Friday, September 28, 2018

Revisiting my gardening past

Almost two weeks ago I participated in a tour that included 4 private gardens in Newport Beach.  Three of these were very small.  Their size reminded me of my former garden in another beach city but they were otherwise very unlike that space.  I gave up that garden more than 7 years ago when we moved into our current home and I haven't looked back since but this tour had me drawing comparisons to my memories of that first garden, which subsequently had me pulling up old photos.  Sadly, there are less than 100 of those even though I gardened there for nearly 20 years and, of those, most were of poor quality; however, they made it clear that my recollections were accurate: the space was all about plants and I filled nearly every inch available to me.  Taking you down memory lane with me, I'm sharing a scattering of the best of that paltry collection of photos with you.

As background, our former home was a 2-story townhouse on a split lot.  The area was (and still is) crammed with similar townhomes and condominiums.  Because of building density my garden was shaded by houses on all sides.  And it was tiny.  I'd estimate that my total garden space, including a narrow strip that ran along the driveway, totaled about 700 square feet.

Some of my photos were taken in the spring of 2002 and some in the spring of 2010 so they don't all flow neatly one from another.  For unknown reasons, other than that I was a complete workaholic and not much of a photographer, there were almost no photos between those two years.

After my husband pulled out the Bougainvillea that originally lined the narrow border along the driveway (because it scratched the old RX7 he'd painstakingly transformed from gas to electric power), I planted roses, bulbs, vines and shrubs there (2002 photo)

The driveway border was all of one foot wide (2002 photo)

The gate at the end of the driveway led into the east end of my garden (2002 photo)

This 2010 photo shows the same area but, in the 6-year interim between the 2 photos, I'd changed out many of the plants and my husband had built me a new fence that allowed in more sun

Closer view of the area immediately inside the gate (2010 photo)

2010 photo showing the very small concrete patio slab off the house and the area on the east side of the garden beyond

I couldn't resist including this 2002 photo of a vignette on the northeast garden wall showing a tree peony bloom.  As I recall, the plant produced 2 or 3 blooms during the 4+ years I had it.  It was gone well before 2010.

This was the view from the back door.  The bench was the only seating my garden offered, other than 2 chairs given over to my cats on the west side of the house.  The cat shown here was not mine, although she may have thought otherwise as she had free run of my garden.  (2010 photo)

This 2002 photo shows the west end of my alley-like garden.  Most of the plants I used, which included Camellias, Fuchsias, Plectranthus and Pericallis (cineraria), preferred shade.

Regrettably, most of my 2010 photos of that same area, like this one, were taken in glaring sunlight.  But look how bountiful my Fuchsias were!

The narrow west side strip of outdoor space along the house was occupied in part by what would now be called a "catio" (enclosed patio for cats), which contained 2 chairs for my boys, Max and Ming, and their litter box (2002 photo)

Even the "catio" had plants.  As I recall, the plant barely visible on the right was an espaliered Camellia.  There's a dwarf Japanese maple and a Hydrangea in a raised planter on the other (discolored) wall.

On the other side of the enclosure there was a potting bench and more plants (2002 photo)

The same area as shown above but looking in the other direction (2002 photo)


I crammed a lot of garden into some very small spaces!  I couldn't have held a dinner party in that garden if I'd tried but at least the space had soul and it gave me joy every day of every year I lived there.  I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy your own garden this weekend.


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

32 comments:

  1. Certainly cram-scaped, but I can see that it offered relief as only green spaces can. Adorable kitties help, too. :) Love your hubby's picket fence!

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    1. Sadly, both Max and Ming are gone. I got them from a rescue service that I subsequently suspected might've been a front for a kitten mill. Both litter-mates had serious medical issues from the day I brought them home. I got them through the first crisis (even though my vet told me I should return them to the seller) but both had heart issues. I lost Max to congestive heart failure before he was 7 years old. I was able to hang onto Ming until he was 12. I miss them both of course, although Ms. Pipig has decided she likes her role as empress.

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  2. You had a lovely garden there. I love the catio. I wish more people would do this for their cats and keep them inside so they couldn't get birds and small animals. Wonderful plants everywhere. I can imagine that your new (current) garden felt a bit overwhelming at first. You have done this space justice too. I wish I had photos of my old garden. It was larger than my current garden. I had a few pictures. It was before digital so there weren't too many.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Lisa. I did indeed feel overwhelmed by my new garden when I first dug into it (pun intended) and it continues to intimidate me at times, especially as water has become a larger issue and temperatures have been on a continuous warming trend. You're on point about photographic technology too. As I recall, my first camera was one of those polaroid units. Who knows what happened to any of those photos!

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  3. That was awonderful garden. Loved the fence/gate your husband built; attractive as well as a boon to the plants. And your cats! What beautiful treasures.

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    1. In retrospect, I'm surprised that my husband accommodated me on the design for that funky fence, Linda. He's always been willing to jump in to construct what I needed (or felt I needed). As to Max and Ming, I still miss them. They weren't easy cats (my husband referred to them by the acronym SOS, which in this context stood for "spawn of Satan") but they were loving and lovable.

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  4. How fascinating to see these photos of your previous garden! It was lovely, and obviously loved, and so very different from your current one. It seems to me to have a kind of English garden vibe about it.

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    1. Even though the 2 gardens are only 15 miles apart, the environments are very different and called for different plants. For example, while I had almost no direct sun in my former garden, there's relatively little shade in my current one. Wind is also a major issue in my current space and of course water and rising temperatures are big issues as well.

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  5. Really beautiful! I like gardens with tht plants spilling over each other.

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    1. Thanks! Only single file strolls through my former garden were possible but somehow that seemed appropriate in such a tiny space.

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  6. I so enjoyed the contrast between your former garden and those on the Newport Beach tour. Your garden revealed the soul of a plant loving gardener while those on the tour showed well decorated outdoor rooms.

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    1. I thought of it as the most important space associated with our former house and I spent more time there than perhaps any other "room". My husband was surprised that the garden was also something house hunters focused on when we put the place up for sale. Even I'd been worried that people might find the space overwhelming and I made the pitch (through our real estate agent) that it'd be easy to pull up the pavers and some of the plants to install lawn (although I privately shuddered at the thought).

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    1. Thanks Cindy! I still have fond memories of the space.

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  8. You made the most of your small garden. I love the scene with the bench and the cat. So pretty. I remember when we first moved to Irvine we had a zero lot line house with more space down the side than out at the back. I lamented the lack of sun in the garden because of surrounding houses. There wasn't much money for buying plants but when I look at what you did I clearly squandered my time in that wonderful climate. I think I spent most of it wandering round Roger's Gardens envious of their hanging baskets.

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    1. Well, spending money on Roger's hanging baskets would break anyone's pocketbook, Jenny. I planted a lot from 6-packs in those days and considered even bare root roses a major splurge. My husband tried to keep me in line with pie-charts showing my annual garden expenditures. Luckily, the purse strings are no longer nearly as tight!

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    2. Oh yeah, the hanging baskets at Rogers ! When I worked at Nurseryland in San Diego we used to make spy missions to OC to look at Rogers. We didn't have the talent to duplicate them.

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    3. The current prices on those baskets would make your eyes pop but they are great inspirational pieces.

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  9. The cat who adopted your garden was quite an ornament to it! Responding to its soul...

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    1. The cat belonged to a neighbor behind us. She visited the garden from the time she was a kitten. As her official owner not only left her outside but also failed to neuter her on a timely basis, she subsequently brought her 4 kittens over as well. I eventually prevailed on the owner to allow a friend of mine to adopt 2 of the kittens but he wouldn't agree to allow me to adopt the mom cat or her remaining kittens. In any case, they felt they had refuge in my garden.

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  10. This was a wonderful post Kris, thank you for taking the time to find the old photos and share them with us. Isn’t it amazing how technology has changed our ability to document things?

    Your garden was obviously loved, plants on plants on plants, with a little room for kitties of course. My garden in Spokane, the first home I owned, and all by myself, had so much space, but money was oh so very tight. I remember a huge nursery splurge for a new planting area I carved out of the lawn at the front of the house, I spend almost $100 and felt of so very decadent, and it was!

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    1. I can appreciate the feeling of decadence at such "major" expenditures, Loree! I also recall how easily I could transform an entire area of my tiny garden with just a few relatively small purchases. My current garden seems to swallow up even the large specimens I periodically indulge in now.

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  11. I love this Kris ! I wish I had been taking more photos when I first started this garden, not to mention my two previous gardens. Your townhouse garden was so pretty-- really took me back to coastal Socal all those years ago.

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    1. Even though the old garden was only 15 miles north of our current location, it benefited from the western ocean breezes. In the summer, our current location is a good 10 degrees warmer on average.

      I didn't take many photos of my current garden until I started this blog and soon after got myself a "proper" camera. I'd been regretting the lack of "before" shots until another blogger mentioned pulling some off old real estate listings - I went on Zillow and sure enough discovered some fairly decent shots. I'm trying to duplicate the angles so I can include comparisons in my October wide shots posts.

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  12. Gorgeous lushness! You managed to grow so many things so beautifully in such a small space (not to mention working a job full time as well).

    I can see the beach influence in the happiness of the plants. Even the beach is getting hotter and drier now.

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    1. It was a good 10 degrees cooler there on average during the summer months than it is in my current location but, yes, friends that live there now complain regularly about heat spikes. Houses in that area generally don't have air conditioning.

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  13. Wow, Kris! I honestly don't think you could have crammed more plants in there. Although a small garden with walls and neighbors close by, I am envious of its shade, aren't you?

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    1. I bemoaned the lack of sun when we lived there but now I wish my current garden had a lot more! My husband built me a small lath (shade) house just so I could grow a few shade plants here.

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  14. The thought occurred later that I was hoping for gardens such as your former one on the Mediterranean tour--small gardens but crammed with a wealth of happy, flowering plants. At least one of those would have been great!

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    1. It was that Mediterranean Garden Society tour that got me thinking about my old garden. My former garden may have sat at one extreme of the spectrum but those we toured were at the other end in my view. Surely, some kind of middle ground exists that would satisfy people who appreciate plants as much as people who want space to entertain?

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  15. I wonder, if I could find a few pictures of our first garden. Not nearly enough (and undated) to tell a story. Combined with the certainty that our plants and graceful boulders, are now swimming pool, lawn and paving.

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    1. I'm fairly certain my old garden has changed significantly, if it's not been eradicated altogether. For one thing, the buyers had 2 small children and, magical as I may have found the space, I suspect it wouldn't fit the expectations of most parents of toddlers. I really wish I'd taken more of the plants with me...

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