I’ve fallen into the digital divide…

Well, gardening friends, I know you are expecting this to be Plantspotting in Pasadena #2 but alas, a laptop crash several days ago has cost me the balance of those photos. FYI for any of you who are Mac users: the black screen with the little file folder outline sporting a flashing question mark is NOT your computer just wondering if you are having a good day. Fortunately I had backed up to the cloud and my external hard drive on April 21st but that does nothing for photos or data added on April 22!

The Apple Geniuses are installing a new solid state drive as I write but I will be laptop-less for several more days. Adding additional consternation is that tomorrow I leave for the 2018 Garden Bloggers Spring Fling in Austin, Texas–equipped with additional flash cards for my camera as I am without the ability to clear its memory nightly by downloading the day’s shots onto my laptop. So I’ll be garden hopping and picture snapping but blog posts will have to wait until I return from my trip. My challenge will be to remember all the great things I see long enough to tell you all about them! Making a note to myself now to take good notes for you–returning home on the 8th and hope to be posting soon after.

Smitten by all accounts…

2018 has been an unbelievably busy year both in out of the garden! Our January and February weather was mild enough to accomplish all of the “heavy lifting” work needed in the newest of our lawn free landscape areas. March gave us enough precipitation to keep the ground from crusting over but not so much that I could not get out and dig in plants purchased for the bed in the fall and overwintered in my back yard holding area. I also divided and moved in some plants which had proven southern exposure successful in the driveway circle bed last year. Still having some very large open spaces and a need for some white to temper the purples, lavenders, blues and pinks I took a road trip last week to one of my favorite garden centers–The Greenery in Turlock, CA. Not exactly around the corner for me but worth a trip every few months. I got so caught up in browsing I forgot to take more photos!

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Annuals and an addictive gift shop
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Perennials galore–stock is always fresh!
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My go to nursery for lots of plants in 4″ pots
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Shady gems and tons of good quality pottery
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Lots of varieties of barberry, abelia and other shrubs
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One of many fairy gardens throughout!

I may have been a wee bit too early for all of the newest waterwise stock to be in place. There were many salvia selections–mostly from the Salvia greggii/microphylla complex–but none of what was on my list. So even though I did not bring home anything to add to my bed in progress I did snag a couple of other very precious dark red specimens for my shadier areas.

In recent years I have been dabbling in adding a smidge of red to my garden. In deference to my existing palette the red MUST be a blue/red NOT an orange/red and these cooler reds are not nearly as plentiful and one would think. Salvia ‘Killer Cranberry’ is my touchstone for a workable red–if it looks ok in the same visual plane as the Killer it will work anywhere. A deep rich red is a beautiful foil for the many deep purples and lavenders in my garden as well as the clear pinks.

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I have to say I almost ran toward this camellia in the shade section at The Greenery! A perfect marbling of red, pink and white distinguishes Camellia japonica ‘Tudor Baby Variegated’. Fortunately, I have room for yet another camellia in an area we actually shade cloth over during the summer months so I can grow camellias for cut flowers in the cooler months. Listed as a formal double and late spring bloomer, it was a must have for me.

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I never met a lenten rose I did not like and this one leaped into my cart with very little assistance. A little more purple than dark red or burgundy, it is a stunner called ‘Cherry Blossom’ from the Helleborus hybridus collection called Winter Jewels. The spent blooms, one of which you can see lower left, take on that typical lime green hue but still bear the dark edging. This was the only remaining flower in its prime throughout the half dozen or so gallon plants available to buy and it sold me!

So no white, nothing sun loving (or even tolerant) and certainly no new waterwise plants are calling my garden home after this trip but all together a fun day of seeing what’s as new and fresh as spring feels today.

This eagle has finally landed…

 

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I recently wrapped up the seemingly interminable lawn removal/replanting of the long side yard bed between our side fence and the street. Living on a corner lot comes with blessings and curses. The biggest advantage is a little more privacy as we have no neighbor on one side. The curse (challenge?) is having a lot of area to landscape and maintain which is pretty well disconnected from the rest of our front garden and is not visible from any where inside our home.

As I have chronicled in several other posts, in June 2016 we initially chemically killed the ragged Heinz 57 variety grass planted the length of this approximately 140 foot bed along with grass in 3 other areas, including the large driveway circle bed tucked between our two driveways.  We finished the replanting of the other areas very early in 2017 and they all had successful summers. Our stamina flagged and the heat came and so we did not get back to it until fall 2017. Check out posts Now THIS is a Labor Day… to see the great rock relocation project; Autumn musings… for the plantings closest the driveway and A little cleanup and a few new friends… to see the second wave of new plants added to the bed.

We left number of the original elements in the bed, including 3 Bradford pear trees, which are all planted smack up against the fence. The trees are critical to us for privacy  plus shade AND as 2 of the 3 are original (18 yrs old) to the landscape I deemed removal of  some of the shrubbery whose roots are amongst and surrounded by tree roots to be a risk without benefit. The Rhaphiolepis indica and nandinas of unknown cultivar were trimmed up, along with several mature podacarpus, variety also unknown.

The pear trees drop an unbelievable number of leaves over a couple of weeks in late winter, usually early to mid January depending on the weather. The last areas of new plants and final mulching down had to wait until leaf fall was completed and cleaned up. Their bare limb stage is very brief and they are all ready showing buds.

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It is almost impossible to photograph this bed without crossing the street and standing on my neighbor’s porch! Even though many of my plant selections look very small–I opted for 1 gallon on almost everything–quite a few will be large scale shrubbery at maturity. A number of my SLO Botanical Garden purchases went in this bed. My goal is moderate to low water usage. The trees need regular water so I had to find a balance of materials that would tolerate summer water. As each section was hand dug around major tree roots and planting points determined, every hole was filled with water to sit overnight to test drainage. Luckily I had to change only one intended planting spot–far fewer than I had anticipated!

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Looking from the furthest point back toward the driveway. This pitiful tree is a crape myrtle that we moved about 5 years ago. It also was right up against the fence and we moved it midway between the fence and street. Last summer the tree actually bloomed for the first time ever since we purchased the house in 2008. It is a gorgeous, clear purple–possibly a ‘Catawba’.  At the base of the tree is a 2 year old colony of Convolvulus mauritanica ‘Moroccan Blue’. There are also quite a few bearded iris in blues, whites, and purples that have been moved to this sunny end over the years as I have had divisions with no other place to go. Two lavender lantana will fill the area closest the curb–readily available and easy to get going. I am using them throughout these renovations as filler plants while more permanent shrubs mature.

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The area fully in the shade canopy of the pear trees needed an evergreen backdrop and I chose Pieris japonica ‘Tiki’ to fill the bill. The common name of this plant, lily of the valley shrub, is evocative of the pink to white pearl like clusters of drooping blossoms. ‘Tiki’ is on the smaller side of the pieris selections, topping at about 3-4′ tall. My group of 5 should make a nice show once all the buds open!

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Also in the shade canopy area but getting a good bit of the rising sun I added a hardy geranium with chocolate hued foliage. This unmarked find came from Branches & Barrels in Encinitas, a great little garden and event center in north San Diego county. It has lots of new foliage, a brighter green than the more mature leaves, and I anticipate that when I have blooms I may be able to identify it from my resource library. It is hard for me to leave a hardy geranium not already in my collection behind for someone else to snap up!

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No shady area in my garden is ever complete without a few hellebores. I added 2 groups of three plants each, hoping for a pretty full look in a reasonable period of time. The top photo is Helleborus orientalis ‘NW Cotton Candy’. Its ruffled double light pink flower has darker pink veins–the first one opened yesterday and you can see it up close at the beginning of the post. The single pink flower just above is Helleborus orientalis ‘Pink Frost’As this bed slopes nicely from the fence to the street it affords a better view of the flowers than if it were totally flat. I hope to have placed them forward enough to catch the morning sun but back enough not be trampled by people getting out of parked cars.

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Another Branches & Barrels find is Leptospermum scoparium ‘Star Carpet’, or prostrate white tea tree. The foreground of the center pear tree is ground zero in its need for a cast iron plant selection. It is sloped more sharply than the surrounding areas and to find planting crevices amongst the mature, close to the surface roots is challenging. The reference material for this lesser known variety of the upright New Zealand tea tree characterizes it as a good bank cover tolerating dry conditions. The leaves are tiny but plentiful on delicate weeping branches which should spread 6-8 feet. The wild card on this one will be sun–hopefully the morning sun will be adequate for production of its small star shaped white flowers. I think dry shade is perhaps the hardest condition for which to find plants. Three of these went in the ground about 2 weeks ago and I do have new growth. Everyone, keep your fingers crossed!

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The canopy opens up near the newest of the pear trees, requiring plants with more sun tolerance. Even though this bed faces east and gets only morning sun; that sun can be quite strong at the peak of summer. Complicating the issue is that, over time, the area will be ever more shaded. At some point there will be more shade than sun except in the very early hours of the day. Breath of Heaven is an evergreen shrub native to South Africa and much used in my valley as foundation plantings. Their delicate character is appealing and their leaves are aromatic when bruised. The Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold’ is lower than the species and bears tiny pink flowers on yellow gold stems. It has actually been kind of fun trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that in this new bed!

The plants below were described in the previous posts about this bed renovation but here’s a look at them one more time.

Left: Teucrium betonicum Right: Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Everblooming’

Left: Grevillea ‘Pink Pearl’ Right: Cotoneaster horizontalis variegatus

Left: Plumbago auriculata ‘Alba’ Right: Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’

Left: Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Sungold’ Right: Dorycnium hirsutum

The larger part of the bed has filled in very well–most plants were added in October. We did have the treelike weeping juniper professionally trimmed in late summer and I think it looks better than it ever has.

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No doubt I will add a few more bits and pieces over time–a plant collector’s wheelbarrow is never truly full–but I feel as though the time is right to let this initial go around of plants settle in and see how they fare through the summer.

 

Garden goodie gazing in Cambria…

THE GARDEN SHED

On every road trip to the Central Coast I visit this Cambria East Village gem without fail. The Shops at the Garden Shed offer a whimsical small boutique shopping experience which includes several small shops clustered around the back courtyard of the aforementioned Garden Shed which itself has a lovely selection of garden art, home accessories, pots and plants. Even though I have never really been a rusty metal, upcycled, vintage kind of girl this place just makes me smile. It is perfectly in step with the woodsy, redwood and glass meets Victorian cottage vibe of this seaside village.

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When you walk through the inside retail space of The Garden Shed you emerge into this courtyard, a riot of colorful plants and pots, displayed in creative and unusual vintage vignettes.

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This charming rusted gate on the shady side of the courtyard is the shipping and delivery entrance–what a loss for gardeners that it remains propped open all day, literally disappearing into the fencing.

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There are lots of succulents and some seasonal color to be found. Many plants are sourced locally from wholesale growers.

The Junk Girls make all kinds of interesting and unique items from recycled materials and parts. This vintage truck/planter leaves no doubt as to their skill set and the rusty bicycles pedal across their roof, watched by another Scarecrow Festival entry. I am SO without  succulent knowledge and can’t identify this monster for you but it looked truly alive.

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The back of the courtyard is occupied by Grow, a specialty nursery focusing on rare succulents. They also have an inside area with pots and lots of garden themed treasures.

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This old tractor, acting as both art and landscape,  is at the very back of the courtyard behind Grow.

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This architectural specimen may be run of the mill amongst gardeners who are knowledgeable about the wide variety of succulents but it was pretty spectacular to me!

CAMBRIA NURSERY & FLORIST

This was my first opportunity to check out this full service nursery and florist perched  high on a hill above the village. Although their emphasis is on coast friendly, drought tolerant plants with proven track records in local climate conditions there is a little bit of everything to be found on the 4 acres nursery grounds–vegetables, perennials, succulents, shrubs and trees. A number of quaint outbuildings feature seasonal home decor. Cambria Nursery also does an extensive Christmas light festival which was in the preliminary set up stages on my visit.

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Who wouldn’t be charmed by entering through this classic red barn?

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This fun display rack houses a bevy of Tillandsia, the so-called airplants. Most species in this genus are either epiphytes (growing without soil while attached to other plants) or aerophytes (having no roots and typically native to areas with shifting desert soil).

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Decorated for fall, the grounds are easily wandered on paver patios and decomposed granite paths–the latter being a little challenging on which to maneuver your wagon loaded with garden additions.

Cambria Nursery 9Great succulent displays are ubiquitous in the mild winter parts of California but few are as well organized and labeled as this one.

I especially liked the Japanese Tea House and its small koi pond. The Tea House provides a focal point around which are grouped all those plants we typically think of as having an Asian garden aesthetic.

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Colorful signage helps shoppers negotiate the meandering paths to the many demonstration beds and the nursery stock represented in them.

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A wonderful and seemingly life-sized whale topiary is settled into the hillside next to the Kids Garden. The topiary material is Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Marjorie Channon’.

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The condition of the plants available varied widely. The six paks and 4″ pots were fresh as was some of the wide selection of woody shrubs. Many of the woodies looked a little long in their cans but frankly did not look much different than drought tolerants and natives in late fall even if they are in the ground. The staff was very attentive and knowledgeable. I did snap up a great looking Sollya heterophylla (Australian bluebell creeper) that is bound for my in progress side yard renovation. I am putting this nursery destination back on my list to visit in early spring–I’ll do some research on selections whose names I jotted down and be ready to fill up my wagon.

 

 

 

Tech meets (very little) turf #2…

It is a unique experience to see the inspirational garden of a noted San Jose garden designer and a very personal garden he crafted for a one of his clients in a single afternoon. The Garden Conservancy has a reputation for delivering fabulous garden touring experiences at its Open Days across the nation.

The Holden garden is only a few streets over from designer Cevan Forristt’s outdoor sanctuary. Both gardens lay in the flood zone for nearby Coyote Creek and found themselves under 6 feet of water in February 2017 when the creek ravaged its banks.  It was amazing to see how beautifully they have recovered–I would have not known the depth of the damage to the Holden garden without seeing a photograph taken by the homeowners from their 2nd story.

Hints to the global nature of the garden appear on the front of the neat stucco bungalow in the form of Indonesian style shutters.

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The front garden is no bigger than a minute but features design details in keeping with the global theme.

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A Moorish tile front walk and massive pots lead to these stylized gates. The potted bamboo provides some leafy relief from the surrounding hard surfaces. It is possible that in a former life the steeply sloped walk into this below street grade garden was a driveway–possible a garage occupied space behind the bungalow?

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There are so many details to take in I really don’t know where to look first. My initial impression is that this garden is a fabulous entertaining space–many seating and eating areas with enough green to blur the edges.

The property line fences and just about every surface has been dressed with texture advancing the global theme–remember this is the designer who made a century old Victorian into a Far Eastern sanctuary.

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I love this trough plumbed with running water. No surface is without an artistic element.

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I am immediately drawn to this massive shade structure which provides shelter for a custom poured concrete table which I think seats 12 or 16 on antique throne like chairs.

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From a slightly different angle you can see the corrugated metal storage area and massive poured columns supporting the shade structure. The colored concrete columns were poured into tubes formed from sheets of corrugated metal.

Each column is capped with a unique pottery shard element. Designer Cevan Forristt purchased an entire warehouse of broken pottery from a company whose stock was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and has had those shards stored in numerous barrels for years, dipping into the booty to fashion one of a kind decorative elements for himself and his clients. Remember the blue pottery mosaic pots I shared with you in the post on Cevan’s garden? It is all I can do not to start collecting garage sale pottery…here are a few of the column cap designs. The substantial edge of the table also features a wide multicolored shard mosaic band.

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This garden is accessible and inviting. Nothing is out of bounds and the space is appealing to both adults and impervious to children.

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The natural materials of the green cushioned seating areas is a unifying factor. Throughout the garden there are a variety of materials used and repeated–corrugated metal, distressed/rustic wood, poured concrete, rusted iron and bamboo.

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A six sided koi pond is the center point of the garden. As with all the poured concrete elements, the pond was made by the designer. A trough like spout provides a waterfall effect. The homeowners shared that the koi did not swim their way to safety from the flood waters and had to be replaced.

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Above and below you see a few of the ceramic flora pieces created by Berkeley sculptor Marcia Donohue.

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These organic pieces rise from the greens of the plant material as totems to the plant gods. I understand that Marcia Donahue’s Berkeley garden is a fabulous experience–chock full of plants and sculpture!

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The planters and custom surround for the grill were fabricated with forms that are utilized to pour column for freeway overpasses.

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This gorgeous piece serves as an outdoor buffett for storage of dishes and serve ware used for outdoor dining. Notice the corrugated metal ‘hat’ fashioned to allow the rain to run off.

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Details evoking global travel abound.

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Looking back toward the almost invisible home.

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The second story overhang (Eastern US folks-think ‘walk-out basement’) creates a shady sitting and dining spot.

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Looking out into the garden from that shady spot.

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Same spot from the garden side. More poured concrete columns support a concrete table top at bar height.

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Every detail  remains in character.

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I am so happy I got to see this masterful interplay of materials and plants. Evocative of global travel tucked within busy San Jose, this garden transports every visitor to far flung and mysterious places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now THIS is a Labor Day…

Labor Day weekend—last hurrah of summer–has been celebrated the past few years at our cabin in Fish Camp just outside Yosemite National Park’s south entrance. The Fish Camp Volunteer Fire Association holds its annual fundraiser at which residents of this tiny community enjoy one another’s company and live entertainment, eat a great meal and become spirited bidders in the live auction. This year this small enclave of residents and vacationers found itself in the national news with the drama of the Railroad Fire which broke out on August 29th just south of Fish Camp near the historic Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad. Highway closure and mandatory evacuations were immediately put in place and remain as of today. The news photo below shows the fire roaring just south of the Tenaya Lodge with the General Store and old gas station in the foreground. Our place is in the trees behind the structures and in front of the fire.

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The immediate and heroic response of multiple firefighting agencies–both local and traveling from other parts of California–in the first two days saved our small area of homes. Seven structures very close to the fire’s starting point were lost and some damage done to the beloved Sugar Pine Railroad’s historic railcars. The developed area of Fish Camp is now surrounded by a ‘cold line’ from which to fight any additional flare-ups. Unfortunately the fire continues to march to the east and southeast of Fish Camp and is now estimated at about 10,000 acres, 23% contained, with over 800 firefighting personnel in play. Additional areas have been evacuated, the highway remains closed and the local utility faces steep challenges in its attempt to restore power to affected areas. There is no expression of gratitude equal to the efforts of these firefighters and my every thought is focused on their safety.

So, here in the hot valley for the holiday weekend, my husband decided to tackle a little ‘rock relocation’ we have been talking about for a couple of weeks. In June 2016 we removed lawn from several very large areas on our corner lot. Previous posts gave you a peek at the replanting last fall & early spring 2017 of the large roundish bed nestled between our two driveways. The window to work the ground even a little and replant closes here in late May and so the last area has simply remained dirt (and spurge) throughout the summer. It is a very long and narrow side whose curving front connects to the north side of one driveway.

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Three Bradford pear trees and this large weeping juniper, most likely ‘Tolleson’s Blue’, will remain as anchors to the bed as will several podacarpus tucked up against the fence. These mature trees provide our back garden with privacy and some sun protection for plants in the back which rest in their canopy. They also present tremendous challenges to doing much soil amendment and even planting anything larger than a gallon size can. Rather than preplanning what goes where my landscape philosophy may end up being finding where we can dig a reasonable sized hole and THEN decide what to put in it!

There are two huge granite boulders up against the fence under the weeping juniper and it is MOVING DAY for the smaller one! Now, sweet Dave and I have moved several other very large rocks in the garden in the last few years and our process has seen some refinement over time. For the first rock (and smallest) we convinced a friend who thought he had come for Sunday dinner that he would provide just enough extra manpower that he and Dave could muscle it to its new resting place. I am not sure he has ever accepted another Sunday afternoon invitation…

#2 rock signaled the start of the rock moving equipment acquisition–we bought a pry bar and managed to lever the rock, one side after the other, to its new home. That worked very well after realizing that me sitting on the pry bar was only effective until the rock moved and took the pressure off the bar…

We got pretty serious with rock #3–our largest effort to that point–digging out around it to allow the pry bar underneath and a thick nylon rope to be looped several times. Tied that puppy to the pick up and dragged it forward 3 feet. This Sunday afternoon spectacle brought out quite a few neighbors who, I am sure, thought we were nuts.

So that brings us to Labor Day 2017. Maybe you are thinking–why are these people moving these rocks?? The whole landscaping with groups of large granite rocks is kind of a “thing” here–sort of a companion to the mature olive tree brought in as a focal point. The rock people (that’s a real job) load ’em up on the flatbed and come equipped with a crane to set them into place according to the landscape designer’s plan. The rocks act as focal points and are great starting points around which to build plant groupings. After almost 20 years, this garden’s landscape has matured to the point that many of our large rocks are totally hidden under mature shrubs–so we’re just bringing them out into the light again. In the case of what we will now refer to as the Labor Day rock, it will take up some real estate which used to be turf near (no longer under) the weeping juniper and decrease the need for additional digging to add pant material which may well be covered by the juniper’s arms in another couple of years.

Check it out!

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First challenge…avoid running over the sprinklers.

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Notice we have upgraded from nylon rope to a chain…

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Hope to now pass the chain under the rock rather than around.

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Getting ready for another go.

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A few positional adjustments and we’re there. A little digging in tomorrow after dinner will help it settle in.

Labor Day 4 A man, a chain and a rock–now that’s a love story, huh?

Thank you to all who labor, making contributions to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our nation—whether by keeping us safe from fire and flood, working the land to feed us or teaching our children; the future of this country is in your hands.

 

 

 

 

No purchase required…

When we first returned to California in 2008, my husband maintained an office in South San Francisco and frequently worked several days a month at Stanford University Hospital. Being more a Southern California girl than a Northern California one I took advantage of his time there to tag along and explore the South Bay in search of public garden adventures and good plant shopping. On one of my first days in Palo Alto, I stumbled on the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden which to this day remains one of of my favorite garden go-tos. On that same day, needing a place to kill a little time before picking David up at the hospital, I stopped by the Stanford Shopping Center to get a cold drink and sit a bit.

The Stanford Shopping Center is an open-air shopping and dining experience just minutes from the Stanford campus. It is home to some of the most luxurious raised bed and potted plantings I have ever seen. On my visit that day I never even opened the door to any of the 100+ stores–I spent my entire time there walking the wide promenades filled with comfortable cushioned sofas, chairs and glorious blooms. Massive pots were home to small scale trees, hydrangeas, camellias, dahlias and companion plantings and acted as screens and focal points. The raised beds in both sun and total shade were filled with annuals and perennials to complement the bed’s evergreen year round plant material. Since that day, every time I am in Palo Alto I spend some time in this outdoor center–often taking a book or my laptop and finding a shady spot to relax and people (and plant) watch.

Not long ago I heard a life altering rumor that the Stanford Shopping Center had redesigned their plantings in response to California’s continued water issues and all was now native grasses and drought tolerant selections. Booo…even in my understanding of their civic mindedness I was in mourning. After all, I cannot keep a hydrangea alive–much less grow them 8-10 feet tall and wide in pots larger than jetted tubs–but at least I could revel in them beautifully combined with roses, impatiens and violas for a little while with a visit to the SSC. Last week on my monthly South Bay trip for my Filoli day I went up a day early and had an afternoon to fill. I downed a protein shake for strength, gritted my teeth, grabbed my camera and headed to see what havoc the drought had wrought on my beloved garden haven.

I was excited to see that while some of the plantings were less luxurious than in previous years and many of the planters had been converted to more permanent plantings needing less seasonal change-outs–all was not lost! The thirstiest selections were fewer and farther between but no less meticulously maintained as in previous years. Have a look.

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SSC has a lovely Williams-Sonoma–this great bottle ‘tree’ is the centerpiece of one side of the store.

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Part of the core walkway of the center is in total shade. I especially loved these gorgeous raised beds boasting greens and purples–a great example to refer back to in planning an exciting shade plant combo.

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Good to know the earth has not fallen off its axis. There are still beautiful raised beds and planters to delight the gardeners who may have the need to actually shop for something other than new plants. Palo Alto’s temperate climate allows these plant displays to endure for months on end. Winter, however mild, does come to the South Bay and I think this will be the year I will plan to see what the Stanford Shopping Center offers (horticulturally) for the holiday season. Isn’t it always true that you never really appreciate something until you think you may have lost it? Truly no purchased required to enjoy these fruits of someone else’s labor.

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