To be honest, this isn't the hottest summer we've experienced in our area since we moved in over eleven years ago. The day we first toured the house with our realtor in October 2010, it was 103F/39C and my husband initially refused to get out of the car. Since we moved in, we've had many heatwaves with temperatures well over 100F/37C. The worst (thus far) was in July 2018, when our temperature exceeded 110F/43C and got stuck there. Accompanied by hot, dry winds I felt as if I was caught in a giant hair dryer. This summer, the temperature has yet to reach 100F but, to my eyes, the garden looks as stressed as it has under higher temperatures, probably because the soil is so terribly dry. Two years of poor rain, combined with water restrictions, has taken its toll. I wish I'd spread more mulch during the spring season but I'll have to wait until fall's cooler temperatures arrive to remedy that deficiency as it's simply too hot to spread a truckload of mulch right now.
When I do any work in the garden, I try to take advantage of the shady spots. Most of that shade is provided by trees. By my count, we have 23 trees, although not all of them offer significant canopies. In some cases, tree-sized shrubs make a contribution.
|In the afternoon, the peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) and the strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina') in the northwest corner of our property provide dappled shade to a succulent bed|
|If I sit in the garden at all, it's usually in this spot under the Magnolia grandiflora at the front of the house. I didn't have the tree pruned last year because the leaf canopy was still on the sparse side after the prior year's pruning.|
|On the lower level of the front garden on its south end, the same strawberry tree provides a bit of afternoon shade for the succulents planted along this southwest facing slope|
|A tall hedge of Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) adds some shade on the southwest side of our property, along with 2 tree-sized Auranticarpa rhombifolium shrubs on the west side (just visible behind the lath house)|
|Views of the plants inside the lath house taken from 3 different angles|
|This peppermint willow in the south side offers some late afternoon shade|
|On the small south-side patio shade is provided by a roof overhang, as well as 3 Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' shrubs. The screened area on the right is where my cat, Pipig, hangs out when she doesn't want to deal with humans.|
|This photo shows the dwarf Agonis from its sunny south-facing side. Without the shrubs, the patio would be a lot less comfortable (although they will need a hard pruning this fall).|
|Two more strawberry trees provide shade in this area on the northeast side of the house, one of which is shown in this photo. Another larger specimen lies just outside the photo's frame on the left. They provide shade about half the day.|
|A narrow alley of shade in the dry garden on the northeast side is provided by the large strawberry tree and a combination of shrubs, including Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' and Psoralea pinnata (aka grape kool-aid bush)|
|A portion of the same area receives a sun relief from both Leucadendron 'Chief' (background, right) and the persimmon tree (Diospyros kaki 'Hachiya') on the left. The Leucadendron is nearly 10 feet tall.|
Given the drought and rising temperatures year-round, I'm feeling the need to add more trees. We have decent tree coverage on our west-facing side at the front of the house but the south side of the garden could use a good-sized tree. We formerly had a very large Heteromeles arbutifolia (native Toyon) there but it was felled by the pathogen that causes sudden oak death in 2020. We lost both shade and privacy when the huge shrub was removed.
|This photo, taken in August 2019, shows the Toyon in the background on the right|
|These photos of the same shrub were taken in June 2020 when it suddenly turned red and died|
|This is the view the Toyon partially screened when it was in place. The 4 Eucalyptus trees look ridiculous and I can't understand why the property owners have left them in place (unless they can't even see them from below).|
I tried adding a daisy tree (Olearia albida) in that area after the Toyon was removed. In addition to starting too small with a plant in a 4-inch pot, I think I also chose the wrong plant. I'm currently thinking about a mildew-resistant crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia sp.) or a fruitless olive (Olea europaea). Fitting either into the area without pulling out part of the hedge or other established plants might be the biggest problem. Adding a tree to the eastern flank of the garden (i.e. in the back garden) would be the easier to manage but, in addition to objections from my husband, it raises the specter of complaints from neighbors if it gets big enough to obscure one or another neighbor's view of the harbor. Unfortunately, my community has an ordinance designed to protect homeowners' views rather than trees.
Meanwhile, my obsession with our water use continues. We've dealt with two leaks this year, both addressed relatively quickly following discovery. I check our water meter once a week to ensure there's no evidence of a leak. My last check on Tuesday was clear but, as I walked along the south end of our property on Wednesday, I came across evidence of a new problem.
|We have a drip line hose running through this area along the street. The wet pavement clearly indicated a break. When I ran a test of the irrigation line, I discovered water spurting up beneath an Agave colorata I'd planted in 2021.|
|My husband made a quick job of digging the Agave up with its roots mostly intact|
|This is a closeup of the break in the hose, which was spitting water into the street. I'm guessing that the Agave's sharp spines somehow split the hose.|
|This is a photo of the Agave in place back in May|
Best wishes for a cool and comfortable weekend.
All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party