Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin
queerbychoice

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2008 Gardening Retrospective

The back yard is finally drying out! Last Thursday I started digging a trench to try to drain the water to the street. I've lengthened the trench periodically throughout my six-day weekend, but I still haven't gotten the trench out to the front yard. It's about midway through the side yard. So I don't know whether the trench actually made much difference in drying out the yard - but it's been raining a little off and on throughout the week, so I hadn't expected the yard to get much drier without adding drainage. The trench did relocate a fair amount of the water, so maybe the area I relocated the water to was more capable of soaking it up. Anyway, whatever the reason, parts of the trench still have water right now, but most of the rest of the yard is now mud rather than standing water.

And now I want to write a year-end gardening retrospective. 2008 was my first year of attempting to grow plants outdoors. I grew a variety of California native plants, mostly ones specifically native to my local area in the eastern Sacramento Valley, and began learning which ones work best for me. My plants did not produce a single flower, however, except for the ones they already had when I brought them home from the nursery. So 2009 is going to be the year in which they produce flowers for me.

Here's what I learned about the species I have the most experience with so far.

Quail bush (Atriplex lentiformis) is doing fine in a dry-ish area of the yard, and looks reasonably attractive at the moment, despite its reputation for hideousness.

Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) has survived two weeks underwater and looks none the worse for the experience.

Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) has grown three feet high and is thriving. It didn't start losing its leaves until December, and still has two leaves left right now.

Red larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) is doing well in one-gallon pots.

Dwarf red larkspur (Delphinium nudicaule) didn't sprout well in pots. The one seedling that did sprout stayed tiny for months and eventually died without growing much at all. I don't plan to try this one anymore.

California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) seems to need to be planted in a wetter spot than I at first gave it. My first one seems to have died. My second one is alive, but some of its branches have died back. My next one will be planted in an even wetter spot.

Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) doesn't seem to be happy here, no matter what I do. My first one died of transplant stress in the summer heat; my second one is still alive but looks less and less healthy every time I see it; I haven't had any luck with potted seedlings either.

California golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is extremely easy to grow. Just throw some seeds on the ground in October and prevent weeds from shading out the poppy seedlings. Shorter weeds don't seem to do much harm to poppies.

Wood strawberry (Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandria') has survived two weeks underwater. The fruit has rotted away, but the plant itself still looks healthy.

Coral bells (Heuchera maxima) is doing wonderfully in the shady spot under the front porch, where it gets hardly any water because the water is blocked by the porch roof. I've never watered it once since the day that I planted it, but it's looking as pretty as ever.

Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus) is probably not worth trying anymore. All throughout the winter rains, it continued wanting extra watering, and even the huge flood in the back yard hasn't brought new life to it. It's down to just one leaf.

Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) survived longer than I had expected, but didn't grow at all in nine months, and then died of drought when I tried moving it to a drier part of the yard. It's not worth trying again.

Blue flax (Linum lewisii) died of transplant stress in the summer, but a few seedlings did sprout from the seed I scattered on the ground. Those seedlings are doing fine.

Silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons var. collinus) sprouted from seed scattered on the ground, and also (with a higher germination rate) from seed grown in one-gallon pots. The one that sprouted in the ground drowned when a rainstorm put it underwater for a couple of days. It needs to be planted on high ground where water won't collect.

California melic (Melica californica) is growing well in one-gallon pots.

Red monkeyflower (Mimulus puniceus) needs shade. My first one died from excessive sun, but my second one is thriving under the shade of the front porch roof.

Coyote mint (Monardella villosa) died shortly after I transplanted it last summer. I plan to try again with this one.

Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) has surpassed my expectations and done very well with no watering.

Foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs') is doing fine so far. I hope to see it flower next spring.

Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica) has surpassed my expectations by remaining alive and healthy-looking after its crown was underwater for the last two weeks. This plant seems to be pretty nearly unkillable.

Golden currant (Ribes aureum var. gracillimum) has leaves that have been turning purplish lately - whether from the cold or from the flooding, I'm not quite sure. But it seems healthy enough, which is all I can ask of a plant that's just spent two weeks with its crown underwater.

Blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) is looking a bit ratty after its two weeks underwater - though the rattiness may be more from the cold than from the wet. Anyway, I think it will recover just fine.

California grape (Vitis californica) surprised me by not growing much at all (though it only had four months in which to do so). But it did turn a very pretty red before losing its leaves for the winter.
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