Friday, April 20, 2018

So now what?

One of the two Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' in the dry garden area on the northeast side of our property has been looking unhealthy for some time now.  I first noticed dying branch tips on the formerly robust shrub last spring.  I pruned off the sections that looked bad and waited to see if it'd recover.  While it produced some new green foliage and it bloomed on schedule, it looked worse overall this spring.

This is the healthy Grevillea 'Penola'

and this is the unhealthy specimen.  If you look at the base of the plant, you can see it's leaning.  I wondered if the heavy winter rains of 2016-2017 combined with the high winds that routinely rip through our area combined to compromise the shrub's root system.

This isn't the best photo but it gives you a good idea of what the branch tips looked like


I enlisted my husband's help in taking out the afflicted Grevillea this week.

This is a wide shot of the area immediately before the Grevillea was removed

And this is approximately the same view after the Grevillea was removed.  The bare tree in the center of the photo is a cherry we inherited with the garden.

This is the same area, viewed from the concrete steps that lead into the area from the back slope


So now what do I do with this area?  The status of that cherry tree alongside the stairs to the back slope is still in question.  Inherited from a prior owner, it amazed me by producing a handful of cherries for several years in a row, despite the fact that getting the recommended 800-900 hours of winter chill is a virtual impossibility here.  However, I don't recall seeing any fruit last year and thus far this year it hasn't produced leaves, much less flowers.

There are lots of buds like these but they show no signs of opening


If  we pull out the cherry tree, I might try another tree in that location.  A crape myrtle maybe.  Whatever I select, it can't be too tall as I don't want to risk the ire of my next door neighbor, whose spa sits on the other side of the fence.  I still haven't planted the Arctostaphylos 'Louis Edmunds' I picked up at a discount at my local botanic garden a couple of weeks ago either, so that's another possibility.

Meanwhile, other parts of this garden area also demand further consideration.  I never designed this part of the garden so much as just plunked plants there.  My husband said he'd like to add a tree to block the view of (and from) a house up the hill that's currently in the latter stages of construction.

The owners of the house I've circled in this photo more than doubled their space, adding an entire floor on top of the existing structure.  It's been under construction for over 2 years now but it finally looks as though they're getting close to completion.

If I positioned a tree to screen the area my husband identified, it'd mean removing the Salvia clevelandii 'Allen Chickering' I circled here


There was an apricot tree in the general location of that Cleveland sage when we moved in but it died soon afterward.  If I put a tree in the Grevillea's former spot, that'd probably be too close anyway.  As the spot gets a considerable amount of shade from a mature Arbutus 'Marina' nearby, maybe another New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium) would be a better choice to address my husband's request.

That question had me considering the placement of the 2 Leptospermum I currently have in this area.  The 2 shrubs sit beside an inherited guava tree.  I don't hate the guava but it's not something I would've planted either and it doesn't look at all great next to the Leptospermum.  Maybe the guava needs to come out.

The guava tree (left) and the Leptospermum (to the right) don't do anything for one another.  The second Leptospermum is largely hidden behind the guava from this viewpoint.


There's another guava tree on the other side of the gravel path running through the area.  Guavas are self-fruitful so it doesn't require a second tree to produce fruit but fruit production is said to be heavier when there are others in the same species nearby to promote pollination.  However, no one here eats guavas except the squirrels and I wouldn't be distressed if they had fewer fruits to bury in my garden borders.

And then there's the problem of what to do about the Cordyline 'Renegade' I planted last fall.  They looked great - until our temperature unexpectedly soared into the 90s a couple of weeks ago.  What happened to them doesn't bode well for their fate this summer.

Here's what the Cordylines look like after a week of temperatures above 90F


A friend recently told me that, when remodeling a home, the domino theory comes into play, with one change precipitating another.  It looks as though the same can be said for gardens.

Any and all suggestions will be gratefully considered!  In the meantime, I'll leave you with a pretty picture of one of the Matilija poppies now blooming on the back slope.  Enjoy your weekend!

I may not have any California poppies at the bottom of the slope but Romneya coulteri had no problem returning for a second year


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

25 comments:

  1. I'm not sure how much help I can be with suggestions, but I sure do know this game of musical plants (like musical chairs). My first thought when I read about the Grevillea was that you could replace it with a Leucospermum 'Yellow Bird' like Hoover Boo's.

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    1. I love Hoover Boo's 'Yellow Bird' but I'm holding off on any more Leucospermums until I see if the 4 (still small) specimens I already have realize their potential. 'Goldie' shows promise and it's very similar to 'Yellow Bird' in form and color, although I'm not sure it'll ever gain the size of HB's wonderful plant.

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  2. Having spent a good part of today gathering all my “newly” (including gong back to last fall) purchased, and still unplanted, plants and moving them out of the way of this weekend’s project (shade pavilion greenhouse walls come down!) I’m already feeling a little of the domino effect here (well if I plant that there and move that over there and...and...and...)...which is to say I’m of no help. Good luck!

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    1. I'm getting closer with each day on removing the cherry tree as all the cherry trees in my area seem to be close to finishing flowering while this one hasn't even opened a single bud. However, I'm flip-flopping between planting the manzanita I'd originally earmarked for the back slope and buying one of those dark-leaved crape myrtles...Meanwhile, the new idea of chopping down that one guava tree is gaining some traction, my main reservation being what I can't help seeing as something of a crime in taking out a healthy tree.

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  3. What a conundrum! Australian natives do seem to have a habit of up and dying for no good reason, don’t they? I love crepe myrtles and they can be the size you want, so perhaps one of those is your answer. We have a lovely new one here: ‘Diamonds in the Dark, which comes in several different flower colours, but all have dark burgundy leaves- a lovely contrast with other green plants.

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    1. My husband commented on how easily the Grevillea's trunk came out. My sense is that, during all rain we had last year, 170% of "normal," the plant shifted, aided by our strong winds, leaving the plant poorly tethered in the ground. The 'Diamonds in the Dark' series of crape myrtles are exactly what came to mind when the idea of that tree popped into my mind, Jane. I've wanted a crape myrtle for a very long time and those dark leaves make it even more compelling.

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  4. I can't help you with your plant selection since you grow things I have never even heard of most of the time. I am all for trees though. Trees help the planet breathe. I know what ever you choose will turn out gorgeous.

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    1. I love trees too, Lisa. I'd have more big ones if I could but my community has an ordinance which gives priority to preserving residents' views (as of November 1989!) over the environment. Any tree I plant has to be relatively small (16 feet or less) or I invite challenges under the ordinance - and I've already had a couple of those relating to trees we inherited with the garden. It's a pain - and not something I knew anything about before we purchased the property.

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  5. Gosh, that is a challenge. It certainly is true that one change sets off a chain reaction. Everything's tied together--even in the garden. I'm sure it will look incredible, no matter what rearrangements you make.

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    1. Planting an entire bed from scratch, as I did in several spots after removing lawn, seems much easier to me than working around existing plants, Beth!

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  6. I just think a cherry tree is not a fit for your area, and kind of a waste of space. And if you don't love the Guava, say goodbye !

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    1. All stone fruit trees seem to be a no-go in this area now, Kathy - the peach tree on the back slope, also planted by the last owner, has yet to produce any viable fruit and has produced only a handful of flowers this spring. However, the nearby botanic garden has numerous cherry trees, which flowered fairly well even this year. I suspect they water more than I do and their microclimate may be different, even though they're just 5 miles away.

      I'm getting there on a guava tree. I think taking it out will improve the look of the entire space.

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  7. I thought we were unique in dealing with musical plants, dominoes and what I call "if you give a mouse a cookie syndrome" in our our landscaping efforts. Looking forward to seeing how your situation plays out. It'll probably wind up bringing you joy in the long term. Cheers :)

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    1. I think it's probably a common syndrome among gardeners, slc!

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  8. I was going to say manzanita to replace the cherry until I saw you were considering one already :)

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    1. A mature manzanita would be beautiful in that spot but I'm afraid it's going to take a long time for my current one-gallon specimen to get there.

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  9. That's a beautiful shot of a Romneya!

    The Manzanita are very slow growers, so if you need a screen don't expect it for quite a long time.

    A dark leafed Lagerstroemia is a great idea, as long as you don't mind deciduous screening. Mine have been slow growers, though not nearly as slow as Arctostaphylos. The two footer planted three years ago has just barely hit 6'. Non-dark leafed 'Dynamite' has been reasonably fast. 'Moonlight' Grevillea? That one is pretty fast.

    Hey, what about a Banksia?

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    1. I put my Cordyline 'Renegade' into 3/4 shade, though I think half shade would be best. Definitely not afternoon sun.

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    2. I'm leaning in the direction of a crape myrtle, hoping to find a good-sized specimen to start with (as opposed to my one-gallon manzanita). I planted a Grevillea 'Moonlight' in a nearby section of the garden last fall. A Banksia is an interesting idea, although I'm still not mad about them. As to the Cordyline, I thought that area under the second guava tree would be shady enough but clearly I was mistaken :(

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  10. Your poor cordylines look sadly frazzled.
    Still trying to decide what to do with my Prunus nigra, which has buds like your cherry.

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    1. The Cordylines get too much sun in that spot, and the sudden temperature surge above 90F, though temporary, didn't help things. With every passing day, I'm leaning closer to taking out the cherry tree. Although I vaguely recall that it did leaf out last year, it was late and sparse.

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  11. Whatever you eventually do will be as fabulous as the rest of your garden.

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    1. I'm more certain now of what I'll remove, just still not about what I'll plant. An unusual dilemma for me!

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  12. Starting a garden with a clean canvas is so much easier than working round someone else's planting ideas. I used to think if a plant was healthy I should keep it but I am much more ruthless now and remove plants that I don't like or aren't looking great. And when something dies or doesn't look well it is great to have a new planting space for sonething special.Looking forward to seeing what you choose.

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    1. It seems I'm becoming more ruthless too, Chloris, although it still pains me to cut down a healthy tree.

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