Baby steps

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about some of the changes I was planning to make to our garden this fall. Towards the top of my list is this bed that we see from our kitchen window:


It is on the far side of our small backyard lawn which has gotten ratty over the years and needs to be replaced. Today I took the first baby steps towards making this area more attractive to look at.

I’m happy with the “bones” of this bed. At the northern end are a potted Agave americana ‘Mediopicta alba’ next to a Beschorneria albiflora planted in the ground. To the right of that is a potted kumquat (a cultivar called ‘Fukushu’) and an Aloe marlothii which is finally putting on some size. Eventually the aloe will look like this. Further down are a purple elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’); in our climate it’s only purple in the spring but the heavily dissected foliage is beautiful year round.


In front of the elderberry is a Grevillea ‘Superb’ which has quadrupled in size since I planted it in the spring. It will eventually have blooms like this.


Today I planted a bunch of perennials I bought a few days ago at Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville, CA. While these plants are small and may not look like much, I expect them to take off next year and fill in the bare spots.

121005_Veltheima-bracteata- -Silene-uniflora-Druett's-Variegated_01

LEFT: Veltheima bracteata, a South African bulb
RIGHT: Silene uniflora ‘Druett's Variegated’


Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’


Euphorbia × martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’


TOP: Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter’s Red’
BOTTOM: Euphorbia × martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

I also transplanted a Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter’s Red’ I purchased at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum in February. It had been a couple of feet to the right, which doesn’t sound like much but due to the way the sun hits this bed was just enough to keep it in the shade most of the time. By moving it to the left by a few feet it should receive more sunshine and therefore grow faster.


Check out this photo to see Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter’s Red’ in all its glory.

Here is a view of the entire bed. It doesn’t look that hot but I’m asking you to put on your visionary’s cap and look into the future six months or a year. Better? I hope so!


The lawn is driving me crazy. It’s a small space but our black lab uses it, and visually it provides much-needed negative space. Unfortunately, the soil is so compacted that the grass never looks good, no matter how much water and fertilizer we throw at it. The only solution is to tear it our, amend the soil and start from scratch. And that’s exactly what we will do this fall. If I’m right, the difference will be like night and day.

Stay tuned!


  1. I find it hard to visualize a year or two in the future when looking at other people's new plantings, but when I do it myself it's "easy". I wonder why that is? I have faith that this will look fantastic by the time you get the Bradford pear suckers under control. :-)

    1. Me too! I think it's because you know your own space better than anybody else's.

      The Bradford pear suckers are in front of the house where the Bambusa oldhamii is. I sprayed them yesterday with Brush B Gon. Knock on wood...

  2. I'm redoing a bed too right now, so I know how hard it is to visualize how it will look when it is a few years older and much fuller. You just have to take it on faith. I hope you post when your Veltheimia flowers. There were some at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show this year, and they were very pretty.

    1. I hope the veltheimias will flower this year. The bulbs were a decent size (I have three), but since this is my first experience with veltheimias, I don't know what to expect.

  3. Can't wait to see your periodic updates. My crystal ball seems to have gotten a little hazy these last few years or maybe it's my eyesight...

    1. LOL, same here! I think I need to wear reading glasses soon for up-close gardening work!

  4. Looks like it will be fabulous, and I think you're right about the lawn. The right carpet can really pull together a room and make everything look cohesive.

    1. Loree, I agree! A fresh green carpet will provide some much needed negative space to offset the plants.

  5. Those newly planted perennials should settle in well over winter and fill up nicely next year. Looking forward to seeing the progress pic next year, I'm sure it'll look great. Don't laugh but what about astro turf? There are some really good and convincingly natural looking ones out there now.

    1. We actually looked at synthetic lawn products a few years ago. We ordered samples and they looked and felt just like the real thing. In many ways, a synthetic lawn would be the way to go but price was a big consideration--not just the price of the product itself but also professional installation. I should do some more research because prices might have come down. It would solve our lawn problem once and for all, that's for sure.


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