Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wide Shots - July 2015

After an unusually cool and pleasant May complete with unexpected rain, the "June gloom" characteristic of coastal southern California gave way in mid-June to more tropical conditions, characterized by high temperatures and high humidity.  It's become uncomfortable to work in the garden except in early morning and late afternoon.  Mosquitoes moved in and I was covered with bites until I belatedly took preventive measures.  In response to California's new water regulations, I kept a lid on our irrigation usage and began toting graywater from the house to the garden on a daily basis.  I also drew on the rainwater stored in my collection tanks to water plants that hadn't yet developed the root systems required to achieve drought tolerance.  While I pushed the envelope and put some new plants in the ground, in general my garden activities shifted from plant installation to plant maintenance.

My most significant new venture involved the addition of 500 pounds (227 kilograms) of rock to my street-side succulent bed.

Most of the new rock was added through the mid-section of the bed in an irregular pattern


I used the rock to give the succulent bed more interest; to allow me to raise the soil level in sections, improving drainage; and to help hide the drip irrigation hose.  I dug up and rearranged some succulents in the process.

A closer look at selected segments of the bed

I've debated using gravel mulch around the succulents.  Heat already reflects off the street and I'm concerned that rock gravel may increase the reflected heat and also raise soil temperatures.  In addition, after digging mountains of rocks out of my garden, I'm hesitant to add rock that will gradually sift down into the soil below.  In the short term, I'm planning to add an organic mulch and rely more on groundcover succulents to fill in between plants.

The only areas of my garden getting virtually no attention are the back slope and the area I call the glen, which sits behind the street-side succulent bed.  The slope isn't getting the water it needs and it looks awful.  As to the glen, my husband and I have plans to haul in stone to extend the half-finished dry-stack wall but that project may be on hold until cooler weather returns.
  
The back garden still has some holes but it's looking fuller than it did earlier in the year.

The clumps of Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) in the fountain bed got bad haircuts in June but the daylilies are at their peak

The grass path between the borders is gradually dying and is slated for removal in late September

The mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) is the star of the backyard garden right now, although its litter is already dropping everywhere


The raccoons have returned to plague the side garden, no longer put off by the prickly magnolia flower cones I put down to thwart their digging.  

I spend time most mornings filling in the holes dug by the raccoons and skunks and replacing the plants they uprooted overnight

The Grevillea 'Bonfire' in the bed in the background on the right is dying, probably because I haven't given it enough water to get established in the dry soil in that area

This photo was taken as a tropical system passed through late Tuesday afternoon, producing thunder and lightening but just a few droplets of rain


The front garden also still has some bare spots, although the area on the south side is filling in rapidly.

The Magnolia is continuing to bloom and the Albizia can be seen poking above the roofline - the tropical weather conditions even prompted the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana, on the left) to produce some flowers on mostly bare branches

The Agapanthus are fading throughout the garden - although you can still see some here and in the back garden, I cut down more than 120 scruffy stalks earlier this week

It's hard to believe this area was bare dirt just 9 months ago!

The lawn in this area, behind the hedge bordering the street and the driveway, is slated for removal in late September, along with the remaining lawn in the backyard.  We're planning to lay flagstone paths through both areas, surrounded by low groundcovers.  In the meantime, we're making no effort to keep the grass alive.

The green patches here are some kind of weed with tiny yellow flowers


The dry garden is looking pretty good, although the critters have pilfered about half the grapes and persimmons are dropping unripened from the tree, probably also due to inadequate water.

The guava trees also seem to be slow to set fruit this year

The raised planters in the vegetable garden are filled with sunflower seedlings and dozen zinnia plants.  

I was late in getting the sunflower seeds planted and the raccoons have dug around in the raised planters too but I'm still hopeful I'll get a few sunflowers before summer's over


That's it for this month's wide shots and monthly recap.  Hopefully, summer will be kind to us and I'll have more than dried up plant husks to show in August.


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

38 comments:

  1. Your wide shots are always a treat Kris! Hopefully July will be a mild and comfortable one for you :)

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    1. I'm actually hoping for a thunderstorm (or 2), so long as it comes with rain (unlike the last couple that just came with off-the-chart humidity).

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  2. You and others in the South Coast region are doing a great job reducing water use. I'm sure you heard about the 29% reduction for May 2015 as compared to May 2013. Here's a wonderful graphic where you can find out how well your city is doing http://graphics.latimes.com/drought-report-card/
    I had trouble with this and had to go in as a neighbor of one of the larger cities, but the reports are outstanding. Haven't been able to find the original yet.

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    1. Thanks for the link, Jane! I read the LA Times article this morning but didn't see any direct reference to our area. The link you provided shows that PV cut its water use by 27%, which is better than I'd feared but still short of the 36% goal. My own May bill showed that we used only 53% of our May water budget, which I felt pretty good about, although the May rains and my rain collection tanks get a large part of the credit. We found 2 small leaks in our irrigation system just this week, which was frustrating - constant vigilance is required.

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    2. You should feel very very good about this. You've worked very conscientiously on it.

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  3. I'm wondering if your weed is horse herb Calyptocarpus vialis? Folks around here are using it as a low water light traffic ground cover these days. It's even for sale in some nurseries that specialize in native plants.
    https://npsot.org/TrinityForks/TrinityForksWeb/NICE/Horseherb_information_sheet.pdf

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    1. I looked up horse herb and the leaf shape was wrong but your inquiry sent me out to take a closer look at my "lawn" and I spent some time on searching photos of yellow-flowered weeds on-line. I'm almost certain what we've got is Medicago lupulina aka black medic or yellow trefoil. It's a self-seeding annual.

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    2. Kris, can you get a photo and post it in this blog? I am very curious as to what this may be. Thanks, Jane

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  4. Your garden is looking good, Kris! I'm afraid I've also lost a Grevillea, the one I tried to transplant from my Gravel Garden to another bed. It just hasn't gotten enough water to get established. I have lots of crispy leaves right now.

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    1. I'm sorry that you've also lost a Grevillea, Alison. Some seem more resilient than others. While G. 'Superb' and 'Peaches & Cream' are lightly watered and have dropped some leaves, they're doing much better than 'Bonfire' which has needle-like leaves - they don't drop so much as turn brown in place. In my case, I think the soil in that area is a big part of the problem. Despite lots of supplemental compost and soil additives, it won't hold moisture - this is the 3rd plant to perish in that spot. It's crazy-making!

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  5. Your garden is such a triumph over all of the things that would send the less steely-willed packing! From racoons and skunks digging up your plants, to no rain and carting graywater, to heat weaves...it's just amazing.
    In Australia, people wage war on possums and wallabies wrecking plants - they hang moth-balls in little bags to deter them. I guess with the weather so dry you could just leave them on the ground and they might deter the critters? You can't leave them out forever or else the animals get used to it, but in the short term it could be a deterrent....
    The stone walling looks absolutely fantastic. It really acts as a great foil to the succulents in that part of the garden

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    1. Moth balls? That's something I've yet to try in my ongoing battle with the raccoons. I'll have to find some. I tried soaking strips of fabric in ammonia and hanging them on stakes last year - that may have had a nominal effect but it was unpleasant to work with and the smell dissipated fairly quickly.

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  6. Your garden is looking very good. I especially love the backyard garden. I'm impressed that you've gotten so much accomplished in what is, by my standards, a short time. -Jean

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    1. Thanks, Jean. When I get discouraged with my progress, I have to remind myself that I've only been working in this garden for 4.5 years. We have done a lot, some tasks driven by a personal vision and others by circumstance. It's easy to lose track of that when I see so much more I want to do - patience has never been one of my primary virtues.

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  7. Your garden looks really good despite the lack of water. I'm bumping my water use back up a little--cut back too much. Sorry to here the racoons are still destroying--they are territorial like other critters around here.

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    1. I hope your water company is now crediting you with any portion of your budget you don't use. I've bumped my water use up a little bit in the past week as well, comforted by our May stats. But in that we had a little rain in May and I had all that rain tank water (now depleted by half), I can't afford to push things too far.

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  8. Amazing what you have done in your garden and how you cope with extreme drought. We have only had a few weeks with no rain and a few days of really hot weather and I am desperate. You soldier on through drought and despite strange animals digging things up all the time and it all looks wonderful. I have heard that lion' s poo works for deer but where you get lion' s poo from I don' t know.

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    1. One of our local zoos was selling zoo poo at one time to raise money but, if live coyotes don't scare off raccoons, my guess is that lion poo won't either. We're used to hot, dry summers but the limits on irrigation pose a new challenge.

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  9. As if the drought isn't bad enough, those critters are certainly doing you no favours Kris! Here in Scotland, water is a resource we tend to take for granted - rather ashamedly I should say. Such a shame you are going to loose your Grevillea too. Wishing you some rain in the very near future.

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    1. A nice rainy summer thunderstorm would be well-received, Angie, but I'm afraid the probability is low - the western deserts get monsoonal rain in summer but we usually stay dry until October.

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  10. Oh Kris I love the addition of the new rocks to your street-side bed, it looks fantastic! As does everything of course. I can relate to your statement "It's become uncomfortable to work in the garden except in early morning and late afternoon." we've been so HOT that I'm doing the same. I went out the other night at about 8pm to put in an hour or so and was surprised how cool 84F felt!

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    1. I hate that the PNW is getting heat like ours this year - clearly the weather system is out of whack but let's hope this is anomaly for you. I know what you mean about finding relief when the temperature drops into the 80s! Breezes help too!

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  11. Wow! Your garden just keeps getting better and better despite the pesky critters! The new rocks are marvelous!

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    1. I added a few of the rocks to the raccoons favorite bed. The good news, is they couldn't turn those over. The bad news is that they simply entered from another angle and dug in the middle. The creation of a boulder bed is under consideration.

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  12. I'm impressed by those rocks! That looks like a great way to solve multiple needs, and I'm sure the succulents will love it. Like you, I don't really want to use rock mulch, and I've begun experimenting with pelleted pine livestock bedding, soaked first. It retains moisture better than anything else I've tried so I thought I would pass on the idea, though I've avoided using it on finicky plants till yesterday... I love the effect you've achieved with the flagstones and groundcover; it looks so lush - not to mention, classic!

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    1. I'll have to look into that livestock bedding, Amy - I haven't seen it here but the horse feed stores might have it. The mulch I put in earlier has worked pretty well - I just need more of it.

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  13. 120 agapanthus stalks! A friend recently gave me a couple of agapanthus plants from her garden. I am thrilled to have three blooms! But I am already planning to expand, creating more divisions from the ones she gave me. I have a long way to go to catch up to you! Your garden looks luscious!

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    1. I had the impression the Agapanthus were fewer in number than last year but my exercise this week suggests otherwise. Agapanthus does seem easy to divide. When we took out the tree in the middle of your backyard border this year, some Agapanthus bulbs were displaced. Lacking a better place for them, I put them in a neglected area at the bottom of the slope and they all bloomed only a couple of months after planting.

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  14. It's so fun to see how your garden is developing - it is looking beautiful! I hear you about putting the heavy projects off 'til fall. I'm doing the same over here. I was hoping to put some pavers in, but truthfully, I don't have it in me to even go outside in this heat. October it is...unless the weather changes dramatically.

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    1. Unrelenting heat quickly quashes the best laid plans. I'd originally planned to remove our lawn in late spring/early summer so we could prepare the soil and lay flagstone in preparation for fall planting but the heat convinced us to put that off.

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  15. The addition of all those rocks looks so good! Is that blue fescue along the pathway in the newish area? Whatever it is it's gorgeous.

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    1. It's Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point', Amy. Despite the name, it's blue rather than red. Maybe it blooms red but I've yet to see any flowers on it. I love it too and wish I'd purchased more when the plant was locally available but maybe I'll try dividing the clumps this fall.

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  16. Your garden looks so good, Kris, I suppose there is much work to keep it like this.Congratulations!

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    1. It does take quite a bit of my time, Anca, especially now that I'm doing so much watering by hand using rain and gray water.

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  17. I think one of the upsides to the drought is the sheer mileage of turf that's being removed. I love your stones with the thyme. We've had such a rainy summer, my sage is rotting. How weird that you've been humid. Everything looks wonderful, as usual. :o)

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    1. Some people are concerned that, if we get a wet El Nino this winter, people will forget the drought and return to their former landscaping practices and water wasteful ways but I'm betting that we've turned a corner with this drought - too many people have been too deeply affected this time to casually put it behind us. Those photos of half-empty reservoirs and lakes and stories of dry wells are just too scary!

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  18. It looks fabulous, as ever, Kris but I'm sorry to hear about the raccoons. Might try moth balls here too. What is the red foliage (?) just peeking over the low hedge on the harbour side?

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    1. I think you must be referring to the dark pink Bougainvillea planted on the other side of the hedge in the backyard border. Bougainvillea is frequently used as a boundary plant here because it has nasty thorns (to dissuade miscreants from crawling across property lines) and it doesn't need much water or attention.

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