More R&R in the front yard

Not rest & relaxation. The other R&R: removal & replacement.

Before, there were two sprawling salvias: Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ and Salvia canariensis. I love both of them, and I wouldn’t have taken them out if they’d been half as big and half as vigorous. But they were clearly in the wrong place here so I finally made the hard decision to say goodbye.


Sorry, hummingbirds, I know the ‘Limelight’ was a popular hangout.

After, there is a lot more space and a small Phylica pubescens. It may not be impressive now, but take a look at how stunning this South African shrub will eventually be.


If it lives, that is. Featherhead (Phylica pubescens) has a reputation for being finicky, probably because people plant it in the wrong spot and water it too much (or too little). Of course who’s to say ours is in the right spot? Only time will tell. But I did plant it on a slight mound to improve the drainage. And I’ve mulched it with cedar mulch since taking these photos. My leucadendrons are happy with this treatment, and I’m hoping this little fella will be as well. Both of them are in the Proteaceae family, as are many other southern hemisphere shrubs I’m fond of (leucospermums, grevilleas, banksias, etc.), and their cultivation requirements (including a preference for slightly acidic soils) are fairly similar.

As a side note, I added elemental sulfur and cottonseed meal to the planting hole to improvement soil conditions. The sulfur is a medium-term remedy to lower the pH (our soil and water are on the alkaline side) and prevent chlorosis; the cottonseed meal also lowers the pH and provides nutrients. Berkeley landscape designer David Feix uses cottonseed meal on his Phylica pubescens, and since I greatly value his expertise, I followed his recommendation.


On the coast Phylica pubescens wants full sun, but I figure here in Davis it needs a bit of protection from the hot summer sun. The fence might provide just the right amount of shelter.


Another benefit of the salvia removal: The Improved Meyer lemon “tree” is much less crowded. This isn’t the best place for it, but at the time it was the only spot I had available. My goal is to keep it small through regular trimming. And now that I can actually see it, I realize it needs to be pruned into a much more pleasing shape.


This Improved Meyer lemon is a rescue from the Lowe’s clearance rack. I paid $4.00 for it in February 2011. I simply couldn’t leave it behind even though I wasn’t looking for another citrus tree at the time. This is the second year it’s produced fruit. Last year we had three or four lemons, this year we have a regular bumper crop. I’ve never met a lemon I didn’t like, but Meyer is my favorite because of its sweeter taste.


  1. Thanks for passing along the tip about cottonseed meal. I planted 2 Phylica in my back border in late spring, shortly before our horrible life-leeching heatwave struck, which among other things cost me both plants. I subsequently determined that the area was also too alkaline so it's hard to say what was responsible for the plants' rapid demise - possibly both the soil and the heat. For now, I'm keeping the 2 other Phylica I have in large pots but I may try planting one in the border later this fall. I'be already added sulfur but will try cottonseed meal too.

    1. Sorry to hear you lost a couple of Phylicas in the spring. I bet it was a combination of heat, possible underwatering, and alkaline soil. You know what they say: You can't give up on a plant until you've killed it 10 times. Or something like that.

  2. Here's hoping your Phylica pubescens grows big and strong! (it's a great swap for those Salvia) And wow...that lemon tree is amazing. All of a sudden you've got me craving a grapefruit from my brother's tree in Phoenix.

    1. Come January people don't know what to do with their citrus. I guess it's a good problem to have!

  3. I think the Phylica needs regular water until very very well established, just like Grevilleas. (Taking into account the extreme drainage of the garden here.) I think my first one died due to lack of sufficient water.

    Meyers are my favorite!


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