Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Western Patch

I know! It’s been absolutely ages since I put up a new post for my blog. I was about to scrap the whole thing but then I realized maybe blogging for me (it was fun at first and I had all the time set aside for it) might be how gardening is for others (it quickly turns into a chore and you wonder why you bother). Well that is exactly why you should talk to fellow gardeners (and bloggers) to help inspire you to keep on trying because at some point you'll look back and be very pleased that you did. Gardening like blogging are ways of leaving a record of what you've accomplished, if not for others to see, then at least for yourself (and I swear that is the most philosophical I will get in this post)!

So I though I would share a successful “patch” that I’ve been working on.

This patch was an empty space against the fence on the western side of my yard. My main drip line already ran against the fence so bringing water to the area was no problem but the soil itself, ugh! Its reddish heavy clay filled with rocks ranging in size from that of a grape to a melon. In the summer without water it becomes necessary to dig at it first with a pick ax and in the winter it can be so saturated from the rain that you may expect to slowly sink where you stand. Luckily, we have good drainage in the form of a gradual southern slope and those pesky rocks actually do aid in the aeration and permeability of the soil.

Since I spotted a few plants at Talini’s Nursery (see favorite nursery links) that I just had to have and was afraid may not be there in the fall (a much more appropriate time to establish new shrubs), I decided to risk it and just spend the extra time necessary to baby them.

In the font, I put in euphorbia pithyusa “Faded Jeans.” It just looked really cool, was soft to the touch and my experience with other euphorbia, a sun loving plant, had always been successful. It won’t get much taller than what you see now and perhaps in another month I’ll take some clipping and start new plants from it.

My “anchor” plant behind the euphorbia is a stunning relative to the hibiscus, pavonia missionum. The flowers are small, 1 inch across, but are numerous and have not stopped producing since I got the plant. I call it my “anchor” plant because it will grow to 4 to 6 feet tall and spread out as much. The nice thing about branchy shrubs like this is you can trim lower branches to allow other low growing plants beneath it. In some cases, you can even shape such a shrub to be a small tree.
Off to its right I’ve put in Russian Sage. Like most sages it has been a very easy plant for me. With long blooming stems of light blue/purple flowers, it is a great filler plant. It will die back in winter- I usually cut it down to the ground- but will pop back up in spring and can grow up to 5 feet tall and maybe taller if you have more shade.

To the left of the pavonia missionum is a dark purple almost black plant that is a type of hibiscus. Hibiscus acetosella or “maple sugar” has been growing steadily since its introduction to my yard though I may have to wait until next year for it to flower- if it makes it through winter. It is usually an annual but should be a perennial in zones 9 through 11. We shall see.
My last plant in this patch is a variegated elderberry and doesn’t appear to have done a thing since I planted it… but it ain’t dead either. It may be getting too much sun and I may move it especially since it may get up to 15 feet tall! (Please note, you really cannot see it in the photo, if it starts to grow, I'll post another photo of it).

Now, to get these babies into the ground in the beginning of July when we’re experiencing high 90’s and triple digit weather, I started off by putting down a thick layer of mulch, about 2 to 3 inches. Then I soaked the area in the evening, giving the ground time to absorb the water over night, and then the next day soaked it a little more in the late afternoon when my western fence casted a shadow on the patch. About 30 minutes later, I pushed aside the mulch in the areas where the plants would go and started digging. I have to say I was very surprised at how easy it was. I had soaked areas before but never with mulch and boy did it make a difference! I had 5 plants in the ground in less than 30 minutes! I should also add that when digging I inadvertently stabbed several earthworms since they seemed to be everywhere! Just because you have clay and it dry and it seems filled with rocks and it can be a real pain- doesn’t mean you have bad soil! Just show it a little love!

Next post will be about my ever expanding succulent patch filled with plants from a recent trip to Annie’s Annuals!

If this inspires you at all, now is actually a very nice time to start planting shrubs and trees! Don't forget to soak the area prior to planting!