Monday, April 27, 2009

Foliage trumps blooms this week

Blossoms are great, but I'm taking increased pleasure in the foliage I see unfurling and coloring these last few weeks. As soon as it heated up a little bit, there was no holding some plants back.

Particularly fulfilling are the young leaves of an acer circinatum we had planted last spring. It was a lovely multi-trunked specimen that quickly leafed out after planting but the heat of summer was hard on it. Knowing how very small its root ball was (we think it was collected from the wild) we feared for its well-being. We pruned it and kept it well watered and mulched to help it cope, but it was clearly stressed through the year. This year we hope it will fare better and its bright yellow-green leaves with their reddish tips are a hopeful sign.

Also gorgeous are the new leaves of our young eucalyptus (E. pauciflora ssp. debeuzevillei.) The foliage comes out so reddish-orange that it looks almost like flowers from a distance. I chose this variety because it is supposed to be one of the hardiest eucs, and I'm delighted that it did so well over the winter. Based on last year's gains, I expect it to put on a foot or two more height this summer.
Go little tree!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reprieved ... sort of

The mulch didn't come this past week. But it will be here this week and the order has mysteriously morphed into an entire unit - 7 1/2 cubic yards. So Mr. MulchMaid took pity on the overworked MulchMaid and arranged for some help: a young, strong, (horticulture-major, no less) college dude will distribute most of it on the garden next weekend.

This lets the MulchMaid attend to other important tasks. Lolling in the sun comes immediately to mind. But, no, there's not a lot of time for that, because we have weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. Seems only two weeks ago the beds were scrupulously cleared of unsanctioned green sprouts, but it's spring and they're baaack.

Also, taking pictures of the plants blooming or thriving in the garden. The MulchMaid missed Bloom Day, but that won't stop her from boring her readers with a few bloom-y pictures.

Continue at your own risk...A sweet little rhododendron I'm embarrassed to admit I've lost the tag for.

One of the two fatsia japonicas hopefully making a break for the roof line, and surrounded by millions of schizanthus sprouts that must be removed.

Archtostaphylos uva-ursi looking very happy in some pine duff and the remains of last year's mulch.

Mahonia aquifolium.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

By special request

My delighful first (and, so far, only) follower has requested pictures of the house. Since Tikimama is focused on mid-century homes and her blog is so much fun, I'm happy to indulge her. Here are some shots of the house in its early days of our ownership. We have already replaced many of the lollypop-trimmed shrubs shown around around the foundation with shade lovers, including two Fatsia japonicas. I remember them from my California childhood (so that makes them mid-century, Tikimama!) I'm so glad they'll thrive further north. They made it through our winter cold with just a little damage and are coming back like gangbusters, thank goodness. And I clearly need to take some newer front yard pictures!

Monday, April 13, 2009

How mulch is too mulch?

Last year's mulch has done a disappearing act from the bermed areas of the garden. I blamed gravity and the mow-and-blow guy, but apparently it's because it was composted vegetable matter and it's now completely broken down and is busy enriching our soil. As a result, Mr. MulchMaid is having a gob of new mulch delivered this week, and the MulchMaid will get a chance to show her stuff. Since the truck can't get past the driveway, it will all need to be wheelbarrowed into the back yard.

The Mulchman wanted to get a "unit" delivered. I wasn't so sure: 7-1/2 cubic yards is one big-ass pile of mulch to move. We compromised on four yards. That should still keep me out of trouble for the next few weekends.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring infatuation

My new darling, Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths', has been blooming for about a month now. I'm in love with the whole manzanita family, but this little charmer catches my eye every time I come home through the back yard. Since I had only planted him in mid-Fall, I covered Austin with frost blanket during our winter cold spell. But I suspect he might have been just fine without any special treatment. He's quite wonderful this spring. I expect my infatuation to mature as Austin does - at eight feet, there'll be plenty to love.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Grass OUT, plants IN!

We couldn't afford to replace the major expanse of chain link fence, so we pulled all the plastic vanes out of it and painted it glossy black. It was a big improvement and made that fence look almost intentional.

The two of us felt comfortable creating a landscape design, but we needed professional muscle to implement concrete and grass removal, soil addition and the planting of larger trees and shrubs. Winterbloom did all that and more, including sourcing many additional plants for us, and mulching after all the initial planting was done.

In the end, we had three main garden areas: first, a Northwest native area in the north backyard, planted with Western red cedars, three pinus contorta, vine maple, cornus Eddy's White Wonder, several rhododendrons, ribes sanguineum, mahonia aquifolium and nervosa, huckleberries, salal and lots of kinnikinnik.

We imagined a tropical fusion area in a narrow part of the yard between the two big areas, and initially planted it with a crape myrtle tree, bamboo and callas we moved from the front yard.

And we had a zonal-denial, Mediterranean area in the sunny south backyard, planted with pampas grass, eucalyptus, pyracantha Mohave, flaxes and a Trachycarpus fortunei palm.

Over that first year, major additions in the south garden included ilex crenata convexa for a low hedge along the house and deck, an arbequina olive, two trachelospermum jasminoides, a negronne fig, ceanothus, and cistus. And in the north garden we added snowberry, mugo pines, several smaller species rhododendrons, and three white camellias for privacy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A little background

When we moved to Longview Ranch in 2007, the backyard was pretty much a wasteland: A perimeter chain link fence with off-white plastic vanes did nothing to enhance three neglected fruit trees and a couple of small corner planting beds. The house was surrounded by concrete. A tired grass lawn covered most of the backyard.

My heart sank when I saw the neat, two-foot-long row of Ortho products of every type in the garden shed. I knew we wouldn't be planting any food in that soil for years.

On the bright side, we had no investment in the existing layout. But circumstances and our own unreadiness meant we didn't start right in gardening, except the outdoor potted plants we'd brought and three big half barrels we planted tomatoes in that summer.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Why a blog?

Well, why not? Everybody has a blog these days, right?

Actually, I hope it'll be a locus for evaluating my progress in three areas: First, my attempts to teach myself to write. Second, my desire to take better pictures. And finally, my ongoing efforts to create a beautiful and verdant garden here at Longview Ranch.

Whew. I'm tired already.