Happy New Year—and looking back at 2010

2010 was a big year in the life of our garden. For the first time since our 2006 remodel, our yard—especially our front yard—looked fantastic. The perennials we had planted outside the 4 ft. fence are now mature, and they gave us the patchwork of colors and textures we had hoped for.

Planting strip outside the front yard fence in July
I love the different colors and textures of rudbeckia (right), Russian sage, lavender and ‘Hot Lips’ sage (top left)
The planting bed inside the front yard fence, which is only two years old, looked pretty darn good, too
The succulent bed next to our front door has been a favorite of mine since we created it a couple of years ago
Close-up of one my favorite small agaves, 'Blue Glow', a hybrid between Agave attenuata  and Agave ocahui. This spectacular plant is now more widely available (distributed by Proven Winners).

2010 was also the year of the bamboo as I added a couple of dozen bamboos to our yard. A few bamboos (all clumpers) went into the ground, the others are in pots—and four were planted in the galvanized-steel stock tanks we installed in the back yard.

Looking from the front door towards the street. Partially hidden behind the tropical foliage of bananas and cannas are three clumping bamboos: Bambusa oldhamii, Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’ and Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’.
Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’ in the back yard. Planted in the fall of 2009, it sent up 15 new culms in 2010.

2010 was the year I fell in love with Japanese gardens. I visited the Portland Japanese Garden, considered to be one of the most important Japanese gardens outside of Japan (article coming up later in January), and read stacks of books. I then began to incorporate some elements into our yard, although my goal was never to create an authentic Japanese garden, just to borrow the design features that excite me the most (such as stone lanterns) and are doable on a small budget.

3 ft. tall Koyabu lantern in the woodland garden outside our dining room. This area contains shade-loving Asian plants such as hostas, farfugiums, hakone grass, and three clumping bamboos (Borinda fungosa, Borinda angustissima, and Drepanostachyum sengteeanum).
2 ft. Craftsman lantern next to a Fargesia robusta
Farfugium japonicum giganteum in our woodland garden. Farfugiums, native to Japan and eastern Asia, were among my favorite foliage plants in 2010.

My love affair with tropical plants continued even though they did play second fiddle to bamboo.

Colorful caladium leaf. I had overwintered a bunch of caladium bulbs and planted them into two medium-sized pots. They did put on a quite a show.
Our giant elephant ear (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’) grew bigger leaves than ever this year. The leaves continued to look beautiful right through fall and into winter. Not even the two-day freeze we had over Thanksgiving fazed them. In fact, they’re still going strong today, 1/1/11.

2010 wasn’t a great tomato year for us but we did have awesome peppers. In fact, I’m planning a chile extravaganza for 2011 with seeds I got from Peppermania. I love cooking Mexican food, especially mole sauces, and many of the chiles needed just aren’t commonly available in grocery stores, even here in California.

Jalapeños from our yard, as perfect as they get

Winter is citrus time. We have a Washington navel orange and a Bearss lime, both of which are producing heavily, as well as three young trees that aren’t bearing much fruit yet (Meyer lemon, pink Eureka lemon, and Key lime).

Ripe limes that have fallen off the tree. In the grocery store they’re sold green, but if left on the tree, they turn yellow.
Washington navel oranges

As much as we enjoy growing plants outside, we’re not into house plants. For the last 5 years the only house plant we had was a Ficus benjamina,and the only reason it’s still alive is because it seems to thrive on neglect.

In October we were given four air plants, and I must admit I’ve enjoyed having them around. My wife added them to a rock arrangement she’d created on a bamboo platter, and they just sit there and look beautiful. Once a week—or whenever we think of it—we put them in a bowl of water overnight, and that’s it. One project for 2011 is to find other bromeliads for the house as long as their needs are similarly simple.

Air plant (Tillandsia sp.)

2010 brought a regular visitor to our front yard, Bamboo Kitty. I have no idea who she belongs to, but she loves to sit on our front yard fence between the Mexican weeping and Asian Lemon bamboo. I wish she’d hang out time in our back yard, too, and take care of the rats and mice that are eating our winter vegetables and farfugiums, but since we have a dog, that’s not likely to happen.

Bamboo Kitty

Since I started this blog in October of 2010, I’ve been taking even more photos than before. I firmly believe that a picture says more than a thousand words—or, conversely, a thousand words say more if accompanied by a few good pictures.

This is my favorite photo taken in our yard in 2010.

Abutilon pictum 'Souvenir de Bonn'

And finally the best sunrise of the year, November 11. In the 13 years we’ve lived in this house, I’ve never seen such a beautiful morning sky.


Happy New Year, everybody! I hope 2011 will the best year ever in your garden and in your life.


  1. I can't believe you are up at 4:37!

  2. I've never seen a sky looking like that last photo. Really interesting and beautiful!

    (Cats love bamboo)

  3. Your yard is looking superb Gerhard, well done and looking forward to your updates in 2011!

  4. Sheldon, up at 4:37am? No way! I had just scheduled this post to be published at 4:37am. Random time.

    Alan, I'd never seen the sky look quite like that before either. It only lasted for a few minutes. It was serendipitous that I even saw it.

    Mark and Gaz, thanks, guys, and right back at you! Your garden is still a huge source of inspiration for me. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see it in person some day.

  5. Hmmmm, house plants. What about the Orchids?

    Our Bamboo is lovely today with a bit of snow.

    Your yard is outstanding! Can hardly wait to see it in person!


Post a Comment