Saturday, February 23, 2008

Buh-bye, winter!

Recipe for House Beautiful: Place stalks of bush honeysuckle in a vase. Deploy on a table. Beauty and fragrance imbued throughout house for week+.

I was happy to discover that my potted parsley has survived the winter. Most of today I spent in stoop labor thinning and transplanting cosmos seedlings. And heaving 40-lb bags of soil and mulch into and out of shopping carts and cars. Have taken 3 ibuprofen and am off to drink beer with ex at Flying Saucer before attending Rachel’s improv night.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Uh, didn't it rain, like, all day yesterday?

The rain gauge says exactly one-half inch fell here at Aurora which is disappointing after what seemed like nonstop rain all day yesterday, including some heavy downpours. Today I went to the Vale house to dig up some liriope plugs, since it’s always much easier to dig these after a rain.
I was trying to come up with something different to frame the rose bed, but in the end I’ve fallen back into my routine edging solution, reasoning that Big Blue Lily Turf is bulletproof and of course, free. The Vale front garden is really quite mature now; I cut back some of the deadwood on the perennials as a kindness to George, who’s oblivious to overgrowth. I remember after my mother died, observing how her garden evolved in response to its no longer being lovingly tended. Some things keeled over, but the bones of the garden remained: crepe myrtles, Barbados cherry, pomegranate, fig, even the bougainvillea. It was the fleshy subtropicals that disappeared: bananas, elephant ears, cannas.
Nothing is dying at Vale, it's just the opposite. Massive overgrowth. The backyard in particular is a jungle.
One interesting thing I notice at Vale is the disparity between the two different plantings of soft-leaf yucca. The first batch planted are dark gray bluegreen and after 5 years, the size of giant tumbleweeds. As yet they have no height or stalk emerging; they’re still low to the ground and their shape is a handsome globe of symmetrical leaves. They are really spectacular among the cenizo. The second batch I planted, also identified as soft-leaf yucca, are completely different. These are more yellow green, their shape is in no way globe-like, they are not symmetrical, the curve of their leaves have a ratty random quality. And they are now twice as tall as the original SLYs. At first I disliked them, but now I accept them on their own terms, though I prefer the globular SLYs. I have been harvesting pups from the preferred SLY because I can never find this one in the nurseries.
The front garden here at Aurora is heavily dormant and without a single point of interest. Every single inch of the front yard and flowerbeds is still littered with a half-foot of nonbiodegradable liveoak leaves. My across-the-street neighbors have completed their professional landscaping, so I at least have something interesting to look at. Or in my know-it-all fashion, criticize. These are professionals, after all. Why would they plant those straggly chlorotic-looking dwarf nandinas? And surely the most overplanted landscape plant going these days is the dietes or African iris. Can't they think of something different?
One happy development in my backyard are the flourishing cosmos seedlings which I need to thin. Can't wait for these blowsy frousy ramshackle kids to bloom!

Monday, February 11, 2008

¡Hola, jardineros!

Daughter Rachel and I returned from our week in Los Cabos and I think we both agree it has been a hard landing. After seven days of sun, the glittering Pacific, nonstop whale watching, and doting waitstaff (otro pina colada, senora?), we are both less than charmed to be returning to day labor.

I took a bazillion garden photos to inspire. Since Baja California is a desert, there is lots to take away from their plantings. I wish I knew what kind of baobab-like tree this was. There was no on-site landscape person to question.

I thought the raked sand was interesting. One could do this with crushed granite or gravel.

Rachel and I call this the EatPrayLove shot. Many women at this resort were reading the book. This was a sister hotel to the one we were visiting and it was billed as a holistic spa (if by holistic you mean over the top luxury in a minimalist contemporary sculptural architectural fabuloso kind of way).

The dark planting between the cactus is our good friend, purple fountain grass. And check out the artisan trimming of the agaves--this makes such a graphic statement (and somehow also evokes pineapples). Also possibly a safety precaution considering margarita-soused gringos stumbling about the paths?

A wall of alternating tiers of oleander and bougainvillea. ¡Que bonita! Okay, back to the real world: massive aphid infestation and 343 emails at work.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A February Fave

Sadly there is no scratch’n’sniff plug-in on the Internet. So you cannot smell the winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima). It’s almost a rose scent and intensely powerful rather than evanescent like so many flowers. When you stick your nose in a blossom, the fragrance comes up big and doesn’t quit. The shrub is straggly in an old-fashioned way and the flowers themselves are so tiny they don’t make any display. This plant is often described as invasive, but the bush in my backyard is clearly very old and hasn’t spread or thrown off any suckers. The fragrance from this one bush perfumes my whole backyard from February to when the heat kicks in late spring.