Tuesday, November 11, 2014

More front yard makeover baby steps

The front yard—at least the planting strip outside the 4-foot fence—is continuing the transformation that started when we removed the Pittosporum tobira hedge and created a mounded “desert garden” instead (I’ve consolidated all the posts relating to this project here).

Some of the grasses and perennials that have been in place for years had outgrown their allotted spots, and keeping them away from the sidewalk was getting to be a chore. Plus, the constant whacking required didn’t exactly produce visually attractive results, as you can see in the “before” picture below.

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Before (the floppy monster is Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’ after our recent rain)

Usually I wait before I have at least a semi-solid plan in my head before I take action, but in this case, impatience won out. In the space of one day (this past Saturday), I removed the ‘Karley Rose’ grass, two Gaura lindheimeri and a variegated Calamagrostis  × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', and I trimmed back a bunch of perennials towards the back of the border. This freed up an almost shocking amount of space.

Never one to let free space go to waste, I immediately proceeded to fill it with plants that had been looking for a home and added some rocks I’d brought home from my recent trip to California’s Eastern Sierra. I’m quite satisfied with the result.

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After 

To give you an idea of how much stuff I removed, here’s the yard waste pile:

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After, with yard waste

Let’s take a look at what I planted:

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Newly planted: Lavandula × intermedia ‘Edelweiss’, Sonchus congestus, Aloe marlothii× Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’, Dymondia margaretae

The ‘Edelweiss’ lavender is from a recent sale at Morningsun Herb Farm; the Sonchus congestus (or sow thistle) from Annie’s Annuals’ Labor Day sale; the Aloe marlothii from Arid Lands’ recent aloe and agave sale; the × Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’ from my friend Robin’s garden; and the Dymondia margaratae (or silver carpet) from the mowing strip adjacent to the front lawn (see below).

I also planted an Echium wildpretii × russicum hybrid from Cistus Nursery that originated in the Danger Garden (delivered by Loree herself) and I unearthed two echiums from a February 2014 trip to Annie’s Annuals that had gotten completed covered by the ‘Karley Rose’ grass and the gaura: an Echium russicum and a rare Echium gentianoides. Now that they have been freed, I’m hoping they will thrive (I’m thankful they survived in the first place).

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Dymondia margaretae and × Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’

This is where the Dymondia margaretae came from:

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Dymondia margaretae next to front yard lawn

I simply yanked off sections (they came off quite easily) and laid them on top of the moistened soil. They should root quickly, especially since daytime highs are still in the 70s.

I’ve been very impressed with this South African groundcover. It’s proven to be attractive, hardy, drought-tolerant, and resistant to occasional foot and lawnmower traffic. My original post from May 2011 is the fifth most frequently viewed post on my blog, which proves how much interest there is in this lawn alternative. In fact, Dymondia margaretae has become difficult to find in California nurseries, at least in flats and larger quantities. A lot of landscapers and homeowners have jumped on the dymondia bandwagon, a development I applaud whole-heartedly. In fact, we have plans to replace the small square of lawn in the backyard with Dymondia margaretae.

As for our front yard, last Saturday’s project is just another baby step. As I have time and feel like it, I will remove more existing plant material and replace it with landscape-sized succulents and southern hemisphere plants able to withstand our harsh summers.

14 comments:

  1. Perfect! That pairing of the marlothii underplanted with the Mangave will be really nice as they mature.

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    1. Thank you, Daniel. I'm hoping this Aloe marlothii will grow a little faster than the other one I have :-).

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  2. I'm getting a kick out of how your city lets you dump stuff in the street. That is so cool. Your new plantings look great and a better fit for that spot.

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    1. Unfortunately, the city wants to eliminate curbside yard waste pickup. I hope the citizenry of our good town will take to the streets to protest. I don't know where I put all that stuff!

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  3. I have tried that Dymondia twice now! Both with no success. I thought it was too much heat or not enough water. Don't know how you do it. But will be curious to see how it does here. I think it is more shaded for you in front. This looks to be more exposed. I hope it works then I will try it again. Love the redo!

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    1. Thanks, Candy! Dymondia needs regular water while it develops its taproot. After that I find it to be quite drought-tolerant. It can easily take temps above 100°F once established. You should try it again. I think it would be a good choice for your new front lawn conversion to add patches of silvery green.

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  4. Our "front lawn" is dymondia in the sun, and yerba buena in the shade - they are both Great low water performers! I can see why dymondia is hard to find in the nurseries now...

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    1. Jeanne, that's great to know. Even in San Jose you get 100°+ days, don't you?

      Yerba buena! That's a brilliant solution for the shade. I have quite a few spots in the shade that would look great covered in green instead of showing bare dirt. Just to confirm: That's Satureja douglasii, right?

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  5. Aha -- 'Karley Rose' does flop for other people too! Yours always looked so amazing, now it looks more like mine does (before you removed it I mean)

    Looking great -- this long bed is going to look fantastic in a couple of years (or less)!

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    1. Alan, it always flopped after a rain, admitted a rare occurrence for us in recent years. It looked OK otherwise except it was too close to the sidewalk and required constant whacking back (we got a citation this summer for blocking the sidewalk).

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  6. Definitely looking much better! Your new choice of plants for that spot is great and will have much better impact especially as they mature. And no hacking back needed either (for awhile at least but even then it won't be that much).

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    1. Thanks! Much less regular maintenance for sure.

      I think poppies would look great here in the spring. I'll scatter some seeds the next time it rains.

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  7. Those are pretty major baby steps! Nice work.

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    1. Thanks! It still takes a fair bit of imagination to envision the final result, but I'm pleased with the general direction.

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