris, especially for moving the grass. I don't have any lawn here at all, there is rough grass under the olives which is brown in summer usually although this year it remains green and is growing so needs cutting regularly and is even seeding which I don't want. there are quite a few low growing plants that can be walked on. The book that describes them well is in French and I don't think it's been translated yet but I'll send you a link to the plants, but my internet is being very slow this evening, I'll send it asap. Christina

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  6. I just found this, I haven't watched it but this is the nursery that has been researching plants to replace lawns. http://vimeo.com/102817124 and here are some of the plants
    Phyla (Lippia)
    Trifolium fragiferum
    Cynodon 'Santa Ana'
    Achillea crithmifolia
    Zoysia
    Piloselle
    Frankenia


    Dichondra
    Matricaria
    Stenotaphrum
    Thymus ciliatus
    Thymus hirsutus
    Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin'
    Achillea millefolium

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    1. It was very kind of you to locate the video link and put together this list, Christina! I appreciate it and have already watched the video, which was excellent. I have 2 books on lawn-less gardens, both of which I'm in the process of going through again, as well as books that take up the same idea, like Beth Chatto's book on her gravel garden. I like the gravel garden idea a lot, especially for the front of the house, where there are existing beds I'd like to incorporate into the mix in some logical fashion. I've got some of the plants on your list in other areas of the garden and there are other possibilities (e.g. succulent groundcovers) that are possible to incorporate here.

      Deciding how much of a dormant summer garden I'm ready to accept is one of the biggest questions I face. In my area of Southern California, there's a tendency to expect peak performance on the part of the garden year-round. It's a silly, outdated outlook if one thinks about it. California was never meant to be green all year but that mentality is nonetheless entrenched - you can think of it as a variation on Hollywood's fixation with preserving a youthful appearance.

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  7. Exciting times ahead Kris, with autumn planting season looming plus your big plans in changing the look of your front garden which is a sensible move given the drought. Loving at your wide shots I barely notice the gaps you mentioned but thoroughly admire the overall look of your garden which is wonderful!

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    1. The gaps are much more visible close up than in the wide shots. On the positive side, I do like that the wide views highlight the color themes I've tried to work into the garden.

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  8. Yowsa! Your garden looks great even with your drought! I was thinking that agaves would deter the raccoons and then you mentioned they were in the plan. What an exciting time it is for you anticipating all of these changes. You go gardener!

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    1. They need to be REALLY spiny Agaves, I think, to deter the raccoons. Earlier, a raccoon dug up my octopus agave soon after it's initial planting - I put a tomato cage around it when I replanted it to prevent a repetition. I may get some Dyckia too...

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  9. I think removing the lawn in the front yard is a good idea and will look good with the decomposed granite. Your garden looks great (and by the way, is so huge! Do you spend a lot of time weeding? I thought mine required a lot of upkeep, but it's tiny in comparison to yours).

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    1. Our lot is just over half an acre, or about 2.5 hectares, Amy. (I'm unsure of the measure used for land size in Australia.) By the standards of Los Angeles County, where houses are often packed tightly together, that's relatively large. In contrast, our last house was on about 1/8th of an acre. The shift from my old garden to this one has taken a lot of getting used to - I still tend to think small because I gardened in such a small space for a long time. I don't spend a huge amount of time weeding but that's probably because I'm always tearing things out and replanting all over the place. Although the old house was just 15 miles away, the climate was different so I'm still getting used to what works here and what doesn't.

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  10. Your garden looks amazing, especially considering the drought you're dealing with! I can't wait to see how your front yard turns out. I like your ideas for it.

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    1. Thanks sweetbay! I can't wait to get started with the front yard, even if it's a bit daunting. I finally have a date for the lawn's removal in the middle of the month so the train has left the station.

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  11. Sounds like you have it under control and nicely planned out. Actually, erverything looks great to me! I like all the pathways and stonework!

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    1. There will probably be more stonework to see later this year!

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  12. Hi Kris. Your garden looks wonderful. I'm getting in planting mode too but we keep having 90 degree days. Sheesh! ... I understand being nervous about taking out your lawn. Last March I took Roundup to my two small lawns and the rest is history. I am SO glad I did it. It is a lot nicer not having to deal with lawn with its weeds and dry patches. I replaced it with used bricks and low-growing plants. Of all the ones I planted, the creeping thyme looks the best. If you like, I can show you photos. Just let me know. (email: grace@gracepete.com)

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    1. Thanks, Grace. I read the posts on your lawn removal. I've been taking lawn out in increments here and there since we moved in 3 years ago but I'd continued to debate whether or not to remove it in the front until the reduced irrigation effectively decided the matter for me. The garden service wanted to use Roundup but I don't want to risk poisoning the Magnolia tree in the middle of the lawn so I'm having the lawn dug out even though it's more costly and time-consuming (and I know I'll be fighting grass seedlings for a time). At this point, I'm leaning toward a gravel garden with additional stone paths but creeping thyme will definitely be part of the scheme.

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