Friday, October 4, 2019

A lot of work but not much to show for it (yet)

Temperatures cooled dramatically late last week, making it much more pleasant to work outside.  Roofers overhead made it unpleasant to spend time inside.  So I got started in earnest on my fall garden clean-up.  While it wasn't a bad summer overall, the garden is still looking a little sad, partly due to neglect on my part, especially in providing supplemental watering, and partly as a result of lots of extra feet treading through it, not to speak of the dust and debris that's accompanied the ongoing work on our house.

I started in the front garden, clearing out masses of dead peppermint geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum).  The heavier-than-usual winter and spring rain promoted a major growth spurt, with the vines tumbling down the moderate front slope to mingle with succulents.  When the rain stopped and the summer's heat came on, a lot of it died.

I didn't take a "before" shot so you'll have to take my word for the fact that there was a tangle of dead peppermint geranium engulfing the base of the Arbutus and several feet beyond where the area slopes down


After 2 nasty run-ins with fire ants on my back slope I'd completely avoided the area for well over a month.  When I ventured down there again this week, I could smell molding lemons when I was just half-way down the stairway.  Once again, I failed to take any before photos.  Although I did take precautions against fire ants, these were ineffective and I picked up a couple of dozen stings for my trouble but at least the moldy fruit is gone.

I still need to cut back the dead growth of the Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid' but that's a project for another day.  In addition to clearing out the rotting fruit, I picked several bushels of lemons to lessen the load on the tree's branches.  I gave the bulk of what I picked to the roofers, with some also going to friends but plenty of fruit remains on the tree.

I also cut the bedraggled Centranthus ruber under the lemon tree down to the ground and cut back the crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) that was threatening to strangle the Pittosporums marking the property line between us and our neighbor on the south side.  I cut away some of the ivy that always threatens to engulf the area and cut the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) down to less than 12 inches.  I love the poppy but it's too big for that area and now than the Ceanothus arboreus is finally assuming tree-like proportions, I'm afraid the poppy needs to go.  I bet that'll make the fire ants really mad!

Meanwhile, I made zero progress in cutting back the ivy and honeysuckle that dominate the steep upper area of the slope.  Benefiting from the plentiful rain and the mild summer, both plants have recovered and have now taken back most of the area I previously cleared.


After more than 2 years in place, the parrot's beak vines (Lotus berthelotii) I used as a groundcover along the pathway extending from the south side of the house into the back garden were overgrown and twiggy.  I pulled them all out this week.

I took this "before" photo when I was already part way through the process

You couldn't even see many of the flag stones here before I went to work.  I've also cut back the shrubs on the left (Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'), which appear to be suffering from thrip damage.

I cut out some of the dead undergrowth and trimmed back the Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' on the right

I pulled the grasses (Sesleria) I'd planted under the rosemary years ago and made a first stab at trimming the rosemary


In all, I filled 3 jumbo green bins and, since that was picked up yesterday, I've almost filled another bin.  A friend and I have plans to make the rounds of at least 2 nurseries in Santa Barbara this weekend so I'll be on the look-out for fresh Lotus bethelotii, among other things.  I have a list of plants I "need" but I'm not going to lay any odds on the prospect of my sticking to that.

I hope you have something nice planned for your weekend too!  I'll close with a photo of our new roof, which was finally completed yesterday.

It took nearly 2 weeks but the new roof is done!  The crew was diligent about cleaning up their debris, which I appreciate.  Our new wood flooring has been ordered and the siding is going up on the addition to the kitchen as I type.  The contractor thinks we should be done by Thanksgiving.  Fingers crossed.



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



24 comments:

  1. You've been productive ! Most years here the peppermint geranium dies back to the ground in winter so it doesn't have the chance to rule the world. I love this time of year for working outside, though it is going to get warm this weekend (and we have a Red Flag Warning for the hills) but it's been cooling down into the 40's overnight.

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    1. Does the peppermint geranium come back from the roots once spring arrives? I generally pull the plants every 2-3 years when they get ratty, replacing them with rooted cuttings (or some new find) but I've never tested whether the plants will come back if I cut them to the ground. After driving up to Ventura County today, viewing all the very dry hills and dead trees still standing along the freeway, I was reminded just how risky fire is at this time of year. I hope we both manage to avoid a repeat of that experience.

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  2. My weekend plans are mostly to be very lazy. I really should still be planting, but I'm having a hard time getting into gear. I spend most of my time now organizing the plants in my pot ghetto.

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    1. A lazy weekend actually sounds heavenly to me right now, Alison, but I had a one-shot opportunity to attend a fall sale at a favorite plant nursery 3 hours to the north this weekend and I couldn't pass it up.

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  3. Yay for a new roof and a tentative completion date, not to mention plant shopping ahead...

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    1. I brought home exactly nothing that was on my plant shopping list, Loree - but 7 plants I couldn't pass up and now have to find places for...

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  4. Kris, you did a LOT of work and it DOES show. So glad your roof is done and work is progressing. Try mentholated chest rub on the fire ant bites - it works well for me.

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    1. I've got the mentholated rub on my shopping list, as well as the ant killer corn grits Eliza suggested, Barbara. My husband wants to see if we can isolate the ants' nests and spray but I'd like to avoid toxic substances.

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  5. Wow, that's a significant effort on your part, Kris. Looks great! It always feels good to see the progress we make in taming our gardens. ;)
    Frost did the taming for me last night. The annuals are done, sadly. Another frost tonight will further their demise. The perennials can take a bit of frost, but they are getting the message that it is time to go to sleep. I can't bear to think about how long it will be before it all grows again. Too long!
    Glad you are coming down the home stretch on the renovation. Not much longer. :)

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    1. I'm sorry you have such a lengthy down time with your garden, Eliza. While a short break in the gardening year has some appeal for me, I'd be climbing the walls after a month. I think you need another trip to sunny Southern California!

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    2. My garden currently looks like a junkyard (literally) but you're be welcome to visit any time.

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  6. Both you and your contractor have been productive! Looking good on both counts--hopefully your contractor is as meticulous as you are.

    Fire Ants--are worrisome--any remedy?

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    1. The fire ants seem to be confined to the back slope but I haven't isolated their nest, HB - my best guess is that it may be within the ivy creeping across the boundary line. Eliza said her sister, whose dealt with the ants in Florida, suggested corn grits as a way of killing the ants naturally. Benadryl extra-strength gel works pretty well to control the itch if applied a couple of times a day. I'm going to try Barbara's suggestion to address the itching too.

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  7. Your new roof looks great! I detest fire ants. We had them in South Carolina and they're assholes. Looks like you had a busy day of fabulous garden 'work' as opposed to the breezy stuff. I have that on tap for tomorrow. Have a great rest of your weekend!

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    1. I hope your work in the garden is smooth and satisfying, Tammy. I also hope we'll see an update on your garden some day soon.

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    2. You will! I've just started working on a big project that I started last fall. I'm hoping to be done by the end of the month. :o)

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  8. Isn't it amazing what rain can do? Make things grow like crazy then the heat of summer fries the new growth. We had a lot of leaf drop due to all of those leaves that grew on trees and shrubs when it rained like crazy here the beginning of the year.
    All of your clean up projects look good. It is cooling here finally. I can't wait to get out there. We have been busy this weekend so this week I hope to get some things done outside.
    Your new roof looks nice and smooth. I bet you can't wait to get that project finished. Good luck with your Thankgsgiving target finish.

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    1. Heavy rain has become so unusual here that the explosion of growth (and weeds) surprised me, Lisa. I'm glad to hear that you're finally getting a break from the heat. I was amazed by the news reports of temperatures in the 90s hitting the south and the east. Heat like that in October is common here but we've been lucky to dodge it thus far.

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  9. Kris, You're making me feel pretty unproductive; I've been making some progress on my three cords of firewood, but at a snail's pace. The garden season is just about over here, with two frosts this week. Soon, I will need to get serious about taking down plant supports and bringing the birdbath, rain barrel, hoses, and breakable containers into the basement for the winter. Glad to hear that your remodeling project is moving along and that the end may be in sight.

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    1. Your seasonal shift suggests a whole different dynamic, Jean. Fall here is generally the busiest and most production period of the year, as opposed to a period of winding down the garden for the balance of the year. I'd love a little downtime, although not for a period of 4+ months! Right now, working around the construction crew is making things even more difficult.

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  10. One reno project down, one to go...you are in the home stretch :) You have done so much work in the garden already (I too am in clean-up mode) - that walkway area looks fantastic! I can sympathize with you on the steep upper area of the slope - I more or less feel that way about our hilltop area. I have made progress, but it is slow going - it's a two steps forward, one step back sort of thing.

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    1. Oh, there's more than one major project left but I'm taking them one at a time, Margaret!

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