Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Easing into fall garden projects

After the hassles and drama of our latest water leak turned into a wholesale pipe replacement project, I decided to take things a little easier this week by starting on a few smaller projects.  I've already made substantial headway in restoring the succulent-bromeliad bed I had to dig up in preparation for the arrival of the plumbing crew last week but I'm not done there so I'll leave that for a future post.

As we took out plants around our water meter before the plumber arrived - and the plumbers dug up even more - I focused on cleaning up that area first.  The area in question sits along the entrance to our neighbor's driveway so it's something that she sees more often than we do.  I did my best to repair the area using divisions and cuttings of the plants that were removed.

My husband took the "before" photo on the left, which turned out to be especially useful when our neighbor reported that the plumbers had broken one of her sprinklers, conveniently shown in operation in his photo.  As the plumbers were already gone, my husband fixed the sprinkler, while I divided and replanted Agapanthus bulbs, as well as various Aeonium cuttings.

Yesterday, I tackled the bed that runs along the garage facing my cutting garden.  It's needed a refresh for a long time but I put it off as planting anything when summer is at its peak is a fool's errand and, combined with the ban on outdoor watering and our plumbing issues, it made sense to put it off.  Of course, working outdoors during heatwaves isn't much fun either.

Years ago, I planted Aeonium arboreum cuttings at the base of the Camellia on one end of this bed.  They flourished but had become too tall and were flopping over (left photo).  I took cuttings and cleaned them of accumulated dirt and grime and replanted a handful of them, along with some smaller 'Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi' cuttings from elsewhere in my garden (right photo).

On the other side of the Camellia, I'd planted Aeonium canariensis (aka giant velvet rose), along with a noID Gardenia (left).  In the 9+ years the Gardenia was there, it produced 2 blooms - the plant has no business in my garden so, when I pulled out out the Aeoniums, I pulled out the Gardenia and the rampant Erigeron karvinskianus as well.  I replanted cuttings of the giant Aeonium and more Aeonium 'Kiwi' cuttings (right).  The Erigeron will come back on its own - it's a weed here.

I've no "before" photo of this end of the bed.  It had a mass of messy Crassula muscosa, which we removed before the plumbers arrived.  I replanted it with Aeonium arboreum and 'Kiwi' cuttings because I have more of those than I know what to do with.

This view from the bed's north end gives you and idea of what the entire area looks like, although the Camellia and the first group of Aeoniums aren't readily visible on the other side of the Japanese maple

While cleaning out the pesky Erigeron, I accidentally pulled up part of one Carex 'Evergold'.  I divided the segment and popped 2 pieces into pots to develop more roots.

I still have lots of Aeonium arboreum cuttings to use elsewhere or give away

I expect to use some of the remaining Aeonium cuttings in at least two other areas within the cutting garden.  They're my go-to fillers for difficult spots in the garden.

The Aeoniums at the end of the raised planter on the left need to be pulled and replaced.  The noID Camellia planted next to the house (right) took a beating during the pipe replacement project. Having come with the garden, the Camellias in this bed are well-established but I've found it very difficult to grow much else in this area.  Unless I'm struck with an idea for a drought-tolerant shade plant, I'll probably stick Aeoniums in here too.

My husband's done a lot of work since the pipe replacement was completed.  We discovered that the crew that handled that project inadvertently cut through an irrigation pipe when they were connecting the main pipe to the house, which meant that sixty percent of our irrigation system couldn't run.  My husband dug up the area surrounding the connection and located the break but he contacted the plumber to get someone else out to make the final repairs.  As the new fitting had to "cure" before it was tested, my husband assumed responsibility for backfilling that area a day later.  He also replaced all the gravel he'd pulled up in advance of the pipe replacement project.

I think he'd collected more than 20 bags of gravel, all of which had to be returned to the garden


The plants in the raised planters of my cutting garden are well past their prime and pulling them up in order to prepare my cool season garden is something I plan to tackle later this month.  In the meantime, I'm trying to eke out enjoyment of the plants that are still producing flowers.

After a very long wait, Dahlia 'Fairway Spur' has produced its first flowers

Fall is the busiest time for gardeners in much of Southern California and I expect to share more projects with you over the coming weeks.  I'm trying to pace myself, though.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


  1. I look for a silver lining in any given situation. The messy and unpleasant plumbing event provided an opportunity to revamp the narrow bed against the garage, a chore you probably wouldn't have arrived at without the water leak. The result is a wonderfully fresh and cohesive bed.
    And yes, pacing ourselves is a key. With the mild California winter, there's no hurry.

    1. Thanks Chavli. The water leak issue has emerged in a new form, which is making both my husband and I crazy, although as Mr Fix-it, he's even more upset about it than I am this time. I'm all for bringing in an irrigation system expert.

  2. What a blow to discover a leak in addition to all the other water restrictions you've been laden with this year... so sorry! Your revamped beds look lovely and fresh, though, and your husband seems like an absolute gem!

    1. My husband IS a gem. Unfortunately, we still have a water leak somewhere. He's been checking and replacing valves but hasn't found the problem. Our next step may be to bring in a leak detection service.

  3. You do aeoniums so well! The idea of my husband picking up and replacing gravel just makes my head explode. There's no way...

    1. I didn't expect him to go nearly as far as he did in clearing the gravel but I shouldn't have been surprised - he's very much a perfectionist in some respects.

  4. What a beautiful dahlia! Mine are still flowering and there's more buds coming through :)

    1. My dahlias are rapidly mildewing, which is something that happens at this time of year when our morning marine layer returns, elevating the moisture level, while temperatures remain high. Mildew and heat damage usually has me pulling up all the dahlias in disgust but that's hard to do when many are trying to go on blooming.

  5. Excellent reworking after the plumbing situation. Yet another leak discovered??? That must be exasperating. Best of luck with that.

    That last Dahlia--beautiful.

    Nothing mildewing here yet--I think the recent heat actually killed off the mildew spores.

    1. The mildew started following the rise in humidity here. I understand that high-humidity plus warm temperatures leads plants to mildew. Our morning marine layer is back but afternoon temperatures are still in the mid-80s. The 2 dahlias growing in partial shade in barrels in our front garden are in the worst shape. Those that get more sun, line 'Fairway Spur' are okay at the moment.


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