Time for some R&R (refreshing and rejuvenating)

R&R is always a good thing. At least that’s what I think. In this case R&R stands for refreshing and rejuvenating, and that’s exactly what I did to several areas in the front yard this past weekend.

Since gardens are a living thing, plants sometimes outgrow their allotted space, they die, or the gardener’s preferences change. There are so many movable parts that the overall balance frequently gets out of whack. That’s what happened in the spots featured in this post. I simply wasn’t happy with them, and instead of continuing to grumble passively, I decided to take action.

This isn’t “pretty” post, like this one, but it’s necessary if this blog is to be a record of my garden activities—my successes and failures alike.

The first section I started to redo is inside the front yard fence. This entire planting strip is dedicated to perennials. There isn’t a single succulent in sight (not counting the potted succulents on top of the fence). Two plants were getting out hand here: globemallow (Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’) and northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


Actually, there’s a third one: California gray rush (Juncus patens). You can see it merging with the sea oats in the next set of photos. I’d cut it back last year, which left a huge depression in the middle, with new growth along the perimeter—ugly!

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Here is this section after I removed the three offenders and planted their replacements:


One the left is Athanasia pinnata, a small South African shrub (4-5 ft. wide and tall) I recently bought at Annie’s Annuals.


Next to it on the right is Lessertia montana, or mountain cancer bush, another South African shrub known for its fantastic red flowers. Both plants are small—they were in 4” containers when I bought them in September—so a bit of imagination is needed to visualize what this area may look like next year. But I wanted to try something new and different, and Annie’s only carries 4” plants.


Removing the globemallow revealed a nice clump of Argentine rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida). These unassuming und completely unfussy bulbs seem to bloom nonstop. They deserve more respect that I’ve given them. (And yes, I did rip out that sea oats seedling you still see on the left in the next photo.)


The second area that received my attention is this corner in front of my ponytail palm triplet (Beaucarnea recurvata) right next to the flowering Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’. Long ago I planted an Aloe nobilis. As with many clumping aloes, this species tends to get messy over time. I decided I was finally done with it and removed it altogether.



I replaced it with an aloe I bought at the recent Ruth Bancroft Garden plant sale: Aloe betsileensis, a solitary species with great potential. Check out these photos! On the downside, it’s only hardy to 28°F, but since I cover my ponytail palms on frosty nights anyway, this shouldn’t be a big deal.


The last area I worked on is outside the front yard fence. The spot to the left of my Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’ was left bare by the demise of a small Leucadendron ‘Inca Gold’ that had fallen prey to the summer heat (I’d planted it out too late in the spring). I’d added a few fillers in late summer—a few osteospermums (or “freeway daisies”) and a trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis hybrid)—but the area still looked pretty awful.


The “after” picture is much nicer:


This is the new home of the Grevillea ‘Peaches and Cream’ I’d picked up at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens last month as well as two Grevillea lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’, a spreading grevillea that only grows to a foot in height.


This spot already looks so much better than before. Now I’m just waiting for the grevilleas to bloom!



  1. R&R are all part of the evolution of a garden, and a great thing to do to keep the interest flowing. Nice changes there, big improvement and will only get better!

    1. I'm really happy with the contrast provided by the grevillea. The big 'Karley Rose' grass next to the leucadendron is next on the chopping block. I think I'll put an Aloe marlothii there for even more extreme contrast.

  2. And to think I just planted that mallow here -- maybe not such a good move! But I'm constantly in R&R mode -- it's my favorite kind of gardening. Coincidentally I've ditched quite a few perennials lately too. Still can't make up my mind between Peaches & Cream or the clear yellow Moonlight grevillea. I love the changes you've made.

    1. Denise, don't get me wrong, I love globemallows. This one just didn't have the space it needs to look its best.

      'Moonlight' is a beautiful grevillea hybrid, but it's twice the size of 'Peaches and Cream'. If you have the space, go for it!

  3. You've been busy! Funny that we both have Lessertia montana in our gardens now, and planted just weeks apart. It will be interesting to see how they perform over time, that is if mine makes it through our winter (fingers crossed).

    1. It didn't take that long. Amazing what a difference even a half day's worth of gardening can make!

      I didn't know you had just planted a Lessertia montana, too. What a coincidence! If I were a betting man, I'd say yours will do better. I think our summers are too hot. We'll know more in a year's time.

  4. Wow how nice. You have so many pine needles. Do they help with fertilization and warmth?

    1. The pine needles are to keep the soil from drying out too quickly and to provide extra warmth in the winter. And kind of organic mulch will do the same, but that's what I had on hand (from a pair of Canary Island pines nearby).


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