OldGardener's blog

Summer is here, time to rest
Posted on Jul 18, 2014 9:43 AM

Well, the sod is in and now it is time to rest through the heat. The weather has decided to co-operate (what a pleasant surprise) and it has been 15-20 degrees cooler than normal - just in time for the grass to set its roots. Here is the view off the one side of the family room and it is part of the same area that was dug up last time:
Thumb of 2014-07-18/OldGardener/71fda2

The Fargesia are resting in their temporary homes, waiting for the autumn when they will be planted out along the bottom of the hill. If we are very, very lucky, we will be able to divide a few of them in order to get better coverage:
Thumb of 2014-07-18/OldGardener/f0dae3
The Pleioblastus have been potted up, too, but they have yet to be moved to this area.

I have been perplexed by this section (predominantly eastern exposure):
Thumb of 2014-07-18/OldGardener/8d9c50
and its match on the other side (predominantly north):
Thumb of 2014-07-18/OldGardener/8e4bc1

I have, though, recently fallen in sheer adoration of gingers after spending some time lurking in the Tropicals forum so... maybe? Hmmm...

I also have discovered that when the tag says that Ajuga does well in shade to partial shade, it really means DEEP SHADE ONLY in my yard if you want quick growth. For comparison, both of these photos show Ajuga 'Black Scallop'. These are in deep shade and have tripled (at the very least) in size:
Thumb of 2014-07-18/OldGardener/5d7f40

But these are in partial shade (some early AM rays, dappled shade the rest of the day):
Thumb of 2014-07-18/OldGardener/9ccdd6

Quite a difference in size - especially in light of the fact that the smaller Ajuga have been in the ground almost twice as long as the larger plants (roughly 2 months vs 1 month, respectively). I am hopeful, however, that both areas will fill in nicely as 8 weeks really isn't very long.

Ajuga 'Catlin's Giant', however, does not seem picky and is growing vigorously everywhere that it was planted. I cannot comment on the Ajuga 'Burgundy Glow' nor A. 'Mahogany' as they have not been interspersed throughout the garden, yet. The tag that came with A. 'Burgundy Glow' recommends shade only and I have taken that to heart (deep shade) and I will use the remnants of that flat next to the house on the northern side.

I may have discovered a new source for starter plants - Wellspring Gardens. They offer $10 flat-rate shipping and offer free plants with minimum purchases (max of 6 per order). I checked them out here in the Green Pages and at "the other site" and they are highly thought of. So.... I have placed a test order and I am looking forward to receiving some starter gingers, (3) bananas, and 2 Bat plants - (1) black and (1) white. I have a new fascination for Bat Plants (Tacca chantrieri and T. integrifolia):



They look so unreal to me.

On a different note, French is coming along swimmingly although Frenchy the cow is a different matter entirely. Frenchy is doing extremely well! She is due soon and is quite large - very exciting indeed. She has become my fil's best friend so all is well there.

For some reason that I still do not understand, I decided to study French again after almost 40 years. I have just passed the 30 consecutive day mark and, according to the site, am reaching 75-80% fluency. I discovered Duolingo when my second to youngest daughter was assigned Spanish homework there. It is a free app (they make their $ by crowd-sourcing translations) and it has been a different but interesting experience. I have finally learned to accept "depuis" (ha-ha - as if the French care if I accept it or not) but I am struggling a bit with some of the more obtuse verb tenses. It is, however, forcing me to look at the construct of the English language more closely, too, so I suppose that is good. I do have to wonder, though, how often are some of these tenses used? But I guess that is all academic Smiling I am finding that, as was true 40 years ago, I have to be careful writing as I frequently am now substituting French words for English and vice-versa.

My great-auntie, who passed away not all that long ago, was one of the most (if not the most) articulate, intelligent, self-educated, outspoken, interesting people that I have met. She was one of those rare people who had close friends of all ages, from all walks of life, from all over the world - from a monk in Peru to a stage actor in Britain to my kids when they were just teens - everyone seemed to be fascinated by her and she was well-versed in so many areas. She once shared with me that her secret to longevity was not to become bored and stagnant. "To read, to study, to strive continuously in order to expand one's mind" is what she shared, "and to never stay rigid within your own self". She barely missed holding her great-great-great niece so I believe she must have been on to something. I still miss her tremendously.

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Rabbits - Argh!
Posted on Jul 5, 2014 9:11 PM

Once again, we have had to battle the cottontails. After re-sodding*, it appears that a couple of bunnies discovered the new grass the first night and, within 4 days, had invited all of their friends and relatives (I am thinking AA Milne) over for a party. On the 5th morning, the rabbit excrement was so heavy that our stepping stones were absolutely covered and the damage to the freshly planted sod and newly transplanted plants was obvious (they even took 3 banana pups out and "trimmed" the ginger). Although we have tried blood meal in the past without much success, we decided to try it again out of sheer desperation. We also discussed wiring the entire perimeter of the yard** or enclosing the yard with society garlic (the front beds are "hedged" with a 12" wide strip of this and it has worked exceedingly well there). While we may still wire a couple of the entrances (major thoroughfares?***), we both thought that ringing the yard with the society garlic would look odd given its layout. So, my DH went and purchased multiple bags of blood meal and applied it everywhere (I was thinking that it was an exercise in futility). We both were happily shocked to see nearly clear stepping stones the following morning. It appears that only one or two tiny bun-buns came by to feast based on the tiny rabbit pellets left behind. The following evening, I was out photographing some plants at dusk and noticed a cottontail scoping out a small section of fence line. My best half applied a judicious strip of blood meal and it appears that that rabbit has decided to dine elsewhere. I also noticed that there were no signs of the little bun(s) from the previous night (we do have a pair of hawks that have their main nest in our yard so perhaps it/they were dinner?). I do not know if the success is due to the brand of blood meal we are now using (could it be processed differently?) or if it is the change in vendors (fresher due to a higher turnover in product?), but I am not willing to return to the old brand nor to the old nursery in order to find out (I know, I am not being scientifically friendly). I am, however, very happy and even more relieved that we have found something that is effective [for now at least] that does not include erecting a physical barrier - and provides low and slow nitrogen. I have also learned a valuable lesson in being too rigid in thought (dismissing something out of hand based on one experience) but, thankfully, my husband is much more open minded.

* They are, in large part, the reason we are having to re-sod. In the backyard, the dogs have helped with the destruction but, in the front yard, they are solely responsible for all of the damage. Argh! They have done hundreds if not thousands of dollars in damage over the years. It ends NOW.

** Since writing this, an angel contacted me with a photo of green wire that they are using and it looks great. I really had to scrutinize the photo to see it - it is nearly invisible. After thinking about it, if we must go with wire, I will ask my better half if we can exchange the regular wire fencing that we have for the green. Again, I need to be less rigid. When I thought of wire, I envisioned the silvery stuff and was opposed to its use. I am so glad that an angel suggested the green fencing as I can definitely live with it.

*** I planted Ajuga (Catlin's Giant) in front of these areas within the past 2-3 weeks. As Ajuga is rabbit resistant, I am willing to wait and see if they will cross this barrier once it has filled in. I will still spread blood meal around the vulnerable plants but, since Catlin's Giant is listed as reaching 8-10" in height, I am hoping that the cottontails will find it so repugnant that they will not cross through it.

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Making progress...
Posted on Jul 5, 2014 10:28 AM

July 4, 2014: Well, we are finally making some progress and, because we are so pleased with the little bit that got done, decided to tackle a bit more. That portion is scheduled to be completed by the 8th - very late in the year - but after it is done, we will have completed approximately 40% of the backyard - not including the hillside. This will leave us with the rest of the summer to dream and plan and then come autumn, we will start work again.

My favorite area is this (it is a great place to sit as it always feels cooler than the surrounding area):

Thumb of 2014-07-04/OldGardener/c146c6 another view: Thumb of 2014-07-04/OldGardener/febf39

I planted 2 more angel wing jasmine along the trellis so, hopefully, they will get their feet happily rooted in the ground and really take off next year. The hibiscus has surprised me. Before, I had it slated for removal as it looked like it was on its last legs but my DH wanted to give it a chance and it is rewarding him handsomely by looking greener, fuller, and more beautiful each day . The Dietes was actually 1 large plant that we divided into 3 pieces. There is also some black ajuga planted amongst the Dietes and Hibiscus so hopefully that will fill in soon.

I ordered some Fargesia and Pleioblastus from Santa Rosa during their end-of-season sale and they should be here next week. I plan on potting them up for the summer and getting them in the ground come fall. I am going to use the Fargesia as a hedge near the bottom of the hillside and, if all goes as planned, they will screen us from the view of the neighbor's garbage and junk that they leave piled up along their side of the fence (not to mention all of their dead and dying plants). At 6 feet tall, the Fargesia should not be overwhelming - just a solid green wall.

I asked the "Ask a Question" forum yesterday about Pleioblastus since there is so much contradictory information on it out there (and ATP does not have any data on it in its database). I have read everything from a maximum height of 12", requires full shade and is a clumping bamboo to it is 4 feet high, must have full sun and runs like no tomorrow. Once, again, I am indebted to the great ATP membership. PlantLadyLin was so sweet and called ZenCat who helped me tremendously by giving me direct feedback on how it is performing in her zone 7a garden (15" tall, well-behaved clump, part-shade). I went ahead and ordered it from Santa Rosa, too, and am going to spot it along the hill. I am hoping that it remains on the shorter end but will actually spread out a bit (the additional erosion control aspect is a plus); however, if they remain clumped, I think they will still look quite nice with the variegated foliage and all. It will be interesting to see how they will perform in zone 10 as compared to zone 7, too.

Anyway, here are some "in progress" photos. I want to keep a photo journal so I can easily track the different plants' habits and growth rates. I plan on taking photos again in the autumn as I suspect (or, at the very least, am hoping fervently) that a lot of the areas will have filled in by then.

These areas look sparse but the plants are in. I left enough room for each so that they should be comfortable for at least 3-5 years. I used to make the mistake of planting to close together - everything looks small when it first goes in but then quickly becomes "too big" - but now I wonder if I have gone too far the other direction. If it is still sparse in 6 months to a year, I will go back and fill in:
Thumb of 2014-07-04/OldGardener/74442c another view: Thumb of 2014-07-05/OldGardener/5923e8
On the adjacent side of the equipment area:
Thumb of 2014-07-05/OldGardener/3adff7

Around the Eucalyptus: Thumb of 2014-07-05/OldGardener/4ddcb6

This is a small planter that wrongs along the back of the garage heading towards the house:
Thumb of 2014-07-05/OldGardener/5abf49
On the opposite side is this planter (approximately 9' x 9'):
Thumb of 2014-07-05/OldGardener/c2cd54
There is an Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' (red Abyssinian banana - maybe a height of 12' or so in our area) in the center with (4) Dietes iridoides (white morea lily) surrounding the future trunk (These Dietes were initially one large plant that I divided into 5 sections - I still have a clump left over). On the outer most ring, I planted Heuchera 'Midnight Rose'. I chose this cultivar hoping that it would echo both the black ajuga and green, pink, and white ajuga that is planted throughout the shaded areas.

Well, time to stop now as this entry is getting lengthy but one more photo to show the area that is getting prepped (old sod is out and we are refreshing the soil):
Thumb of 2014-07-05/OldGardener/058bfc

Everything should be back in by Tuesday and then we wind down until mid-September.

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Backyard re-do
Posted on Jun 9, 2014 7:29 PM

5/31 'Thought I'd start keeping a record of this project and am kicking myself that I did not get "before" photos. Needless to say, it was an overgrown jungle before... so... here goes:

Looking toward the area that is being cleaned up. This is view directly from the family room:
Thumb of 2014-05-31/OldGardener/c5ba90
Hmmm, the trees don't typically feel so overwhelming in height.

A close up perspective of "the pool room/workshop/feed room" after the plants had been lifted and the old grass removed. This is actually a 2-story building from the other side - 2 horse stalls and a tack room are below :

Thumb of 2014-05-31/OldGardener/c87dfc Thumb of 2014-05-31/OldGardener/147763 Thumb of 2014-05-31/OldGardener/5aeea1

This section of backyard runs primarily north to east so it remains fairly shady throughout the day.


6/2 Yesterday, the pool/spa heater caught fire (oh joy - there goes some of the landscaping funds) and we had another 4.2 earthquake last night so I am using that as my excuse for a slooow morning. We only planted 2 bananas today but my hubby and I walked the project and now, thanks to the walk and all of the helpful folks on the "Tropicals" forum, we both have a much better idea of what we want to do. I did not realize that my love envisioned grass everywhere but we have compromised and are going for "Formal Tropical" -- if such a thing even exists.

The bones of the garden are Banana Trees, Eucalyptus and palm trees and we are planting/transplanting/ agapanthus, gingers, bougainvillea, jasmine, grass and ajuga throughout the yard for some consistency (we will be adding back some fatsia, philodendron, etc., too, to break up any monotony). When we get to the front yard (south side), we will switch to hibiscus and birds of paradise in place of the shade lovers. We have some nice Morea lilies that have really clumped up over the years so we'll get those divided and use them, too. Our goal is to incorporate as many of the plants that are already on hand to save $$.


6/8 The stepping stones have been re-installed, drains and sprinklers checked, so the fun part begins. My dearest husband is a more visual person so I put this together using Paint:

Thumb of 2014-06-09/OldGardener/801e6e Thumb of 2014-06-09/OldGardener/e9c5e9

Hopefully, the real garden will look a lot better than the drawing. I have to admit, though, it is so much easier to re-arrange plants on paper than in the actual garden!

Sod is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday, a few filler plants are arriving later this week, and I hope to find that the remaining ground cover has been delivered by the end of next week..


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