Friday, May 29, 2020

My latest project

After we removed our front lawn in 2014, I elected to cover the area underneath our Magnolia tree with mulch rather than place plants there to compete with the tree's extensive root system.

Photo taken in December 2014 after the lawn was removed, the flagstone path was laid, and the front beds were planted.  I covered the entire area under the Magnolia grandiflora with mulch for lack of a better idea.


My husband subsequently built a bench surrounding the tree to occupy some of that bare mulched space but I always thought that I'd attempt to plant at least a portion of it someday.  What better time than when I'm stuck at home during a pandemic?  My original thought was to replace the mulch with more creeping thyme but I couldn't really get excited about that, and then the start of the summer season isn't great for establishing thyme plugs anyway.  So, when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I suggested three half barrels - and that's just what he got me.

In addition to the three barrels, he bought planting soil specifically made for large containers and raised beds.  I played around with alternative placements for the barrels before deciding to line them up along the western edge of the mulched area.


Thursday morning, I grabbed my face mask and made a trip to my local garden center, which reopened its doors to customers on May 1st after shutting down for over a month.  I spent the entirety of a gift card given to me by a friend and more on plants to fill the barrels and got to work.  In addition to the bagged soil my husband had purchased, I mixed in compost and a dry slow-release fertilizer.

I filled one half-barrel mainly with vegetables, a second with flowers (heck, you really didn't think I was going to change my stripes completely, did you?), and the third with mostly herbs

This one has buttercrunch lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots and sweet alyssum.  I also sowed baby carrots here.

The purely decorative flower barrel contains Gomphrena, Prostanthera ovatifolia 'Variegata' (aka mint bush), a Penstemon mexicali, three Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink', a burgundy-flowered Pelargonium peltatum, and more sweet alyssum

The third barrel contains sage, three kinds of basil, and a chocolate-colored pepper plant, as well as alyssum


I'm hoping this area will provide enough sun for these plants despite the partial shade offered by the Magnolia early in the day.  At least the gopher (still here!) shouldn't be a problem.  The raccoons pulled one plant during their overnight visit but they don't usually make a habit of poking around in raised planters here, and I'm hoping that'll remain the case.  The peacock that popped in the week before last hasn't returned, which is good news for my new plants.  However, some new visitors have made an appearance.

The first tiny bunny showed up in the back garden this week.  As long as he limited himself to the weedy yellow-flowered Cotula lineariloba and the rampant Gazanias I'm not too worried.

Baby doves showed up in my cutting garden yesterday but, seemingly ignored by their parents, I think their main focus is just staying alive


We've been lucky to have milder weather than projected this past week.  Forecasters are saying June is likely to be toasty but my fingers are crossed that the marine layer we've had in place most mornings this week will continue to keep our daytime temperatures on the low side.  I can hope that, anyway.  May your weather be more pleasant than anticipated as well.  When the daily news brings nothing but sorrow and grief, we all need as much time in our gardens as we can get.


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

20 comments:

  1. I like it! With containers you can change the plantings and give the space a different look seasonally or as you need a change. Great birthday gift!

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    1. Yes, that was my thought too, Karin. Also, if the spot proves too shady for vegetables, I can swap those out for something more shade tolerant.

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  2. I love the barrels! Had one in my first house, but had to leave it behind, sadly. I'm also thoroughly impressed by the 1st photo - I can't believe you did that all in one season. Wow!

    Ha - we gardeners often leave non-gardeners scratching their heads with our gift choices - one of my best gifts ever was the 20 yards of triple mix for my raised beds (i.e. what did you get for your birthday?? Dirt!)

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    1. Who needs jewelry anyway? Especially now - earrings and necklaces interfere with the masks that are now de rigueur! I actually have 3 other barrels, although one is close to disintegrating at this point.

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  3. Those are some fine looking barrels. He thought of soil too. Good man. I like your idea of having different plants for the barrels. I bet the lettuce gets enough sun there. I have never grown carrots. I will be interested in your results with them. Cheers.

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    1. Yeah, I think the lettuce should be fine but I'm not sure about the herbs, the pepper or the chard. We shall see. I grew carrots years ago when my cutting garden was a vegetable garden with so-so results but the soil in these barrels is better.

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  4. What a great guy! They look good, Kris.

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  5. What a wonderfully useful birthday present, put to excellent use with the plants you bought, Kris.

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    1. Thanks Jane. Under current circumstances, useful gifts are the best!

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  6. Happy birthday! The thyme path and the lush growth in the third photo is sublime, and the barrels are a strong echo for that curve in the circle. You can experiment with so many looks with these! A trio of big tree aloes if the raccoon get the lettuce...;)

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    1. Interestingly, the raccoon apparently ignored the edibles, focusing on the ivy geranium but then they're perverse creatures. However, I saw the bunny hopping from the front yard area this morning. He didn't touch the edibles either but the Orlaya and one Scabiosa, recently received with an Annie's order and planted in the front garden, have been chewed...

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  7. Yay for more planting space! And happy birthday!

    Oh and I must share that when chatting with my brother, who lives in Phoenix, I learned rabbits chop on his agaves. Can you imagine!? Of course you've provided so many other tasty treats I doubt they'll go that route in your garden.

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    1. I wonder if those are the work of jack rabbits? They look like tougher characters than that tiny bunny currently hopping around my garden but maybe it just comes down to what's available - there are currently a lot of easier targets for this bunny.

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  8. Happy birthday from me as well!!

    You were spared last week's heat wave then. We had a few horrible days in the low 100s. It killed my Grevillea 'King's Fire'.

    And in our spared down veggie bed, rats ate our green tomatoes. Grrrr...

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    1. Yikes! It's too early for that kind of heat, Gerhard! We hit 95 during the first of our two heatwaves, which in the larger scheme of things wasn't nearly as bad as most of our heatwaves but the spring growth on plants wasn't tough enough to handle it well. Sorry to hear about the tomato-thieving rats too!

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  9. So sweet of your husband to do all of that for your birthday.It takes a lot of dirt to full those barrels. I love planting in half barrels. They are such a huge size that it allows for multiple plantings or even a tree or shrub. And they don't crack when it freezes, but then you don't have that problem.
    Belated Happy Birthday wishes to you.

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    1. Thanks Cindy! And thank goodness I don't have to haul my ceramic and terracotta pots in each year.

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  10. A fun project and the perfect birthday gift, IMO. Barrels are great because you get to change them up season to season. The gift that keeps on giving! :)

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    1. I'm already wondering is I "need" another 2 barrels, Eliza...But I guess I best see how these 3 do in this location.

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