Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


The Garden Now That We’re Gone

A while back, James at LostintheLandscape did a post titled Our Gardens After We’re Gone, musing about what might happen to his garden if or when he is no longer stewarding it. TownMouse and Bradzio at RootedinCalifornia and probably some other folks followed up with posts about what might happen to their own gardens. It makes sense that it was such a popular topic; gardening is largely about planning and envisioning the future. Anita and I have to do that pretty much all the time, and quite a few of the gardens we install are essentially a ‘garden with us gone’. After we design and plant, we usually return to do maintenance occasionally, but often times we just walk away. There are a few gardens out there that we installed and never saw again. It’s interesting to imagine what they look like.

One garden that we do see on a weekly basis is an example of some of the different things that can happen. We installed it four years ago and maintained it for about two, but then the client moved and took some of the plants with him. It was a shock the first time I saw the garden without them, but now I’m used to it and I find it interesting to see how the rest of the planting has endured.

The Intact Section (minus a couple of shrubs in the back right)

This section is still largely intact, with just a couple of shrubs missing. It looks like the new tenants might be weeding it and watering (the irrigation system was a casualty when the plants were transplanted, but someone might be hand-watering), though it’s hard to guess about the watering this early in the dry season. The weeds were pretty thoroughly eradicated by the time we stopped maintaining it, so the plants might be holding off interlopers.

Coyote Brush Pioneer

This section, with every plant moved to the new location, is a landscape designer’s memento mori. Coyote brush, one of the main pioneer plants in this area has already moved in. Without humans pulling the volunteers, I think coyote brush would pop up in almost every garden we’ve ever installed.

Ceanothus with weeds

Ceanothus with weeds

This Ceanothus and the Salvia clevelandii in the first photo are fighting the good fight against weeds. This section was never on irrigation and clearly doesn’t get any weeding. Salvia and ceanothus versus weeds, who will win? There’s probably some coyote brush in there somewhere getting ready to join the battle.

The Smokebush at its New Home

This smokebush is one of the plants that was transplanted to the new location. It’s easy to understand why the owner would want to take it with him.

5 Responses to “The Garden Now That We’re Gone”

  1. June 19th, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Town Mouse says:

    Oh, I wish I’d known! It may have just been at the time of the smoke bush transplant that I finally took out a smoke bush that was getting much too large for its location — three years in a row. I now have Arctostaphylos pajaroensis there, but wouldn’t it have been great if I could have passed on the smoke bush?

    Aside from that, I’m getting ready to do a post about the myth that weeds don’t grow because other plants have taken their place. I have literally hundreds of liquidambar seedlings under the protective arms of the coyote brush, and the spurge grew and went to seed hidden by the poppies, so I know I’ll be pulling again next spring. Most areas look good only because someone works at it.

  2. June 19th, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    lostlandscape (James) says:

    The smokebushes have been blooming at the nursery for a few weeks now. I can see why people love them and would work hard to take them when they move.

    I like that one planting that you show with the missing plants, though still having the taller shrubs that you installed in the first place would probably make it a nicer space. You can plan for how plants morph throughout the year, becoming the center of the attention or receding into the background as the seasons change, but when it’s gone altogether, that can be a different story.

    Funny with the coyote bush–I had a chance to visit my parent’s old house where I’d helped plan and install the landscaping. Tenants had ignored the yard and many of the plants had died. But the coyote bushes were moving in.

  3. June 19th, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    ryan says:

    This smokebush had only been in the ground two years and it was dormant at the time. I know what you mean calling it a myth, though some plants seem to do pretty well; I don’t think the tenants are doing much weeding in the planting with nepeta and snow in summer. Ceanothus does all right, but that area in the planting always had a ton of grass seeds blowing in. Coyote brush acts as a pioneer and nurse species, so maybe it’s not so good at suppressing weeds. Mulch is another thing that is supposed to suppress weeds, but only helps suppress the weeds. It generally just makes the weeds easier to pull, I think.

    I was thinking, looking at my photo, that I can see why people love to plant Mexican feather grass with smokebush. If only that grass didn’t reseed everywhere, I would plant it too. There are worse things than having coyote bush move in on one of you plantings.

  4. July 5th, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Peter Gaunitz Landskapsdesign says:

    Hi there! It’s stunning, the smoke bush and Stipa feather grass combination! Very good design indeed.

  5. July 7th, 2010 at 12:05 am

    ryan says:

    We can take credit for the smokebush against the yellow wall, but not for the addition of the mexican feather grass. That was added by the client after he moved the smokebush to the new site. Mexican feather grass is one of those plants which I don’t let myself plant, but I always find beautiful when I see it planted by other people. The purple and gold is lovely.

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