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.

 

 

 

DOOM DOOM DOOM!

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.

Winter Walk-Off: Fifty Shots around Los Osos

Les over at A Tidewater Gardener is hosting his annual “Winter Walk-Off Challenge”. Since I have been so busy working on installing my gardens I haven’t had much time to explore town the past month so I thought participating would be a good excuse to get out and go for a walk.  I’ve done blog posts about walks to the north, south, and west so I thought for this one I would head east towards the more rural part of town.

I ended up taking tons of pictures and chose fifty to share which is a bit much so feel free to just scroll through and click on any that catch your eye for a bigger view.

Ceanothus is still in bloom.

There is this cute little honor system honey stand of honey on a busy street in the middle of town.  Apparently it is all local honey.

Echium candicans starts blooming in winter and will continue into spring.

Nice little water wise garden in front of this house with natives, mediterraneans, and succulents.

Cotyledon orbiculata is in bloom.

Cistus X purpureus

Acacia have been in bloom for the past month. This species is quite common though I am not sure what it is.  Maybe Acacia longifolia.  If anyone knows feel free to correct me.

Close up of the Acacia.

The further east you go the larger the lots get.  I’m not sure what is going on in this front yard but I am totally imaging gardens here.  I would kill for a yard this big.

Leucadendrons are still looking magnificent.  Like this yellow one…

and this orange one.

Quail Decor

It looks like they are getting read to do some work in this gated yard on the east side of town.  I love their view of Hollister Peak in the background.

Not all ice plant are evil invasives.  This one is quite lovely.

I wanted to get a closer look at this garden room and what appears to be a small field of lavender but there were two loud and aggressive dogs guarding that were not happy to see me.

This large front yard has a coastal dunes planting theme going on.

And heading back towards the west end of town this yard had a Japanese inspired collection of bonsai and an ornamental lathe house for Cymbidums to shade them from the sun.

Another species of Acacia.

LOVE this.  What a welcome entrance with a Cantua scrambling up an arbor.

Cantua buxifolia

California poppies have been in bloom since our last (brief) rain storm.

LOVE everything about this.  It is a canary aviary, with a green roof, featuring daffodils, decorated with a metal sculpture.

Their yard is also protected by some alien artwork.

They should seriously win an award for awesomeness!

More Leucadendrons.  They are almost as common here as Rhododendrons and Azaleas are back east.

This Leucadendron ‘Jester’ goes nicely with the red garage in the background.

Love these houses!  The one on the right is for sale.

Linaria which goes by the common names of toadflax or baby snap dragons is a common escaped weed in California.  I loved the color combination of this one.

This house had native plantings including this Salvia spathacea or hummingbird sage.

Close up of their flowery coolness.

Pretty sure this little chuckle patch is Leucanthemum hosmariense.  I love any type of daisy flower.  I probably should add some to my garden.

I made my way back to my neighborhood and the bay.  I believe this is a female northern shoveler.  Look at how crazy her beak is!

Dutch Iris by the bay.  The north-western part of town is called Baywood or Baywood Park.  This is one of the few areas that actually has some shops and restaurants and bed and breakfasts (and the laundromat where I do my laundry).  We are a “bedroom community” for San Luis Obispo so most of the rest of town is just houses without a real downtown.

A very fragrant Psoralea pinnata. Some people say it smells like Kool-Aid.  It is definitely fragrant but I’m not sure if I even know what Kool-Aid smells like so I don’t know if that description is accurate (I was more of a Hawaiian Punch kid growing up).

Close up of the little pea flowers.

Geranium madarense are in full bloom now.  These monocarpic plants die quite spectacularly after they finish blooming and reseed quite a bit.  There were tons of seedlings around this plant.

Close up of the exquisite detailing of the flowers.

Looking back south over this little arm of the bay.  My neighborhood is beyond the break in the trees toward the left.

Calla lilies are lovely but are also a pernicious, nearly impossible to remove, weed.  I’m glad I don’t have any in my yard.

Before I headed home I decided to stop at the Audobon Societies Sweet Springs Nature Preserve which is just a few blocks from my house.  This is the spring running into the bay with Morro Rock in the background.

This is the doomed Eucalyptus grove that makes up the preserve.  There are over one hundred trees here and they are planning on chopping them down so they can add more natives.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand they are established trees hosting communities of wildlife (hummingbirds and monarch butterflies to name a few) and provide some windscreen. I can see this grove from my house where it is already very windy. I imagine it will be worse without them.  On the other hand it will open up the view of the bay (which again I will be able to see from my house) and the addition of more native plants might be quite lovely over time.  Of course there is a bitter debate raging and there are people trying to stop the destruction of the trees.

View of Morro Rock from the preserve.

Lots of different birds make this area of the bay their home or use it as a resting place during their migration.  I believe these are cinnamon teals.

And I believe this is a group of green-winged teals.

This is a view from the north of the field near my house.  See those three palm trees over on the left? I live right across the street from them. I think it is because of this field that we have bluebirds. I have seen him several more times since the first time (and I never have my camera handy!).

Mimulus aurantiacus in an empty lot.

Chickens at my neighbors house!  Lots of my neighbors have chickens. I can hear them clucking sometimes as they lay their eggs in the mornings.  No one in my part of town seems to have roosters but I did hear some crowing on the east side of town this morning.

More ice plants in bloom.

There are lots of empty lots in town because there is a building moratorium due to a lengthy (over 30 year) battle over the switch over from septic to sewers. This lot has a nice little vegetable garden at the far end.

Finally home sweet home.  I took this shot to show the view of Montana de Oro in the background. I can’t actually see it from inside my house by it is nice to know it is there.

Hope you enjoyed this (rather long) walking tour of Los Osos.  And be sure to check out A Tidewater Gardener on the 19th of March to see the rest of the tours that people have taken around their neighborhoods.

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.