Posted in Life, Los Angeles

Getting dirty in the garden

Part of what I’m doing to add value to the house while I fruitlessly apply for jobs is work on the garden.  Happily I love gardening, and our new house is the perfect place to create something from scratch. Over Labor Day I made an inventory of what is currently living in the garden, and made a plan.

Front yard

The front yard is pretty much fine.  We have grass, which I don’t like because of the massive drought, but it gives the house “curb-appeal”.  We have a huge pine tree in the front yard too (circumference: 2.9 m / 9.5 ft; number of dropped needles: infinite), some small red canna along one side, an ancient looking but massive jade plant, and a tree in a pot that I don’t know what it is (I’ve asked the folks at Bonnie Plants).

Canna
Canna
Jade - ancient
Jade – ancient
Mystery tree
Mystery tree

I’ve planted two star jasmine and two iceberg roses out the front, both of which get water from the lawn sprinklers.  Neither look overly happy about their lot in life, but I don’t know if it’s the baking heat, or too much water, or rubbish soil.  I guess I’ll have to learn about fertilizer soon.

Rose and Jasmine - struggling
Rose and Jasmine – struggling

The neighbor has a loquat tree which is putting up shoots (from the fallen fruit) all over the place.  I have to keep pulling them up.

Loquat and pine shoots
Loquat and pine shoots

The lawn needs mowing very rarely because it doesn’t get enough water due to the water restrictions.  The turf was laid just before the house was put up for sale. Personally I would have put in buffalo grass instead of this regular grass.

Lawn - brown in places
Lawn – brown in places

Side of the house

The fence-line of the northern side of the property gets sun for much of the day.  The sprinkler system doesn’t run along the fence (who designed this yard? seriously) so it’s been a struggle to keep anything alive.  There are three bushes that are the same variety – but I don’t know what they are.  I give them a deep low-flow water once a week and they seem to cope.  I’ve planted some rosemary and some succulents along this side, some of which are sort of coping.  The dirt is like concrete so I covered it with chipbark.

Mystery bushes
Mystery bushes
Succulent something
Succulent something
Rosemary - struggling
Rosemary – struggling

There is another quite large tree near the side of the house but I don’t know what it is either.  It looks like it’s been eaten by termites at some stage.  It’s currently not showing sign of fruit or flowers.

Eaten by something
Eaten by something

The rest of the non-concreted land here is just dirt.  Some of the dirt gets sprinklers, some doesn’t. I’m not sure whether I should plant anything here because I don’t want it to get too wet under the house.  We’ll see.

Back yard

The back yard is where all the potential is. Thanks to the two chinese elm trees near the house, and the gigantic American oak in the neighbor’s yard, this area is in almost constant shade. It’s still hot under there though, and a patch of sun does make it’s way across the garden and bake various parts.

Chinese elm - source of dropped leaves
Chinese elm – source of dropped leaves
Massive American Oak
Massive American Oak

Along the back fence there are a whole bunch of mystery green tree things that were obviously planted to sell the house. I don’t know what they are.

Mystery trees
Mystery trees

The garden beds around the edge are within reach of the sprinklers so there is more chance of things surviving here. There’s a wisteria that I need to cut back and start training along the garage, and there’s some kind of gunnera that tries to have leaves but keeps dying.  I’ve tried planting a jalapeño bush, a bottlebrush, strawberries, alyssum, thyme, basil, a lavender, and celosia. Some are even still alive. I also relocated a couple of the rosemaries from the side of the house to here.  They’re getting a bit leggy now (too much shade I think).  I also planted some of what we got at our housewarming: the kangaroo paw, along with a cutting of a trumpet vine and a smelly variegated ground cover that I can’t remember what it’s called.  The soil is really REALLY poor quality so I need to get some mulch and fertilizer on there asap.

The rest of the yard is just dirt, and leaves from the pesky elms.

Back yard - lots of space
Back yard – lots of space

Vision

We have a plan for the back yard – firstly once Fall comes I’m (a gardener is) going to chop back the elm trees so we get a bit more sun. Then we’re (a contractor is) going to put in a deck, then we’re going to create a path around the border of the current beds (maybe like this?), then in the middle we’re going to have a bit of a random garden.

At the eastern end I’m in the process of putting in the lemon tree we got at the housewarming, and at the western end my husband has an eye on a fern.

Lemon tree
Lemon tree
A fern like this one seen at the Norton Simon Museum
A fern like this one seen at the Norton Simon Museum

I’ve discovered that digging in the yard is like being an archeologist – you’ll never know what you find.

More mystery items dug up.
Mystery items dug up – these found about 6 inches under the surface
Dug up all this glass in about 12 inches of soil
Dug up all this glass in about 12 inches of soil

I am inspired by a little garden on a corner in our neighborhood. I have no idea who looks after it, but it’s just fantastic. I’d like our garden to look like this.

Inspiration mini-garden
Inspiration mini-garden

Lastly, in general I’m going to try to select mostly drought resistant plants.  We were given a voucher for Armstrong Garden Centers at our housewarming so that’s going to be the starting point. Check back in 6 months to see how it turned out!

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Question: Do you know what any of the mystery plants are?

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5 thoughts on “Getting dirty in the garden

  1. Hi Amanda, nice yard!
    The mystery tree in the pot looks like Ficus benjamina or possibly Ficus hillii….either way, in the Californian climate don’t plant it in the yard or it will knock your house over in about 20 years: as a pot plant, they are fine :-).
    I’m not too sure what the damaged one is – it could be a photinia; it doesn’t look particularly sturdy, and given how close it is to the house, I’d consider removing it.
    The last row look like Camellia sasanqua and they should flower once the weather starts to cool
    Happy gardening

    1. Thanks for your suggestions! I was thinking of planting out the tree in the pot but I don’t think I will now 🙂 I’ll keep an eye on the damaged tree too. I’d be really happy if the others were Camellias!

  2. …and the grouping of mystery trees look like they are camellia bushes. I maybe wrong but you can look at web images and compare. Good luck with your garden!

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