Starting on backyard makeover
In the last few years we’ve focused on the front yard, largely ignoring the backyard. This is about to change. The first project is underway: removal of the bamboos outside the dining room. I didn’t take a current “before” photo because I thought I had one in my photo library. Unfortunately, the “newest” one is from April 2014:
Since then, the chocolate bamboo (Borinda fungosa) had outgrown its space and needed frequent whacking back just to be able to walk to the sliding door. The Borinda angustissima to the right of it (which you never really saw) had flopped over so much that the compost tumbler was inaccessible. As much as I liked these bamboos—and they did remarkably well with what little water they got—the situation couldn’t go on. With very mixed feelings I took them out last weekend. Look how much space has been freed up:
The tree in the corner, another nasty ornamental pear, will be taken out as well. I will replace it with an Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’. It’ll be such an improvement! In the bed where the bamboos had been I’ll plant two Australian shrubs: Banksia grandis ‘Compact Coastal Form’ and Grevillea ‘Flora Mason’. There’ll be plenty of room towards the front of the bed for shade-loving perennials. But that’ll be phase 2, to be tackled next year.
While we’re in the backyard, let’s take a look at plants I haven’t shown you in a long time, if ever. To the right of the sliding door you see in the photo above is a small planting bed. It’s home to agaves and aloes, all of them doing well considering they don’t get a lot of direct sun. One aloe, a cross between Aloe cameronii and Aloe maculata, has been particularly vigorous. It produces pups much faster than I can give them away (if anybody wants one, just let me know). I like the long strappy leaves and the apple-green color but now there’s something else I’m going to love even more.
Flowers! It’s flowering for the first time ever. I’ll post more photos when the flowers have opened up.
The Dymondia margaretae “lawn” in the backyard has been much slower to establish than I had thought. This is the densest it’s gotten. In other spots, the plugs have died altogether and will have to be replaced. One good sign: There has been visible growth since the recent rains. In hindsight, we should have done this project in the fall, not in a spring that was unusually dry.
The bamboo in the stock tank below (Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’) was one of the casualties of our water conservation regime. It simply couldn’t survive on once-a-week drip irrigation. It was pretty even in death but I finally had enough.
After much thought—or hair-ripping—I decided to consolidate my three ×Fatshedera in one spot. Voilà, from left to right, ×Fatshedera lizei ‘Annemieke’, ×Fatshedera lizei ‘Angyo Star’ and ×Fatshedera lizei ‘Gold Heart’. They have a metal trellis to hang on to and will hopefully produce a wall of green to hide the fence.
More empty pots from plants that got felled by the drought. I have no idea what to plant here yet. Dry shade is difficult to deal with.
It always amazes me how just a day or two after a good rainfall we have mushrooms popping up. That must mean a good mycelium network in the soil.
This is the far corner of the backyard. The patio is on the right. Over the years I’ve planted quite a few succulents here. They’re doing great with little direct sun. Proof to me that aloes (and even some agaves) can handle shady situations much better than some experts claim.
Yes, there are some bare spots that need filling. All in due course.
Agave ‘Baccarat’, initially marketed as a cultivar of Agave montana but now thought to be a natural intergrade between Agave gentryi and Agave montana. I bought this as a very small plant in a 3-inch pot many years ago and it’s finally beginning to look nice.
LEFT: Agave ‘Baccarat’ MIDDLE: Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ RIGHT: Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’
Agave chiapensis in the foreground, Cordyline australis behind it
Left to right: Agave ‘Nova’ (originally sold as a cultivar of Agave mitis aka celsis, but now thought to be a hybrid of unknown origin), Echeveria cante, Agave hiemiflora
Against the fence
Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’ (in a pot to the right: Agave geminiflora)
My mini collection of agaves in the Striatae group (clockwise beginning in the 7 o’clock and ending in the 6 o’clock position): Agave striata ‘Nana’, Agave kavandivi, Agave tenuifolia, Agave petrophila, undescribed agave from Santiago Lachiguiri, Agave rzedowskiana (my favorite with its glaucous leaves). Many of these came from agave guru Greg Starr.
And finally the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ that will replace the ornamental pear you saw at the very beginning of this post:
This tree, now about 5 ft. tall, was a gift from a friend. She received it from somebody who grew it from seed collected in Fort Bragg on the Mendocino coast. Quite an odyssey for this very elegant Australian native! Look for it planted it its new home soon!