Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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2009 Gardening Retrospective

2009 was the first year in which I gardened throughout all four seasons. Last year I wrote a 2008 Gardening Retrospective which documented rather more failures than successes, but 2009 was a more successful gardening year.

Let's start with the before and after photos! Here is my garden at the end of December 2008:

And here is the same view of my garden today:

It's still far from being the garden of my dreams, but I do think it's a definite improvement. At least this time you can sort of guess from the sight of the yard that someone might be making some degree of effort here. And this is December, after all, so I can't reasonably expect it to look like May. I see three categories of improvement:
  1. The yard is no longer almost entirely underwater - it had rained about equally recently in both these photos, but the drainage ditch I dug in early 2009 greatly improved the dispersal of water and stopped most of my plants from drowning. I don't think I'm going to lose any plants to drowning this winter except the white sage, which isn't native here and therefore can't reasonably be provided for.

  2. I'm having far more success controlling the annual bluegrass this winter. This is because last year I didn't live here yet and only visited on weekends, whereas this year I do live here and also happen to be unemployed, which gives me plenty of time for weeding.

  3. There are taller plants growing. More of them, really, than you can see from the picture; December makes a lot of deciduous plants invisible.
And I see four categories that need further work:
  1. There's way too much bare dirt. This is hard to fix, because the dogs trample all low-growing non-weed plants to death except when the low-growing plants are within about six inches of a taller object, such as a shrub or a large rock or the house. So before I can turn any area of ground green, I have to first protect it with rocks or shrubs or something to deter the dogs from running through it at top speed. (Also, I haven't necessarily found a good low-growing perennial plant that's especially happy here to cover large areas of ground with. My springbank clover and clustered field sedge both seem like they could be good options, but neither can stand up to onslaughts of bermuda grass, so I have to make sure the bermuda grass is fully controlled before I can hope to get the clover or sedge well established.)

  2. Closely related to the above, I need to define clearer walking paths - paths to direct the dogs onto as well as to use ourselves. I have the beginning of a path on the left side of the drainage ditch, and a rudimentary dog-trampled path around the entire perimeter of the yard. But path next to the drainage ditch sort of dead-ends in the middle of the yard - as does the drainage ditch itself - and it probably shouldn't.

  3. Where does my mulch keep disappearing to? I've dumped a ton of woodchip mulch on this yard, and it all just vanishes within a few months. I'm sure the dirt is better drained as a result of having eaten up all that woodchip mulch, but I'd really like to have some mulch actually remain on top of the ground.

  4. I don't think I really much like the look of deergrasses. I want to like them, because they've generally been pretty easy to grow, and they look wonderful when I see them in other people's photographs, and occasionally even in a few of my own photographs, when they're green. But I don't really like their flower stalks, and I especially don't like the fact that right now, they've all turned mostly brown.

Great Plants

The following plants have naturalized. They have bloomed, produced seeds, and sprouted from seeds scattered directly on the ground:

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)
Linum lewisii (blue flax)
Sisyrinchium bellum (blue-eyed grass)

The following plants have bloomed (plants purchased when already in bloom don't count) and survived after blooming, presumably producing seeds, but have not yet sprouted from the scattered seeds:

Chlorogalum pomeridianum (soap lily)
Datura wrightii (sacred datura)
Heuchera maxima (coral bells)
Malacothamnus fremontii (Fremont's bush mallow)
Mimulus puniceus (red bush monkeyflower - one died after blooming, but one survived)
Muhlenbergia rigens (deergrass)
Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (foothill beardtongue)
Ribes aureum var. gracillimum (golden currant - I never actually saw any currants on this, but it did produce plenty of flowers and has remained healthy)
Symphyotrichum chilense (California aster)

The following plants have not yet bloomed, but they have sprouted from seeds scattered directly on the ground:

Lomatium dasycarpum (lace parsnip)
Clarkia unguiculata (elegant clarkia)
Collinsia heterophylla (Chinese houses)
Erysimum capitatum (Western wallflower)
Lupinus nanus (sky lupine)

The following plants haven't bloomed, but have grown noticeably:

Carex praegracilis (clustered field sedge)
Cercis occidentalis (Western redbud - five feet in a year and a half)
Delphinium cardinale (red larkspur - grown from seed in a pot and transplanted to the ground)
Ribes sanguineum (pink currant)
Sambucus mexicana (blue elderberry - more than six feet in less than six months!)
Vitis californica (California grape - this hasn't grown nearly as much as I had hoped, though, after a year and a half in the ground)

Overly Exuberant Plants

Asclepias fascicularis (narrowleaf milkweed) and Carex barbarae (Santa Barbara sedge) have been spreading madly, to the point that I've actually started becoming afraid they will get out of hand. I'm planning to transplant the Santa Barbara sedge to a terribly difficult location under the patio roof, where nothing else seems to survive. If it can take hold there, I'll be very glad to finally have something green there.

Dead or Sickly Plants

The following plants died after having been well-established and blooming; they probably died of drought:

Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandria' (wood strawberry)
Lupinus albifrons (silver bush lupine; two bloomed but both died afterward)
Mimulus puniceus (red bush monkeyflower; two bloomed and one survived but one died)
Nepeta X faassenii 'Walker's Low' (ornamental catmint)
Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage)
Thymus herba barona 'Caraway' (woolly thyme)

The following plants died soon after planting or transplanting; they probably died of some combination of transplant stress and drought:

Cercocarpus betuloides (mountain mahogany)
Lavandula X intermedia 'Provence' (lavandin)
Origanum laevigatum 'Hopley's' (showy oregano)
Rosmarinus officinalis 'Spice Island' (Spice Island rosemary)
Thymus citriodorus (variegated lemon thyme)
Thymus serpyllum 'Minus' (Minus thyme)
Vitis 'Rogers Red' (California grape)

The following plants probably died of flooding:

Atriplex lentiformis (quail bush)
Frangula californica var. tomentella (California coffeeberry)
Salvia apiana (white sage)

Additionally, Ribes viburnifolium (evergreen currant) died of being dug up by Boston, Calochortus superbus (superb mariposa lily) went to seed but then got buried under a clump of grass and probably smothered to death, and Epilobium canum (narrowleaf California fuchsia) died repeatedly (several different plants) of unknown causes, in all different seasons.

The following plants look less healthy than when I first planted them:

Artemisia douglasiana (mugwort)
Festuca idahoensis X ovina-glauca 'Siskiyou Blue' (blue fescue)
Koeleria macrantha (Junegrass)
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
Woodwardia fimbriata (giant chain fern)

No Comment Yet Plants

The following plants haven't done much of anything yet, aside from the deciduous ones losing their leaves and the blooming-when-purchased ones losing their flowers:

Amelanchier utahensis (Utah serviceberry)
Eriogonum fasciculatum (Mohave buckwheat)
Eriogonum umbellatum (sulfur buckwheat)
Grindelia hirsutula (hairy gumplant)
Juncus balticus (Baltic rush)
Keckiella breviflora (gaping beardtongue)
Lonicera hispidula var. vacillans (pink honeysuckle)
Lupinus latifolius var. parishii (broadleaf lupine)
Melica californica (California oniongrass)
Philadelphus lewisii (mock orange)
Prunus virginiana var. demissa (Western chokecherry)
Salvia sonomensis (creeping sage)
Styrax redivivus (snowbell)
Symphoricarpos mollis (spreading snowberry)
Trifolium wormskioldii (springbank clover)
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