Thursday, June 22, 2017

No Place Like Home


My California native garden is almost four years old.  For the past two years, Scott and I have lived in Arlington Virginia, a few miles outside of Washington D.C., 80% of the time.  My garden has been patiently waiting for my return... thriving, for the most part, though it has a few bare spots.  
The effect I wanted: of coastal sage scrub and chaparral. Smells so good!

Occasional pruning is required, at least if I want to see out of my windows.  The garden has gone up to six or eight weeks at a time with no water.  I looked into automated watering, but decided to stick with an occasional application of Israeli mini-sprinklers to supplement the rainy season (unnecessary this year!) and Beer Watering in the summer and fall.  
Darwinian gardening.  The manzanitas, 'Howard McMinn' (left) and 'Lester Rowntree' (right) are duking it out in front of our bedroom,  while the part-wild hybrid grape 'Roger's Red' threatens to cover all.

The front required a fair amount of weeding in this very wet spring.  Students were hired for one bout.  I could have mulched.  The backyard resists most weeds, while still managing to germinate abundant almost-native Suncups (Calylophus hartwegii, below.)  I am guessing overspray from the overwatered Association lawn germinates the weed seeds.
Backyard: sage rules!  Two different Cleveland sage cultivars at left add their hummingbird-pleasing purple balls, while white sage sends ten-foot flower stalks up and around the drought-dwarfed citrus.

Mixing fruits and sages in the backyard was not a great success.  White sage goes nuts with even a little extra water.  Pineapple guava and Satsuma mandarin are barely hanging on, though Meyer lemon is doing OK.  
Toyon doing its job, hiding utility doors and screening the kitchen from the street.  Dwarf coyote bush 'Pozo Surf' takes to trimming in a ball shape just fine.  The air conditioner is new.  Shall we build a screen for it?

Some of the trees and tall shrubs are starting to show their stuff.  The successes:  Lemonade berry (finally hiding the compost bin), Toyon, and California Bay Laurel.   My Catalina Ironwood just stays a shrub.  And a few bare walls remain. 
In addition to being a yummy dark green, California Bay Laurel (behind the birdbath) smells amazing.  Don't put more than half a leaf into your soup or it's overpowering.

Out our kitchen window we are treated to hummingbirds on the Baja Fairy Duster, as well as a screen of lacy shades of green, hiding our pajamas from street view.  A few untimely and mysterious deaths  have left bare spots, including the death of a rather widespread dwarf sage in the front of the mound above.  The culprit may be fungus, but who knows. 
A hodgepodge of natives, borrowing some water from the lawn, creates a lush border.

Tomaz, the next door neighbor who got me started with natives, moved to New Jersey.  My new neighbor Seema is still adjusting to natives, but does like this border between our yards.  We will have fun together filling the holes in our yards this fall.  Native plant nursery, here we come!
I don't have a lot of blooms right now, but pink buckwheat is a nice accent.

I have grown to appreciate Virginia forests and wildflowers during my sojourn there.  After all, I've been living across the street from a Nature Conservancy garden.  But when it comes to gardens, there's no place like home.

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