Friday, April 8, 2016

Another work in progress

In my recent wide shots post, I mentioned that I was working on the area on the southwest end of the property alongside the street.  This area is a mish-mash.  The strip directly adjacent to the street is half succulent bed and half hedge.  Behind that, there's a flat area and another area that slopes down from the main level of the front yard to a dry stacked wall.  I've been working on that slope.  It isn't as precipitous as the one at the back of our property but it still presents a challenge.

The decline of several sections of the Ceanothus hedge planted along that slope and their subsequent removal left large areas of bare ground.  This is the closest I have to a "before" photo of the area:

I used some of the topsoil we hauled in earlier this year to sculpt the soil (as you may be able to see in the area to the left in this photo).  

Thick roots left behind by the Ceanothus help to hold the soil in place and I've added rocks here and there for more support.


Here's what the area on the left looks like after planting:

View from the bottom of the stone wall, looking up toward the main level of the front garden

View from the opposite direction, looking down toward the succulent bed and the street


I ordered a few plants from a native plant nursery but filled in with others that are more commonly available, including a couple that I consider "weeds" but which in this instance will at least help hold the soil while the other plants mature.

Top row, left to right: Aeonium from cuttings with Sedum tetractinum 'Coral Reef', Festuca californica, and Gaura lindheimeri
Middle row: Abelia x grandiflora 'Confetti', Garrya elliptica 'James Roof', and Salvia 'Celestial Blue'
Bottom row: Erigeron karvinskianus, Lobularia maritima, and Limonium perezii


Watering a slope can be difficult.  I created basins around the plants where possible to allow water to collect and seep into the soil rather than running straight down.  But, as these basins were more shallow than was ideal in many cases, I've also used upturned water bottles to dispense water slowly below ground level.

The terracotta bottle stakes work like small ollas but take up less space

The plastic stakes feed water to plant roots more quickly but are more durable than the terracotta ones


The slope's face curves from west to south.  The side further to the south is less protected from the sun so I've used more succulents in that area.

Most of the Aeonium cuttings shown in this area were in place before the Ceanothus was removed but the plants above the Aeoniums are more recent additions



This area is even steeper than the west side and was very difficult to plant so I made do with smaller plants that required less digging and soil preparation.

Clockwise from the upper left: Agave desmettiana 'Variegata', Aloe striata, California poppy seedlings, Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum', Sedum tetractinum 'Coral Reef', and Westringia 'Wynyabbie Highlight'


Eventually, I'd like to bring in more large rocks and try to at least partially terrace the south end of this slope but that project is still a ways down on my "to do" list.  My knee and I are taking a break from any further work on sloped surfaces for a time.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

28 comments:

  1. I really admire the job you've done contouring that slope Kris! Hope your knee recovers quickly :) I wish I could grow Aeoniums through summer here as there are some spots where I'd love to use them... I'll have to come up with a better idea!
    We actually got some rain last night :D

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    1. Even here, the large Aeoniums prefer a good amount of shade, Amy. They work well in pots and color up well when water stressed so you might want to try potting some up and moving them about until you find a spot they like.

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  2. Even more areas to plant! I'm impressed by your stamina... It looks great. Hopefully it will fill in the way you like soon.

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    1. The succulents will be slow to flesh out as I used Agave pups and aloes from small pots but my hope is that starting small will let the roots get well developed before the plants' upper growth makes them top-heavy.

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  3. Slopes are tough, but all the more rewarding once you figure out what grows and what doesn't.

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    1. I seem to be in a constant state of experimentation, Hoover Boo. My tiny, shady former garden didn't prepare me for the requirements of this one.

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  4. Slopes are hard to work and are tough on the body! I put in a sloped garden last summer, so I remember it well. What you've done looks great - the aeoniums are so striking. I look forward to watching this all grow and fill in. Enjoy your weekend! I hear you may get some rain?

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    1. So far, the rain has been minimal, just 0.12 inches since Thursday. Every time I check the latest projections, the forecasters seem to steadily whittle down what we can expect before the current system moves on. I turned the irrigation system off so I may be outside hosing down the garden before the weekend's out.

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  5. Kris, I think you're more goat than human now! You have taken on so many different conditions. That's a great selection of tough plants for that slope, and the water bottles and basins should settle things in quickly. Take a well-deserved rest for a bit!

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    1. I expect that most goats have 4 good knees, Denise - I seem to have just one!

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  6. You're pretty darn amazing. I hope you realize it.

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    1. That's kind of you, Loree. I still think I'm in an endless period of experimentation - some efforts are more successful than others but then maybe that's just the challenge of gardening.

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  7. I know you love a project and the chance to buy new plants but this steep slope sounds like a real challenge. I don' t know how you managed it, but well done. When the plants are all established it will look wonderful. I wish I could grow Aeoniums outside.

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    1. I hadn't expected that I'd lose so much of the 2 Ceanothus hedges. They're dying off shrub by shrub and, as these shrubs are very wide, they leave a lot of vacant space when removed. My western garden guide says they're short-lived here but I think the main problem is that the plants don't handle the constant trimming needed to manage them as hedge material.

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  8. I like the watering solution and hope it works. I use a lot of Erigeron too, mainly because it looks after itself and cascades beautifully. Take care of your knee!

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    1. That Erigeron is a true weed here but, as you say, it looks after itself and it's a great filler. As I expected more rain out of El Nino than we've received, I also wanted something that could cover the soil quickly and there are few plants that spread faster than E. karvinskianus here.

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  9. this area is much steeper than I'd realised from earlier posts, Kris; as you say slopes aren't easy to work or maintain, looks like this will be a great planting when it fills in. You did well to create the 'dishes' around the plants, that's also much harder on a slope I know from experience.

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    1. My unscientific guess is that the area above the stacked stone wall is at least a 30% slope. Digging on that slope proved hazardous so the basins were hard to construct but the water-bottle drip system is working fairly well - nothing's died yet anyway!

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  10. I too love the watering solution...and I used to plant on steep slopes in my old garden...it is tough to manage plants and erosion but you have a great plan.

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    1. Maybe I should be glad that El Nino didn't come on with fury here, Donna! At least the plants on my bare slope have had a chance to establish rather than being washed away!

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  11. Love the mix of plants you've added, Kris! It's going to look great as it fills in. I'm a little envious of gardeners who have interesting topography like this to work with, but then it's easier to appreciate the opportunities when you don't have to deal with the challenges. I hope your knee recovers quickly. I'm trying to take a bit of a break after all the work I've done the last few weeks, but all of a sudden my parents are thinking it's time to garden. Yeesh. They couldn't have helped before?

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    1. I wish I could have the slopes (front and back) terraced to make them easier to work with but that would carry a hefty price tag (and I haven't won the lottery yet). My husband built me a rudimentary stairway out of concrete blocks down the back slope but a good portion of it's still largely inaccessible to me, especially given my one lousy knee.

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  12. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to garden on such a steep slope. I hope heavy rains stay away while your plants are establishing themselves. The individual watering looks ideal for such a space as I am sure top watering would just run off taking the soil with it.

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    1. Torrential rain would be a nightmare at this stage I expect but a little more gentle rain than we've gotten this year would be nice. Oh well, I guess I can expect only so much cooperation from Mother Nature.

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  13. Wow, that slope looks like….you would need climbing gear?! How do you get up and down planting and weeding on the middle part there? My goodness, I am so glad my garden is on one level :-) I admire you for cultivating this bit and not just choosing an easy option, looks good already. And I guess all the aeoniums will be happy in your climate, and not rot like mine did, the winters are too wet here. I am going to have one more try now that I have a shed, and simply overwinter them in the shed. Outside is not possible, it’s warm enough, but too much rain. Wish I could send you some rain, we are having sunshine and showers almost every day.

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    1. Amazingly, I don't have a huge weed problem there unless you count the weeds I permit, like the Erigeron karvinskianus and the alyssum. Still, I have to tread very carefully. I can get take care of some of the area from the bottom but climbing around from the top is a bit treacherous.

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  14. Your slope is looking great! I love your selection of plants. The combination of whites is especially impressive. I have planted slopes before and appreciate the difficulty of both the initial planting and the continuing maintenance involved.

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    1. Ah, maintenance...I can only hope that the requirements will be minimal once the Garrya and the Salvias grow to a mature size.

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