Well at least that is over with…sort of.

I woke to the sound of knocking at my front door at 8:00 am this morning and leapt out of bed. I knew it could only be bad news.  Sure enough when I opened the front door there were two guys digging plants out of the mediterranean garden and the foreman was there to let me know the lateral was going in earlier than expected.  I ran and got a shovel to help them remove plants. In 15 minutes all the plants in the center of the garden were out and the excavator was in place.  I tried to take out my more beloved specimens myself because of course the construction guys were not as careful about getting all the roots out as I was.  We’ll see what makes it and what doesn’t.  I’m guessing it may be something like 50/50 or worse.

This is just not the sort of thing one wants to see in their garden.

Here are my plants all piled up on top of each other.  That Lavandula pinnata var. buchii has been in full glorious bloom since last summer and all through winter but sadly one of the guys got to it before I could and not it has no roots. It may survive if I hack it way back.

It doesn’t help that today and tomorrow are going to be the hottest days in the past two months. It got up to about 73 today.  Everything was looking very droopy.

I was hoping I would have the weekend to carefully remove each plant myself.

Salvia africana-lutea stayed in place and was just out of the danger zone.  It was a risk and it did get a ton of stray sand dumped on it as the excavator bucket went back and forth but I think it will be OK.

I’m just so fried at this point.  Remember my pictures just a week or two ago on how far the garden had come in a year?  Back to square one.

In goes the lateral pipe. That white pipe across the top of the hole was the original irrigation. It is a damned good thing I never got around to installing drip in this garden.  One less hassle to worry about.

They were really careful not to hit the gas line (the gas pipe was just beyond the guy laying the lateral).  Big relief as I didn’t really need another headache to worry about.

Once the pipe was laid they filled the hole back up. Sort of. A lot of the soil is still on the street.  And of course my good compost is gone and now I have a mess of Los Osos sand. Blargh. Well at least this is a garden of drought tolerant plants that want good drainage.

And the final view. Compare that to last weeks pictures.  It looks like my garden was attacked by an army of plant hating fiends. And Gabe’s Bobcat is in the repair shop. I was hoping he would be able to come over and contour a little soil for me. I guess I’ll be doing it by hand.

This has been a terrible week but at least it is over. And while the sewer construction continues on my street for at least another two months at least they finished my side street (I hope).

One bright spot was that my free seed allotment from the Mediterranean Garden Society arrived in the mail today.  So maybe there will be a bit of new life on the way to make up for all the plants that won’t make it.

Strike that – Reverse it

Just pretend that I didn’t say any of that optimistic stuff the past few days. This sewer stuff flat-out sucks.

The damage done after the second day wasn’t pretty.

Remember my pretty Calocephalus (Leucophyta) brownii?  This is what they looked like after having one of those giant walls of metal dropped on them.

The front corner of the mediterranean garden is not looking pretty. These plants have been stepped on, crushed, and driven over.

Now I don’t really know much about construction or mechanical things so much of this sort of work is a mystery to me.  I’ve read up a bit about the process but I didn’t really have a clear picture of what all of it meant.  But by the end of the second day I suddenly had a feeling of dread.  Remember when I peeked into that hole and was surprised to see the sewer pipes were 10-12 feet below ground?  I suddenly realized that meant that the lateral connecting line was at that depth too.  How would a home owner dig down that deep when the time came to connect.  I suddenly felt really foolish for being so optimistic. Surely this construction crew is going send that lateral line at least partly through my yard? And my lateral will go right through the medit garden. Not a few years from now like I originally thought but right now.

So I spoke to a few of the guys about it and sure enough another crew is coming next week (hopefully) and will connect the lateral from the sewer pipe up to the edge of the property line. Then when it is all done the homeowner has to decommission their septic and connect the house to that lateral. Yikes! That means I have to start removing plants!

I removed a few last night from the front of the garden just to prevent them from being stomped on.  I’m pretty much going to remove the rest of the garden at least up to the mailbox this weekend. I just hope that they really do come and finish the work next week so my plants aren’t sitting around out of the soil more than a week.

Trying to put a positive spin on it now I can further address any design issues I wasn’t happy about.  But I have to say I am a bit burnt out at this point.  Between the noise and the needless destruction (people taking short cuts through the garden, people dropping hoses and other equipment on plants) I’m about done. And it has only been three days.

Another good thing is that once that line is in that will really be the worst of it. I can plan around the connection to the septic tank (or more likely I won’t even still be here by the time that happens).

I thought I had removed the plants that were in the worst danger but this afternoon I went out and noticed this crater where a (brand new) Phlomis cashmeriana had been. The plant was in the bottom of the two foot deep crater upside down and beat to hell.  I think it was probably an accidental slip up with the excavator bucket.

One good outcome of my questioning the guys about the lateral was that they realized that they had faced mine the wrong way.  It was facing into my landlady’s driveway instead of toward my yard!  Zheesh. Good thing we caught it now. They had to go back in 12 feet with the excavator and fix the problem. My landlady is lucky I am here keeping an eye on things because if I wasn’t she probably would have arrived in a few weeks and discovered she no longer had a driveway!

Hopefully the Phlomis will recover.

At this point at least half of the self-sown annuals I was so excited about are demolished.  Today they parked their water truck in my driveway all day and when they backed it up they went through another area that I thought was safe. Well if things go well the lateral installation will happen early next week and will just take a day. The sewer pipe construction is now at the cross street and getting further and further away. I’ll survive this right?

The good thing about plants?

They grow back. At least that is what I have been telling myself all day.  I’m trying to be really calm and zen about the chaos and destruction to the garden today.

See the big white pipe to the left of the mailbox (sitting in the middle of the garden)?  That is the attachment for the lateral that will eventually connect to the house where the septic was.  That doesn’t happen until 2015 or so but is a reminder that will definitely be some destruction to the garden in the future.  Nothing to be done about but now that I know exactly where it is I may reposition some of the shrubbier plants while they are still small.


Surveying equipment sitting in my annuals, cables crushing my Mentzelia, pipes, tarps, and ladders resting on the mediterranean garden and lots of boots clomping through all of it today since there is very little room for them to maneuver. 

At least the endangered snails across the street got their protective barrier.

When there is stuff like this going on in front of your garden you know all your plants aren’t going to escape damage.

At noon every day the guys take a half hour lunch break. I snuck over to have a closer look.  I was surprised at how far down the sewer pipes are laying.  I’m not sure if it is clear from my photo but that blue pipe at the bottom is at least ten to twelve feet down.

At the rate they are going they definitely should be done with my little side street by Friday and each day they get further and further away from the garden so hopefully there will be less of a need to store equipment on plants or walk through the garden.

The good thing about all this is it is still only mid February. Once they are done I can go out and asses the damage and replace or cut back any plants that took a beating. By May or June the construction will just be a memory and there is plenty of time before then to get the garden in decent shape. Remember that the annuals were just seedlings that came up so are basically free.  If they won’t recover it isn’t the end of the world.




First Day of Sewer Work

Beep Beep Beep Beep!  I’ll be hearing that noise every time a big truck backs up in front of my house for a while.

I was watching like a hawk this morning to make sure they knew that the amended plans didn’t involved cutting through my garden!

Happily it soon became clear that they wouldn’t cut through my garden but through my landlady’s front yard instead! She is planning on removing the lawn and putting in a xeric garden when this is all done so this all works out for the best.  I did call her to warn her though as I don’t think she realized this was going to happen. That poor Phormium is toast!

You can see the corner of my mediterranean garden over on the left. Luckily the sewers aren’t really that close. I was afraid there would be collateral damage but it has been amazing watching the guys working and seeing how careful and precise they are.  Most of them have been careful to stay off the garden though one surveyor kept clomping through it even as his assistant took pains to go around and stick to the paths.

The crazy contraption attached to the front of this wheel loader is called an “Asphalt Zipper”.

It grinds up the asphalt in a line so the hydraulic excavator can go to work removing the soil beneath.  Kind of nerve-wracking to see this beast of a truck right in front of my path garden!

This is what it looked like when he was done!

Remember when I was wondering the other day what those big metal objects being stored in front of my neighbor’s house were?

The excavator lifts them into place and they are then used as a guide while they are digging.  I guess they stabilize the soil while the excavator scoops it out and they place the pipes.  I assume it is removed after several segments are connected.

Two pipes are brought over.

And dropped off right at the edge of the garden! Ack!

Luckily most of the plants along the street are pretty tough and will either bounce back if they are smooshed or can be easily replaced.

At any rate they didn’t stay there very long.

In they go.

Surprisingly after all this intense work done just a few feet away from my garden very little was damaged.  The corner got smooshed a bit and some of my nice Dudleyas lost a few leaves but I can live with that.  They got two segments in today and as easy day goes by they are moving further away from my yard.  I’m sure there will be some nail-biting moments tomorrow but for the most part they guys have been really respectful of the plants.

Oh and remember the other day when I was wondering why they were rooting around in the ice plant across the street?

Turns out that little strip of land is home to the endangered Morro shoulderband snail. A count was being done and I think he said he would relocate some of them to another protected area and he might put up some protection around this bit of land while they are digging up the street.

They aren’t garden pests like the European garden snails as they just feed on detritus and decaying vegetation. I asked if they would be impacted by my attempts at snail control in my garden and he said they generally aren’t found in cultivated garden areas. While he was working in the area some western bluebirds got real interested in what he was doing. Hopefully they stick to a diet of invasive plant-eating snails and leave these poor endangered ones alone but at any rate I was excited to see bluebirds in my neighborhood again and it was cool to learn about these shoulderband snails.


Got this foreboding notice on my door Friday morning.

The work starts Monday but our street was already a hub of activity as they prepare to start the sewer installation.

Bright teal sewer mains were delivered.

And unloaded and stored across the street in the easement in front of my neighbor’s house. Incidentally that is the driveway that they would have torn right through if they had stuck to the original plan that went through my garden. Instead I believe they are going through the little dirt road between the driveway and the yellow house or maybe even through those pines.

Yikes! That is my poor mediterranean garden. The excavator in the background is parked and ready for work to begin connecting my street to the sewers that were already installed back in December in the field beyond the fence. Even though they supposedly won’t be tearing through my garden I am concerned about collateral damage. It is amazing how precise they are with these huge machines though. Hopefully there are no accidents.  My aunt lives in Key Largo, Florida where they just had their sewers installed and she warned me to keep an eye on things.  Sometimes not everyone is on the same page when construction begins.  She had some amendments on her property that were accidentally almost ignored. It would have cost her twice as much if she hadn’t realized it before hand.

In our case here not only is there the garden to worry about but in the original plans the lateral connection was planned on the wrong side of the house. That would have been an expensive nightmare to deal with down the line when the house is connected to the sewers.

I live on a dead-end side street at the end of a dead-end street.  Getting in and out for the next few months will be a big pain the ass.

So many trucks! So much beeping!

I watched in awe as this hydraulic excavator was unloaded. Looks like we won’t be renovating that side yard for some time, huh?

I’m relieved they decided to store their equipment in my neighbors easement instead of mine.  Now WTF are those giant yellow things?

And WTF are these giant things? As annoying as the construction is going to be I think it might be kind of interesting to have a front row seat to see it all happening.

There are several giant piles of gravel in front of several neighbors houses.  Hmmm…that looks like it would make a nice mulch.

From my side door I could see one guy pretty much spent the day rooting around in my neighbors side easement. He would pull out plants, look at their roots, and then toss them in a pile. He did that for at least six hours.  I took a closer look after they left and realized he was pulling out ice plant.  This is just one of the many piles.  What was he doing? What was he looking for? Anyone know?

The plant is Carpobrotus edulis from South Africa. It is a nasty and very invasive mesemb that has taken over much of the coastal areas of California, Australia, and the Mediterranean to the detriment of native plants.  As far as ice plants go it isn’t even very attractive.  So if there is a bright side to all this construction this is it.  Maybe if he is back on Monday I’ll ask what he was looking for. I actually didn’t even realize that these plants were there as there are also grasses there and I never really looked that closely.

So the next few months are probably going to be a bit hellish.  Hopefully the work goes smoothly and if nothing else it will be good to have it over with sooner rather than later.  I just hope that my sanity and garden survive intact.

More Mediterranean

I’ve finished this round of planting in the medit garden.

Remember that ugly lawn? I’m so glad it is gone. Of course I still have to weed out sneaky clumps of Kikuyu grass but the worst of it seems to be over.

The new panorama feature on my iPhone is great for getting a full view of the garden. Try not to notice any ugly bits.

Chamelaucium uncinatum ‘Purple Pride’, from western Australia, has replaced the purple-leaved plum.

I’m hoping that Phylica plumosa, from South Africa, will make a nice mounding specimen in the center of the bed.

Dudleya pulverulenta has doubled in size since last spring.

I’m really fond of the South African heaths like this Erica Baueri. I love any Ericaceous plants that have waxy or plastic-like flowers.

I’m really proud of this Erica diaphana that I grew from seed.  It is about six inches tall now and looks like a miniature Christmas tree. The seed was like dust and I left them in a plastic bag under grow lights for ages until I felt like they were large enough to be potted up and safely brought outdoors. They were less than an inch tall when I pricked them out and I never thought they would survive the process. Even though I have grown tons of plant from seed this is the first woody shrub I have ever attempted. Next step is getting it to bloom!

Now obviously the plan for this garden is to grow plants from all the mediterranean climates of the world. Much of California, central Chile, western South Africa, southwestern and southern Australia and of course the Mediterranean region itself are all considered to be mediterranean climates with dry summers and mild rainy winters. Other dry regions of the world with drought tolerant plants are acceptable as well such as parts of the southern US and Mexico and the Canary Islands.  Whatever it takes to make beautiful garden with plants that will need very little water in the summer.

Of course sometimes I will make mistakes.

When I saw a six-pack of Craspedia globosa (actually Pcynosorus globosa) last summer I couldn’t resist.  It is normally a really ugly container plant and I couldn’t bring myself to pay even wholesale prices for a one gallon plant.  But a six-pack of tiny plants was cheap and seemed worthwhile. It is an Australian plant and I kept finding references that mention that it is drought tolerant. The common name is Billy Buttons and the flowers are little yellow spheres that make great cut flowers.  Sadly it is native to eastern Australia and my experience has been that it really wants very regular water. If I let it go dry it wilts dramatically.  It seems to be happiest in moist heavy clay which won’t do at all. I am willing to spot water thirsty plants when they are getting established but in the long run I really want plants to be able to fend for themselves for long stretches in the summer. I don’t plan on adding drip irrigation to this garden. So at some point they are all going to be removed. I may try to relocate them but I am not sure I want a plant that needs a lot of water to be happy.

I may replace them with Nepeta tuberosa. This is an unusual Nepeta with upright spires of blooms rather like a Stachys. It is from Spain and Portugal and should be much happier in dry conditions. In fact I am not sure why it didn’t get planted in the medit garden in the first place.  Luckily the three clumps I planted last year in the other border had about a dozen little seedlings all around them so I potted those up today. Once they are large enough I may use them to replace the Billy Buttons. The picture below is from June and I think this plant will add just the right amount of architectural drama that I want.

What a difference a year makes!

Do you remember last year when I asked you not to laugh at the puny plants in my brand new mediterranean garden? Check out the gardens progress in just one year!

Everything looks so tiny and sad in a newly planted garden.  There is still work to do (look at all those new black pots in the second photo) but the garden is filling in nicely.

Some added good news is after I took the second photo my new landlady gave me permission to remove the little purple-leaved plum. It was throwing off my whole design. A Chamalaucium will go in its place. She has also expressed an interest in removing that horrible chain link fence which will certainly make my garden more photogenic. I’ll be doing some work in the back area behind the fence in the coming months as well.

And some added GREAT news is that I have confirmation finally that they will not be digging up the garden to place sewer pipes! The pipes will go through the street instead!  What a relief. As I suspected one of the things that helped our case is that with the original placing not only would the construction go through both of my driveways and my garden but it would have cut right through my neighbors entire driveway.  I’m sure the construction will still be a nightmare but at least it looks like we minimized the property damage.  Once we have to connect the house to the sewers part of the yard will have to be torn up but since that is done by the homeowner you have a lot more control over the how and the when so you can prepare accordingly.

As you can see from the new black pots I have quite a bit of work ahead of me so look for more updates soon.  And do check out the “Mediterranean Garden Inventory” link up at the top of the page. You should find a link leading to a Google spreadsheet with an updated inventory of the plants in this part of the garden.