Friday, September 2, 2016

Busy, busy, busy

In late August and September, I try to distract myself from the urge to plant as it's too early yet to count out further heatwaves in Southern California.  I began the miserable task of cleaning up the back slope, which was nearly devastated by the combination of heat and severely restricted irrigation.  I divided the ratty-looking Arthropodium cirratum (Renga lilies) growing outside our living room window.  I pulled every single orchid I own out of its pot, cleaned out the dead leaves and bulbs, and replanted each in fresh orchid mix.  But the task that's given me the greatest sense of accomplishment thus far has been the extension of the rock wall running along the southwest side of our property.

Portion of the original retaining wall


This dry-stacked wall has bugged me since we moved in more than 5 years ago.  It runs parallel to the street behind our Xylosma congestum hedge and turns east following the slope that descends from the main level of the front garden but the original wall terminated abruptly midway along that path.

View of the portion of the wall facing the street.  The new Xylosma shrubs we planted to extend the existing hedge are doing fine but it will be at least a couple of years yet before they're large enough to close us off from the street.

This is the corner where the wall turns east


Early on, I began to extend the wall with stone and other bits of rubble.

The rubble I used to extend the original wall consisted of stray stones picked up from other parts of the property (which was part of a rock quarry in the 1940s), including decaying stones that crumbled under pressure, and chunks of cement left by a prior owner


Needless to say, rubble doesn't make a very pretty - or solid - wall.

The end of my rubble addition to the wall was particularly pathetic


I finally corralled my husband for a trip to the local stone yard.  We brought home 1565 pounds of rock, matching our selection as closely as we could to the stone used to construct the original wall, which is no longer available.  The weight severely taxed the transmission on my husband's pick-up truck but we made it home (slowly).  Getting the stone off the truck was also a challenge as the rocks at the bottom of the pallet proved to be larger and far heavier than we'd imagined.  Without my husband, there's no way I could have moved those rocks on my own.

It turns out that we had a ramp stored in the garage (which I often think of as my husband's equivalent of Mary Poppins' purse)

This is about two-thirds of what we eventually unloaded


I dismantled the rubble wall and he laid the largest stones for me.  I filled in with the smaller stones and used the leftover rock to create planting pockets here and there along the slope's face.  All the stones on the ground's surface were dug down into the soil several inches to ensure a solid footing and we backfilled behind them with imported soil.

The original wall stopped just behind that clump of Senecio vitalis shown roughly in the middle of this photo (below the large clump of Aeonium and the skinny pineapple gauva tree).  The view here clearly shows the difference between the old stone and the new, although I'm not sure the casual observer on-site would immediately be aware of the difference.

View of the extension from the dirt path leading from the main level of the front garden

Planting pockets created on the slope's face around some of the existing plants


I think I'd like to create more planting pockets but that will require another trip to the rock store.  I'm going to live with what I've got for a while before investing in more stone.  In the meantime, I'm planning to plant the "new" space with succulents.  While some of these will be cuttings from elsewhere in my garden, I figure September isn't too early to do a little succulent shopping.

How about you?  Have you got new projects going as we head toward autumn?


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

26 comments:

  1. Wow...that looks amazing Kris! Nice work. And your Aeoniums are nothing short of fabulous. I've got a few projects tumbling around in my brain. The only thing I've actually done though is cut back some Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ that was swallowing up other, more valuable to me, plants. Funny all the online sources list it as around 3-ft tall. Mine was at least 5 ft, maybe 6.

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    1. One thing I'm not short of are green Aeoniums. I can't even imagine a 5-foot 'Red Dragon' - I'm surprised if mine reaches 2 feet.

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  2. I need to get some of my pots of bulbs, in the ground, to take their chance.
    Far too many pots to water in between enough rain!

    Then there's the battle between my long list, and the few remaining gaps.

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    1. Planting bulbs has never been one of my favorite chores but I do so love the sense of surprise when their blooms appear! Bulbs for fall planting should be arriving in the garden centers here soon.

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  3. That's an impressive job on that wall Kris! The planting pockets are a good idea on that slope.

    I'm pulling out liriope and planting sedges for one project. It seems I'm always thinking of something to do even though most visitors think it all looks done.

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    1. Ah, Liriope! I foolishly planted L. spicata here even through I knew it has a reputation for being aggressive, thinking the drought would keep it under control - I should probably get ruthless and try getting it all out as it certainly doesn't want to be corralled. Good luck with yours, Shirley!

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  4. You work so hard, and it shows in your garden. The new wall looks great. Your husband is a gem, too. Garage as Mary Poppins purse! Ha! Good one.

    Just getting cool enough to get outside again. It seems like forever instead of a couple of months. Plants to move, but I'll wait a few more weeks. The Phylica is dead.

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    1. Oh no! The Phylica died? The original one I planted in a large pot (in cactus mix) and hovered over has grown large but the 2 I planted in the ground mid-summer promptly died. I just got another teeny specimen from Annie's and planted it in another large pot -I'll probably try moving it into the border eventually but not until it grows much larger and the weather is more consistently hospitable.

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  5. That wall extension turned out beautifully, I love the planting pockets! And if you hadn't pointed it out, I don't think it would be all that noticeable where it starts. I have a craft room rather like Mary Poppins' purse. I do have fall and winter plans, but haven't started on them yet. Right now they're all in my head. Mostly they involve pulling out plants that look dead (and for all I know might BE dead) and replacing them with more drought-tolerant ones.

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    1. I'd really like to do more of those planting pockets but working on the slope's face is a challenge to say the least. I've already starting pulling the dead from my borders - that major early summer heatwave we had left a lot of destruction in its wake and I just couldn't look at it anymore. I haven't started my fall planting frenzy yet, though, but I can feel the tension building...

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  6. How nice it will be with them new stones!
    I know how hard it is to build the stone wall!
    When it is not so new anymore, you will not notice the difference.
    No new projects here, is preparing for the winter now, because I'm going to operate on my hip at the end of September.
    After that there will be no more gardening this year.
    Mariana

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    1. I hope you have someone to look after the garden when you are recovering from hip surgery, Mariana. Best wishes with the winter preparations!

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  7. That looks great, Kris. I love the stone choice and the A. arborescens looks so fantastic there. I took out a strip of grass this weekend and replaced with a cut bluestone path and sand. I have plenty more projects waiting in the wings, and pretty soon it will be time for a transplanting and dividing frenzy! Hope you are enjoying your weekend. Tim

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    1. Fall is usually a frenzied period here too, Tim. Happy Labor Day! Working in the garden is the best way to mark the occasion in my opinion.

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  8. Gorgeous stone! Having worked a little with stone, I admire the work the two of you accomplished! The wall looks great! I also like how you are incorporating planting beds.

    Our weather is still hot and humid, though yesterday we had some cool breezes, which felt wonderful. This is real promise, as our summer breezes are usually warm and not refreshing at all.

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    1. We got some cool breezes ourselves, Deb. Maybe fall isn't really so far off after all!

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  9. You have been busy, and moving tons of rock no less! What a beautiful result, with lots of new planting opportunities too.

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    1. It's amazing how excited I get about a brand new planting bed, Denise. Now that we've taken out all our lawn, new planting areas are becoming harder to find. I may have to go vertical soon!

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  10. What a huge undertaking! Looks fabulous Kris. Have fun filling up that new bed.

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    1. I will, Susie. I'm not wasting any time there!

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  11. I'm impressed - I love seeing people's garden construction projects ;-) I can see it will be a whole lot nicer to have a full wall along there!
    I'm going ahead and planting cactus and agaves here as the sunlight (hopefully) won't burn them out now. Just one at a time, but it feels so good to be able to plant a few things again!

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    1. Just knowing that the heat of summer is waning boosts my energy, Amy. Happy planting!

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  12. Our drought this summer has given me a new appreciation for what an amazing garden you have. After just a few months of drought, my whole garden is ratty-looking. I find myself looking forward to winter to put it out of its misery so that we can make a fresh start next spring. -Jean

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    1. I hope your drought is a temporary anomaly, Jean. I'm very concerned that ours represents a new normal, despite California's decision to ease off the water restrictions imposed last year until new standards can be established.

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  13. Great job, and always a good feeling when you achieve something you've been planning for a while.

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    1. I've been planning to extend this wall for years but somehow other projects always took priority so I'm indeed pleased to tick off the box, Christina. The difficulties of hauling that heavy rock around have me re-thinking next steps with our steeper back slope, however - hiring professionals may be the smarter option there.

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