Friday, June 18, 2021

Another step back in time: The north side garden

I recently took a look back at the evolution of my backyard borders.  In what may become a periodic exercise focusing on different areas of the garden, this week I took a look at my north side garden or, more specifically, the northeast side garden, which is separated by a fence from my cutting garden (formerly the vegetable garden).  This area was definitely not on my radar as one of the first areas to tackle after we took possession of the property in December 2010.  I can't entirely explain why I started on it but, in retrospect, I think it probably looked like a more manageable project to tackle in the spring of 2011.  I'd retired but my husband was still working so I was mostly on my own when it came to garden projects.  And even though I wasn't working, I was heavily involved in dealing with family issues as my stepfather's health was rapidly declining and my mother was ill-equipped to deal with his health issues or even her own needs so I had only so much time to give to the garden. I estimate that the northeast side garden is roughly 625 square feet in size, making it just a little smaller than the back garden of our former townhouse.  Perhaps a third of the area was covered in lawn and the rest contained several fruit trees surrounded by gravel.  I thought I could gradually chip away at renovating it without any major issues.

Of course, once again there are no "before" photos.  In this case, there wasn't even a photo I could pull off the original real estate posting.  The earliest photo I have was one taken by my brother in late December 2011, a full year after we'd moved in, when he and my mother were here for a pre-Christmas lunch.

My brother's photo was taken from the back area looking toward the house.  It's funny but it looks much smaller to me than it currently does, stuffed to the gills with large plants.

I remember my efforts to kill the lawn by laying down plastic.  As I recall, that was only semi-successful - or, more likely, just too slow given my usual level of patience.  I ended up digging out the lawn I didn't manage to kill, with some weekend help from my husband.  I collected the gravel surrounding the fruit trees and used that to create a gravel pathway stretching from the paved area adjacent to the house to the fence marking the property line with our neighbor.  I encountered an unexpected complication in the form of a plastic weed barrier someone had laid below the gravel under a layer of soil.  I'm still not 100% sure I got all of it out, although I haven't found any more for years now.  I did more planting that year then I'd remembered until I checked my spreadsheet.  Not everything I planted survived but what did includes Correa pulchella 'Pink Eyre', Dorycnium hirsutum, one Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola', Lavandula dentata, two Leptospermum 'Pink Pearl', some Osteospermums, two Phormiums, Rosmarinus 'Huntington Carpet', and Senna bicapsularis.

I didn't start blogging until late December 2012 so my photographic record of my garden activity in 2012 is sparse.

These photos were taken sometime during the first quarter of 2012.  The solar-powered fountain was a gift from my mother-in-law.  The three Correa 'Wyn's Wonder' and the Echium handiense shown in the photo on the right were gone by the end of the year, probably because I limited water too much.

These photos were taken in the second quarter of the same year.  The daylilies shown in the photo on the right did relatively well but I later moved all of them to other parts of the garden that received more water.

I didn't do as much planting in 2012 as I did in 2011 but the first of my Agaves went in during the latter part of that year, along with a few other plants that can still be found there: two Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Coprosma 'Plum Hussey',  and Globularia x indubia.

These photos were taken at the beginning of May 2013, less than two months after my mother passed away and just days before we lost my mother-in-law.  A lot of what was blooming here were weeds, including Centranthus ruber. Geranium incanum, and Oenothera speciosa.

This photo, taken in August 2013, is one of the first to show Agave ovatifolia, still very small at this point after a year in the ground

According to my records, I didn't do a lot of planting in 2013 either but I did add two Leucadendrons, 'Ebony' and 'Chief', both significant features of my current garden.


This photo, taken in early August 2014, doesn't show much change in the area's overall structure (although it's a lot less colorful that the 2013 photos taken during the spring period)

I added several more Agaves, including Agave vilmoriniana, in 2014, as well as the first Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite', a plant that now dominates the section of the area nearest the house.  My husband and I were more focused on the back garden during this period.


This photo was taken at the end of June 2015, when our drought was at its height and water restrictions were in effect

This photo, taken in late May 2015, is the first to show Agave vilmoriniana, planted in April 2014.  Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' (in the background) was still relatively small.  The large shrub visible on the right was Grevillea 'Penola', which I removed in 2018 after it declined.

Most of my additions to this area of the garden in 2015 were small but my very first Mangave ('Bloodspot') was planted there that year.  There are now six Mangaves there.  The changes in 2016 and 2017 were also minimal.

Photo taken in late June 2016

Photo taken in early July 2017

More happened in this area in 2018.  In April of that year I published two posts addressing problems and changes to the area (which you can find here and here).  Among other things, we pulled out a cherry tree that come with the property, as well as the large Grevillea 'Penola' that had abruptly gone into decline.

Photo taken in early July 2018 after the cherry tree, the Grevillea, and one of the guava trees were removed

In late 2018, I planted a Callistemon viridiflorus, obtained with the assistance of Tamara of Chickadee Gardens'.  I also pulled a mature Salvia clevelandii to provide space for a Psoralea pinnata.  The latter was purchased to help screen portions of our garden from a neighbor's newly constructed second story house.

In 2019, we undertook an extensive home remodel and gardening took a backseat once work began in late June.

The Osteospermums and Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite' were looking particularly colorful in this photo taken in early April 2019

This photo taken from the rear section of the area looking at the house in July 2019 shows the door to the temporary kitchen my husband added to the back of our house for use during our kitchen remodel

Thankfully, work on the house was completed before Christmas in 2019 but then the pandemic happened.  I don't show record of planting anything new in this section of the garden in 2020.  Plant shopping options were limited and we stayed closer to home.  I tackled a couple of small projects elsewhere in the garden but the only work that happened in this area was general maintenance. 

These photos were taken in early July 2020.  Other than that some plants were seriously overgrown, it looked fine.  

I spent time cutting back overgrown plants this week before taking a new set of photos of this garden yesterday morning.

The foggy conditions in the background were provided courtesy of the morning marine layer that helped keep our daytime temperature down.  The blue and white flowers on the right belong to Globularia x indubia (aka globe daisy).  The grass is Melinus nerviglumis (aka ruby grass).

I gave Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite' a major trim to reveal Leucadendron 'Ebony' behind it but 'Sprite' could still be taken down another notch

I also tip pruned Psoralea pinnata (aka kool-aid bush), to the left of the red-trunked strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina'), to remove the majority of its spent flowers 

This photo from the rear area looking back toward the house shows the largest of the Agaves in this area, A. vilmoriniana and A. ovatifolia.  While they're visible from this angle (heading down into the back slope), they're in danger of being lost among the foliage surrounding them, especially once the Callistemon viridiflorus on the right grows larger.

At some point, I'm going to need to address the overcrowding of Agave ovatifolia, which hasn't been permitted its rightful opportunity to shine.

The Cistus on the left may have to be moved as it's obscuring the view of Agave ovatifolia from the gravel path

Between the planter, the Cistus, and the neighboring octopus agave, the whale's tongue agave is getting lost.  There's always something that needs doing. I also need to cut back the ivy creeping up from the back slope...

That's it from me this week.  We're looking forward to a cooling trend here, although we were spared the worst of this week's heatwave as other areas sizzled.  Whatever your weather, I hope you enjoy a pleasant weekend.


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


18 comments:

  1. This part of the garden has been beautiful and interesting throughout its evolution, Kris! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Thanks Susie. I think I'm actually happier with my two side gardens than the more carefully planned front and back gardens!

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  2. It is so interesting to see how this garden has evolved. Makes me wish I had taken better yard shots over the years!

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    1. I cringed a little upon seeing some of my early photos, Eliza. I don't even remember what kind of camera I had back in 2012.

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  3. There is so much going on in your garden. Love it. It seems now that your garden is becoming more sculptural in the plant choices. Nice...

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    1. The addition of succulents, particularly the larger specimens, does give the garden a sculptural aspect, Lisa.

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  4. You're cooling and we're heating up! Headed to 97 on Monday. "There's always something that needs doing" pretty much sums up gardening doesn't it? I loved seeing the pathway meander through these photos.

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    1. We were lucky with respect to this heatwave, Loree, and I hope you will be too. The gravel path was what that area needed to structure the space - everything fell into place after I got that in.

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    2. Good bones, the formal path, makes all the difference.

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    3. I think the addition of the gravel path was key, Diana.

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  5. One can see all the love you put into your garden and I love seeing it evolve over time. The meandering path is so inviting and the Agave is amazing! You have such a wonderful combination of structure with plantings.

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    1. Thanks Lee! I don't suppose you see many agaves in your part of the country but they're ideal plants here.

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  6. So much fun to see how the garden evolves. It definitely has improved with each new iteration. You can see how your own tastes have evolved too.

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    1. Succulents became more and more of a draw the longer I lived here, Elaine. I had only one or two varieties in my old garden - and no agaves. Now I an't even count the number of agaves I have, much less the total varieties of succulents.

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  7. Always a treat to get more history on your garden.

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    1. Thanks Denise. It's a useful reference for me too ;)

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  8. Hi Kris .. I too love that meandering pathway, it sets such an interesting mood for the garden. I had to google a lot of these plants since they are so alien ? to me .. I love the Strawberry tree with that fantastic red trunk .. and the kool-aid bush ? I love the common names , they get right to the point of how plants/trees look. The site you are on is awesome .. you have such a beautiful view , I have to wonder what the moon must look like too.
    It is a wonderful read to understand some of the history the garden and you have gone through ! The agave is one of my favorite types of plants.

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    1. As the Los Angeles harbor is essentially right below us and we can see parts of Los Angeles and Long Beach in the distance, city (and harbor) lights dominate the night view, although you can see the moon as it's rising. If you've ever looked out an airplane window as you're flying into a major airport - it's like that!

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