Thursday, May 09, 2013

Seeing The Garden

Tucked away at the bottom of our property is a purposefully landscaped garden. It was built to help maintain the septic system, by requiring very little water. Xeriscape gardens are desirable, and a practical necessity in dry Southern California. Conserving water is responsible, and in the garden it can be accomplished beautifully. Since I don't need a fussy-manicured garden, there isn't too much to do to keep things looking good here... reduce the Mexican sage, and the potato vine, which each grow profusely, year round. Pull weeds, which grow profusely, year round. And trap gophers, which grow profusely, year round. Easy to care for... and easy to forget.

I have been so preoccupied with the chicken run, and Maker Faire, with laundry, and flossing, and Boggle (Heaven, help me!) that I'd sort of forgotten that we have this meandering path, and lovely plants, until some of you made your kind remarks! Oh, yes, I reflected. Our garden is lovely, the flowers are in full bloom. Thank you. It's so nice to see our garden with this renewed appreciation.

Now, having read The Sunset Western Garden Book, like a romance novel on a tropical beach vacation, voraciously, I can identify some of our plants. Happily, for me, there are a few mysteries. I actually enjoy being stumped. Wondering is a pleasure.

Come into the garden?

Let's begin with a mystery! This shrub, with long bowing branches, has leaves of green and a dusky aubergine. They are soft and supple leaves, and I have no idea what the plant is, besides beautiful!

Another... long, slender, clean stems tipped with a cluster of teeny, dry flowers, which remind of millet seed. In the fall the stems will bear small curls of dried leaves, which are brown with a metallic sheen.

Here is a native species, and a favorite of mine: California Mountain Lilac, or Ceanothus.

I know this plant as Kangaroo Paw. A native of Australia, and lately very popular in So Cal landscaping. It's a real exotic, I think, with those fuzzy red bits, that open with tomato blossom-like flowers.

Do you see what I mean? Maybe it's the yellow star shape that reminds me of tomato flowers.

This is the other fuzzy bloomer, the Mexican Sage, or Salvia Leucantha. It's a member of the mint family. I think it smells a bit... mmmm... pungent, kind of sour. It grows like mad! Naturally, it would be something the goats don't eat!

And the goats do not eat Grandmother's geraniums, and yes, these are the same geraniums Grandmother started at Neptune, brought to El Rancho, and I've cared for ever since. They are happy and settled, and much respected.

Duranta. It's a member of the verbena family! Well, unlike the flowerbed verbena I recall, these are towering shrubs, and their flowers cascade down, almost wisteria-like.

Does anyone know its common name? It's too romantic looking to be just "Duranta."

Sweetbroom is romantic. Scientifically? Genista stenopetala, a native of the Canary Islands. I'll remember this because they are as yellow as a canary bird!

These Alstroemeria are often seen as cut flowers, in bouquets. Ours don't ever grow long, florist shop stems. That's okay.

When it comes to flowers, I cannot help being frank. Geraniums smell not good, and bird of paradise? Yawn. Is that awful? I mean look at it! It's beautiful, and unique. The colors are saturated with tropical intensity. You see, the thing is, they are everywhere, in So Cal, and they need lots of cleaning up, and snails use them like cheap motels. Having seen too, too many in rental palaces, and strip mall beds, I forget to see them, to really appreciate them.

Another Kangaroo Paw, this time in golden hues, with red stems... like the gradient colors of a sunset.

I do not plant poisonous plants, which is why I am wary of this Lantana: "The Lantana berries are edible when ripe, though like many fruit are mildly poisonous if eaten while still green." Thank you, Wikipedia! Happily, the goats do not touch it. It makes pretty flowers, needs no irrigation, and is hearty... but I wouldn't mind replacing it with something like a guacamole tree!

The chicas have always been admiring and appreciative of their garden. Such smart ladies.


Sylvia said...

What a lovely (and educational) tour of your garden! It's very exotic to this NYC girl who lives in an apartment.
And I'm still giggling over "and snails use them like cheap motels"!

Sylvia said...

Oh, and congratulations on 11 years. That is amazing, isn't it? I can't remember what year I "found" you, but I went back into the archives, so I feel that I've enjoyed the whole journey. Looking forward to many more years. You are in my "top sites" when I start up my Mac!

judy in ky said...

Fascinating! So many plants I never see here in this part of the country. Beautiful photos. You are lucky to have all of that right in your own yard. Speaking of mysteries, I always want to know more about trees and plants I see along the way. Nature is amazing.

Jennifer said...

The garden looks SO lovely, and so spectacularly exotic to me. I cannot imagine being able to grow those things. We're still waiting for tiny signs of garden life, beyond daffodils and crab apple/cherry blossoms....

nikkipolani said...

Oh goody! A closeup of your garden. You remind me how carefree and easy-care leucantha are. Making my list now. Sorry I can't help with your mystery plants...

I've heard of durantas called sky flower. And your particular alstroemeria ('Fabiana') has short stems -- I have three or four other varieties that have between 2' and 3' stems.

ArtyZen said...

Particularly interesting to me, Natalie, cos I'm trying to plan a garden with colour and interest using plants that need mimimal watering. Some lovely ones here. I rather like the smell of geraniums - how I'd love some cuttings from your grandmother's!
Great words as always - I love the description of you devouring the gardening book!

Michelle Palmer said...

So very beautiful!

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

I really like the kangaroo paws plant. We planted some in our garden in Sunnyvale but sadly that first year we had an unexpected frost in the winter and it died right away. I never replaced it because that spot didn't get enough sun. Now the garden is a bit sad since we took out two lantana bushes that had developed some sort of white fungus or something. Your garden is amazing and shows what you can accomplish with choosing plants that will work well with your environment. :-)