The Most Unintentional Good Idea I Never Had

Above:  some thought involved
We have ideas for our gardens and try them--sometimes the ideas work; sometimes not.  

The idea to have Russelia equisetiformis drape gracefully over this retaining wall has been a success.
Plants have their own ideas, sometimes better than ours.  
Self-seeding Lupines decided to bookend one of the Russelias. 

Why didn't I think of this? 
Sometimes we see cool ideas but don't try them, and for good reason.  This thing is cool, but not for $15,000. 
 One unintentional good idea of the many others I didn't have was letting a pot of Aeoniums lay on the ground for a while.  This winter we got periodic windy days.  Each bout of wind knocked the pot over.  It ended up sitting fallen over for several weeks.  Eventually righting the pot revealed the formerly vertical Aeonium stems had developed elegant ess curves.  Cool!

Unintentional side effects of ideas are also common, and sometimes excellent.  The uphill neighbor removing his downhill neighbor's scruffy Eucalyptus produced a very unexpected effect.  From this area of the garden, we now have a view of a gorgeous native Quercus agrifolia, instead of scruffy half-dead Eucalyptus.  While I thought often of the advantages of removing an awful tree looming over part of the garden, I never thought of this.  Best idea I never had.  
And a bonus:  view of a raptor's nest!
 Then there are the ideas and efforts that don't produce instant results.  Planting the Oscularia was intended to cover up the small retaining wall blocks here:
There are several blocks now hidden under that foam of blue-green.  The idea worked, but it took three years--and the other side still needs covering.  I've placed two cuttings there that both fried.  Time to try again.  Patience required. 

  Several attempts to make this archway picturesque have failed.    It's improved, but it's still not quite there.  A thing of some sort should be framed by the arch.  What?  Some of it as it is now was unintentional (the Aeonium, thriving), some intended (the rose, better but still struggling).
Happy with the Callistemon 'Slim', though.  It's growing well.  There have been several different failing plants in that spot.  'Slim' has been the first success. Do I add another on the other side of the stairs?  I'll be losing a 15 year old Myrtus that I like very much.  Decisions, decisions. 
My attempt at creative flower-pot storage needs more work too, but I think eventually this will be something...maybe.  Keep playing. 
There are the small details that require great effort to realize.  Are they worth it?  'Fred Ives' Graptoveria gives this place where soil meets concrete some life.  Success.
To duplicate the effect diagonally opposite,  I had to move a sprinkler head.  The sprinkler head was in the very corner.   Anything planted in front of it would get the entire spray of water, cutting off water to the other plants behind it.  The move required several hours:  digging, going for irrigation parts, wrangling with pipes, reassembly, checking for leaks.    Now, too, any drips from the sprinkler will drip into soil where water belongs, rather than on the pavement--an extra bonus. 

Worth the trouble?  I think it will be, though I didn't think so when I was digging, wrangling, swearing...

Adding an effect so subtle few people even notice it--why bother?  Well,  someone will notice it.  I'm trying to duplicate this effect--see how the Leucospermum 'Spider' flowers echo the Dasilyrion foliage?  We'll see if anyone notices that--the two plants are now planted together on my own slope--but 'Spider' needs to grow for two or three years, first.  
 This next effort produced unsubtle, unintentional failure.  I thought what I was moving to this spot was pale blue 'Heavenly Vision' Iris, which would have been lovely with the blue "Dutch" Iris, and a good complement to the orange 'Easy Does It' rose.  Instead, 'Paprika Fonos' created a color disaster.  This patch will be moving again in August.  

'Paprika Fonos' looks acceptable with the orange colors of the rose but not with the other Iris.  It forced me to figure out what this iris does look right with--which is yellow.  (I tried it with different flowers to make sure.)  Yellow roses out front--'Paprika Fonos' will be moved there.  A year and a half after that, it may bloom and may look right.  
Here is an effect I knew needed correction two years ago.  The red rose with flowers just visible accents the Grevillea, but 'Pink Gruss an Aachen' above it doesn't. 
The plan was to move 'Gruss' in December. When it came time--I couldn't!  It's so beautiful and so healthy, I feared losing it in the move. Killing this--could you do it? 
Perhaps next year I'll have the courage to attempt a successful move.  Best to root some cuttings, just in case. 

 There are the easy, obvious good ideas that the gardener simply doesn't realize until she passes by the same irksome spot two or three hundred times, and the mental light bulb finally switches on.  Placing this potted 'Blue Flame' Agave in the empty void next to the orange tree makes this spot a little better.  Duh.  Of course it does.  Took one minute.  Cost nothing.  The dappled shade is perfect for the Agave.  What took me so long? 
 It's a matter of practice, gardening, isn't it?  We get better over time.  Keep playing.



  1. That Callistemon is very pretty! And your idea to move the sprinkler head reminds me I could do the same with some of mine, rather than moving the plants and complaining they get too big. Thanks for the idea!

    1. The irrigation guys always put the sprinklers right in the corner or right on the edges of pavements. I am guessing that is because when there is a lawn, there is less chance of the mower hitting the sprinkler head that way. The result is water going on to pavement, which the state and water districts has been asking homeowners NOT to do because it wastes water.

      It's a heck of a problem trying to adjust sprinklers not to hit the pavement when the heads are right at the edge. I know this because I've tried to do those adjustments for years until I figured out the problem was where the sprinklers were placed.

      Sprinklers always dribble a little, so pushing them inwards still provides water to the edge of the bed--water than now goes into the soil instead of onto the pavement.

  2. I could relate to this post in many ways... I think my main take away is that gardening requires a lot of patients and you have to keep trying until you get it right or at least you personally are satisfied.
    You created some wonderful scenes in your garden. Love the photo with the white rose conquering the black arch.
    Also love the way the oscularia is covering the retaining wall blocks, well worth waiting until she grows over the others.
    So interesting you are bothered by the combination of iris 'Paprika Fonos', with the rose and the blue iris in the foreground and I can't find nothing wrong with it :-). At least the way it looks on the photo.
    And lastly I love your 'Pink Gruss and Aachen'. You truly grow stunning roses!
    Warm regards,

    1. I've been making a great effort to achieve harmonious color placement in the garden, so am being a fanatic about it these days. Part of my self-education on gardening. Not so much that 'Paprika Fonos' looks that bad--beautiful flowers are beautiful flowers--it would just have looked better with 'Heavenly Vision' I thought.

      I love that PGAA! It is close to being my very best rose.

  3. I think my favorites are the unintentional successes or the ones that you have no say in (like the neighbor removing a crap tree). Hope we all have some of those this year!

    1. Yes to more of those in every garden. "crap tree" is a perfect description.

  4. Great post! And those curvy Aeonium stems! I'll be tempted to try that one myself. I wonder how quickly they'll straighten out? (if)

    1. We'll see on the stems. If they start to straighten out, there will likely be a wind event to knock them over again.

  5. Some of the best combos in my garden are accidents, I think. That Lupine bookending the Russelia is perfect. I've definitely feared killing things by moving them. Just this weekend I dug up and replanted some Crocuses because I needed to, even though it's the exact wrong time of the year to do it. I'm crossing my fingers I haven't just killed them all. Paprika Fonos is beautiful! Glad you found a good spot for it.

    1. I suspect the plants are manipulating us to their own ends. Which is okay--they are more connected to the planet than we are, literally and otherwise.

      Crocus--are they tough? I've moved some bulbs at the exact wrong time also--and they were back the next year.

  6. Your new "borrowed view" is lovely - what a boon! I love that 'Spider'/Dasylirion match too. Fiddling with the garden is a large part of both its challenges and its joys. I have quite a few of the "not quite right" and "unhappy plant" issues in my own garden to address - I depend too heavily on serendipity it seems.

    1. Serendipity seems to favor your garden as it looks fabulous (raccoons and uphill neighbors aside), but I know you are a major reason for the success.

  7. I just discovered your blog! Lovely photos and thoughtful commentary; I'll be back! I especially appreciate your observations on unintentional side effects. Very cool effect with the Aeonium!

    1. Thank you for visiting. I enjoyed the beautiful photos on your blog. You are an excellent photographer!


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