Friday, November 10, 2017

Ch ch ch ch changes...

I've a laundry list of projects to accomplish in the garden this fall.  I'd been making good progress, feeling that I'm finally beginning to see the garden as I envisioned it.  And then I get thrown a curve ball.



I started making changes to the southwest corner of our property soon after we moved in.  I didn't place a priority on this area but rather chipped away at my renovations on a piecemeal basis.  Over time, I've removed trees planted by a prior owner in a space that didn't provide the sun they needed.  I cut back dying shrubs planted as a screen along the street side and planted replacements designed to link to an existing hedge.  I added a succulent bed facing the street to give that area some personality.  I extended a stacked stone wall and planted the sloped bed above it with a mix of succulents and other water-wise plants tolerant of shade.  And, most recently, I commissioned my husband to build me a lath (shade) house to occupy the flat area surrounded by hedges on 2 sides.

What I didn't count on was the sudden elimination of the shade-providing hedge on the south side.  Here's what the area looked like in the last good wide shot I have:

This photo, taken July 1, 2017, shows the dry stack wall on the left and a solid mass of hedge on the right

On our side of the property line, we've got a hedge of English Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) we inherited with the garden.  The Laurel shrubs are leggy but that aspect was masked by the fact that there was a thicket of oleander (Nerium oleander) on the neighbor's side.  Last week the neighbor approached us with the news that the oleander was afflicted with leaf scorch, a blight associated with insect-borne bacteria.  His plan was to remove all the oleanders, which he promptly did.

Before:

I took this photo after the neighbor's gardeners had cut the oleander back but before they started pulling the shrubs out.  Before they cut the plants back, virtually no light was visible through the thick growth.


After:

My intention was to fit my lath house into the area on the right, replacing the structure currently holding firewood, my orchid bench, and various pots and other detritus that have accumulated in that area and the area beyond the photo's frame

The shade structure will still probably go into the area on the right in this photo but I'm no longer sure it will take on the same shape, which I'd originally conceived as an irregular (scalene) triangle 


We've already worked with the neighbor to arrange for new plants to create a screen between our 2 properties.  After several days of exchanges over possibilities, we agreed on planting 7 Pittosporum tenuifoloium 'Silver Sheen', with us picking up half the cost.  The neighbor managed to order these in 15-gallon containers at wholesale prices.  I've never planted anything from containers that large so I'm happily leaving the planting task to his gardeners.  At the risk of becoming obnoxious, I recommended supplementing the soil before they plant as I imagine it hasn't been amended for 20+ years and in addition now contains sawdust left after grinding down the oleanders' trunks.

The area looks much larger with the oleanders gone!  Ninety percent of the space belongs to the neighbor but a small portion along the retaining wall is ours.  Once the Pittosporum are planted, I've suggested adding prostrate rosemary as a ground cover to hold the soil.  If there's no objection, I may take care of that piece myself.


Even starting with 15-gallon containers, I expect the area is going to feel exposed on both sides of the property line for some time.  I'm hoping that the cooler conditions of fall and winter will give the plants I have atop the stack-stone wall a chance to acclimate to stronger sunlight before the heat returns.

How ever much you plan, gardens, neighbors and Mother Nature will always keep you hopping!


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party




28 comments:

  1. Be thankful you have a neighbor who cares, and with whom you can work! I've seen such awful messes between neighbors (we now live in an HOA community). I've been on our landscape committee for two years, and in January will become head of it. Gulp. There are a few around here who have an "entitlement" problem! Anyway, it all does take time to grown and fill in, doesn't it? One more positive for you: always best to plant in the fall!

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    1. That neighbor has been more than considerate, although I still feel a bit of trepidation about the degree of his reliance on my recommendations, Libby. I've provided links to independent reviews of the various plants we've discussed and shared my own experience with them but I'm still left feeling that, if one or more of the plants fails, it'll be seen as my responsibility. Their gardener recommended other plants and he's suggested that there may be problems with the plants I proposed. So it seems neighbor relations are never easy!

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  2. You really have to roll with the punches when you have neighbors so close by, don't you? At least they are cooperative, thankfully. Our town mandates 200' road frontage and two acres of land minimum, so it is rare that there is an issue, though I expect they exist.

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    1. Here in SoCal, Eliza, we cram people into the smallest lots possible to maximize density and income to somebody, probably lots of somebodies - real estate developers, communities receiving revenue from property taxes, etc. At a little more than half an acre, our lot is considered large by the standards of LA County. The condos and townhomes that increasingly dominate our area are more commonly on the order of an eighth of an acre or less.

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  3. O Kris, I feel for you. Making changes in the garden is exciting and emotionally fraught. We have our visions and then I guess the only thing you can be sure of is that some unpredictable factors will emerge and there will be changes to that particular vision. I have lots of pittosporums against the fences. I see them as forming a frame to the garden picture. As you say, this is the best planting time, hopefully they will get settled before the next summer.

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    1. I hope so, Sue! I don't like installing plants this large - my experience is that they're more likely to struggle in getting established but the neighbors insisted on large specimens with a record for fast growth.

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  4. I'm a bit of a fan of the new opened up space after the removal of the Oleanders, probably because I am constantly trying to bring more sun into my own garden. My last neighbor issue involved a huge branch of a Locust falling from her tree into both our backyards, straddling the fence.She was incredibly apologetic and paid for all removal --little did she know that I was thrilled with the thinning of the canopy of her damn tree !
    Anyway, I hope the lath house plans go forward and that the winter light is kind to the plants that suddenly were plunged into sunnier conditions.

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    1. I had a very similar experience with a tree next door to our former place, Kathy, although it was a rental property and it took a good deal of effort to get the property management firm to act. In the past, I've tried to maximize my sun exposure too but here privacy and shade also have great value.

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  5. Anything but Ficus and their horrible roots! I hope the Pittos do what the neighbors desire and that this does not interfere with your shade structure plans.

    One of my favorite Bowie songs.

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    1. The neighbor's gardener recommended Ficus or Podocarpus. I was strongly opposed to Ficus because of their invasive surface roots and cautioned that those plants would make a mess of their driveway. I reluctantly said Podocarpus would be acceptable but they'd require more water and maintenance than they might be happy with in the long run. The Pittosporum were a compromise, selected mainly because they have a reputation of being very fast growing, generate little litter, and have low water needs once established. Nonetheless, I'm nervous about installing them from 15-gallon containers but the neighbor got them for just $50 apiece so at least they weren't expensive!

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  6. Hi there.... my native plant designer recommended 'silver sheen' for the border between our property and the neighbor's ubiquitous motorhome :/... they have indeed been fast-growing; everyone seems to like them; and they do have that beautiful 'sheen' in the light! So far, we're very happy with them...a nice screen, without blocking everything out. I hope you like yours just as well!

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    1. I think they're a good choice too, Holly. My only concern is planting them from huge containers, which may make it harder for them to establish healthy root systems. Still, my fingers are crossed that all goes well.

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  7. You do seem to adapt to unexpected changes pretty quick! Also glad to hear that your neighbours are at least cooperative and just get on with things.

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    1. This neighbor is the opposite of the tree-hating neighbor who lived up the street and, thankfully, moved out at last several months ago. My husband marked off the footprint for my new lath (shade) house in that area this morning and I'm really looking forward to that!

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  8. Neighbors and their yards. The former G's house next door, they put in AstroTurf. Used AstroTurf. Replete with yard lines and numbers. A second house on Corbin is doing the same.

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  9. Wow, that is a big change! These things are hard enough when you plan it yourself, but to have it come out of the blue seems extra challenging.

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    1. I knew it was going to have a significant impact when the neighbor first spoke to us but I still underestimated just how exposed it would make that area feel, Loree. My husband marked off the footprint of the proposed lath (shade) house yesterday, though, so I'm trying to look at all the changes as something to be excited about.

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  10. Those legs and a fresh view look rather attractive.
    But the loss of privacy is daunting.

    A shade house will give you lots of exciting fresh opportunities. Ferns and orchids?

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    1. The area has gone from one of the most private on our property to the least so I welcome the plan to get the new Pittosporum in the ground (soon, I hope). Ferns and orchids will definitely be tenants of the new shade house but I also hope to have fuchsias, begonias, and some of the other shade-loving plants I've missed since moving here.

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  11. That's quite a change without the neighbor's bushes. Looking forward to seeing your shade house!

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    1. So do I, Peter! But my husband took the first tentative steps toward making the shade house a reality this weekend - giving away our firewood, taking down the structure that housed it, and mapping out the footprint for the new structure. Yay!

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  12. 15 gallon containers - woo! I'm glad you won't have to dig them in. I can only imagine the shock of having that area suddenly become much less private; hopefully the new planting will take care of some of that quickly. Curiously, oleander leaf scorch doesn't seem to be an issue here - yet, anyway. Oleanders are very widely used in the area, and I always wonder whether it will become a problem, and if so, how soon...

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    1. The oleander problem has been developing for years in our area but this is the first time it's affected us. While it appears that one stand of oleanders just across the street are still fine, other neighbors are also taking them out. The scorch is caused by a bacteria carried by insects so I suppose its spread is to be expected.

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  13. Wowsers! That is a very big change. I think already it looks good with air and light coming in...the addition of Pittosporum I imagine will be really lovely. It's nice you are on such good gardening terms with your neighbors, that's a huge relief. I hope the 15 gallon containers do well, that can be tricky and expensive if they don't take, but I imagine in your climate they will be fine.

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    1. Well, the neighbor got the plants at a very good price, $50, which is good but I still worry about the shock of transplantation from containers that size. We'll see - the neighbor's crew is supposed to be here to plant today!

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  14. I was stunned to see the "after" picture. I thought I was looking at a totally different garden! I actually like the openness but I understand you're looking at the neighbor's driveway.

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    1. When we moved in, I felt that the best thing about the southwest corner of the property was the sense of seclusion it provided. While I opened it up to the street to a degree myself when I removed and replaced a few dying shrubs on the west side, I still felt I could putter there in relative isolation. Now that it's open on 2 sides, it feels much too exposed to me, although I DO appreciate the light and airy feel. Maybe if I'd never valued it for the seclusion it once provided, I wouldn't be so bothered by the changes, if that makes any sense.

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