What Really Happened


Of course, I was thrilled to be back in the garden after a 5 week absence. The Stipa gigantea (giant feather grass) was beautiful as a focal point. The Ceanothus (wild lilac) was much greener than the year before, and the Eriogonum and Agapanthus were blooming happily.

Mr. Mouse had diligently watered the plants in the containers according to the schedule I had prepared, and the ferns and other plants were looking lush.


But I was just a little worried when I saw the Gardenia. Why did it have so many yellow leaves?


So, the day after my return, I walked up to the irrigation controller to up the time a little bit (imagine ominous music in the background as I walk toward the controller).

I was dismayed to find that a blank screen stared back at me. I checked the GFI, and could not bring it back to life. Finally, Mr. Mouse and I found that the fuse had been flipped or blown by the contractors who are currently doing our deep energy remodel (see Mr. Mouse's blog, Net Zero Life, for a blow by blow account of the decision making, the progress, and what we learn).

After we'd flipped the fuse, the controller came back online. I reset the date -- the controller told me the fuse had blown July 29, so the garden had not been watered for over 3 weeks. I then ran each station for an hour while taking a closer look around the garden to assess the damage.

This Western Sword Fern is clearly on the brink. 


And the redwood habitat is a little crispy around the edges.


But a little further into the shade, the redwood sorrel, ferns, and wild ginger actually look just fine.


And even the Rhododendron, in part shade, survived the surprising drought quite well.


In the sunnier parts of the garden, the California native Coyote brush looks great with a Sedum, and some California Fuchsia, though the Japanese maple on the left is crispy around the edges.

Eriogonum grande rubescens (channel island buckwheat) still has an abundance of pink blossoms, while Eriogonum arborescens (in the back, with the white blossoms) looks inviting and green.


And this Festuca Californica is actually suprisingly green in part shade.


Meanwhile, the Epilobium (California Fuchsia) is a constant source of fighting amongst the hummingbirds, and a nice shot of color in the late summer garden.


So, what did I learn from this? Maybe two things: First, it does appear that watering less frequently and more deeply works. I tend to be very nervous about watering only once a week, yet the plants did just fine. I'm planning to reprogram the controller to water less frequently (though the same amount).
And second: If you go away from the garden for a stretch, ask your garden sitter to check the controller is on (and hope for a cool summer if catastrophe strikes).

Comments

Elephant's Eye said…
We water weekly in summer. By hand, but then we are 'retired' and we garden. If it is pushing 40 then that 'week' might have only 4 or 5 days.
Cute little walkway in your garden...
Country Mouse said…
Too bad. I'll bet most of the damage happened in our two-day heatwave. Being on the dry side wouldn't have helped. I've been amazed how little water even my small pots have been needing this summer - we do get quite a bit of fog drip on many mornings - Then those two days crisped some of my melic grass awaiting planting in fall, and the elderberry likewise over-summering in a pot. And I only neglected them for 12 hours!
Specially lovely shot of the epilobium at the end.
chars gardening said…
It looks like your garden did amazingly well without water. The watering more less often is the way to go.
camissonia said…
It's amazing how resilient plants are, particularly the natives. Anytime I take a summer vacation away from home, I'm always fretting about my plants getting adequate water in our absence (especially the potted ones). Most of our stuff is on drip, but I've been happy to discover through trial and error that the buckwheats (Eriogonum ssp.), Cal Fucshias, Ceanothus, Manzanitas are especially drought tolerant and thrive, even with only once-a-month watering. That crispy Western Sword fern picture brought back memories of one of my own that fried last month when the drip emitter got clogged and I didn't notice until too late. Sigh. Live and learn, eh?
Christine said…
I guess native gardening is like an insurance policy against total devastation! I've been pleasantly surprised by how little water my garden requires- I haven't watered the sidewalk strip once this year and the Eriogonums are just as happy as the ones in the beds. Then again, your garden gets much hotter than mine in the summer...
Town Mouse said…
Country Mouse, I returned before the heatwave, otherwise, I'd have a lot more casualties. But the damage I do have is just from 3 weeks of no water, and yes, I'm glad -- amazed, actually -- it's so minor.

Christine, this summer I'm not sure it's so much hotter here than where you are, after all, I do live very close to the bay (40 minute walk to the water). This isn't San Jose...
Christine said…
Ha! Yes, you're right. I must just think that because I was beyond envious of your gorgeous Salvia apiana and figured you had a hotter climate where it could grow properly...
Nice to know some of the plants I'd consider to be related to sponges came through the timer problems unscathed. Most seem to be tougher than we give them credit for.