So I dug up the grass - but it wasn't long before I struck a huge rock. Huge rocks are not common in the Sacramento Valley; the entire valley used to be an inland sea, so the soil consists largely of fine clay and silt from the bottom of that sea. This particular rock was also unusually colorful, so I'm sure someone must have purchased it as part of their landscape decor. Then at some later point, someone inexplicably buried it. Anyway, Susan helped me dig the rock out of the ground, and we restored it to an honored position in the new flower bed. I dug up a smaller piece of matching rock on my own, which I used for the border around the bed.
The two original flowers are the two directly next to the porch. The other two, one on each side of the huge rock, are ones I planted this weekend. The one to the left of the rock is alum root (Heuchera maxima), native to the Channel Islands off the coast of Los Angeles. The one to the right of the rock is red monkeyflower (Mimulus puniceus), which is native here but which I've already killed once before (with some help from Susan's dog Boston, who dug it up and snapped it into pieces). This one should get more shade than the one that died, and the dogs can't get to it in the front yard, so let's hope it survives. Oh, and we still need a few more rocks to finish the right side of the border.
Here's a closeup of the monkeyflower in its new bed of cedar mulch.
While planting the alum root, I stumbled upon a second huge rock buried under the same flower bed. This one was granite, less colorful than the others. Susan helped me dig it up, and I moved it to the back yard, where it's now helping keep weeds away from the beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus) that I just planted. The beardtongue is native right here where it's growing.
Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is another plant I've already killed once. I planted the last one in the middle of a 105-degree heatwave, which you'd think a plant from the Mojave desert would be able to handle, but it died within a few days of being planted. This one is smaller than the other and may therefore be more adaptable; also, it has pebble mulch instead of cedar mulch, and I planted this one during a rainstorm instead of during a heatwave. It seems healthy so far.
This is an endangered species, Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus). It's native in this area, but needs lots of water, so it's typically found at the waterline of lakes or streams. However, of the existing plants in the yard, the ones that like to grow near lakes and streams seemed to be doing best - especially in the area near the neighbor's yard, because the neighbors watered their lawn so much in the summer that they flooded Susan's yard as well. So I'm hoping the spot I chose for it will be wet enough to keep it happy. I can always water it occasionally if I need to, and if it does get drought-stressed next summer, it should be able to resprout from the root the following winter when the rain returns.
Here is the last of my new plants. It's a strawberry (Fragaria vesca), native to the foothills near here but not to the valley. It has tiny unripe strawberries and white flowers.