Building My Garden: Part 6 – Finishing Up the Mediterranean Beds

Since the garden bed expansion project I have been slowly planting and finishing off the various beds.  I’ve been taking my time because I am busy and also kind of wiped out.  I’ve done a lot of work on this garden and think it looks pretty good considering it was only started in February.

The mediterranean garden is now made up of two long beds.  The large one near the street and the narrower one along the chain link fence.  I am hoping I will get the drip irrigation and mulch down and finish the path with decomposed granite some time this month.  We’ll see how much energy and money I have.

The entire planted part of the yard is approximately 70 x 40 feet. It’s a pretty good size.  In the fall I hope to expand the garden further with the side yard which is also 70 x 40 feet.

Over the course of the next year these plants should fill in enough so that barely any soil is visible.

The only things that remain unplanted are the backyard bed of shrubs and odds and ends.  Frankly I’ve just been too tired to tackle this and needed to give my back a break.  But I’m getting sick of looking at it and may try to get it started tomorrow.  Some Salvia, and Grevillea, and a Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ will be the stars of this bed along with a few different Ozothamnus that I am trying out (since I know nothing about them).

I’ve planted many lavenders in the expanded medit beds including several different cultivars of Lavandula stoechas like ‘Willow Vale’ and ‘Boysenberry Ruffles’.

Lavandula stoechas Coco™ Dark Pink is a very unfortunate trademark name. Sadly it seems the cultivar name is L. stoechas ‘Cocdap’ which is just a horrible morph of the trademarked name and not much better.   It is a pretty, compact, dark pink L. stoechas so I guess I’ll put up with the generic name that is meant to appeal to the broader public.

Berkheya purpurea

I first saw this plant in Beth Chatto’s gravel garden but it wasn’t quite blooming yet so I wasn’t sure what it was.  The mystery was solved when Andrew Keys over at Garden Smackdown blogged about it and I recognized it from his photos.  I ordered mine online at Dancing Oaks Nursery and they sent me two for the price of one!  I love free plants!

Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’

Early on in my gardening career, my experience with Artemisia on the east coast was that they melted in the heat and humidity of summer.  So I don’t know much about them.  They seem much better suited to my new coastal climate so I am trying out four different types to see how I feel about them.

Artemisia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice’

This artemisia is a selection of one that is native to coastal California.  It should form a nice low mound but as you can see it has these weird ropey inflorescences so I am not sure how I feel about it.  Maybe it will not be as weird looking once the plant grows a little and they can be pruned out, but pretty much every picture I found online the plant had these weird alien looking blooms flailing about.

Frankenia thymifolia

This is an unusual little groundcover that is sort of like a cross between a thyme and a dwarf conifer.  It has these teeny little pink flowers.  The poor things have been sitting in the ghetto for the past two months and were looking a little raggedy. But they burst into bloom a week or two ago. I finally got them planted today so hopefully they will settle in despite the abuse.

Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’

I’ve been seeing this Gaillardia on wholesale lists for a while now so decided to grab a few to finish off the edge of the medit bed.  I’m a sucker for anything daisy shaped and the colors are pretty great.  I have a more compact one called ‘Gallo Red’ too.

Another project I finished today was fixing up my seedling nursery.  I wanted to make it a bit more professional looking.  I need to cover the young seedlings with bird netting, but I was using stacks of bricks to hold them up over the plants, which looked awful. I figured I could create some sort of frame with PVC pipe but had no idea how to go about making it.  Just in time, Clare over at Curbstone Valley Farm, saved the day. She posted pictures of a structure that she made with PVC, to create a humidity tent for her grafted heirloom tomatoes. I’m not very handy with tools and building things so the pictures made me feel a bit less insecure.

I started out making a rectangular frame base big enough to contain a dozen nursery flats. I cleared my old nursery bed near the vegetable garden and pulled up all the weeds and then put down weed cloth.

I added four T’s to the frame to create supports to hold up the netting.  Overall a pretty easy experience and much more professional looking.  It also holds the netting higher over the plants to give them a bit of room to grow.  Now I just need to get some PVC snap clamps to hold the netting more securely.

So the garden is coming along.  Hopefully soon I’ll have a post about irrigation and mulch!

Building My Garden Part 5 – Flower Gardens

Sorry it has taken me so long to share this part of the garden.  I actually debated waiting even longer because, to be honest, the garden still doesn’t look like much in photographs.  The plants are small (most of the plants were 4″ pots or gallons), I still haven’t mulched, and there isn’t too much in bloom yet. There are also a lot of finishing touches I need to apply to make the garden look like it was done by a professional.  But then I figured it would be more rewarding when the garden is all full and nice to have shared the garden at this infantile stage.

So everyone remembers the before picture from December right?  That was right after I moved in. Yuck. Look at all that stupid lawn.

This is the garden five weeks ago as I was laying out the initial plants.  To be honest I didn’t really have time to do a design for this garden.  Not the best way for a supposed garden designer to create his own garden but I suspect it is common.  I really wanted to get the plants in quickly to take advantage of winter rains (Ha!).  Especially since I planted a lot of native annuals.   So the design was a bit random. The way I normally work is to pick a few specimen plants and build a garden around them but it didn’t really pan out in my own garden.

Above is a shot of the entire garden last week.  The mediterranean garden is on the right and was the first garden I installed (though I keep adding to it and am going to enlarge the two beds next week). Between the two houses in the fenced area in front of the lawn there is a long bed that is going to be a shrub border.  That is currently still in limbo because I decided to remove part of the lawn behind the fence so the shrub border can be expanded.  That is also where I had my gopher problem so one of the reasons I am doing this is to get rid of all the yellow lawn daisies that the gophers seem to love.  When that project is finished the only lawn remaining will be above the septic field in the back. Anyway you can see the shrubs in their big pots waiting patiently to be planted.

The gardens to the left of the mailbox is what we will be talking about today.

Here is the garden today. First up is the “Big Border”.  The long bed between my driveway and the “Path Garden”.  It measures Forty feet long by nineteen feet wide and is made up of two berms with a little valley in the center.

The large plant anchors that I tried to build the  beds around are a Grevillea rhyolitica in the front and a Cantua buxifolia in the back portion. I said tried because I really didn’t shape the design around those plants and instead it is more of a cottage garden look (at least it will be when the plants fill in). The house faces north so the portion closest to the house will be shadier most of the year. That will have a separate drip system so I can include more moisture loving shade plants. Toward the street I think I will eventually shift that part of the garden to include more mediterranean themed, drought tolerant  plants.

The beds on the right are divided by a path that leads to the shrub border and mediterranean garden.  The back bed around the palm is shadier so is made up of several species and cultivars of Fuchsia and Cuphea.  I decided to do a bit of a color themed garden here and so that is the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.  Since that bed is most visible from my large living room window I thought it would be fun to have a garden that attract hummingbirds right in front of it.

The front bed I am currently calling the “Chaos Garden”.  Even more so than the other beds this one has no theme or strong anchors.  It was basically the bed where I threw all the leftover plants. More than half of it is California native annuals so this bed will probably dramatically change later in the season. It will likely just become part of the mediterranean garden.

By the way the “Path Garden” is filling in nicely.  Aside from one Dianthus that suddenly dropped dead the other day the rest of the plants are blooming quite a big and slowly creeping outward. The Chamomile in the front smells divine.

So there you have it.  Now you’ve seen the flower garden in early stages.  There is nowhere to go but up. If all goes well I will put in irrigation, mulch, and add some finishing touches (gravel and mulch for paths, more rocks to cover and pretty up the drainage ditches, shrub border finished) in the next few weeks.

Now a few of the plants that are in bloom and my thoughts on them.

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’

I grew this back east and found it to be short lived and Gabe said it is the same here.  So I probably won’t use it in clients gardens unless they are OK with something that may potentially act as an annual.  They are very impressive though and will hopefully self sow. They are in the front of the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Cuphea ‘Strybing Sunset’

I have five different varieties of Cuphea because I think they are adorable and they bloom pretty much year round.  This one is in the back of the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Cuphea cyanea

This Cuphea is so cute I want to eat its little face. It is in the back of the “Big Border”.

Fuchsia splendens

This is kind of a weird Fuchsia.  The flowers are sort of waxy and lumpy.  Strange thing.  It is sort of salmon which counts as orange or red as far as I am concerned so it is living in the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Uncinea uncinata ‘Rubra’

This was not a plant I had any intention of buying until I saw it in person.  At Annie’s Annuals at about a hundred feet away I saw something glowing, beckoning to me, it was lit up from within and said “Come close so I can jump in your cart”.  Of course you know which bed it is in without me telling you.

Eupatorium sordidum (syn Ageratum corymbosum)

This guy is like a really sturdy Ageratum and is at the back of the Big Border in the shade.  Supposed to get three feet across which is really exciting.

Lupinus hartwegii ssp. cruickshankii – sunrise lupine

I’m having a little love affair with lupines.  They are one of the first plants I grew from seed in my first New Jersey garden and there are so many delightful species that grow well in California.  So I sort of want all of them.  I think I currently have six different types growing in the garden.  I have three of this annual species growing in the “Big Border”.

Lupinus albifrons – silver bush lupine

This one is from Annie’s.  It should become a fairly large woody stemmed shrub with very low water needs. It is so tiny now I wasn’t sure I should even let it flower but I will deadhead it before it sets seed so it can put more energy into growing big and strong.

Lupinus succulentus – arroyo lupine

This is another annual from Annie’s.  The leaves really are quite succulent and juicy. I kind  of wish I had bought a few more of them so I could have planted them in a group because the annuals around it aren’t really filling in as much as I thought they would.  I also wish I had planted it closer to the path so I could easily squish its leaves. Hopefully it will self sow.

Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’

A great South African annual from Annie’s. I bought these because I love them but didn’t really have a place in mind for them and somehow they were left over and forgotten at the end. In retrospect they would have been great for the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” but I sort of randomly stuck them here and there at the front of the “Big Border”.  Perhaps not my best design choice as they are far ahead of the other annuals there but at least they are pretty.

Nemophila menziesii – baby blue eyes

In the future I’ll plant these earlier (beginning of February instead of the end of February) and I’ll plant them closer together.  I tried to be really good about spacing things appropriately but I think in the case of annuals smooshing them together a bit just looks way cooler.  I’m hoping these will keep growing a bit bigger even though they are all in full bloom already because some of them are really doinky. They are currently planted across the front of the “Big Border” and the “Chaos Garden”.

Heliophila longifolia

South Africa has the best annuals.  This has been a favorite since I first saw them in Mendocino and those were stunted plants that were in their nursery pots for way too long.  If you plant them at the appropriate time of year they became large plants covered in wands of these cheerful little tricolor flowers.  These are in the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” just because I reserve the right to plant whatever I want wherever I want even if it doesn’t fit into the prescribed theme.  They look really nice with Geum Maggelanicum and Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.

Anyway that is it for now.  Hopefully in a few months there will be so much blooming you won’t even recognize these beds.  Next installment should be the shrub border but who knows when I will get around to finishing it.

You know as I am tagging this post it occurs to me that “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” is a monumentally stupid name for a garden.  From this point on it will be known as the “Hummingbird Garden”.

Too Much? Building My Garden Part 4 – Path Garden

I went to Native Sons yesterday to pick up two flats of plants for my path garden.  I came home with four flats plus the one I already had from Farm Supply Company.

It may seem like overkill but I felt like it was worth it for A. immediate results and B. wanting to test as many different types of plants as possible and C. I always wanted a path garden like this and I want this garden to be totally insane!

There is a mix of different types of plants.  Some are bushy to plant along the path and to gracefully fall into it, some are low and flat and can be walked on, some are succulent, some are herbaceous, some will have beautiful blooms, and some have nice foliage.

Here are a few of them up close.

Thymus juniperifolius

Sedum dasyphyllum var. major

Echeveria ‘Violet Queen’

Saxifraga ‘Pixie’

Armeria maritima

Thymus X citriodorus ‘Lime’ (OMG I love this plant!)

And here is the path as a blank slate ready for planting.

The dimensions of the pathway are twenty seven feet long by five feet to six feet wide.

And now the planted path.

I’m pretty thrilled with how it came out.  Of course I could have done it with half the plants but I’m really eager to see how these grow.  Some may try to take over, some may fizzle out and do nothing or get overtaken by their neighbors, some may not be as attractive as I hoped and some may be even more amazing.

And another view this time from the house toward the street.

And finally a ground level view.  What do you think?  I love it so far.  I can’t wait for everything to fill in.  Over time I will do some editing and replace the plants I’m not crazy about with the ones I love.  Or perhaps I will want to trial some new ones.

I’m already thinking that at my next house I want a pathway like this that is at least twice as long!

Building My Garden – Flower Garden Teaser

Just a little teaser update as I have been too busy planting to do much posting this week.  The plants actually look more impressive while still in their pots.  I got the plants laid out early Tuesday morning but planting them is another story.  If I could just pop them in the ground it wouldn’t take that long.  After all most of the soil is nice fresh compost that is easy to dig in and most of the pots are  4″.  Making the protective gopher cages for the roots probably quadruples the amount of time it takes to plant a garden.  In the interest of my sanity most of the California native annuals did not get protective cages.  Hopefully I won’t regret this later.  But I had about 4 flats of baby blue eyes, tidy tips, cream cups, and meadow foam.  Cages for all of them would have just taken way too long and added expense for what are temporary plants.  Annuals on the other side of the driveway along the fence where I know gophers are very active will be protected however.

About three quarters of these plants (from Annie’s Annuals and Native Sons) are now planted but I am still doing some finishing touches and moving around a few things.  I may wait on posting a big update until after the mulch has gone down and it looks a bit nicer.  The weather has been so beautiful this week that I sometimes forget that it is still February and that most of these plants have months to grow before blooming time.  Some things about California I’m not sure if I will ever get used to.

Building My Garden Part 3 – Mediterranean Bed

I got tired of being sick and lounging about so yesterday I jumped into action and started planting one of my new gardens beds.  It is a large island bed that is home to a purple leaf plum.  I was going to get rid of the plum but it was one of the few plants that my landlady has an emotional attachment to. I considered moving it but she was too worried it wouldn’t survive so I had to modify my plans.  Not a huge set back in the scheme of things.  I’ve wanted a mediterranean garden (lowercase m for describing the garden style. upperclass M for describing the region of the world) for a while now.  It didn’t really matter where on the property it was.

OK I know it doesn’t look like much.  You have to remember that even though I live in California it is still February!

Just try and imagine what the plants will look like three months from now at the start of spring after months of cool weather and winter rains.

Come on!  I know you can do it!  Stop laughing.  Picture the plants all big and in bloom and imagine that I have put down some nice mulch.

Gardens always look a bit sad in photos when they are first installed and for a few moments I always despair a bit.  But I have a mind that imagines gardens and I just walk around the bed picturing what each plant will look like once it is full sized and bursting with flowers.

This isn’t just a garden for fun. Mediterranean style gardens are perfect for California so are a big share of the type of gardens I design.  It was important to me to be able to grow and experiment with some of the plants that I use in designs.  You can be an OK designer reading about a plants growing habits and dimensions and looking at pictures but I to be really good I think you need to grow the plants you work with.  Most of the plants in this bed are from Native Sons, a wholesaler that specializes in plants for our mediterranean climate here in California.  By growing their plants at home I can get a better idea of how these plants will look in future designs and play around with some nice combinations.

Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’ is a plant I have coveted since it first came on the scene about ten years ago.

Eryngium planum ‘Jade Frost’ has beautiful variegated foliage that will really set off the metallic blue flowers once they color up.

Dorycnium hirsutum is a small fuzzy leaved shrub with pale pinkish white pea flowers.  At the bottom of the plant you can see a bit of the chicken wire sticking out that I used to cage the root balls of my plants.  It was kind of a pain but worth the extra planting time protecting my plants from gophers rather than crying months from now when an established plant is devoured from under ground.  The only plants I won’t cage and am confident won’t be eaten are Euphorbias.  I also didn’t cage a rosemary, Salvia, and Nepeta as an experiment to see if the things that make them unpalatable to rabbits and deer will work against gophers.

Plecostachys serpyfolia forms beautiful silver mounds about a foot tall and four feet across.

Have you ever seen a plant in a book or magazine and coveted it for years before you could grow it? Maybe it isn’t something that will grow where you live.  Maybe it is something that is so rare in the trade it took you forever to track one down. I still remember the first time I saw Helianthemum ‘Fire Dragon’. It was back when I was in school almost ten years ago and I was on a bus from NYC headed to my dads house for the weekend. I was reading an article about a Colorado rock garden in a magazine that had just arrived and this plant caught my eye.  I memorized the name and lamented the fact that I lived on the east coast where Helianthemums don’t do particularly well.  Well when going over the list of plants available at Native Sons last week this name jumped out at me and I knew I had to have it for my garden!  Just imagine in a few months it will be covered in tons of little reddish-orange flowers.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this garden turns out.  Aside from the plants pictured above the garden will feature Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’, Salvia ‘Aromas’, Nepeta X faassenii, Eschscholzia ‘Moonglow’ and ‘Buttermilk’, Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’, Epilobium ‘Marin Pink’, Stipa gigantea ‘Pixie’, and Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’.  There are still a few spots left for Lavenders (I’m still trying to decide which species and cultivars I want to grow) and some other choice plants.

Remember I complained about birds attacking my mesembs and seedlings the other day?  This is what a Conophytum that has been attacked by a birds beak looks like.

And a Lithops.  I might have thought they had burst from too much water if it wasn’t for the fact that other small plants were completely torn out of their pots and my nearby seedlings were also nibbled on and torn up.

Now my precious little year old Mitrophyllum dissitum seedlings are protected with bird netting.  I’m so relieved the bird didn’t find these plants.

In fact all my seedlings are protected with bird netting now.  Hopefully by next year I’ll have a greenhouse.

Building My Garden Part 2

Yesterday was round two of garden building at my new place.

Gabe used the Dingo to level the new front path a bit.

But it really is the kind of precision work that needs to be done by hand.  Victor uses a level to make sure the grade is correct.  This way it will look level but will shed water away from the house.  Or something. I’m the plant guy.  Hardscaping kind of bores me.  I wish I could just wave a magic wand and all the hardscaping would be done.

All that hard work paid off though because the base came out nice and level.

In the meantime Gabe used to Dingo to move the soil from my driveway to berms in the yard.  Much quicker than doing it with a wheelbarrow and shovel!

Since I don’t have a hardscape creating magic wand I got involved in the labor as well.  Between my front door and the driveway is a tiny little eighteen inch wide path that I decided I wanted to widen a bit with twelve-inch square cement pavers. Since I am the sort that just loves to have plants spilling out onto the walkway this should give me more room to maneuver. I started by digging up the dead lawn that bordered the path.

Then I removed soil to a depth of four inches.  The pavers are two inches deep and the base of decomposed granite and sand will be two inches.

Once I had filed my new path with decomposed granite I used a tamper to tamp it down so it would be nice and even and ready for my pavers.  I carefully laid each paver down and made sure it was as level as possible.  I’m not going to lie. I hated every minute of this task and wished I could go back to standing around and looking pretty like I did last week.  Getting the level just right was a pain in the ass.  A few of the pavers just wouldn’t cooperate and I had to keep removing them and adding more granite and then they would be too high and I would have to remove them again and take some of it away.

But eventually I got it done!  I think I did a reasonably good job on my first properly made path.  It isn’t perfectly level.  But it is close enough for me.  Next step is to fill in the joints with gravel. I’ll take a picture when it is all done.

While Victor was off picking up the large pavers from Gabe’s storage yard Gabe took a lunch break and found the perfect seat for a gardener.

At the end of the day Gabe used the Dingo to dig out a Loquat in my vegetable garden.  My landlady’s husband grew it from seed but he planted it too close to the house so she wanted it removed.

Don’t worry.  Gabe will find a good home for it!

Another small path leads from the front walk to my back gate.  These pavers will also be embedded in gravel.

And the big path is done as well.  Actually we need one more paver for the front.  We have some more at the storage yard so Gabe will bring it over this week.  I didn’t get any more pictures of the work being done sadly as I was too involved in my project but it came out pretty nice, huh?  We spaced the pavers pretty far so I can plant between them.  Imagine all sorts of plants filling in the spaces between the stones. I always wanted a path like this!

And the work is more or less finished.  I spent the morning raking out the berms.  I could use a few more cubic yards of soil for the far end of the yard but this part right in front of the house is ready for planting.  Hopefully I have enough money left over for plants, mulch, and irrigation!

Building My Garden Part 1

So I finally am living in a house with a yard again and of course want to get planting right away. But it was important that I start with a strong foundation before anything goes in the ground.  Remove the old shrubs, prepare the soil properly, and do some light hardscaping first.  It may seem crazy to do all this work on a rental but I hope to be here for a while and I am able get discounted prices on most of the materials.  It is also important to me that I am able to grow the plants that I am designing with and see how they work in this climate so in the scheme of things it seems well worth it.  Plus I NEED a garden again.  I’ve been too long without one.

You may remember from last month some of the “before” shots I took of my new Los Osos home.  There is also a large side yard to the left of the shot out of frame but for now I am focusing on the front of the house which I will be able to see from the kitchen and living room windows.

It is a nice sized yard.  Seventy feet wide by forty feet deep.  I got to work immediately killing the lawn. I did use Roundup which I know won’t be popular with some people but the lawn was Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass) which is pretty nasty stuff and hard to get rid of.  Once the garden gets going I am pretty low tech when it comes to the use of chemicals so I feel like this one time use to replace a lawn with less water thirsty plants is justified.

Once the lawn was mostly dead I set about tilling it to break it up a bit. I’m not the strongest person. In fact I am as weak as a baby bird so just getting to this point and I already felt like someone had picked me up and shook me.  But I was determined to get it done.

I just finished before night fell but I was a mess afterward.  If I see that tiller again I will back away while making the sign of the cross and hissing.

I was still pretty shaken up the next day but luckily I had helpers.  My friend Gabe of Gardens by Gabriel came to offer me his expertise and I hired his employee Victor for the day as well.  The first task was to prepare the pop up lawn sprinklers for conversion to drip irrigation.  The lawn has four zones and thirty(!) sprinklers.  We chose one from each zone to act as the converter and the rest were capped.  I saved us time before hand by mapping out the entire yard and figuring out which sprinklers belonged to which zone.  I also have a fair idea of how I want to divide up the different garden areas which helped us in choosing which ones to cap and which ones to save to create the most efficient irrigation zones.

A lot of the heavy lifting was made easier with the Dingo tractor!  I cut back this Euryops growing through an Abelia but it still had a huge root mass and was very heavy.  The Dingo popped it out in a few seconds.  Gabe owns the Dingo but if you are doing a lot of heavy garden work you may want to look into renting equipment like this.  The amount of time saved may be worth the money spent.  Some old shrubs (like this one) were removed and disposed of but a few others were replanted in other parts of my yard or my landladies yard.

The Dingo has several different fittings for different jobs.  Aside from the fork used to dig out the plants it has this bucket for digging and lifting.  The path from my front door abruptly and weirdly ends about half way to the street so I am continuing the path with large (very heavy) 2 x 2 cement pavers.  If we didn’t have the Dingo we would have had to dig out the path by hand.  The clumps of dead grass and soil that were removed will be used as a base to create berms to add interest to the flower beds.

There are some drainage pipes at the edge of the driveway that lead away from the house but as you can see they are clogged and I had a bit of flooding in last weeks storms.  I wouldn’t want this to get any worse as our winter rain can be very heavy at times (not this year so far but last year was crazy).

So the drainage pipes were dug up and the mud and sediment flushed out of them.  We’ll fill in this area with gravel to provide some more drainage so the water doesn’t pool on the surface.

The pipes were old and cracked and full of debris so after they were flushed leaks were found and repaired.

Here is a clearer shot of the new path dug out with the drainage and irrigation pipes running across it.  This is the sort of job I could have never done without the expertise of Gabe and Victor.  Remember I’m just the plant guy.  I have a lot to learn when it comes to this sort of stuff.  It isn’t as much fun but it is important to get it right for a successful trouble-free garden.

A base of landscape cloth is laid out to keep the sandy soil from rising up and shifting the pavers.

All laid out and pinned down and ready for some top dressing.

The pavers will rest on a base of decomposed granite and sand.

The Dingo comes in handy again for quickly spreading the decomposed granite and Gabe rakes it out.  Aside from taking pictures I also wandered around in a daze looking pretty.

A smaller path from my front door to the back yard gets the same treatment.  That bed used to be filled with Hydrangeas and Aucuba.  Gross!  The Hydrangeas were moved to the backyard.  The Aucuba went to the compost. I do not fancy them.

A layer of DG put down. Those are the control valves for zones 3 and 4.  One will be for moisture loving shade plants.  The other for dry, sunny, natives and annuals.

OK I didn’t just wander around taking pictures and looking pretty. I moved some climbing roses from my backyards chain link fence to this white wooden fence.  I think they are going to look so pretty rambling along it.  Anyone who is gardening with rocky clay soil is going to hate me.  My soil is so sandy and easy to work with I was able to pop the roses right out and dig a huge hole for this one in less than a minute.  It will need plenty of compost to amend it but it is such a dream to work with.  My first garden I pretty much had to dig out a fifty pound boulder every time I wanted to plant a 4″ annual so this is a welcome change.

We spent ten hours working in the garden.  The irrigation and fixing the drainage was so time consuming we didn’t finish.  This is what it looked like the next day.  The paths are ready for their pavers, the irrigation is converted, the drainage will hopefully keep my driveway flood free, and a lot of old shrubs were removed.  Clumps of grass and old soil were piled up to create berms and some compost has been piled up on top of them.  This Saturday we’ll lay out the pavers and add some other finishing touches like spreading out the rest of the compost into berms and rake it out nicely in preparation for the plants.  It doesn’t look like much now so you will have to use your imagination.

And speaking of plants I thought it was important I had some on hand so I would be ready to plant as soon as we are done with the prep work.  So I took a trip down to wholesaler Native Sons in Arroyo Grande.  Even though they are not open for retail customers their website is worth checking out if you are a gardener in California.  Many nurseries from north, central, and southern California carry their plants.  If you see something you are lusting after maybe your local nursery can place an order for you.  They have a great selection of native and other mediterranean climate plants for California gardens.

I came home with three and a half flats of plants! The big Cantua buxifolia on the right is from Farm Supply Company in San Luis Obispo. Another great local resource for me to shop in.

So the rest of the work should be finished on Saturday and then I’ll get planting right away. So look for updates on the rest of the garden building next week and hopefully pictures of a beautiful blooming garden aren’t too far in the future.