02 February 2010


NOTE: I will probably have to update this entry to make it coherent or something. Believe it or not, I took this picture with a flash in the middle of the night to attenuate the squalor. This is my front yard. It has suffered for many years while I directed my attentions to the back yard, and then to my children. But the time has come to fix it, and I need your help.

For various reasons, an olive tree is going to be the main feature. I might even be crazy enough to plant a fruiting variety, and make my kids cure olives for me when they get older. Four is good age to start working with lye, right?

Around this olive I wish to plant a kind of mini-garrigue, mostly of subshrubs and annuals. The plantings will be artificially dense in a vain attempt to suppress the weeds, and require no summer water. Thus: mediterranean-climate plants. It would be nice if it looked "good" in a front yard kind of way year-round.

I want a limited color palette of blues, whites and yellows, though lavender will be involved, by decree from on high (my wife) -- I will probably stick with L. x intermedia cvv. I'm also into Eriogonum latifolium and E. umbellatum; Penstemon heterophyllus and maybe palmeri. Sisyrinchiums. Salvia chamaedryoides, open to suggestions for California natives. For annuals, I'm looking at the usual suspects from Larner Seeds.

A spiky Phormium would be so sweet in here! Sorry, no: mediterranean only, dude. I'm considering (Hespero)Yucca whipplei or various Aloes or even Watsonias. Nothing too sharp: I don't want my kids to lose an eye (I've got a Puya out back for that purpose). However, anything to discourage the cats from shitting therein is a plus.

So what should I plant? Something I HAVE TO TRY? Something I listed a boondoggle? Crowdsource my yard!* Before you jump in, consider these limitations:

  • approx. 17x15"
  • north-facing: FULL sun all summer, total shade all winter
  • soil is clay, but with decent drainage
  • this is Oakland, CA coastal sage scrub, zone 10A (alleged)/Sunset 17

*ironic. but srsly., please help!

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Anonymous Ayse said...

I have a Wahlengeria sp. that I got in a 4" pot from Annie's three years ago. It covers a lot of ground, cats absolutely HATE stepping on it (it has woody but thin branches that form a mat), and it has nice blue-purple flowers that the bees love. It's growing really well in full sun on the south side of my garden, and much slower in mostly-shade on the north side. I cut it back yearly and it spreads, anyway.

2/02/2010 3:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were gardening in Oakland, I would definitely plant at least one Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, along with probably some Dicentra formosa and Spergularia macrotheca.

2/02/2010 1:57 PM  
Blogger mmw said...

Ayse: but WHICH Wahlenbergia? They have so many. Doesn't matter, I'll try whatever they have, it sounds perfect. It's funny, I have been ignoring blue flowers for so long (trying to give some kind of cohesion to the back yard) that I never noticed these at Annie's before. And the number of times I have paged through the entire database is a little embarrassing.

queerbychoice: I am intrigued by this Spergulria, tell me more. I hate to admit it, but I kind of don't love Ceanothus (more to the point, my wife doesn't either). And the thing about living here is that you can enjoy plenty of Ceanothus in other people's yards. I have failed to grow D. formosa from seed before, but you're right, I need to buy some plants.

2/03/2010 12:14 AM  
Blogger mmw said...

And thank you both!

2/03/2010 12:14 AM  
Blogger Julianne said...

eh, I might be open to a ceanothus if it were spready instead of shrubby and had dark green leaves. Yellowy leaves of any kind are going to look terrible next to our yellow house.

2/03/2010 4:53 PM  
Blogger mmw said...


2/03/2010 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Chani said...

Crowdsourcing the garden! You'll have to keep us updated on how it goes.

Ceanothus sprang to mind, but if you're not really fond of them, well, no sense in planting some. I love rosemary - it has small blue flowers that the bees love, and it seems to flower year round, at least in my garden. Plus it smells lovely.

2/03/2010 5:40 PM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

I have THREE Retama monosperma I grew from seed that you can have. They're in 6" pots nor, but should grow fast in your steamy East Bay summers. It grows well enough in the entry garden at Strybing. Kind of a broomy thing, grayish, very fragrant flowers. Looks good there with succulents and other desert-y things.

Anyway, *you can have them* and they should do fine w/ very little water, as they are suspect invasives in our southern deserts. But where you live, why care about that.

You can also just have just if you only want one.

I have a half-dozen Knipofia (spelling) you can have. Did you see them massed at the Huntington on TheGerminatrix.com recently? Hubba, hubba. Anyway, I don't know what kind these are; they were given to me. All in 4" pots.

I can give you some Monardella villosa I grew from seed.

Anyway, let me know asap because I'm making arrangements to get rid of stuff soon.

Drosanthemum bicolor is intriguing. Look for it in xerantheum's photostream. I gather he doesn't do any summer watering and the picture of it blooming late last summer was really nice.

2/03/2010 7:34 PM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

That "nor" in the second sentence should be "now".

2/03/2010 7:35 PM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/03/2010 7:36 PM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

Also, I wouldn't have a garden without at least 1 manzanita.

Exfoliating wood!

2/03/2010 7:37 PM  
Blogger mmw said...

Chuck, you are the bomb. I should just let you grow all my plants for me! I'm not sure I need any of the plants you offered, though I'm always happy to take Monardella off your hands. Also, I have a Lapegaria with your name on it.

2/04/2010 11:31 PM  
Blogger Nhu Nguyen said...

chuck.b's right, I don't water the Drosanthemum in the summer. It'll go great with that Penstemmon heterophyllus. They may want some winter sun though...

I'd recommend Eriogonum giganteum with it's lovely large silver foliage.

2/06/2010 2:11 AM  

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