Sunday, December 29, 2013

My first blogversary

Unbelievable as it seems to me, I started this blog a year ago today.  On that date, we'd been in our current house for two years.  I'd been reflecting on the changes I'd made to the garden within that period, as well as pondering what else I wanted to do to make the garden mine.  I can't say I'd planned to write a garden blog about it, although I'd been reading lots of other peoples' blogs and I'd casually wondered what it would take to get one going.   As I recall, it was raining and my husband was late getting home so I began looking at Blogger.   Before I knew it, I'd set up a profile, selected a blog name and typed up my first post, which compared the experience of gardening in a tiny, shady yard which I'd started from scratch and spent 20 years turning into a personal haven (or, as some people referred to it, my own jungle) to gardening in a space a little larger than half an acre with several different microclimates and many well-established trees and plants.

I went from a house with a backyard roughly 50 feet long and less than 15 feet wide with no front yard:

To this:

A large, mostly sunny front yard

A large backyard with a view of the Los Angeles harbor

A good-sized yard on the southeast side, which became much sunnier after the removal of a 60 foot Eucalyptus tree this past February

A largely empty slate on the northeast side of the property, which I converted into a dry garden

And a difficult sloped area at the back of the property, which is still very much a work in progress

Once started, I wasn't sure if - or how - I'd keep the blog going.  For one thing, it was a very difficult year on a personal level, with the loss of my mother in March, followed by the loss of my mother-in-law barely 10 weeks later, and all the related family issues that accompanied those events.  I also wasn't sure I had enough to share about developments in my garden.  But, a year and 160 posts later, I'm still taking photographs and writing posts.   I credit this fact mostly to the support I've received from other bloggers and readers.  My husband is not remotely pro-blog and has little to no interest in gardening (although he's always helpful if called upon for tough jobs).  Many of my friends don't garden and those that do aren't nearly as obsessive as I am about it.  In this context, I've appreciated those of you who are as crazy about plants and gardening as I am for the camaraderie, the feedback, and the willingness to share your own experience.  I can't tell you how pleased I was to hear from other bloggers, some of the earliest of which were Tammy of Casa Mariposa, Louis of Parallel 49 Palms, and Sue of Idyll Haven.  Jean at Jean's Garden gave me a major boost when she reviewed my blog on her site in June.  

Blogging has provided me a disciplined way of chronicling developments in my garden I didn't have before.  Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, sponsored by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, and Foliage Follow-up, sponsored by Pam at Digging, have helped me to create a pictorial record that I can use to assess my garden's status year-in and year-out.

From reading other blogs, I've learned a lot about plants.  Loree's favorite plants meme at danger garden has been especially helpful in that regard.  It not only provides me an opportunity to learn about new plants, many of which I've never even heard of, much less seen, but it has also led me to delve more deeply into the history and culture of the plants I grow in my own garden.  Nan at Hayfield has provided new insights into plant combinations (and a supply of seeds too).

And Heather's wide shots meme at Xericstyle has forced me to look at the big picture, to evaluate how the plants in my garden relate to one another, and consider the overall design of my garden rather than just the never-ending accumulation of plants.  Not that collecting plants for their own sake is a bad thing!  Reading the posts of others with the plant acquisition "disease" has made me comfortable with my collector orientation.

I appreciate the opportunity to view your gardens and your own plant collections.   Denise at A Growing Obsession and Hoover Boo at Piece of Eden have given me the opportunity to, figuratively speaking, peer over the fence into gardens subject to the same vagaries of climate as my own but there are takeaways from every garden I visit via the blogosphere.

I also appreciate the chance to virtually visit places I've always hankered to see, like the Chelsea Garden Show seen through the eyes of Mark and Gaz at Alternative Eden, the Portland Japanese Garden viewed through the lens of Scott at Rhone Street Gardens, the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden toured with Kathy of GardenBook, the Atlanta Botanical Garden viewed courtesy of Deb of Deb's Garden, and the US Botanic Garden visited through photos provided by Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer.  I've also enjoyed participating in expeditions led by Peter, the Outlaw Gardener and Alison of Bonney Lassie.

My thanks to all of those named above and the many authors of the other blogs I regularly read, as well as my local friends who kindly check out my blog at regular intervals.  This bouquet was prepared in your honor.

Westringia fruticosa, Erysimum linifolium, Papaver nudicaule, 'Joseph's Coat' rose, and Antirrhinum majus

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boundary Lines

Houzz, the on-line home and garden design resource, recently featured an article on property lines.  The author took pictures of homes in the Sacramento area showing how adjacent properties sometimes complement each other but, more frequently, collide.    I hadn't given our own property lines much thought so took my camera out for a look at the boundaries between us and our neighbors on either side.

The houses in our neighborhood weren't all built at the same time.  The earliest, like ours, were constructed in the 1950s but other homes were built at intervals stretching through the 1960s and 70s into the early 1980s.  House styles vary, as do lot sizes and shapes.  The area is hilly so many homes also sit at different elevations.  The 2 houses on either side of us are both sited below us with yards encircling the back of our house and garden.

The driveway entrance of the house on the right of us is separated from our driveway by a long expanse of hedge and a low stone wall, which the neighbors extended down along their own driveway entrance.

The neighbor's concrete wall blends in fairly well with our stone wall, as do the hedges

It's hard to determine exactly where the dividing line is between the 2 properties from the street.  The neighbor's hedge, constructed of Nerium oleander, blends into the hedge on our side of the property line, constructed of what I think is Pittosporum rhombifolium.   The line is only nominally clearer from the area behind the hedge.

Shortly beyond where the one hedge ends, another, constructed of Xylosma congestum, begins.  This hedge, which belongs to us, extends along the right side of our property, behind our backyard border, into our dry garden.

Our Xylosma hedge starts in the right side yard just outside a raised wood border that creates a narrow pathway behind the side and backyard borders

The pine trees beyond the hedge in the backyard belong to our neighbor

But the Yucca beyond the hedge is apparently ours

The hedge, somewhat taller here, creates a boundary on one side of the dry garden

When we made the offer on the property, I assumed that all the area behind the Xylosma hedge belonged to neighbors.  However, during the property inspection process, I learned that the area behind the hedge in the dry garden, extending down the slope, also belonged to us.

View of sloped area beyond the hedge

I also learned that this area had been the subject of a dispute between our neighbor to the left and a prior owner of our property.  We found evidence of where the chain link fence had been moved when the boundary lines were clarified.  The area from the concrete stairs (which were installed by my husband our first year here) to where the chain link fence now stands, bordered from the inside by yet another hedge, had previously been tended by our neighbor.  She was responsible for planting the lemon tree that stands at the bottom of the slope.  Thankfully, she bears us no ill will (reserving that for the former owner).  I drop off a supply of lemons periodically.

The neighbor had previously treated the triangular area from the stairway to the hedge on the right in the picture above as hers

Lemon tree reportedly planted by our neighbor

I'm still not entirely clear where the boundary between our yard and that of the other neighbor, on the right, lies at the bottom of the slope.  As the property drops sharply just beyond the Yucca elephantipes and as the neighbor, who religiously trims the other trees on his property, hasn't ever touched the Yucca or the plants at its base, I'm operating on the assumption that these belong to us.  One day, I've got to pin him down and ask but I rarely see him.

The sunnier area beyond the Yucca belongs to our neighbor on the right

Like the house on the right, the house to the left of us isn't readily visible from the street but our stone wall and Xylosma hedge end a couple of feet from the neighbor's driveway.  The mailbox and Strelitzia reginae belong to her.

In our case, good hedges make good neighbors.  I can't say that our boundary lines on either side "collide" with those of our neighbors.  I'm glad to say that they're relatively harmonious, like our relationships with the neighbors themselves.  Do your boundary lines say anything about the relationships with your neighbors?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Walking with Ming II

As I covered in an earlier post, I've been taking regular walks with Ming, the elder of my 2 cats.  He's come to expect these daily jaunts and cries (as only a cat bred from Siamese stock can) when I'm tardy about getting to it.  Most times, he just circles the house once to twice, then heads back to his screened porch, apparently hoping that another dish of food will have miraculously appeared.  However, yesterday, he took some time to check out elements in the garden.

The fountain was of major interest.

While he was taking a drink, I noticed that my Erysimum linifolium is starting to bloom.

Ming checked out the Correa pulchella 'Pink Eyre' currently in full bloom in the dry garden.

While I noticed that a more recently planted Correa appears to be suddenly dying off.

Climbing up on the fountain wasn't Ming's only feat on this walk.  He also jumped up on the birdbath in the vegetable garden, currently full of glass pebbles.

And then he hopped over into one of the vegetable beds, where I'm currently growing poppies, snapdragons and sweet peas.

He was oblivious to the house finches staring down at him from atop the Yucca elephantipes.

But he got quite excited when a small flock of birds flew out of the bushes in the vegetable garden upon his approach.  I didn't get a picture but, while he didn't actually run, he moved faster than I've seen him do in many months.

As he headed toward the driveway at the front of the house, I noticed that my Camellia japonica 'Taylor's Perfection' is starting to bloom.

And that the ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) is showing a bit of colorful foliage.

When we got back to the side yard, Ming investigated a bucket.

Then he finally headed back to the screened porch where, after taking a closer look at a Agave 'Blue Glow', he checked his bowl.

Food did magically appear about 5 minutes later.  I think the walks are doing him some good.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Shopping

With the exception of plant nursery trips, I've come to hate shopping.  I especially hate holiday shopping - the crowds, the parking hassles, the ever-changing "special" offers that leave you wondering if you got a good deal or should have waited to buy.  I used to avoid it altogether by shopping for Christmas gifts months in advance but I haven't been that organized for years.  This year I did most of my holiday shopping on-line.  However, last weekend, 2 friends and I ventured out for some last-minute shopping in 2 more unusual venues.

The first was the Long Beach Flea Market.  A friend had mentioned it to me as a place to find inexpensive plants and garden ornaments.  When I learned that Denise of A Growing Obsession and 2 of her friends, Dustin of non-secateur and Reuben of Rancho Reubidoux, planned to open a booth at the December market, I gathered a couple of my friends and paid a visit.  As I'd never visited a flea market before, I didn't know exactly what to expect.  The sheer volume of stuff was a bit overwhelming.  Navigating the market was also challenging - there was no map to help you locate booths of particular interest.  I didn't take any photos at the market but you can find a slideshow on the market's webpage.  If I'd had the foresight to bring a cart of some kind, I might of carried more home with me but, without that, I restricted my purchases to a table-runner and some old editions of Garden Illustrated and plants offered by Denise, Dustin and Reuben.

Dustin provided the name of this succulent but I didn't write it down - I think it's Ledebouria socialis

As exhausted as my friends and I were after our visit to the flea market, we had another stop to make.  After a lunch break, we visited Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles.   This warehouse-based crafts and arts emporium is only about 15 minutes from my home.  Most importantly, my very good friend, Patsy, has a booth there, from which she sells quilted items.

Crafted has had its ups and downs but it's at its best this holiday season.  I wished I'd visited at an earlier stage of my holiday shopping process.


There are places to take holiday photos.

And places to buy holiday cards and stationary items created from photo collages.

Used books.

Beauty products and specialty food items.

Even succulents.

Although the succulents in the earlier picture were real, those in this photo were not

And there was entertainment.

It was a very different and much lower-key shopping experience than the flea market but there were still good deals to be had.  If you're in the vicinity of the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro and still have holiday shopping to do, it's definitely worth a visit.  Stop by and see Patsy and her fellow crafters and artists.

And, coming next year, apparently there will be an adjacent brewery.

What more can you ask for?