Now that I’m almost caught up in the vegetable gardens for spring, I thought I’d take a moment to update on the progress of the new native garden plan.
Part of the delay in updating on the garden is that this project has now turned into revamping three separate garden beds in front of the house.
This first necessitated the removal of some very stubborn, invasive Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica), along with some rather ill behaved Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) that lately has been running amok all over the driveway, and even out as far as the orchard. Yet another legacy of the previous owners.
I’m happy to say, with the help of the tractor, this is now a Nandina free zone! With these thugs removed from the beds, I went back to clearing the main garden bed directly in front of the house.
In the last post, it was just starting to rain just as I was excavating deep enough to set the water feature basin that would sit under the new fountain.
The next challenge was hoisting the massive fountain rock into position. With some perseverance though, we finally managed to get it in position.
To avoid an overly austere, and square looking feature in the garden, I chose to extend a pond liner in front of the basin, and cover the liner with additional Lodi Stone, and some mid-sized river rocks.
I dug out a somewhat basin like trench before setting the pond liner in position. I hoped this would help to make it more visually interesting. In the winter months, this shallow basin next to the fountain should help to catch any overflow during heavy rains, sending water into the gravel wash around the fountain. In a sense, it will become a seasonal small pond area, that will dry out, much like a dry creek bed, in late spring through fall.
If all goes well, our resident frogs might appreciate the extra water in winter and early spring, and there’s no question the lizards are enjoying the warmth of the stones now the bulk of our rains have passed.
With the fountain in position, it was time to plant, but before digging any holes, we first removed the window boxes from the front of the house. As much as I like the look of a window box, if they’re not constructed and installed properly they can do a tremendous amount of damage to a house.
The window boxes were just wood, and once the boxes were removed it was obvious that the siding underneath was starting to rot. It’s made the facade somewhat more plain, but I’m honestly glad they’re gone before they did any more damage. Of course, that meant a little spackle and paint to spruce things up before I could get to digging.
As I’m now planting out three garden beds, rather than just one, my goal is to tie all the beds together with some of the same varieties of Salvia, Arctostaphylos, and Ceanothus, and to keep the same general color scheme throughout.
One of the most challenging parts of this project was actually sourcing the plants though. Mid-spring is not an ideal time to be planting California natives. Ideally, I’d be planting in October, not May, so the plants can become established during our rainy season. Any plants that are set out in the garden this time of year will need a little extra TLC, as they’re trying to establish roots as we’re entering into our dry season.
Even plants that may need no irrigation once established, like our Sticky Monkeyflower, will need to be occasionally watered this first summer in the garden.
The color palette for this garden area is a mix of blues with yellow, purple, and orange.
Unfortunately, I’ve had a rather difficult time sourcing the one plant I hoped would help to provide a splash of yellow in the garden in late spring to summer, the sulfur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum).
After speaking with a couple of local native plant nurseries, it seems I may be able to find some toward the end of May into early June, as nurseries prefer to sell this buckwheat during peak bloom.
So I’ll have to keep my eyes open for it in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, for now, in the original garden plan, I’ve substituted our native Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) in one area.
This plant will provide a slightly richer yellow color than the buckwheat, and will also provide more height.
I also found a few woolly sunflower plants (Eriophyllum lanatum) that will be planted in a nearby bed, to drag more of this similar yellow throughout the front garden area.
Both species of Eriophyllum should fill in well, providing blooms through at least midsummer, and their silvery grey foliage will be a nice contrast in color to the darker greens of the Ceanothus, and Arctostaphylos.
Speaking of Ceanothus, another substitution was Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’, for ‘Wheeler Canyon’. We had our doubts about the deer resistance of ‘Wheeler Canyon’ when we put the plan together.
I planted ‘Wheeler Canyon’, but two days later the deer had already tip-pruned it, and a mole that wasn’t looking where he was going succeeded in pushing one plant completely out of the ground. I selected some larger 5 gallon Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’ to plant in its place. I rarely purchase plants that large, in part because I hate digging holes that big, but I’m hoping their slightly larger size will give them a better start, and make it less likely that moles can just pop them out of the soil.
Thus far the deer seem to be mostly leaving the plants alone. The ‘Puget Blue’ hasn’t been touched, and reportedly this cultivar is as deer resistant as Ceanothus gets.
However, one of the showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) plants, that I had propagated in the greenhouse, was ripped from the soil by a curious doe.
I’ve temporarily positioned our portable electric fence around the garden. As the fence failed to work for the chickens, we’re hoping it will at least manage to keep a few plants safe while they establish their new root systems.
I suspect once the Asclepias grows a little larger, these plants will be too bitter for the deer to want to sample. At least I hope so! Fortunately, the narrow-leaved milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) that I planted nearby, was untouched.
That’s the problem when you create a habitat garden…the wildlife…including the deer, feel compelled to investigate!
It’s not all bad though, and it’s quite clear that other creatures are enjoying our redesign of this area. The old deck that was once there didn’t provide much interest for bumble bees…
Or the lizards…
The honey bees are regularly seen foraging for water around the fountain, and this water source will now be available to them year around.
We’ve even seen hummingbirds sipping water from the top of the fountain rock.
Of course, I never see the hummingbirds at the fountain when I have my camera!
It turns out, even the electric fence is of interest…at least to the caterpillars.
What was once an area of sinking earth, beneath an oversized deck, is hopefully now going to become a much more interesting, and attractive, habitat garden.
Of course, it looks a little sparse at the moment.
I suspect that even by summer’s end though, the plants will have filled in considerably.
We’ll have to check in from time to time and see how this area grows. In the meantime, I have two more garden beds to finish planting and mulching!
This area though, I’ve barely started on…
…and it needs a LOT of work! But we’re looking forward to seeing this area grow over the next few seasons, and looking forward to seeing many more bees, butterflies, and birds, in this part of the garden too.