Thursday, August 14, 2008

Meanwhile, back in the garden

All this travelling is well and good, but, to paraphrase Voltaire, il faut cultiver mon jardin. I've realized how little garden blogging I've done lately -- turns out that reflects how little weeding and trimming I've done. I'm trying to make amends this week. Despite the need for rapid intervention, though, I can't help but be happy with how this seaside patch is maturing. It's a very difficult piece of the yard -- it does have "good drainage" going for it, but that's about it. The soil is very poor and anything planted here must contend with a heavy dose of saltspray and wind, especially through the winter storms. Besides which, while you may scoff who have heard of our west coast rains, we generally have a period of drought through August and September, and I'm somewhat committed to xeriscaping. I water very seldom -- I'll soak a plant that's getting established and I'll help out during drought, but otherwise, they should be able to manage on their own.
And these guys are finally doing it, and, icing on the cake, a colour combination I envisioned several years ago is becoming discernible. I wanted bronze-rusts (as in the arbutus bark, echoed in the phormium/New Zealand flax), accented by Crocosmia-orange, purple sage foliage and blue flowers. Here a lily planted perhaps twenty years ago by the previous owners (we've been here almost 16 years, and we didn't plant it) returns serendipitously to reinforce the colour scheme, and the lavender contributes its purpley-blue.

I took these as the noonday sun was beginning to head over the house, and the mix of light and shadow makes for poor pictures, but here you can see the agapanthus (African lily) flower in the foreground, intensifying the lavender's work, and I hope you can spot the orange of the crocosmia in the bottom left.
Still, it's unlikely ever to be lush, this terrace border, so we've added large pots to fill in. Sadly, they do require watering, but not too much. The pot on the right here contains an arbutus uneda, which you might know as a strawberry tree (we saw these growing wild as we walked the mountain roads in Portugal), and in the pot on the left is Pheasant's tail grass (used to be called Stipa arundinacea and is now Anemanthele lessoniana -- no idea what that change is about).
Across the terrace, also seaside, is a really large clay pot, quite a feat to have brought over here, seriously! We were pleased to find it on sale a few years ago and planted a Russian olive tree in it (Elaeagnu angustifolia-- and don't worry, it doesn't seem to be invasive here as it is in many places). Now we suspect we know why the sale price -- more and more pieces of clay flake off each winter, especially at the base, and we cross our fingers that the whole thing doesn't simply disintegrate and leave us with a rootball of soil.
Also in the photo above are two new pots we picked up last weekend. The smaller one to the left and behind is planted with another Pheasant's tail -- you really have to check out the fall colour on these as they put on a glorious show -- and the larger pot has a Cortaderia richardii -- Toe toe Pampas Grass. I'm not a big fan of the pampas plumes, but I do like the spikey foliage on this as well as the size. And pampas seems to be able to handle what this area can throw at it, so I'll be a gracious host and let it stay.

My daughter has promised me she'll write a description to go with all the food photos I've lined up in one last Toronto post. However, she's given her notice at work and will be getting organized for returning to the Coast September 1st, so I'm not sure how speedily that's going to happen OR whether I'll have to break down and do the writing myself. Oh well, at least I'll have all my four back on the Coast again and can look forward to family get-togethers where everyone gets together.


  1. Love that orange flower in the midst of the multi-textures of green. It is amazing how your garden grows even as you have had so many travels.

  2. What a varied, lush garden (I like them on the wild side!) Glad Megan's headed home- eager to hear what she does next.

  3. I live by the sea too and like all the grasses...and wish I could just buy the ones that look great, plant them and enjoy, but I guess they are not all that sturdy and to get a nice patch (like yours) involves some research, right?

  4. Thanks LBR, it does seem to be thriving on what might be called "benign neglect."
    Duchesse: Me too. At least, I admire more cultivated, refined gardens, but they rarely have the same emotional draw for me. And yes, I'm also curious to see what Megan will do next.
    Maya: Well, you could just do trial-and-error, but with a bit of research (and there's so much you can do on the Internet) you should be able to find grasses suited to your situation AND that you like the looks of. With grasses, you always have to take care not to take ones that will run rampant -- I prefer clumpers rather than runners -- a good nursery can help you sort that out.

  5. That sound you can't hear is me heaving a wistful, envious sigh. This happens every time I read one of your garden posts. I love how you've planned the colors and mix of textures and wild/controlled. It's just so lovely!

  6. Pseu: Thanks, I do love my garden. It would be even better if I could fill it with some of my best blogging friends -- we could drink G&Ts in the summer sunshine and talk about shoes and scarves and life after 50 and . . .


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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