Not exactly Country Living…

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I have always been an inveterate consumer of gardening, home decorating and lifestyle magazines. If I had a nickel for every issue of Southern Living, Sunset, Country Living and Traditional Home that has graced my coffee tableand now a whole new genre of magazines which have the word cottage in their titles has captured my fancy: The Cottage Journal and Cottage Christmas (substitute Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn to cover the year!) to name few. Periodically, horrified at the amount of money I spend on this quasi-obsession,  I go cold turkey and let all my subscriptions lapse. I can stay on an even keel for most of the year but when those fall and holiday focused issues appear at Barnes and Noble and my local grocery store display I can feel that craving wash over me. I don’t really care about the perfect purse or another piece of jewelry but I am undone at the thought that there may be a life changing idea (vignette, recipe…) in one of my favs and I am going to miss it!

So, with your new understanding of my lifelong fascination with pouring over those picture perfect family friendly kitchens, blooming right-on-cue garden beds and exquisitely curated party plans, you won’t be surprised that I developed a few romantic notions of quintessential cabin life when in 2015 we bought our cedar sided cabin in Fish Camp just outside the southern gate of Yosemite National Park. Most have been dispelled by a basement full of squirrels and the stuff that comes with them, bats in the rafters, 40 year old windows and the realization that we neither have the funds nor the expected lifespan for cabin life to be magazine perfect, except possibly Handyman. Making it habitable and a fun place to host family friends was our ultimate goal in the first place and it didn’t take long for me to circle right back to that.

One lingering  and picturesque thought for me has been to host a wreath making day for my BFFs on the deck overlooking our snowy meadow. I would spend a morning clipping fresh boughs from the array of conifers on our property, arrange them beautifully in bins by variety (complete with identifying tags in hand done calligraphy) and set out all the necessary tools and supplies. My friends would arrive, all perfectly outfitted in the colorful and coordinated cold weather gear–looking like ladies who stepped right off the pages of Lands’ EndWe would enjoy a sumptuous lunch of hearty, homemade soup and crusty bread, sitting around a perfectly dressed rustic table arrangement and breathe in the fresh mountain air while we share our family holiday plans.

On our last cabin stay that thought resurfaced when my iPhone calendar reminders popped up with notations for ‘wreath making at Ellen’s’ on two days early in December. With absolutely no recollection of what these were I reached out to Ellen and we quickly determined that our quilting friendship group had decided LAST year that we would work in this activity in 2018, piggybacking on the class offered by our local River Center for which Ellen is a volunteer. The reality is that holiday wreath making in the Sierra mountains can come with all kinds of challenges: weather that can change on a dime, icy roads, gathering greenery in 3 feet of snow and packing in our lunch groceries in the same. I am not even mentioning the need for the large Lands’ End order to achieve ‘the look’ AND not freeze to death.

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Looking up from the meadow in December 2016

And so before we packed up to come home I cut a few bins worth of boughs and braved our rocky slope for some manzanita. A few days later we gathered in Ellen’s flatland garage with contributions from our Fresno yards and my mountain greens to fashion our holiday wreaths.

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Not exactly Country Living, but real life with friends sharing fellowship, food and a fun activity. We feasted on hearty, homemade soup at at Ellen’s beautifully arranged holiday table and although there was no crusty bread–there was dessert! I think we almost got the outfits right–what do you think?

P.S. Within a few days of coming down the mountain, Fish Camp got its first winter snowstorm.

A walk in my woods…

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With the first snows of the winter in the forecast for the last week in November and our turkey dinner well settled,  my husband and I headed to the Sierras to do the last tasks to fortify our small cabin outside the south entrance to Yosemite National Park as much as possible for the winter. Unlike many of the cabins in Fish Camp we have central heat and  are able to spend a good bit of time there in the winter months but we must still prepare our deck for the snow slide off the roof, lay in a good supply of wood close in and, when at all possible, get up as much of the autumn leaf fall disposed of before it is covered by snow. The last is mostly to get a jump on clearing the ‘defensible 100 feet’ required by the fire folks once the warm, dry summer sets in. Note to Donald T: in case you are following my blog you can rest easy that we ARE raking our forest floor.

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Our area is prone to fall rainstorms which can produce flash flooding and our cabin happens to sit much lower than the road. Water rushing down the road is directed into a culvert and then into a big metal drainpipe which runs under our driveway and out into what is euphemistically called a ‘seasonal creek’ by real estate agents. The steep slope of our property away from the road then carries it down to an actual creek just below  the property. Last year obstructions in the pipe caused the water to back up in the culvert, jump the bank and virtually wash out our steep, curved, at that time dirt driveway. Fortunately a slight raise in the grade in front of our basement stopped the flow before we became an ark! And our seasonal creek seemed to be mysteriously creeping closer to the cabin…to that end we worked diligently this summer to clear both the culvert and the sub-driveway pipe. A neighbor with a backhoe pushed several years worth of downhill debris up to give us new and well defined culvert on the downhill side of the pipe so we could create a good path for the run-off. A fall afternoon’s worth of collecting rock from around the property and stacking it up resulted in what we have now dubbed El Pequeno Rio Armadillo–the Little Armadillo River, a nod to my husband’s childhood nickname. Having just had the first heavy rains of the fall I was anxious to see how our handiwork had fared and was pleased to see the banks held and the downhill flow of the rushing water was well within bounds of what we’d hoped for!

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Of course, we have a huge tree right in the middle of the flow–earth and stones hopefully stop the water from jumping the bank toward the house
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Looking down from the drain pipe
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Looking back ‘upstream’ from quite far below–the power of moving water from just one large storm has carved this perfect path

With snow on the ground since this visit, the threat of flood has diminished. However, with the spring snowmelt from the high Sierra we will again need to keep a close watch on where the Little Armadillo River wanders.

In the few years we have owned this vacation cabin, my husband’s work/travel schedule has been the determining factor of how much time we are able to spend in the mountains and with so much work to be done to make the 50 year old home habitable we really haven’t spent much mountain time actually having any fun. His 2018 mid-summer retirement has given us more freedom to enjoy the quiet and the beautiful vistas without feeling we need to be ‘getting something done’ every time we are there. With that in mind and Dave doing a little light raking (8 barrels worth) I thought it a perfect time to take a stroll and survey our small piece of the forest.

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I have purposefully left the exposure of these photos unedited. Our land is only about an acre and slopes sharply down from street level with a smallish flat area midway for parking in front of the cabin. Our views up toward the street are always in dappled shade from trees, both conifers and deciduous hardwoods. I will be forever in awe of the huge granite outcroppings and boulders.

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Just below street level 
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This monster is perched on our neighbor’s property high over the creek bed below our property
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Beautiful life decorates the boulders
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Looking uphill from the lowest point of our land
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Our only sunny spot is the meadow (or gully depending on my mood) visible from the back deck–happily inhabited by a great diversity of trees

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Our local utility company is actively trimming or clearing trees too close to power lines. We have several marked to be limbed up but but none marked for removal as this one on the property next to us.

Even in late November there is a lot of plant life to be seen. I am clueless on about 90% of  what is growing here but it is my goal to be able to identify most of what we have in the next few years. The top left photo is one of the manzanita varieties, I think–at least it is growing among a huge thicket of manzanita! In the spring they have small pinkish white flowers so I am not sure about the red blossom. I’ll take gladly take any guesses on the other three!

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I am cautiously proposing white fir on this very young tree. I am amazed at all seedlings we have, especially given the continuing Central California drought conditions–just another example of Mother Nature’s drive to keep her offspring going.

Tree felling required for the installation of larger water tanks just up the road from us resulted in great quantities of wood available for the water company’s customers. We have hauled logs down for various purposes and a neighbor cut up a half dozen nice ones for us to use as seating. Earlier in the year we arrived at the cabin one weekend to find a tree stump about 2 feet high and 48″ across neatly in place beside our wood pile. My husband had mentioned to a neighbor Gene G. that he need a stump on which to split logs and voila! one arrived via our go to heavy equipment neighbor Barry G. It is a fact that mountain people all look out for each other.

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A small ginkgo on the roadside shows its colors

Just across the road from us this wee waterfall has been running for weeks.

The seed pods are from the lily type plant below which I photographed in bloom in July.

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What tales this (cedar?) tree trunk has to tell…

Fish Camp lies a scant 50 miles north of Fresno just outside the southern gate to Yosemite National Park. At about 5200 feet in elevation and an hour’s drive away it is light years away from the hustle and bustle of the hot dry San Joaquin Valley. Although the population sign indicates 500 residents, I am doubtful of the number. We have one large hotel/resort complex, the Tenaya Lodge, but no gas station or restaurants. A small general store offers some staples and a pretty mean sandwich and potato salad when there’s enough traffic into the park to keep it open everyday. If you are ever passing through on Highway 41 to Yosemite at least give us a wave as you go by!

“THE MOUNTAINS ARE CALLING AND I MUST GO”            John Muir

 

Gardening gratitude…

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My neighbor’s bright yellow ginkgo as seen through my pair of mature crape myrtles

Just as I type in the title of this post on the eve of Thanksgiving, the first raindrops of a long predicted storm start to fall. Our last rainfall was mid April and our last truly appreciable rain was in late March. Here in Central California we tend to make ourselves feel better as our long awaited “rainy season” approaches by flashing the words STORM WATCH all over the TV screen and still congratulate ourselves on our good fortune when the next day’s weather wrap up tells us we got a whopping 1/4″–you take what you can get! Even a small rainfall will clear our woefully bad air quality and make life feel fresh and new. I pray that the lives of those affected by the fires in both the north and south of my state will not be made substantially worse by this much needed precipitation.

A few things this gardener is grateful for, not just on Thanksgiving but all year-round:

A world wide community of gardeners who share their gardens and garden passion, not to mention ideas, tips, plants and labor with each other through print, video and face-to-face

The Internet, not withstanding all its faults, which has broadened gardeners’ knowledge of the diversity of our natural world exponentially and given us the ability to talk to and learn from gardeners far and wide

Those whose efforts allow the rest of us to enjoy beautiful public spaces and visit legendary historic homes and gardens

My stalwart road tripping friends who understand when I fall behind to examine a plant, admire a pleasing vignette or get just one more photo

My indulgent husband who, as the years have passed, is called upon to do more of the grunt work necessary to lay the foundation for whatever my current project happens to be

My  ever confident sons who believe in my garden knowledge and skills to the extent that I can identify a plant from a fuzzy photo snapped in a friend’s yard with only one half dead leaf. I can just hear them saying, “Oh, my mom will know what that is and how to make it grow–she’s a gardener.” Note: these same two boys, now very close to being middle-aged, brought their friends home after school on Halloween confidant I could sew them a costume by nightfall

To our Creator whose beautiful earth is the canvas to our paint and whose gifts of our soils, climates and diverse plant life have challenged us to make our surroundings bountiful, beautiful and healthy–all to His glory

“THANKSGIVING, AFTER ALL, IS A WORD OF ACTION.”–W. J. Cameron

 

 

 

Moraea and the 3 M’s…

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The Moraea iris is as ubiquitous to California gardens as fish tacos are to our trendy coastal restaurants. Before gardeners had ready access to a wide variety of ornamental grasses, phormiums and dianellas this evergreen perennial was one of the very few plants which fulfilled the need for a bold, contemporary and architectural element in the  residential landscape. They are a landscaper’s staple here and if you drive down any residential street in my city you’d be hard pressed to find very many front yards without them. Only in the last few years has their popularity declined slightly as they do require moderate water to look their best and we now have many other choices that are less thirsty.

Dietes iridioides (D. vegeta, Moraea iridioides), commonly called the Moraea iris or fortnight lily, is an iris like perennial with fans of stiff, swordlike, dull green leaves. They are rhizomes which are almost always sold as container plants rather than barefoot and will form thick clumps of foliage over which bright white blooms seems to dance, butterfly like, throughout the year. In mild climates they may bloom year round. The flowers typically last a single day but in peak bloom periods there may be dozens on a large clump. The bloom stalks are segmented and a given stalk will produce multiple blooms throughout the season.

With all the good qualities having been mentioned–Moraea iris are among the most misunderstood, misused and as the result of these first two–misshapened–plants in California gardens today. They can grow to very large clumps and are commonly planted in areas too small to accommodate their mature size. Unless you break off the flower heads they will reseed prolifically, adding to the colony’s density and girth, seemingly  exponentially. Their clumping nature really calls for them to be divided by spading them up and breaking apart the fans every 5 or 6 years during the winter. I know many gardeners but I don’t know one who has ever divided a Moraea iris–myself included. We let them grow and grow and then they look like this.

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Then–when we just can’t stand it anymore and are upset by the diminishing bloom quantity–we whack them back or completely to the ground, producing these not so pleasing forms.

I am here to tell you not a single leaf that gets chopped off will ever grow again. New growth in the clump will be stimulated, making it ever so much denser and larger (which I am guessing was not the goal.) I have even seen the radical approach of mowing down the clumps like below.

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New fans will emerge but nothing good will ever come of all that dead root and foliage left in the ground.

It’s a telling statement that in looking for photos for this post I could not find a single example of this plant in good shape in the square mile surrounding my home. Eveybody’s got them and they all look like crap!

And so, with all I know (and have done poorly in the past) of this perennial you will not be surprised to know that one of the first garden reno projects we tackled after purchasing our home in 2008 was to remove all the Moraea iris–14 clumps in total–from our landscape. Even today we pull up bird gifted seedlings that have wandered over from neighboring yards.

My recently retired husband (who may start looking for a job to get some rest) is all in on his dead lawn removal project which will clear the last turf from our front yard. And each of us doing what we do best, I am gathering new plant material in my holding area in anticipation of replanting the area.

I surprised myself–and him–when I purchased a gallon specimen of the Moraea’s cousin which was marked as Dietes iridioides ‘Variegata’. I am not confident of the plant ID and think that it is actually Dietes grandiflora ‘Variegata’ or ‘Sunstripe’.

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The medium green foliage with bright yellow stripes is a wonderful twist on the duller green and will light up the dappled afternoon shade location I have reserved for it. The bloom on this plant is the one you see at the top of the post and it lasted for several days, which is the hallmark of the grandiflora species.

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Foliage closeup!

So here is my commitment to this ‘everything old is new again’ perennial: I will revel in your beauty and DIVIDE you as is necessary to keep you happy and attractive. I will never chop your lovely stripy leaves to the ground and I will harvest your seedlings to gift to my gardening friends!

 

 

 

 

 

Judy Adler gardens with nature in mind…

A few years ago while searching for garden tours on the internet I ran across the site for the Bringing Back the Natives Tour which takes place annually in the East Bay. Their site http://www.bringingbackthenatives.net is the home of not only the 14 year old tour, but also offers many resources for gardeners interested in native plants, water conservation, backyard wildlife habitats and much more. The May 2018 self guided tour included forty Alameda and Contra Costa County gardens, workshops and a native plant sale. Unfortunately May is a month overflowing with garden touring and educational opportunities (not to mention an intensive  work time in my own garden) and I have yet to be able to participate in the tour.

Their regular and very informational emails led me to sign up for a class last week end entitled Gardening With Nature in Mind and taught by environmental educator Judy Adler at her half acre garden in Walnut Creek. As with all Bay Area road trip type classes, it was an early departure from Fresno and a long day but well worth the drive.

We were a small class which allowed plenty of time for questions and to get to know each other’s diverse gardening interests and experiences. Judy’s home landscape functions as suburban farm, an ecological and horticultural laboratory, a wildlife habitat and a community educational resource. Her passion for nature and sharing the interconnectedness of all facets of the natural world is boundless. A walk around her garden and her so called “trespass area” offers learning opportunities and examples of sustainable gardening practices in play at every turn.

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Judy’s home is one of two in a cul-de-sac adjacent to a Walnut Creek public school. Across the street lies an open area, once a mustard field, that belongs to the school district. Since 1996 Judy has shaped a half acre plot of this land into a biodiverse dry garden which reflects what is able to survive with only rainfall. In the shade of the oaks we learn about the Mediterranean Climate range across the world–areas marked by dry, hot summers and mild, wet winters. The logs you see “planted” in the ground are examples of hugelkulture, a horticultural technique where a mound created by decaying wood debris can produce a planting area with improved soil fertility, water retention and soil warming.

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The spines on this acacia species native to Chile provide cover and protection for birds and other wildlife.

Berries of the evergreen toyon provide winter food for birds and the juicy fruits of the prickly pear has been food for both wildlife and man through the ages.

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Piles of brush and trimmings are left to decay in place, offering additional wildlife habitat as they are on their journey to nourishing the soil beneath.

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This area has many colonies of milkweed. As we encounter stands of now desiccated milkweeds plants, Judy shares a photographic life cycle book of the plants and the monarch butterflies they feed that she has produced as an educational resource.

Of course the area includes lots of spiky things–Judy’s lesson here was to make sure you know the mature sizes of those cute little succulents you put in the ground!

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Looking back toward the hills behind the dry garden. In the foreground are stands of California native rye, Leymus triticoides, which has been fashioned into a maze for young gardeners to explore.

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A short walk back up the street to Judy’s home offered a chance to admire the sculptural quality of the trunks of this group of manzanita.

Prior to class Judy had sent us all electronically a lot of reference material, including a plant list of her garden, a list of resources covering topics such as bee-keeping and permaculture and much more plus a little pre-class homework to learn to calculate rainfall volumes. Judy is all about the water. The fact is that she has very little to work with and is committed to being the best steward of her little piece of the earth’s resources, as well as carrying that message to the general public. I admitted to not doing my homework as our class moved into a discussion of rainwater harvesting. Had I done the math I would have not been so surprised to learn that a roof surface of 2500 square feet could yield almost 30,000 gallons of rainwater in an area receiving only 18 inches of rain a year!

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Here you see Judy as she explains the roof rainwater harvesting system she built with the help of friends and neighbors. The addition of a product called Gutter Gloves as an initial filtering agent allows rainwater to flow off her roof surfaces free of large debris, into a PVC pipe system that then provides a second filter and ultimately routes the water into one of the three 3,000 gallon water tanks just visible over her shoulder. The system is pressure operated with no pump involved. She also uses recycled fire hoses to deliver water to various parts of her landscape!

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A basic botany lesson introduces us to the characteristics of different pollinator insects and blooms in Judy’s pollinator garden give her an opportunity for a pop quiz to review what we have just learned.

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This 1,500 gallon pond incorporates an upper tier bio bog to aid oxygenation. Judy shared that this pond teems with wildlife throughout the year and provides her with a wonderful observation spot.

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This small greenhouse is in full sun part of the day. These recycled containers are filled with harvested water which warms in the daytime and heats the greenhouse when temperatures cool in the evening.

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Raised beds with the remnants of the season remain as food and shelter for birds and insects.

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A pergola to the back patio supports native grape vines. The bright white foliage is a woody perennial shrub called germander which sports bright blue flowers in spring.

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The resident hens participate in the patio goings-on. Judy uses the coop’s manure to enrich needy soil and enjoys both the eggs and the company her girls give her. The chickens are all rescues and relish visitors to the garden as they know there will be a little treat for them!

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During our time with Judy she touched on many topics of interest to gardeners and wildlife lovers alike. Rather than an in depth coverage of any one facet we were able to get a little taste of a diverse range of related subjects and the resource materials Judy shared offered avenues for further exploration on an individual basis.

While my own gardening aesthetic probably will never rise to the level of sustainability Judy practices I absolutely admire the fact that she very clearly WALKS the TALK in all aspects of her life. Her enthusiasm, matter of fact style and plain language is appealing to adults and children alike and I am sure everyone in my class went home having learned at least one new thing–I know I did.

Leaving her garden you see this diminutive art piece with arms raised to the heavens. It is a perfect representation of the joy and peace Judy experiences by observing and being connected with life in all its forms. The art piece was the inspiration for her ebullient garden gate created by metal sculptor Mark Oldland.

Please visit http://www.diablonature.org to learn more about Judy Adler’s life and work.

 

 

Falling into the new season…

With the advent of a few cooler days–read that as high 80s and 90s–I am anxious to get out in my garden. June 1st through August 31st tallied 53 days with temperatures over 100 degrees, with a not quite record breaking run of 30 consecutive days between July 6th and August 4th. I am not sure why I am compelled to cite these statistics–Fresno’s summer weather is largely unchanged from when my family first moved here more than 50 years ago. I am going to have to go with my ability to get through the hot and dry days on my hands and knees as the wild card; I am still going to blame that on Mother Nature, just a different department…oh! did I mention no rain since March?

The new front garden west bed which replaced a failing area of turf weathered the summer pretty well. The pic below which I shared in an April post was taken in March after the bed was partially planted with a Heinz 57 selection of waterwise woody and tender perennials, daylilies, iris divisions and anything else I ran across that looked good to try.

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At this point I was still considering a wide stone path from the street (near the eventual home of my in-progress Little Free Library) to the walk leading to my front porch and was visually defining the space with the brick.

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After my first planting wave I went ahead and mulched the bed down closely following the last good spring rain and in anticipation of the dry days to come. Notice the Salvia ‘Mesa Azure’ which was part of the original small half circle bed at the base of the crape myrtle tree has come on strong after a late winter cut back. The stone path is still under consideration.

The bed filled in nicely as May turned to June…

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Even though this bed is south facing all but the very front has periods of dappled shade throughout the day. I abandoned the idea of the stone path and simply mulched everything down. The area had 2 sprinkler lines-one for the original bed perimeter and another for the turf. We were able to eliminate a number of heads immediately and have flagged the rest to watch through the summer. Although little in this area is thirsty, even drought tolerant plant material needs adequate water to get established.

Both the new and old plantings performed very well.

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I got good bloom periods from the daylilies, a variety of perennial dianthus, the new stand of lavender and a few of new semi-woody salvias. Only the Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ which I was coveting for its burgundy foliage has been almost a total failure. I lost 2 of the original 3 planted. Replaced those and lost them again! In the very first pic of this post you can barely see them newly planted in the lower left corner. I am on the lookout for additional replacements and hopefully can get them in the ground soon enough to allow the roots to get well established through the winter.

Most of the plant material tolerated our dry heat really well for being in the ground less than 4 months as summer peaked. I did a little bucket watering here and there and believe that the bed will hold up next year on its own with only occasional irrigation.

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This is how the bed looked a few days ago. Yes–I finally got my Little Free Library in the ground! Even as much of the rest of the garden is looking a little draggy this area is still looking pretty good with plenty of healthy foliage.

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The area around this small rock has proven difficult for a group of iris divisions and may end up sporting another large rock. In my efforts to avoid having sprinkler risers along the sidewalk I inadvertently created a few bone dry areas which just don’t get any coverage from the bed’s interior irrigation.

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Three of my new woody salvias (top to bottom): Salvia ‘Dara’s Choice’, Salvia ‘Wild Bill’ and Salvia ‘Bon Bon’ all grew from scant quart container specimens to nicely behaved mounds of interesting foliage but, as yet, have not bloomed. These hardy growers were all purchased last fall at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale and overwintered in their containers before being planted in their current locations early this spring. I hope to make it to that sale again this year!

A couple of my other first year selections have not been so shy…

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Salvia repens x namensis ‘Savannah Blue’ is a hybrid of two South African sages and although its sky blue flowers are small, they are plentiful. The foliage is reminiscent of that of small leafed scented geraniums.

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Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Legacy’ bloomed heavily for 6 weeks mid summer after having a light show of flowers in early spring. This is purported to be quite a large plant at maturity and I have given it a lot of open space. Can you imagine this show on a shrub 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall?

With our spirits buoyed by the success of this turf free landscape and that of last year’s driveway circle lawn replacement project AND the strong back (loving heart) of my newly retired husband I just had the remainder of our front lawn treated for removal. I’ll have several weeks to narrow down my vision for this large wide open area. I’ve fallen all right–just not sure into what!

 

Howdy from Austin…party at Lucinda’s

My apologies that the Austin posts have been appearing in dribs and drabs. Lots of May travel pushed my own late spring garden tasks right on in to June and I have not caught up yet. Add to that some June travel, lots of mountain cabin maintenance (when the smoke from surrounding blazes was not too bad), my husband’s retirement and too many other distractions to list. I think these are supposed to be my Golden Years…

I like to introduce posts about private gardens with a nice wide photo of the garden’s street side vista to let you take in what any walker, runner or bicyclist would enjoy as they pass by on their daily routine. This time I’m going to introduce you to the garden creator first, as she sets the stage better than any wide shot could.

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Lucinda Hutson is a cookbook author, garden and lifestyle author and lover of all things “Texican”. Lucinda is a self described tequila aficionada and the golden nectar is the focus of her latest book, Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking and Other Agave Adventures. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and has lived in and gardened on her urban Austin cottage property for over 41 years. Her website (www.lucindahutson.com) entitled Life is a Fiesta with Lucinda! is a party for both your eyes and your spirit.

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How can you not love a gardener who wears purple cowboy boots??

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We arrive at Lucinda’s casita “La Morada” (little purple house) in a dappled early morning light that only exaggerates the cottage’s whimsical, Texas style fairy tale aura. Being a girl whose own garden graces a home with a purple front door and matching trellis work, how can I not be tickled by this brightly colored bungalow? The bright white trim allows the bold colors to pop while also acting as a unifying detail. Lucinda has done what we all secretly want to do–she has painted her home to delight herself rather than for resale!

The sculptural tree trunk is that of a ginkgo tree, planted by Lucinda 36 years ago from a five gallon can. She shared that it is one of the oldest and tallest ginkgo species in Austin.

A purple house deserves a pink door in my book and the floral themed tile accents set the tone for the layer upon layer of detail the rest of the home and garden offer. Just to the left of the arch you can see Lucinda’s tiled house number leap right off its purple backdrop.

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Sancho, the resident gato, keeps a watchful eye on his garden’s visitors.

Lucinda’s garden was originally an organic herb garden, an integral part of her life as an author of books and articles about cooking and entertaining. But as many gardens do, it evolved over time into a gathering spot for friends and neighbors and a place for Lucinda to try new plants and observe the constant buzz of nature around her.

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At the time of our visit the front garden was predominantly green, some plants having finished their early spring flowering and other summer bloomers not yet at their prime. Please go to her website and take the photographic garden tour and you will see much abloom plus an great display of vining  and climbing beauties ablaze with bright flowers.

Lucinda graciously invited those who desired to go through her home to reach the back garden as a way of spreading out the traffic flow in the small space. I decided to take the gravel path, passing the shady woodland area, into the wide side courtyard.

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This side courtyard is appropriately called the Fish Pond and Mermaid Grotto and is awash (no pun intended) with all things of the sea.

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This lushly planted area abounds with a great variety of foliage and blooming plants, including many pots.

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Even the stone wall behind the pond has a fish swimming across it!

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The mermaid altar rises from a sea of copper troughs in which succulents and sansevieria are planted, as if on the sea floor.

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On the cottage side of the courtyard this Haitian mermaid and friends swim in a sea of purple.

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Colorful pots echo the purple and hot pink color theme.

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An open area with seating perfect for relaxing with a glass of iced tea separates the Pond and Mermaid Grotto from the Kitchen Garden, where the cool blues and purples of the sea give way to yellows and oranges evoking the Texican theme.

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All manner of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers grow in raised beds and containers. You can get a glimpse in both photos (near the greenhouse) of Our Lady of La Tina in her bathtub shrine keeping an eye on all that grows here.

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Lucinda unabashedly admits that her garden is both water and labor intensive. Although she has an extensive drip system many hours, especially in the hottest parts of summer, are needed with a hose in hand, making sure every little corner and pot has been covered.  Winter is not without effort as she must move many succulents and tropicals to the greenhouse or garage for protection from the cold.

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In the last three photos you can see little snippets of the numerous plates Lucinda uses to border her Kitchen Garden raised beds, a play on her “garden to plate” theme. Not to leave the cutlery out, these shiny cuties pop their heads up from the herbs and veggies.

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This unique corn themed mosaic window frame is right across from the Kitchen Garden and easily visible from Lucinda’s kitchen.

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The Interior Patio packs a lot of goings on into a compact area. As you round the end of Lucinda’s cottage she has displayed her colorful collection of wooden Mexican wicker seated chairs.

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This entrance to her collection of Latin books, artifacts and collectibles is called the Stairway to Heaven.

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I took just a peek but a few of my fellow bloggers found a lot to see!

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A potted green room divider separates the cottage from the balance of the garden. I love the unique “awning” wrapping the corner and extending across the back of the house.

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A large wood deck offers umbrella covered dining opportunities and the gateway to Lucinda’s Creative Cathedral, an aromatic cedar cabin where she does all her writing.

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The cabin offers a dark, cool haven in contrast to the brightly painted and lavishly decorated garden exteriors.

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This great spot in Lucinda’s garden is perfect for plant display or to have a bite to eat. The multitiered benches are covered with weather friendly oil cloth.

The back part of the garden houses the Tequila Cantina including a unique tequila bottle tree.

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Notice the mulch–bottle corks! No found object fitting Lucinda’s themes goes unused.

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An outdoor shower is handy just in case anyone imbibes a bit too much. An open area of flagstone patio allows Lucinda to set up her party tables, chairs and fixings in whatever style suits the to-do!

Lucinda’s garden is intimate in size and in its ability to give you a window into her life and personality. Few of us are bold enough to live life as large as this garden does.

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We admired, lingered, chatted, took pictures and notes AND I’m sure a few of us probably asked to come back again, like reading a book the second time to catch all those things you missed the first time. Lucinda’s garden is like a party everyone wants to be invited to!