Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tell the Truth Tuesday: Stumped for Inspiration

The area on the east side of our backyard patio is particularly sandy and, after we removed the last of our lawn there in 2016, I used succulents to fill the narrow area between the patio and the flagstone path.  A few shrubs crept in on a piecemeal basis and, as happens, some plants grew to overwhelm the area while others died out.  Dorycnium hirsutum, now classified as Lotus hirsutum and commonly known as Hairy Canary Clover, did both.  While the clover planted elsewhere in my garden survived our wicked summer heatwaves unscathed, the clump in this bed was badly damaged last year so I pulled it out, leaving an empty patch of dirt.  Dirt doesn't normally remain bare in my garden for long but this area has been the exception.  I just haven't been able to decide what to do with it.

It doesn't look too bad from this angle.  The Aeoniums in foreground and the Helichrysum in the background bookend an empty patch of dirt.

As shown in this photo


The Agave colorata I planted in the center of the bed is finally bulking up and the Aeonium 'Kiwi Verde' surrounding it has filled in nicely.

The Kalanchoe orgyalis growing up through the Aeonium needed to go, though.  What was I thinking when I planted those 2 succulents on top of one another?


I tried filling in the bare area to the right of the Agave with tiny succulent cuttings but it just looks sad.

Those tiny succulents aren't going to fill in any time soon and the Alyssum is already covering many of them as it is


The pots I added to the bed when I first planted it aren't doing much for the space either.

I'd completely forgotten about the half-buried pot, which originally had succulents "spilling" from it.  It'd been swamped by the clover for some time.  The larger blue pot needs replanting too.  On the other hand, I like the combination of Yucca 'Blue boy', Helichrysum 'Icicles' and Santolina virens.


Denise of A Growing Obsession had given gave me another Yucca 'Blue Boy' cutting several months ago.  Now well-rooted, it needed a home in the ground and, since my other Yucca did so well in this location (while I lost 3 others in another area of the garden), it made sense to me to plant it near the healthy specimen.  I pulled out the Senecio vitalis, which I've used to excess because it fills in quickly, and inserted the Yucca but the area still has holes and lacks cohesion.

I added Cotyledon and Kalanchoe orgyalis cuttings but I think this just makes things look worse

The area's in need of a more serious overall


I'm considering a range of options:
  1. Replacing all the tiny succulent cuttings with one or two varieties in larger sizes to fill the entire empty space.
  2. Replanting the large blue pot with a good-sized Agave or Mangave, creating a "stream" of other succulents pouring from the smaller blue pot half-buried in the bed, ending in a "pool" of the same succulents.
  3. Removing both pots and purchasing a third Yucca 'Blue Boy' and more Santolina virens to replace all the small succulents.
  4. Pulling out everything and planting ornamental grass.
What would you do?

Tell the Truth Tuesday is the brain-child of Alison at Bonney Lassie.  Do you have some ugly truths about your garden to share?


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party




26 comments:

  1. Well, I don't know if pulling out everything and replacing it with ornamental grasses is the way to go, but I do think maybe the area could benefit from the textural difference and the upright form and nice swishing/swaying thing that grasses provide. I also have way too many bare spots like this and no clue what to do with them.

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    1. There's some Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) 5-6 feet from the area I identified so repeating that would make sense from a design perspective, although I've vowed (to myself) to reduce my use of that grass because of its invasive habit. I'm half-way tempted to start replacing my feather grass with more ecologically-friendly California fescue but that may be a bigger effort than I want to take on at the moment. I have a LOT of Mexican feather grass...

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  2. glad that yucca could be of use. I agree with Alison about grasses -- maybe lowish-growing lomandra here or sesleria?

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    1. Thank you again for the Yucca cutting, Denise. As to the grass, I originally focused on Seslaria 'Greenlee' as a prospect because it's the right size and I've used it extensively elsewhere in the garden. However, it's a little boring for this very visible location - and I'm not sure where my 'Blue Boys' would go. I remain perplexed.

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  3. Something sedge which I've seen used for lawn replacement, soft and green and a different texture. But that would be quite unlike the rest of your garden?

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    1. I've used sedge, principally Carex 'Evergold', elsewhere, Diana, so it's not foreign to my garden. It's a possibility!

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  4. You could simply wait for the succulent cuttings to fill in. Patience is a virtue they say. I wouldn't know from personal experience though. Options 1 & 2 appeal most to me, probably because they sound like less work than the other two options.

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    1. I'm currently leaning the same way, Peter. My patience has been tried sufficiently of late, not by my garden (or even politics), but enough to tire me out regardless.

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  5. I agree: Options #1 and #2 make the most sense, and I think they would look the nicest, too, and would seem the most natural/need less maintenance. Actually, it all looks pretty wow to me. My "tell the truth" would be a lot messier since we have colored flags all over the yard for utility work. Ugh.

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    1. Utility work doesn't sound like any fun at all, Beth. I hope it's quickly finished.

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  6. Well I don’t suppose I even need to share my opinion but I’ll do it anyway...agave or mangave for the win!!!

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    1. Noted! Even if the pots get moved, they'll need to be filled ;)

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  7. Hard for me to answer because I don't know your climate/plants very well, including not knowing the habit Yucca 'Blue Boy'--the one that's intriguing me here. If Blue Boy is that color for a good bit of the year, I love it here! When a complicated planting plan starts to stump me (and this most frustratingly happens in the front and center areas--never on the sides!--just like here), the answer is almost always "use more of what's already there." In other words, go with less # of plant species, not adding more. So--I love the existing combo--Yucca 'Blue boy', Helichrysum 'Icicles' and Santolina virens. You pointed out this combo as a favorite as well. My vote is for more of that! So, I guess that answer is basically #3.

    Other option--#2, maybe. I like the existing Agave colorata--use the "more of that one" principle. Bring in more coloration like the Blue Boy (or reds/purples) below the Agave.

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    1. I do love Yucca 'Blue Boy', Alyse. It keeps that nice purple color if it gets sufficient sun. My underlying concerns with putting in more Helichrysum and Santolina is that both those plants want space, possibly more than that relatively narrow bed provides. I should take out my measurement tape.

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  8. I'd be tempted to pull in some other plant that is already doing well in the area. In terms of texture overall, a grass might add vertical interest. Wait and see works, too. ;)

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    1. It's a really dry area, which I'm realizing could be an issue for my go-to ornamental grasses, at least in the short-term. Succulents do well there without extra water, as does the Yucca/Helichrysum/Santolina combination, but I'm not entirely happy with combining all those plants in the same space. Decisions, decisions...

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  9. I'm a sucker for pots, so would be reluctant to remove them - I just think they add a lot of interest and that colour is gorgeous! I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on this narrow space. Our climates are pretty much polar opposite, but you have me thinking about what I should be doing with a very similar space that was created last year when we built a fire pit patio.

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    1. I've got a healthy collection of pots throughout the garden, although not many of them occupy space inside beds. One of the reasons I put 2 pots in that particular bed was to discourage the raccoons from digging through it so that's a factor I need to consider before making a change too.

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  10. That 'Blue Boy' yucca has me drooling, especially with the Santolina/Helichrysum grouping! I love your combination overall. I don't think I have quite a firm sense of the scale of the area, but perhaps Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' might stay the right size and avoid the invasiveness of the Stipa. Just a thought! Right now my first planting area contains two garden plants and myriad weeds!

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    1. Unfortunately, 'Blonde Ambition' hasn't done particularly well in my climate, Amy. I've been told that a new Bouteloua hybrid is in development that should be better able to handle our conditions but it's not available yet.

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  11. That is one spectacular Helichrysum! It's funny how I always thought mine is kind of nice, with its silvery texture - that is, until I just saw in this post how it truly is supposed to look. Made me giggle - I didn't even recognize it! The combo with it, the Blue Boy, and the Santolina is fantastic! As for the bare patch, I have an idea. There is this super cool Sempervivum that everyone is raving about after last weekend's visit to Little Prince. It's called 'Gold Nugget'. If you can find it down there, I think a drift of those would look just killer in that spot. And, I know you like yellow, so the color would be an extra bonus for you! :)

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    1. I love Sempervivums, Anna, but although you occasionally find them for sale here, they've never survived long in my garden. My Sunset Book says they need light shade in hot climates like mine, which may be at least part of the issue. Nonetheless, I'll keep my eyes peeled for this variety. The closest seller of Little Prince plants is 110 miles away so that source is out unless Little Prince cuts Angelenos a break and strikes a distribution deal with a SoCal nursery!

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  12. Something bold, with heft but not height. Agave ovatifolia?

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    1. That's a good suggestion. I need something that's raccoon resistant.

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  13. I never thought bare soil would be a problem for you. Couldn't you infill with annuals whilst you wait for tiny succulents to grow a bit?

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    1. The persistence of the bare soil problem probably indicates that I'm over-thinking the decision. Annuals as a temporary place holder may be an option, although I suspect years (and repeated plantings) might be necessary before tiny succulents amount to anything. I might be better off using the small cuttings for another succulent pot in a pot...

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I enjoy receiving your comments and suggestions!