Spring/Summer Project 2017 Update #1

Not part of the project

I got a couple estimates for a new pergola.  The wood-and-tile version was expensive, and the maintenance of, and fire danger of, a wooden structure makes it an unacceptable option.  
An estimate for an aluminum version proved to be much less money, no maintenance, and nearly zero fire danger.   A small greenhouse is an option, so next I'll look into pricing that.  In the meantime I could take the old Pergola apart, to save the cost of having someone do it. 
The Margies are trying to come back:
The 'Marjorie Channon' hedge has sprouted a whole lot of new growth.  Whether or not the hedge can return to a decent appearance is still unclear.  I'm going to give the plants more time. 
Hiding this appears to be a good idea:
I need to extend the screening hedge, in hopes that new owners of the property in back, desiring a screen themselves, do not plant something completely inappropriate along the fence line (Ficus, Schinus)*.  If there is already a screen, there is a good chance they will just leave the area empty.  The previous owners of the property have passed away and it is now for sale.   

 A 'Eureka' lemon tree in a pot that needs a place in the ground.  Or just add more 'Marjorie Channons'.  Or a couple more 'Ivory Sheen', which are so gorgeous.  Or  Metrosideros 'Springfire'.  Or a tall Grevillea like 'Long John'.  Thinking, pondering, considering... 

Shortly after we paid to have the palm trees hanging over the fence removed, there was a red flag warning (high winds/high heat/extreme fire danger) and we felt so much safer knowing those palms, the huge Eucalyptus, and the Schinus molles growing over the fence were gone.  How much is relief and a feeling of safety worth?  
A Washingtonia looks best when it looks like this:
I added some plants to the near-empty terrace beds...
  ...extra plants on hand that needed a place in the ground. 
Blue arrows:  some Hippeastrum bulbs.  

White arrows:  A dug up, split up clump of Dahlia tubers provided more plants than needed.  After giving a few away, I planted the rest.  They are doing well and about to flower.  

Red arrows:  three 'Green Tower' boxwood to (eventually, maybe) form a screen that hides the koi pond filtration system from the house in back, so they won't be motivated to plant something inappropriate (Ficus, Schinus)* right along the fence line.  The boxwood are adjacent to the wall so their root systems remain shaded--I'm hoping this helps them grow and do well.
A couple of 'Amistad' Salvia suckers appeared on the plant out front--one moved to the base of 'Ivory Sheen' (blue arrow) grew rapidly and is already in bloom.  I planted another yesterday.  More Hummingbird food fights!
This is how you get away with planting successfully in summer in Southern California:  temporary shade:
  Two California native plants:  Asclepias fascicularis and Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum, for a very empty area by the culvert.  These need little water, just to establish, and will provide food for native butterflies.  I noticed the Eriogonum grand rubescens out front were feeding many tiny California native butterflies,  so it would be beneficial to add a few more butterfly feeding plants.
  A Fuchsia planted a few years ago in one of the terraces, once shaded, was left in too much sun once the palms were gone.  Moved to the shady area under the Acer 'Oshio Bene' in the walled garden, the Fuchsia has a better chance to thrive.  
Looks droopy and stressed from the move, but it may survive, and a  rooted cutting of the same Fuchsia planted right behind it means there will be at least one Fuchsia growing there soon, no matter what.  
This is where the Fuchsia was.  That I planted a little Agave gracilips there (look close) tells you how sunny the spot has become.
 The 'Climbing Iceberg' that was so sunburnt on the stairway pergola, moved and cut back has a fresh start in one of the terraces. It looks a whole lot happier.  

The four palms north of the Syzygium hedge were making the Syzygiums lean badly in search of growing space and sunlight.  Palms removed, it took only a few weeks for the Syzygiums to straighten themselves out.  I am hoping they grow enough so that the new owners of the property next door will not plant something inappropriate (Ficus, Schinus)* right along the fence line.   Give time, the Syzygiums can make a dense privacy screen for both properties.  I hope they get the time.
Straightened up and growing right.  Blue arrow indicates one of the palm stumps behind the fence:
 I was given a Hoheria augustifolia tree seedling mistakenly sent to a garden buddy;  the error was corrected by the vendor, but the garden buddy was left with a tree she had no room for.  This is a beautiful but not an overwhelmingly climate-appropriate tree, but under a shade cover and irrigated with koi pond water it has been, to my amazement, thriving.  Placed so as its roots are always in shade, in the area of the garden that experiences the coldest winter soil, perhaps it can survive? 
That's where the Project is at.  It's not pretty yet, but progress has been made.  It needs to be pretty.  Really pretty.  If it is pretty, the new owners of the property in the back will be less motivated to plant something inappropriate (Ficus, Schinus)* right along the fence line to hide it from their view.  

*The old engineering saying goes as follows:  You can have it good, you can have it cheap, you can have it fast.  Pick two.  This goes for plants just as much as engineering projects.  Guess which two most people pick?  Yeah, fast and cheap.  Neither of which are good. 


  1. I can feel the profound sigh of relief when the palm came down - saw a video clip of one blazing in a recent fire - and they are SUCH popular plants. My neighbour has a small one, and each frond that leans over gets clipped back to their side.
    The eucalyptus too, better safely away.

    1. We were in heavy traffic on the freeway once and on the street below us a car ran into a palm and the palm caught fire instantly, like a match lighting. The sigh of relief was profound indeed!

  2. I live in Southern California too, in the San Gabriel Valley. So out climate is very similiar. However my garden in very flat and fortunately I don't have to worry about fires. And, I must admit you are much, much better at planting zone appropriate plants than I am - although I am getting better.

    I always enjoy your posts - it's fun to compare our gardens different although they may be.

    1. SGV, much hotter than here! So you have more of a challenge than I do. You have a beautiful blog and garden! Your roses are especially excellent, like your Sally Holmes--just beautiful.

      I've found long-established plants with a thirsty reputation are not all that thirsty. A big strong root system is a sustaining root system. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  3. I love that old engineering saying, and how appropriate to apply it to plants! I see images of California wildfires, and I shudder. I think you were wise to remove the fire-prone trees. I also have used the trick of applying cover over summer-planted plants; I have seen people use colorful umbrellas!

    1. Umbrellas would be prettier; my version is effective, but not very attractive!

  4. So many things happening in your garden, lots of updates to look forward to. The aluminium pergola sounds good, and sounds like the only sensible option really. Funny enough it is a more expensive option to have here over wood.

    1. That's interesting. Aluminum is all about electricity supply as it takes huge amounts to extract the metal from the ore. WWII there was a big ramp up in hydroelectric to produce aluminum to build airplanes in the US. And the legacy of all that 75 years later is...pergola material!

  5. I've always liked your quote about "choose two". I attribute it (probably mistakenly) to Henry Mitchell. It's so scary to think that one is precluded from having a wooden pergola because of the fire risk. :-( Such are the time we live in, huh?

    1. Very old and wise saying. Might go back to Pythagoras! It applies to a lot of things.

      Having had a wooden trellis over the big balcony on the house, and replacing that with an aluminum one, the aluminum version is hands down better, all fire risk aside. Here because of almost 365 days a year of sun, the UV rays break down paint, stain, and wood very quickly. If you don't restain or repaint constantly and regularly the damage is done. And dry rot, and termites. I'm pro-aluminum.

      All those soda cans get recycled, too. :)

  6. You've been busy, not that I'm remotely surprised. I think the idea of getting a screen growing on your side of the fence before the property behind you is sold is an excellent plan and all your proposed candidates would do nicely. I love the greenhouse idea to replace that pergola too, but then greenhouses always strike me as wonderful. I've left some not-so-subtle hints with my spouse that we could replace the firewood enclosure he built (we NEVER use our fireplaces) with a small shed/greenhouse structure for moi but I expect I'm going to have to keep up the hints for quite a while...


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