Progress Report

I've been a rather neglectful blogger lately. Life and thinking about future plans has been sapping my energy, and what's left has gone into working in the garden on my days off. I've been in an odd mood. Lots of things are happening in the garden, especially with this warm weather, but when I consider taking photographs and writing blog posts about it, it's too much and not enough all at once. Leaves and flowers are popping out everywhere, but how many pictures of tiny seedlings or emerging leaves do I really need to post? Well, most of that is my bad mood and lack of energy talking. Really, there's a lot happening I could share, I just can't seem to get very excited about it.

But this blog is supposed to be about gardening, so here's an update on my planting progress. This weekend I wasn't actually planning on doing much in the garden, but with my parents' help, we installed this bed:

The new bed encompasses a previously-planted Sciadopitys verticillata, and includeds Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca, two Embothrium coccineum, Rhododendron faithiae, Rhododendron 'Emma and May', Rhododendron 'Fireball', Cornus alternifolia 'Wstackman', Fargesia scabrida, and Fargesia rufa. Everything looks very open and bare now. Hopefully things will grow fast. Once the underlying cardboard breaks down, I'll be adding in groundcovers, too, or maybe I'll start adding them now.

Here's a wide shot to give you an idea of where it's located. Showing as a black blob at right center in the photo below, it's just west of the raised bed I refer to as the Acer griseum bed (after the feature tree in that bed). Beyond that is the (future) open oak woodland I've been working on during the last couple months. This bed is located at the top of the area where the lawn stays relatively green in summer, and it's close to one of the new faucets. Add in open afternoon shade, and this makes a good location for rhododendrons and a few other plants that like these conditions.

I relocated my Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca' from a very dry location that is being planted with west coast natives. Even though one of the faucets we added last year went in only a few feet from its former location, I'd rather move it to somewhere it won't need much watering. Just because you have a faucet nearby, doesn't mean you need to have thirsty plants there. It just means it's easier to have them there than somewhere further away. Better to place plants where they don't need as much water in the first place. I also moved one of my three Embothrium coccineums from the same area to this new bed. Its former location is now home to a Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. asplenifolius.

Another plant in this bed is Cornus alternifolia 'Wstackman' (aka Golden Shadows tm). The yellow-variegated foliage has a slight orange blush as it emerges. It's surprised me by already having flower buds.

Rhododendron faithiae was also relocated to this bed from a location which required too much supplemental summer water. This location should be much better. Note the leaves at the top that grew last year, how much smaller they are than the leaves from the previous year. Too dry!

Rhododendron 'Emma and May' has fragrant flowers and red new growth, like Rhododendron faithiae. Lots of flower buds just starting to open.

This is the area I moved Rhododendron faithiae from. It's only a few yards from the new bed, but the Douglas fir roots and aspects of the underlying soil make it much drier in summer. I also moved one of my three Embothrium coccineum from the spot on the left to the new bed. It should love the new location, which stays relatively cool and moist in summer. Now I have two ready-made planting holes for something else that can take drier conditions. Madrone? Garrya?

I planted three Aesculus pavia, one in this bed and two more trailing along outside of the Acer griseum bed. This small tree native to the eastern and southern United States grows only about 15 feet tall, has pinkish red tubular flowers that hummingbirds rave over, and can be a bit unsightly towards the end of summer in our summer-dry climate when they start dropping leaves early. That's why I planted them in spots where they won't be immediately visible from the house, though they'll be easy enough to see walking out in the garden. Mostly, they're for the hummingbirds.

Like a trailing galactic arm, a string of plants curves off the end of the new bed, south of the Acer griseum bed, on the edge of the area that stays green(ish) in summer. Eventually their roots will reach the cool, moist soil underneath the Acer griseum bed. The Fargesia rufa in the lower right marks one corner of the bed. Behind that is a Fargesia nitida. Moving to the left is Aesculus pavia, Clerodendron trichotomum, and another Aesculus pavia.

Last weekend, I was working on this:

For comparison, this is what it looked like before last weekend. Can you spot all the new beds?

Here's a closer look. Two beds were expanded and one whole new bed created.

And panning to the left of the previous picture, several plants were placed separately, with a large crescent-shaped bed wrapping around the mass of salal behind the ginkgo. Since I've brought it up, that ginkgo has been unanimously slated for removal. It's hardly grown in 10 years. The location is just too dry. It's going to be replaced by something more drought-tolerant.

This Ceanothus gloriosus var. porrectus 'Mt Vision', from Cistus Nursery, was planted along the dry creek bed. A lot of flowers have opened since this photo was taken. I'm not sure what the denim-blue flowers smell like, but I love it. I just have to get down on my hands and knees to smell it.

Cupressus macrocarpa 'Wilma Goldcrest', from Little Prince, went in. Yes, it's small, very small. But plants grow.

I planted three Cercis occidentalis, also from Cistus Nursery. (Ok, most of my plants come from there. I do work there, after all.)

If you look carefully at the base of this Douglas fir, you'll see a white label marking a Vitis 'Roger's Red'. This hybrid ornamental grape is a cross between Vitis californica and Vitis vinifera. I planted it at the base of this Douglas fir in the hopes that it will climb up (it can reach heights of 40') and add some red fall color to this area. The opening visible here faces south, with a few bleached dead branches for vines to climb out on, So it's plenty bright for good fall color. The branch leaning up against the trunk is to help the young vine climb the large trunk and reach the first branches. I also cut back a few limbs to the left to make room for some of the new plants, but purposefully didn't remove them entirely so that the grape vines could grow out along them and hang above the Wilma Goldcrest cypress, western redbuds, and other plants I add in later.

The roughly crescent-shaped bed on the north side of the salal mass is just across from the tree where the grape is planted.

This Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. asplenifolius was planted in the former location of an Embothrium coccinium. The embothrium was surviving here, with copious summer water, but wasn't thriving, so it was relocated to the newest bed at the top of this post. The Catalina ironwood should enjoy the dryness. I'm hoping that it will also appreciate the slightly cooler root zone here north of the salal. Seems like a plant from a Californian island would appreciate cooler roots, with its head in full sun. Maybe I'm wrong. We'll see. As long as we have a few more mild winters in a row for it to get established, it should be fine.

This bed grew in size by over a third, just to add one plant.

But it's a very special plant. My first grevillea! Grevillea victoriae 'Marshall Olbrich'. I've also got Grevillea victoriae 'UBC' and 'Murray Valley Queen', and Grevillea 'Poorinda Leane', waiting to be planted.

I added several varieties of Choisya ('Aztec Pearl' pictured here) just inside the beginning of the oak woodland area. These airy, open shrubs are a key component to my vision for this area, thanks to the combination of Quercus arizonica and various Choisya in front of the retail area at Cistus. The bees and other pollinators approve.

I don't have my Quercus arizonica yet, but the old Crocosmia stalk sticking out of the middle of this bed is where one of them will go. There are a few two-gallon plants for sale in the retail area at work, but I'm trying to wait for the special seedlings popping up in the back to be ready.

All of these beds were also sown with a mix of wildflowers and bunch grasses, mostly native to the PNW but also stretching down the west coast with plants like Phacelia campanulata added in the mix. I sowed them last weekend, not expecting the weather to dry out as much as it has. I'm glad it rained today, because it meant I could take a break from watering (Watering! In April!) to keep the seeds from drying out. My watering and the warm weather have paid off, though. I've already spotted the first seedlings germinating in these new beds. With more warmth on the way, by next week there might even be enough germinating to make it worth a picture!

Speaking of the weather, I know some of you must be excited for the high 70's and the one day in the 80's forecast for this week. But I'd be just as happy to put those kinds of temperatures off for a few more weeks. These sudden temperature spikes are hard on plants, and me. Oh well. That's climate change.

I have to admit, I've been feeling pretty lazy and inadequate lately, but looking back at all the new plantings I've done so far makes me feel a bit more accomplished.


  1. Well, I'm impressed, Evan, even if you aren't! One day, those grounds are going to look like a wonderful botanic garden. I share your feelings about the warming trend - we're expecting temperatures in the upper 80s by mid-week and we're still woefully short in the rain department.

    1. Thanks, Kris! I'm happy with the garden progress, though I am impatient to see things grow up. It's other things in life that have me discontented. Sorry you're expecting a heatwave, too. Ours is supposed to only last a couple days, but we're set to break a record for the earliest day over 80 degrees. I think we're more than caught up on rain, though.

  2. I have to get another Grevillea 'Marshall Olbricht'! I had one in the gravel garden, but I moved it last year because the Ceanothus next to it was crowding it, and it died after the move. But until then it was doing really well, it grew fast and flowered a lot! The warm dry weather has been great for me for catching up on my cleanup, but I do wish maybe it could have rained, just at night when I was sleeping. Is that too much to ask for?

    1. Yes, a bit of rain at night would have been most welcome for all the seeds I scattered a week ago. I had to hand water all those new beds to keep the soil moist Dad's on seed watering duty this week while I'm away.

  3. My Grevillea victoriae grew to an enormous size in the dry parking strip but, perhaps with the help of a falling drunkard, snapped off at the base. It's okay as it had become a bit too large for the space but I'll be looking for another to plant elsewhere as the winter blooms are so cool. What is it about this spring and feeling unmotivated? You've done a LOT of work and should be proud of your productivity! Watching your garden at this stage is so exciting and in a few years when those little buggers get big, it'll be amazing! How cool to think of walking in the shade of trees you're planting. My garden is looking horribly neglected and there are plastic pots of plants everywhere waiting to be planted. Too much time blogging about gardening to actually do much of it. Yikes!

    1. The garden is coming along nicely. Let's just say there are other things in life I would like to be happening that aren't, and it's coloring both my perceptions of myself and my garden. I finally finished cutting back grasses and trimming heathers this weekend. I even pulled a few weeds. Other than that, though, I've been focused on adding new plants rather than maintaining the old ones.

  4. Our one Ginko is frustrating, when I think about it. I guess they are notoriously slow growers. By the time it reaches any appreciable size, I will have practically smothered it with other plants. I admire your restraint. You'd think with all this space I could space things out better but the mowers already complain about too many beds to mow around. Don't you feel better, now that you can look back on all you've accomplished? I'm glad to hear that your parents are participating (the only way for them to own it when you move on).

    1. Ginkgo are slow-growing, but ours is having more trouble than just natural slow growth. It always looks stressed and dry in summer, except for a day or two after watering it. And I always give it a deep soak. It's just too dry there and the soil is too hard. Yeah, I'm trying to space things out properly, but I admit to crowding things a bit to save work on making larger or more beds. It is good to look back and see how much I've accomplished so far in the garden. I feel better about that, at least. Yes, when my parents participate it makes me feel so much better, like my efforts are appreciated and not wasted.


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