Digger’s Speedwell…

My out of town garden tour junkets provide me with lots of opportunities to shop at both botanical gardens and retail garden centers all over California. Although I am a believer in purchasing plants grown locally or in conditions easily adaptable to my garden we have very few such resources in my community. Our few independent retailers are good but don’t often venture out past the stock selections used all over the Central Valley–sort of an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” attitude. True be told garden centers will only select and stock what people will readily buy–it’s not realistic to ship in lots of niche plants which may not sell. So I travel..I look at everything everywhere I go…and always come home with a few new plants to try out.

On my second trip to the East Bay area in 3 weeks I left an extra hour early to be able to do some shopping at the East Bay Nursery on San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. I’d stopped there briefly on my first trip and came back prepared with a short list of hopeful garden additions. A few bits and pieces, not on the list, sneaked their way into my cart!

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Meet Parahebe perfoliata, common name digger’s speedwell. I did a quick Google on this and decided it was worth try, if only for the eucalyptus like leaves and nodding racemes of small blue flowers. I have Parahebe catarractae (below) elsewhere in the garden and it is a very small woody subshrub with small green leaves and white flowers bearing a red eye. Given the stark differences I did a little more research when I arrived home.

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The parahebes were formerly classified as genus Hebe and before that as genus Veronica–now the cloud’s are lifting a bit. Speedwell is the common name for perennials in the Veronica genus. Apparently the shrubbier ones were split off of the classification for the softer herbaceous perennials, then the smallest, or subshrubs, were split off yet again. Are these folks lacking for other productive work??

Both my parahebes are from down under–Australia for the new one (hmm…eucalyptus like leaves) and New Zealand for the little white one.

Digger’s speedwell is low growing to about two feet with a graceful arching habit. The evergreen foliage of rounded blue-gray leaves clasp the stems in opposite pairs making it a handsome foliage plants and giving rise to another common name in the literature, shish kabob plant. The flowers are set on new wood so pruning for shape and density is best done mid-summer.

The terminal spikes of veronica-like blue flowers produced in April or May are airy but heavy enough to give the racemes a nodding look.

I’m going to pot this little shish up and try it in a few places in the front garden, close enough to paths to not get lost or overrun but with enough neighbors for its flowering stems to have a little support and stay off the ground. Full sun or light shade is recommended and as with most Australian specimens, good drainage is essential.

I can also be drawn in by a good story on a plant label–I picked up this new little sage labeled Salvia ‘Rohana’s Angel’ grown by emerisa gardens (they don’t capitalize either word.) This was a chance seedling found amongst Salvia greggii, S. microphylla and Salvia x ‘Mesa Azure’ and thus its parentage is unsure. It’s a little one so I can tuck it in anywhere.

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This bubble gum pink baby sports a little white edge on its lip and is named after the wife of the founder of emerisa gardens. Emerisa is a family run-wholesale nursery in Santa Rosa, CA that has seasonal retail hours from March through November. They specialize in four-inch plants emphasizing hardy and unusually perennials, herbs, ornamental grasses and succulents and have long been on my road trip list. Check them out at http://www.emerisa.com if you find yourself in the vicinity!

Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…

The last day of my long Bay Area weekend was devoted to a Garden Conservancy Digging Deeper program at Berkeley community farm Urban Adamah.

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Urban Adamah was founded in 2010 by Adam Berman as the first urban Jewish community farm in the United States.  The farm’s seeds are rooted in a Connecticut farm-based residential leadership program. Adam envisioned an urban farm that would provide a fellowship program, offer Jewish agriculturally based experiential programs for youth and families, and contribute to food security in the East Bay. The farm moved in 2016 to its permanent home near Codornices Creek in Northwest Berkeley after  five years in a temporary location. The word adamah in Biblical Hebrew means ground or earth.

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A little hard to decipher as the metal sign over the entrance has aged–it reads “Love…all the rest is commentary”.

Berkeley artist and landscape designer Keeyla Meadows was brought in to design a city required swale when the 2.2 acre parcel was a blank slate. She went on to design the Pollinator Garden, the Children’s Garden and work with staff as other parts of the garden have been developed. Keeyla (on the left below) and Emily, the Urban Adamah Landscape Coordinator were our guides.

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We gathered in the center of a large circular planting bed to learn a bit about the farm’s history and philosophy. The core tenants of Urban Adamah are stated in this Mission Statement: “Urban Adamah seeks to build a more loving, just and sustainable world. We ground and connect people-to themselves, to others, and to the natural world. We do this by providing farm based, community building experiences that integrate Jewish tradition, mindfulness, sustainable agriculture and social action.”

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As we start our day together, Zumba teacher Kat leads us in noticing our surroundings and getting in touch with the wind and sky

Keeyla points out that almost every area of the farm has a central open area designed for small groups of people to meet and build relationships. This was a specific request made by Urban Adamah’s founder–places to gather as a community must be plentiful, welcoming and comfortable. The farm is open to the public most week days and is a lovely environment in which to enjoy the outdoors and observe nature at work–plus volunteer workers are welcome! We will explore most of the farm’s major areas, stopping to observe the plantings and ask questions as Keeyla and Emily share the design philosophy and challenges in developing this very young garden.

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We start at the Blueberry Meeting Circle where a ring of sturdy upright logs provide both seating for us and a podium for Keeyla.

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Without sharp eyes you might miss the ring of blueberries planted around the meeting circle, nestled amongst freely self sowing California poppies. Several native penstemons, blue-eyed grass and salvia also make their home here along with many Douglas iris.

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Gardeners are good multi-taskers. As Keeyla describe the soil building and design process for this area, one of our group pulls weeds as she listens. The farm is organic and weeding is a never ending task, especially in areas where self-sowers are allowed to have their way.

The Blueberry Meeting Circle is a charming front garden to the Aquaponic House where four levels of plants are stacked, producing lettuces, basil and other leafy greens.

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This buttery lettuce is planted with only a small amount of bark like material and its roots reaching down into the water below.

The bottom trays now hold a variety of plants being grown for their leaves textural experience, such as the gigantic Gunnera leaf and the surprising soft, almost furry, leaf of its neighbor.

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This tank is home to fish whose waste provides the natural fish emulsion nutrients to the plant via the circulation system of pipes.

We circle out of the Aquaponics House and return to the Blueberry Meeting Circle, a great vantage point to see the full length of the Urban Swale. the farm is adjacent to Codornices Creek which is in the midst of a civic restoration plan. The city of Berkeley required the installation of a swale on the farm’s property to prevent runoff of both rainwater and farm waste water into the creek.

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The Urban Swale, planted entirely in California natives runs from just beside the Blueberry Meeting Circle and along the farm’s front fence line almost to the entry gate.

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Hummingbird Sage

Hooker Creek boulders and Sonoma stone were brought in to form the bank stabilizing structure of the swale. Plantings were designed in repeating color bursts to keep your eye moving down the length of the swale. Keeyla calls this ‘weaving color’ throughout a space. Native plants requiring more moisture are planted lower on the bank while the more drought tolerate plants are higher up. The shape of the swale allows accumulated water to percolate slowly back into the ground. Keeyla’s choice of native plantings in part was to relate the swale to the creek and to honor the area’s indigenous peoples and their stewardship of the land.

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A little closer look at the beehive end. Notice the enormous Verbena ‘De La Mina’!
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Visitor to the ‘De La Mina’

Several varieties of California poppies were included in the original sowing of reseeding annuals. Subsequent seasons have produced some interesting color variations as the result of natural hybridization.

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Looking back as we wander the Urban Swale
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Fledgling bee colony
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Looking across the farm from the Urban Swale end

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As we walk to the far side of the farm to see the Pollinator Garden, Emily shares that this Administration Building was the first permanent structure built on the site; a great accomplishment after five years of a trailer office. The passionflower vines on the office trellises (and on the fences in the Urban Swale) were a concession to a former farm colleague who was instrumental in the early planning days. He loves passionflowers and would regularly harvest the fruit for use in tea and other edibles.

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Urban Adamah gives away 90% of the food it grows. The remainder is used on the farm for events and for use by residents of the farm. They host a weekly farmer’s market for anyone who needs food. Local grocery stores, including Whole Foods, contribute goods not yet produced on the farm. At any given times throughout the year they will produce all kinds of vegetables, herbs, stone and pomme fruits, potatoes, onions, eggs and milk.

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Crops are rotated regularly–vetch, Fava beans and crimson clover are planted as nitrogen fixing cover crops to be tilled back into the ground (after bean harvest, of course).

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The Pollinator Garden is our next stop–a melange of seasonal veggies surrounded by plants chosen specifically for their attraction of certain pollinators. Emily worked closely with Keeyla on the implementation of the design and credits this garden as awakening her desire to not only plant, but also be a designer. As we visit not much is in prime bloom. Emily explains what different shapes and colors are attractive to specific kinds of pollinators–tubular for the hummers vs flat for the butterflies, etc.–and the importance of having something for everyone if you want to maximize pollination.

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The Children’s Garden entrance is home to arbor seating–I haven’t been counting seating areas but I’m sure there at least 10. A young vine is on its way up to give visitors some shade while they get to know each other.

Urban Adamah has a full schedule of family friendly activities, including summer camp. The goals for children are the same as for adults; to build community; to foster Jewish traditions; to learn and practice sustainable agriculture and living.

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The Children’s Garden is only a stone’s throw from the creek and has its own swale to serve the same purpose as the first built Urban Swale. Keeyla also designed this garden and the swale is similar in planting with the exception of possibly more native wildflowers–sowing seeds is a popular activity on this side of the farm. Here you can see the swale emerging from under the bridge to the Earthbench meeting place.

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With the guidance of an educator from the Peace on Earthbench Movement (POEM) children built this garden gathering space using plastic bottles and other recycled materials over several camp sessions. Locally based POEM’s international mission is to encourage youth to turn plastic waste into artistic community gathering places. This is a project I would want to participate in–what fun!

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Looking down the Children’s Garden swale you see art created by children and displayed on the fence.

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A surprisingly unafraid hummingbird

Leaving the Children’s Garden we pass a newly constructed grape arbor tucked up against the street side fence.

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As yet unplanted, the arbor will be home to several grape varieties (you can see the barrels just outside the fence awaiting the vines) for a nascent partnership with the kosher winery directly across the street. The structure was built by local Eagle Scouts–notice every section has seating for several people.

We make a quick detour to the goat pen to meet Lev and Ivy and give them a snack pulled right from the field–and right in front of the Do Not Feed the Goats sign.

These two clearly recognize Emily and know she comes with goodies. They will not let her out of their sight!

On our way to talk about the Seven Sacred Species Garden we stop for a brief art activity. Keeyla has provided us with paper, colored pencils and markers, and string and asks us each to make a wish or a prayer to hang on the farm’s olive tree, telling us our thoughts will be released into the wind. The olive tree is the farm’s focal point, visible as soon as you enter the gate. A universal symbol of peace and one of the Seven Sacred Species, this tree was 42 years old when it was selected for the farm 18 months ago and the variety is one preferred for its oil. It actually sits mounded high because the farm’s electrical and water utilities are underneath it. Rocks were added to stabilize the raised planting area. I’m not sure how much of an olive oil crop you can get from one tree but I’m giving the farm extra credit for covering all the bases.

Had to make a quick trip back to the goat pen to retrieve an errant paper prayer from Ivy!

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The Seven Sacred Species are plants which deeply link spiritual beliefs to the natural world and play prominent roles in the Bible. They are olive, fig, date, wheat, barley, grapes and pomegranate. It was important to the farm’s founder to include these species on the farm and at this writing they have 6 of the seven, lacking only barley.

Several are represented around the entry gate.

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One of several young fig trees on the farm
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Pomegranate in the background–in the foreground is Etrog, a yellow citrus used during the Jewish holiday Sukkot
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Grapes will cover the entry trellis

There is a lone date palm near the Blueberry Meeting Circle and wheat planted in the crop beds. It is fitting that these species closely linked with the Bible would be at home in this place deeply rooted in Jewish traditions.

Our group had thinned a bit by now–many, including me, did not know the extent of the experience and had planned for less time. Those of us remaining took a break to gather fresh herbs, berries, greens and edible flowers to add to salad ingredients Keeyla had provided.

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A fresh dressing was made…
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Our table was set…

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Keeyla had made grape leaf dolma stuffed with barley and currents, polenta, small white pastries with dates, and a blueberry tart. A wonderful challah was the highlight for me–delicious.

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We filled our plates and gathered at a circle of benches to break bread and get to know each other a little better–exactly what Urban Adamah founder Adam Berman would have wanted.

This day was a wonderful experience and I would encourage anyone in the vicinity of Urban Adamah to take a few minutes to see the farm. I will close with a few more photos and several websites for you to get more information if you desire.

Here we go–

For more information about Urban Adamah, its mission and programs go to http://www.urbanadamah.org

For more information about Keeyla Meadows, her art, books and gardens go to http://www.keeylameadows.net

For more information about Garden Conservancy Digging Deeper programs go to http://www.gardenconservancy.org then click on Open Days, then Digging Deeper

For more information about the Peace on Earthbench Movement go to http://www.earthbench.org

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Gamble Garden Spring Tour 2019…the last two gardens

EAST MEETS WEST

The owner of this historic Professorville cottage in Palo Alto wanted a garden to honor his father’s garden in the family’s native Vietnam. The result is an eclectic mix of tropical and traditional plants nestled amongst paths, gates and art pieces fashioned from driftwood and salvaged antique bricks.

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The fully enclosed front garden is a potpourri of shrubs and vines nestled underneath a canopy of mature oaks.

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The first of many unique driftwood creations crafted by the homeowner greets visitors near the front gate.

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Mature rhododendrons grace the front walk–the only ones I saw on the tour this year.

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The piece of driftwood perched atop this gate’s frame is reminiscent of a bird stopped for a rest on its daily travels.

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Multi-colored antique bricks laid were laid in sand to make this rustic path.

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A vine covered arbor..

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…and another driftwood gate open onto a brick path to the back garden.

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The back garden features a brick floor with accents of stone and driftwood. The single sunny spot in the garden is home to a raised planter with its own ‘found wood’ fence.

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A raised gazebo is dressed in driftwood style and its comfy couch offers a great view of the garden.

Gazebo details

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A huge orchid in bloom,  Dendrobium  kingianum, is perched atop a waist high stump.

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A rock waterfall, once part of a koi pond whose inhabitants sheltered under the raised platform of the gazebo, is home now to tropicals and ferns. The pond itself is now a brick floor, a bit of which you can see in the lower right corner.

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A neat stack of materials stands at the ready for future projects! The beauty of this garden for me was the homeowner’s obvious affinity for the space and enjoyment in creating his garden with his own hands.

A FEAST FOR THE SENSES

As much as I admire landscapes with sophisticated green and white palettes, perfectly poised pots, and every detail dedicated to the theme; I am at heart a gardening girl who loves a riot of color and texture, prefers her shrubs in naturalistic shapes and adds things to the garden just because I want to try them out rather than that they fit some prescribed color or category. This last garden of my day on the tour spoke to me in terms I not only understand but see as achievable and possible to maintain in my slightly messy, do what you will vibe.

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My dream home and garden would be an authentic Spanish bungalow tucked behind wonderful courtyard walls–a little bit of public garden street side and the rest of it  nestled privately inside where I could play to my heart’s content in raised beds reached by stone and ground cover paths. Although the garden of this third generation landscape professional is very visible from the street side, it checked almost all my design boxes.

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Red brick walks are the front garden’s floor and series of geometric beds harbor most pf the plants. The raised beds are capped with red brick and are perfect sitting walls. I love a good sitting wall!

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The beds have a definite East coast influence is throughout and are densely planted with a mixture of roses perennials coming in and out of bloom amongst a formal structure of evergreen shrubs.

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This neighborhood has sidewalks and wide parking strips (called something different everywhere-the area between the sidewalk and the curb)–masses of agapanthus and daylilies and other strap leafed perennials will make this the prettiest ‘hell strip’ in town when they are in full bloom.

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A mature tree canopy provides dappled shade to the front walk.

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The homeowner enjoys flower arranging and makes use of many blooms from her own garden. The front plantings were originally designed to serve as a demonstration garden for her clients.

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A narrow planting strip along the driveway offers vertical gardening opportunities, both softening the look of the property line fence and providing additional privacy.

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The driveway as seen from the garage which is placed far back on the lot. The combination of brickwork adds interest and just feels softer and cooler than concrete.

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A small guest house with a pergola whose columns mimic those on the home’s front facade separates the back garden into rooms. I thought this little sitting area was one of the most charming I saw on the tour and I know I would be relaxing out there every day.

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The red brick fountain tucked next to the sitting area is presided over by a Korean acolyte sculpture the homeowner has named Yoda. The glass balls are meant to deter raccoons from fishing in the pond!

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Green Goddess calla lilies share the spotlight with papyrus and other water plants in the pond.

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Raised beds and pots in the sitting area are massed with nasturtiums and other edible flowers.

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The sitting area and pergola provide a lovely view of the rectangular lawn with its wide compacted gravel walkway–the original brick walkway was replaced after the homeowner’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in preparation for a time when a wheelchair path might be needed. Railings were also added to any areas having even a step or two.

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The lawn leads to a raised patio from which to dine and enjoy the garden. Kiwi vines cover the the arbor and abundant roses are within reach of the house for easy cutting.

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A brick walkway between the guest house and the garage draws visitors back–anxious to see what other delights they will find.

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The lot is remarkably deep and easy to walk compacted gravel paths wind around beds filled with annuals, bulbs, perennials and herbs. A green screen along the back property line offers the sense of being all alone in the city.

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Ornamentals give way to edibles in raised beds. I could sooo…live in this garden. It feels cool and colorful without being fussy or overly regimented. This is a gardener’s garden.

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So ends this year’s Gamble Garden Spring Tour. The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden deserves a post of its own and I’ll save that for the dog days of the summer when my spring travel is over and my own garden looks like scorched earth.

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Spring Plant Sale…

The second day of this Bay Area road trip is devoted to a visit to the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley to take in their spring plant sale. The sea mist was still hanging in the air as I made my way up into the Berkeley Hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. All I can say is thank goodness for navigation–a mere four miles from my hotel must have had 2 dozen lefts and rights to get to the 2 lane road into the hillside campus.

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The garden’s parking lots were full and signage led me uphill to the overflow parking some 3/4 of a mile away at Lawrence Hall. A free shuttle awaited to ferry us back down to the garden.

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It didn’t take long for me to realize I could not take photos, peruse plants and pull my wagon all at the same time so pictures are few because in this case, plants rule. The garden’s collections are all closed for the sale so only the main walkway seen here is accessible with all secondary paths being roped off.

The Botanical Garden was formally established on the UC Berkeley campus in 1890 with its current 34 acre location in Strawberry Canyon since the property was purchased in 1909. Ten thousand plant types are organized in 9 geographic regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a major collection of California native plants. With the little bits I could see from the sale site I know I want to schedule another visit to see all there is off this beaten path.

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Here are a few vignettes visible from the walkway…

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The fabulous royal blue Ceanothus below was the backdrop for a display of varieties for sale.

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It was identified as Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus ‘Kurt Zadnik’ and it was no surprise to me that all of this particular one had sold in the few minutes since the sale opened. It is such a benefit to us to be able to see a plant we buy in a gallon can at its mature size and in excellent health. The common appellation Carmel creeper could lead you to believe it is a prostrate variety–not so!

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There were areas for trees and shrubs, California natives, succulents, shade lovers and sun cravers, houseplants and tropicals but the table with the biggest crowd was the collection of carnivorous plants. Amazing!

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I gathered up and paid for my precious cargo. All but one of the plants I purchased was propagated onsite from the garden’s collection. My booty includes 4 salvias, two of which have been on my acquisition list for a few years, a coveted Campanula incurva to add to a dappled shade area and a pelargonium with interested red patterned foliage. A day with new plants is a very good day for me!

Bigger than a See’s candy but smaller than a coffee table…at least so far

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I guess some plants just know when you’ve picked the right spot for them and they reward you in kind. Such has been the life of Salvia ‘Bon Bon’ since I dug it in near the base of our mailbox on March 20th of last year as part of the replanting of an area previously predominantly turf.

I’d like to say the ‘plan’ for this area was laboriously developed, plant by plant, using age-old principles of good landscape design. Alas, it came to be as most other parts of my garden have–with the statement of a broad goal (reduce irrigation) and whatever plant materials I find in my garden travels supplemented by stock from big box stores and the very few independent garden centers in my city. Sometimes the pickings are good, other times not so much. There is no benefit in developing a design for an area with a pre-planned plant list if those plants cannot be sourced fairly locally.

Having bought several selections new to me at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale in October 2017 I was still in salvia mode when I ran across a single sad 1 gallon ‘Bon Bon’ at a local nursery, Willow Gardens. It looked as though it had been hanging around awhile and while not especially appealing it was one I didn’t have and fit my broad parameter of being at least moderately xeric. I stand guilty of buy now and research later on this one.

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At planting it was not even worth a close-up pic but you can see it just to the left of the stone mailbox. Monterey Bay Nursery’s website described it as “a perky, cute little native hybrid of S. clevelandii ‘Aromas’ and S. leucophylla ‘Point Sal'” and as “a very tough, low diminutive dry garden ground cover for full to half sun.” While I can attest to its toughness–this spot has NO source of summer water and it is full on south facing–I am assuming the diminutive appellation is relative to other closely related salvias. Its size is described as about 30″ tall when in flower by about 36″ wide.

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Settling in nicely on May 24, 2018
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At summer’s end–September 23rd, 2018–no rain since April, out of range of the irrigation system and no hand watering–I am looking way more worse for the wear after summer than ‘Bon Bon’
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Coming into bloom in late February 2018

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From only a slightly different angle this bed has filled out beyond my wildest dreams in the last year! Salvia ‘Bon Bon’ is a standout snuggled up against the mailbox’s stone column and awash in blooms and bees. I am still unsure if this is its normal bloom cycle. I recently added another to the opposite side of the front walk and it is also starting to bloom. This second spot is slightly less dry and I’m interested to see if the additional water results in a less robust plant. At just a year in the ground it is already at Monterey Bay Nursery’s mature size estimate. I am planning to tidy it up when these blooms are done and that effort will be the first I’ve made on its behalf since it was planted–my kind of minimal maintenance requirements for sure. I’ll let you know when it gets to be bigger than a coffee table! I’m giving ‘Bon Bon’ an A++ for its fledgling year.

 

 

Salvia ‘Dara’s Choice’…

Our so-far mild winter is allowing us to continue work on our final front yard lawn removal. We’ve had just the right amount of rain to loosen up the soil and make digging less onerous but not so much that we have lost too many work days to puddles, sogginess and sinkholes.

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We are marching steadfastly from west to east with my sweet Dave in the lead, having both the tools and muscle. You can barely see him in this photo sitting on the ground behind the red wheelbarrow. This being our fourth time to the party he has got a pretty good system. The lawn was chemically treated in early fall–lawn removal by sod cutting machinery is not such a sure thing with a common bermuda lawn. The roots can be very deep and any small viable bits left behind will roar back as soon as growing conditions are right. I swear there have been viable bermuda roots found in fossils from prehistoric times!

He has divided the area into smaller, more workable sections. First, he uses a hula hoe to scrape off any above ground dead grass up into piles. To not sacrifice so much of our topsoil he then sifts through these piles, separating grass remains from viable soil–that’s is what he is doing sitting on the ground in the photo. The good soil is then moved off to a tarp to be reincorporated later. Next he tills the area and again picks out any grass roots, rocks, etc. including copious wads of the green netting that was the original sod’s underlayment. Step three is to double dig the section–one shovel depth’s down worth of soil is dug and off loaded to the side and then the newly exposed surface is dug a second shovel depth’s down. The rock, roots and various leftover construction material removal continues throughout the process. All the previously off loaded soil is returned to the bed and dug together along with whatever amendments I have selected for the area. I am exhausted just outlining the process! The last step is to grade the section to flow smoothly into large untouched areas at the bases of our mature trees.

As Dave prepares the beds I follow behind adding the plants. As with the areas already finished I am concentrating on more waterwise plants–hoping to create a balance the water needs of the existing mature landscape and the new. Unlike last year, my back yard holding area is not so flush with “plants in waiting” so planting is going slowly. Lots of bearded iris and daylily divisions have gone in along with a number of my favorite salvias. I am trying a few more new selections such as Cistus ‘Anne Palmer’ and Ceanothus ‘Hearstiorum’, both plantings of which will be in the bed’s ground zero for all day  southern sun. Once these are established they should be very low water users which will allow me to eliminate several pesky, always broken, curbside sprinkler heads.

I am on always on the hunt for plants. Our recent Southern California overnight yielded two nursery stops and a few selections were checked off my acquisition list. Not to be found–and no surprise given the time of year–was another Salvia ‘Dara’s Choice’ to echo the one planted to the west of the front walk last year.

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I probably should read my own blog archives so I can remember if ‘Dara’s Choice’ was purchased locally or, more likely, one of the salvias I bought at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s 2017 fall plant sale. The single gallon can specimen was quite small and unremarkable when planted but over the year it has grown to a beautifully shaped, slightly weepy mound with clear medium green quilted leaves. And in the last couple of weeks it has come into bloom. Not really a show stopper but not every plant has to be covered in big, blowsy flowers to have worth in my garden.

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Mid photo you can see there are a good number of gracefully stalks bearing the small pale blue whorled blooms. The layered foliage performed very well, even though in the ground only a few months, throughout our very hot and dry 2018 summer. Its graceful appearance on the slope is worth repeating in the area we are now working. A little research reveals ‘Dara’s Choice’ to be one of the black sages, botanically Salvia mellifera. Apis mellifera is the scientific name for honeybees to which this plant is highly attractive. The foliage is wonderfully fragrant and its relatively low, mounding profile and broad spread makes it a great salvia selection for well-drained, sunny slopes. I am hopeful I will find one soon and who knows what other interesting plants I will meet along the way! Give us a few more weeks on this project for a complete coverage of what we’ve added to the mix of shrubs and perennials.

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!