Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wide Shots - A Year's Worth of Changes

For this month's wide shots post, I thought I'd compare photos from August 2014 to current views of my garden.  Some show relatively little change, while the changes in others are more pronounced.  I'm pleased with the garden's evolution in some areas, while not so much in others.  In each comparison, the August 2014 view is on the left and the August 2015 view is on the right.

The biggest change in the back garden involved removal of one of the two Agonis flexuosa trees in response to a neighbor's complaints about impairment of her view.  She wanted many of our trees removed but I compromised by removing one and thinning others.  I'm feeling the loss of that tree this summer.

This view is from the back door: The tree shown in the middle of the back border in the photo on the left was removed in March, leaving a greater portion of the backyard at the mercy of the intense summer sun

View from the back patio looking south

View from the south side yard, looking north toward the mimosa tree, which lost its floral decoration more quickly this year


The south side garden hasn't changed dramatically but my battles with the resident raccoons and dry soil continue to present challenges in this area.

View looking through the arbor toward the harbor


The front garden underwent the greatest change in the past year with removal of a large area of lawn.  Lawn removal began in pieces soon after we moved in but this was the most significant removal we'd undertaken.

View from the driveway: The dormant lawn seen in the photo on the left was replaced with drought tolerant plants, as shown on the right

I didn't have identical views of the area formerly occupied by lawn but these views taken from the southwest corner of the garden give some idea of the change


Last summer, I tried growing corn in my vegetable garden with only a modicum of success.  This year I'm growing sunflowers and zinnias.



The dry garden has been tweaked but I've made no major changes.



The slope is another area that underwent substantial change.  The giant Yucca elepantipes was removed at the bottom of the slope (at my husband's instigation) in January.  The 3 Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic' shrubs I put in afterwards to screen out our view into the neighbor's property are growing slowly but steadily.

My husband feared that the Yucca (more of a forest than a tree), shown in the photo on the left, was taking over the entire slope


The last area I'll show is the street-side succulent bed, which I planted just over a year ago.

Photo from 2014, shortly after it was planted

Current photo, after the addition of 500 lbs of additional stone and some new plants


Rationing water has proven to be the greatest challenge in the past year.  We cut our water use last year in response to the Governor's call for a voluntary 25% reduction.  This year, our area was told to cut water use by 36% by comparison to 2013 levels.  We've beat the budget set by the water company the past two months by good margins.  Our usage in June was only 73% of our budget but, even with the minor miracles of rain in May and July, the impact on the garden is being felt.  As July's rain gave me about 400 gallons of stored rainwater, I'm going to use that accumulation a little more freely, especially in the back garden where the loss of that tree's shade is being felt.  I ordered more mulch a couple of weeks ago and I've got most of that down in the areas I missed on my first pass a few months ago.  Planting of anything other than succulents is on hold until fall, when the last remaining two sections of lawn will also come out.  Beyond that, I've got my fingers crossed that El Niño is headed our way (hopefully, without floods or mudslides).

Visit Heather at Xericstyle, the blogger responsible for starting the wide shot meme, to see her front garden this month.


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

35 comments:

  1. As you have written so let it be done (and yes, withOUT mudslides or floods). Your areas look to be in great shape for any garden, much less one operating under water restrictions. You really have the hang of this now - we can only hope others are paying attention and will emulate your efforts! I'm inspired to go out and take some wider looks around here as well, though doubt I'll be posting anything to share. We are dealing with an opposite issue this year - too much rain in the late spring/early summer prompted everything to overgrow and flop over. Bugs galore and no way to reasonably keep up with the trimming now the temperatures are in triple digit territory.

    That is the thing about August. I so rarely take it as its own time in the garden - by this point I'm always looking towards Fall and what can be done to ameliorate whatever damage done by the season just finishing up.

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    1. I too am already thinking ahead to autumn. Isn't it funny how Mother Nature always throws us curves? You got lots of rain and exuberant plant growth, only to find yourself dealing with a population explosion of bugs. I imagine El Nino will bring its share of headaches too.

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  2. This is the beauty of blogging.. that we have pictures to look back on and compare. I'm not sure I'd be so disciplined about taking them otherwise. There have been some incredible changes over the year but what you've done with the front garden is spectacular. So much more welcoming than brown grass.

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    1. I just uncovered some photos from early 2011, shortly after we moved in, and I'm amazed by how the garden has been transformed. Pre-blog, I wasn't very conscientious about "before" photos but one day, I'll have to post what I've got.

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    2. Yes! Please do post those photos Kris!

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    3. Maybe I'll do that for next month's wide shots post, Loree. Unfortunately, I only have a handful of shots of the garden before I started tearing it apart.

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  3. It’s nice to see the comparison like this, all your hard work is easy to see! The view from the driveway is really good, I am not fond of lawns and in my opinion they just take up valuable space where flowering plants could grow :-)
    We are lucky not having any water restrictions here so I am watering freely, but we haven’t had much rain since last winter so the ground is very dry. I wouldn’t mind having the tail-end of El Niño our way, without too much devastation thanks – I remember last year when the remnants of Gonzalo blew over here – caused havoc for 2 days, but we did get some welcome rain.

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    1. According to experts, one El Nino year won't end our drought but at least it'll provide some relief. We usually only get rain during winter here so we're used to long dry spells but, after years of trivial winter rains, we're very, very parched so a wet year will be appreciated. Removal of the lawn was my plan from the beginning but the schedule has been accelerated by the drought - lawns suck up way too much water!

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  4. The garden is looking amazing, and it's a real tribute to your efforts to achieve such great results under such tough conditions. I love the planting so much better than just the lawn areas in the before photos...it's so much more appealing!

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    1. I'm still feeling my way with the plant selections, Matt, experimenting with one plant after another. Not every plant reputed to be "drought tolerant" fits our requirements for that category.

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  5. I just love the pathways with the flagstone and low groundcover - thyme, if I remember correctly? (I'll be doing great if I can get a groundcover to look that good here!) You've had a really tough gardening year in a lot of ways - what a time to have to take a tree out :( Your front garden transition really shows how quickly you've been able to get a good design in! Here's hoping El Niño is good to us... :)

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    1. Yes, that's thyme. You may want to experiment with different types to see what works best for you. There are at least 3 kinds of thyme in my garden which creep but they vary significantly in height at maturity (which matters when they're planted between stepping stones). The woolly thyme (T. serpyllum) planted along the path on the south side of my front garden is vigorous and flowers well (to the delight of the bees) but at 2-3 inches tall, it's not optimal between stepping stones. Creeping thyme (T. praecox aka T. polytrichus britannicus) 'Minus' and 'Elfin' are slower to establish but have flatter profiles. ('Elfin' doesn't bloom.) 'Pink Chintz', which I've seen classified as both T. serphyllum and T. praecox, grows to about 6 inches tall, okay for growing alongside a path but not between stepping stones. It's best to ask about the thyme's mature height prior to purchase if its not labeled. I'm going to be replacing some of my thyme with shorter varieties this fall...

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    2. Thanks for the input, Kris! I'd been wondering how much difference the height would make in a walkway...

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  6. I love what you have done, what a lot of effort involved. It is so useful to have photos showing the yearly difference. It is a shame you had to lose the shade privided by your tree though. Shade must be important in the temperatures you experience.
    Losing the lawn was a great idea, I love the way you have made it look now.

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    1. I made an issue of the drought and heat when my neighbor pressed me to remove the trees that impaired her view. She dismissed that concern but, had our governor declared our water emergency status and the attendant water restrictions before I acted on her "request" (threat), I think I'd have fought her harder on the matter. Now is definitely not the time to be removing trees and, in fact, the governor has emphasized the need to preserve trees. I've read that Australia made a point of planting trees during its severe drought - my community and its "view conservation" ordinance is out of step with current conditions.

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  7. Hi Kris, it is great to see these wide shots comparison photos! They really make you see how the garden is changing over time. Too bad that you had to take down the tree in your backyard. It has a big impact visually and obviously your garden is missing the shade that this tree provided. But to see the positive side your new open view over the harbor has also something going for it.
    Taking the lawn out in your front yard was the right thing to do considering our drought and your new plantings are really enhancing that area. I think that is quite an accomplishment! In our neighborhood a lot of people are also taking their front lawns out, but their new drought tolerant plantings look often very boring to me and the lack of love installing these new gardens is very evident.
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. There's clearly a wide divide in how people are responding to the drought. I think the "turf terminator" model, which generally involves laying lots of rock and installing a few pitiful succulents with no thought to aesthetics, is short-sighted. Maybe those people think the drought is a temporary phenomenon and assume they'll plant more attractive landscapes when "normal" weather resumes. I think those folks will be disappointed as one wet El Nino isn't going to eliminate our drought, especially if the precipitation doesn't reach Northern California. At some point, I hope people will realize that California's Mediterranean climate isn't meant to support lush lawns and, if only to preserve their property values, they'll plant drought tolerant gardens that handle summer dry conditions. Maybe we need HGTV to start running shows on flipping gardens to support home sales.

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  8. It all looks wonderful Kris but I'm most drawn to the changes created by removing the front lawn and the work you've done street-side. I've been reading about water restrictions coming to various cities in Oregon and Washington (Vancouver BC already has a moratorium on watering), reading about the efforts you've gone to certainly inspires.

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    1. I hope it doesn't come to that in Portland, Loree, although I'm impressed that Oregon and Washington are trying to address the problem before it becomes critical. I think California held off on taking action longer than it should have but of course that's hind-sight.

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  9. It's great to see the changes Kris and it all looks wonderful! The garden is looking fab despite the current challenges being the heat and drought.

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    1. After waiting years and years to get a good-sized garden, I feel frustrated sometimes that my gardening choices and aspirations have been constrained so dramatically by the drought but that's life, isn't it? And, as I have to remind myself, there are always solutions - you just may have to look in a different direction.

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  10. I love the idea of doing side-by-side photos. Your garden has undergone quite an evolution in the last year. What you did with the lawn is stunning. I'll be looking to your garden for inspiration when we remove our small patch of front lawn in the fall.

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    1. The greatest effort associated with removing the lawn and replanting the front garden went into soil preparation, Gerhard. We dug down a foot or more, took out gobs of rocks (our property used to be part of a rock quarry), and added mountains of additional top soil and amendments.

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  11. You have done so well at reducing your water usage - that's really impressive. Especially because your garden still looks great from where I am sitting (I'm sure there are some plants that aren't enjoying it, but you can't tell!).

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    1. The plants in the backyard border, particularly those along the edges adjoining the dormant/dead lawn, are in bad shape, Amy. After taking a look at my own wide shots, I did a closer inspection and found that some are dead and others near dead. My fingers itch to replace them but I expect I should wait until after I pull out that remaining lawn, which I'm hoping will happen in late September or early October.

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  12. Interesting to see the difference from year to year, which is reflected in the vegetation.
    It looks greener! it has made a difference since you started collecting water in the tanks.
    A wonderful garden you have
    Mariana

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    1. Thanks Mariana. The garden and I are trying very hard to adapt to our new water restrictions.

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  13. Great comparison shots. Your garden looks wonderful despite the lack of moisture. Fingers crossed for rain!

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    1. I have my heart set on El Nino so he better come through this winter!

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  14. I always enjoy these types of comparisons. The changes in the front garden are dramatic when compared to 2014, and the results are wonderful. I can imagine what a challenge the lack of rain has been, especially with the heat, but your garden looks great.

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    1. Parts of it aren't so great when viewed close-up, Deb. There are a lot of holes already and would be more still if I pulled out all the dead and dying...

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  15. I completely understand your frustration about removing the agonis. They are the filmiest of trees, hardly a view obstruction! You've done wonders with the garden, especially considering the constraints imposed by ornery neighbors and the drought.

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    1. I was afraid the summer sun and heat would make me cranky over that tree removal and I have to admit it has, Denise. An article in the LA times this week mentioning that Australia actually planted more trees in response to its serious drought - plus all the dead plants I've identified in the past week - set me off. I'll let it go - at least as long as said neighbor stays out of my hair.

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  16. I love the before and now photos. And I feel jealous of the view as always when I look at your garden. You may have lost the tree but you gained a new picture of harbour.

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  17. I stopped by here the other day to enjoy the changes your garden has seen in the last year. You are a kind neighbor to remove a tree. There have been fights over such things in England in recent months and cities having to step in and demand removal of those Leylandia hedges that were blocking sunlight. They could take a lesson from you and just get the job done. I must have been a fair battle to take down the yuccas. I do like the new look though. Well done on the comparison shots. It's not often you get to see such from the same angle. They really tell a story and a good one at that.

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