Sunday, March 16, 2014

First look at planted desert garden

This post continues the coverage of our front yard desert garden project.

Yesterday (Saturday) our high was 87°F. I’m sure this broke all kinds of records. Only a few places in California—like Death Valley and Palms Springs—were hotter than Davis. It looks like our weird winter is morphing into a weird spring.

Undeterred by the unseasonal heat, albeit somewhat affected by it, we set out to plant our new “desert garden.” I felt pressured to get the plants in the ground as quickly as possible. The larger plants were doing OK in their nursery pots, but it was getting increasingly difficult to keep the 4-inch plants I’d purchased from Annie’s Annuals and Morningsun Herb Farm hydrated.

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We started out placing the three large anchor plants I’d bought from Village Nurseries (15-gallon containers): Aloe ferox, Aloe ‘Hercules’ and Parkisonia ‘Sonoran Emerald’ (aka ‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde). This was followed by the plants in 5-gallon containers and so forth.

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With my wife and our good friend Ursula helping, we were able to get everything but the 4-inch plants in the ground before mid-afternoon.

This morning (Sunday), my wife and I planted the 4-inch plants. While there were many more 4-inch plants than 15-, 5- and 1-gallon plants, the process went much faster since there was much less digging involved.

This is what the “desert garden” looks like now:

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One plant I’m particularly fond of is this mature Agave macroacantha I was able to obtain from the Landscape Cacti and Succulents Nursery at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley. It had been bare root for a while and is in the process of re-rooting. I’ll withhold water for a week or so.

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I also couldn’t help notice the similarity in form between this Aloe cameronii

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…and this Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’:

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They are planted near each other, and it will be interesting to see how they develop.

Here is a wide-screen panorama of the planted strip:

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I’ll add plant names as soon as I have a moment.

I realize that the area doesn’t look finished. Many plants are small, and there is a lot of bare dirt. But all that will change over time, especially as I add rocks for textural accents and top dressing. But the foundation is in place now, and I’m thrilled to have 100+ new plants to watch, observe and blog about!

RELATED POSTS:

Front yard desert garden index

18 comments:

  1. Wow, that looks so wonderful! I am so looking forward to seeing it filled in. What a lot of work!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it was a lot of work, but I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.

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  2. So cool! It will be fun to watch this area develop. That was a lot of work for such a hot weekend...

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    1. I couldn't believe how hot it was already. Fortunately temperatures are back to normal now (the forecast calls for a high of 71°F today).

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  3. The makings of a great looking desert garden, and to think it looks great already! It'll only get better once the plants grow and fill up and you add more rocks. So exciting to see all those plants lined up and about to be planted! Those anchor plants, especially once they start forming trunks are going to look especially spectacular!

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    1. That was my thinking too: get a few larger specimens for instant impact. While most of the aloes and agaves I planted aren't speed demons, the shrubs and perennials should grow quite a bit in the months to come.

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  4. 100+ plants, fabulous! You were so smart to include the larger specimens, they really give it such a matured look right from the start. I'm curious, did any of your neighbors stop by to encourage or ask questions as you worked?

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    1. Oh yes. Quite a few people stopped and asked what we were doing. It turns out that our pittosporum hedge was universally hated. I had no idea!

      I'm hoping that our new plantings will inspire neighbors to rethink their own landscaping. Yesterday afternoon I saw a pickup trunk stopped in the middle of the street, its occupants looking at the new bed. That tickled me pink!

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    2. I hope they are not back tonight at 4am.

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    3. Two people said they were tempted. WARNING: We know who you are. Don't do it! LOL.

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  5. That's a pretty steep slope, Gerhard. You might want to put in a brick or some other edging to keep the dirt from sliding over onto the sidewalk, so you aren't out there after every storm scraping dirt up with a shovel and re-applying it back on your mound. Also, the Dixon rockyard has a lovely pinkish-tan colored type of small gravel which would make a lovely top dressing and discourage weeds from starting in the bare dirt. Sue

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    1. Sue, the slope isn't quite as steep as the photos suggest but some of the dirt does slide off. Over time, as the mound settles, it will be less of a problem but maybe I should pile up some smaller rocks along the sidewalk to retain the dirt.

      Dixon Landscape Materials has a grayish DG that I think might work as a top dressing. Or bluish slate chips. I don't want anything that even remotely looks pink; I made that mistake once before :-).

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  6. Fantastic! I've never had the pleasure of adding 100 plants at once (except maybe edibles), and that sure sounds exciting!

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    1. After such a big project, it'll be hard going back to small project, LOL.

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  7. It's going to be great and I love your plantings! And I was thinking that you might want to add an edging to help hold in the dirt also.

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    1. I hope you'll like the real thing when you come by tomorrow!

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  8. Great work. The real fun will be watching all the plants mature. Hercules--awesome plant. It will blow you away with how fast it grows.

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    1. I've read posts about 'Hercules' being a fast grower. I can't wait! I just hope it's hardy enough to withstand the occasional dip into the twenties.

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