Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pregnant with possibilities

Isn't this exciting?!? Dirt. Lots of dirt. Here's a different view:

Still a lot of dirt. There's actually not much to recommend it at this stage except that it's grass-free dirt.

Once the MulchMaid amends it and plants it, though, it's going to be the beginnings of a dining room screen from the sidewalk. The house is on a corner lot and seems to get twice as much pedestrian traffic. That's great, except when dinner is happening in the dining room. Then people seem compelled to stare straight in as they pass. So the MulchMaids just need a little visual diversion.

Here are a couple of the plants waiting in the wings to be put in. There's an Arbequina olive, and a big pot of Zagreb coreopsis. The MulchMaid might even let the montbretia out of its pot, if it promises not to be too rampant. The little loropetalum chinensis 'Sizzling Pink' is on its way elsewhere...Mr. Mulchmaid is not happy with the foliage color, which was supposed to be purple, not bronze.

Also coming right along and looking quite promising are some young cannas.

The Violette de Bordeaux fig is finally making some lovely long leaves.

The Meyer lemon has come outside for the summer. It lives in the south-facing breakfast room, and bloomed profusely from December to April. But it lost a significant number of leaves and formed no new ones in all that time. Mr. Mulchmaid was concerned that this was virtual suicide, so he took off all the resulting fruit except the two you can see below. Just last week, the first set of new leaves showed!

Last, a Pyracantha "Mojave", covered with white buds. The MulchMaid predicts the flowers will be open and attracting fat bumblebees by this coming weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tiny flowers for Bloom Day

The only things blooming at Longview Ranch on May 15th are minute.

A tiny dianthus, species long since forgotten, that I've had for years in a trough.

This first helianthemum is quite demure, and appropriately named "The Bride".

But what's this? Color! A orange-red sunrose doing its best to cover the many feet of mulched garden still available for planting.

And this? A bright magenta helianthemum (maybe "Raspberry Dazzler"... I dunno.)

So now you know my secret: whorish, gypsy-colored blooms delight me in tiny doses.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bamboo U

Longview Ranch has a strangely-shaped backyard: there are two larger areas north and south, with a narrow bottleneck in the center back. This center space is the view through a bay of three windows in the sunny breakfast room where we spend a lot of daylight hours.

Also immediately visible is our eastside neighbor's driveway and house with windows looking directly at our windows. We needed green privacy everywhere in our backyard, but we especially wanted it as quickly as possible there. The solution? Bamboo.

Below is a shot of the backyard area in original condition except the plastic vanes have been removed from the lovely chain link fence. Note the neighbor's teenage pin oak, another factor we need to consider as we garden this area.

The future bamboo planting area in spring 2008.

Above, the fence is painted black - looks better already, right?

A shot of the grass removal in spring 2008. It was so much fun to see how quickly the transformations occurred from this point on.

In our last garden, we had bamboo with no barrier. For years, we worked intensively to keep it under control. This time, we were going to be smart and save ourselves lots of future work: we would have an approved bamboo barrier installed by the landscape crew.

The soil has been added and incorporated into the beds.

Oops, a communication problem with the crew: the bamboo barrier was supposed to be installed before the soil was added. This will mean a lot of extra digging.

These two photos are reversed: below, the barrier is being installed in the three-foot-deep trench dug to hold it. Above, the trench is being backfilled after the barrier is in place.

The finished installation. We started out with the bamboo in a row resulting in minimum visual excitement but maximum privacy coverage.

Late summer 2008. The bamboo just took off - those plants were happy!

Then we went to the Hardy Plant Society's fall sale. We spent some time there talking to a very knowledgeable bamboo grower, who convinced the Mulch Man that the bamboo barrier was not a long-term solution to containing bamboo. He advocated for using a trench system.

The concept is to dig an 18" deep trench at least a foot wide, then fill it with sand or another soft material. Several times a year, you run a tool through the sand to find any shoots that are growing through the sand and you cut them. Apparently, because the bamboo is not encountering the resistance of the barrier, it will stay shallow and easy to locate in the sand. The existing barrier needs to be cut away down to 16-18", so the sand is directly in contact with the soil.

So that's what we did.
Above and below, you can see the sand installed in the trench around the bamboo planting bed.

We moved one plant forward as part of this second phase, since the bamboo was growing so robustly and we already had great coverage.

The jury's out on this method. I'm looking forward to being able to report positively in the future. But I hope that even if it's not the perfect solution, we will at least have bought ourselves a few years of lower maintenance.

As my dear old dad would say "On vera."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, garden!

We have birthday candles at Longview Ranch! It's been a year since the major trees and shrubs went in, and the pines are celebrating with beautiful spring candles.

Although the three pines are the same species (pinus contorta) it's interesting to see how different each is in needle length, bushiness and even bark surface.

Mr. MulchMaid wishes they were more similar, but I love the differences: it just seems more natural to me to have variations in the same species in a Northwest native planting area. Anyway, I'll sacrifice optimal landscaped class for a touch of random quirkiness any day.

We worked hard keeping all the new trees watered last year. The pines and the three Western red cedars we put in were stressed by their move, and the berms where they were planted drained much faster than the flat areas. I hope they've settled in over winter and won't need quite such an intensive watering schedule this summer. The smaller native plants we added will also help conserve moisture around the tree roots. And, of course, there's mulch.

All the trees will benefit from the nice thick layer of mulch that was spread by the wonder-kid last weekend. But he'd had enough after just one day, so the Mulchmaid is living up to her name and finishing off the rest of the garden beds.

But I'm certainly not complaining. I like that kind of zen garden work, and I especially like the idea that I'm tucking all the trees and plants in under a lightweight spring blanket.