Friday, May 30, 2014

"Confetti gardens" - pros and cons

I have posts waiting (greenhouses of Golden Gate National Recreation Area nursery, trip to the arboretum at Golden Gate Park) but today I'm moved to write about confetti gardening, which has been my wont, and the alternative - gardening with large masses for form.

I've been so happy that things actually grow, I've let them pop up anywhere they want!


It looks lovely when Clarkia rubicunda (local native) and California poppies (forget how I got them - seed packet probably) and coastal sunflowers (Southern CA native) are in full bloom

Or this lovely melange up at the Golden Gate Park arboretum - looks like meadow foam and tidy tips maybe? Not sure. And poppies.


And of course no matter what the overall effect - the individual blooms (Clarkia rubicunda here) are stunning!



But then - it gets kind of ratty when it's past its prime. And its prime tends to pass quickly. And it's just kind of all one thing, like paintbox colors all mixed up.

The photo above is not the worst - now the poppies are lying down and mouldering all over the place in various stages of decomposition because I've been too busy to take them out. Which means more billions of seeds for the quail - and for growing next year.


Gardens that feature masses (again the arboretum) like this wonderful large fremontia on the left) and structure like paths can look good past their prime. The eye enjoys resting and moving between these large forms. Creating forms that are aesthetically pleasing is a challenge to me though.

So I want to work on providing masses of one thing and keeping the structure of paths and stairs more defined (and not inundated by gorgeous but sprawling foliage and flowers). This is basic landscaping I know, but I'm a bit slow I guess.

I've been propagating these juncus of unknown species as yet. I gathered the seeds locally (they were abundant and I took only a little) and they all obligingly germinated. I've grown three flats.

In addition to the juncus, I also propagated quite a bit of Carex bolanderi, and Stipa cernua - all easy to grow and locally native.

BTW I would not normally be planting in summer, but somehow I got a greenhouse full of propagules and I think they will just do better in the ground than in their tiny pots over summer. I find it hard to keep them adequately irrigated in their little pots. It gets very hot and dry up here on our ridge. I plan to get my propagation calendar worked out for fall planting. After first good soaking rains is definitely the best time to plant. Also I need something for weed control in the areas I've recently cleared of weedy grasses and mustard and etc. etc., and I'm hoping the plantings will shade out some of them

So my sort of random gardening style continues, using plants that happen to have germinated well — but now I'm thinking a bit about form and placement.

This makes me nervous but I'm having a go anyway.

Many Carex bolanderi, in redwood sawdust mulch. 


This shot shows you most of the area that I'm planting this year. And my granddaughter who helped me garden on May 21 - when her mom and dad were busy with the birth of her little brother!
Later in the year I hope to show some more of the planting on the slopes in the distance in the photo above. Below the propane tank,  I've planted six Ribes viburnifolium (which I hope will screen that ugly tank) and below that lots of hummingbird sage, and some chaparral currant. I'm waiting till fall to plant the farthest slope - near the red sandstone stairs in the distance.

This whole upper slope is a heck of a lot of work and almost overwhelming to even talk about.

In the foreground slope - which extends quite a bit "behind me" - out of the shot - I'm massing the juncus and carex and stipa (rush and sedge and needle grass). You can see a clump of needle grass I planted earlier - and I've been extending it in a wide swoopy swath that goes down the slope. At the bottom of this area is a lot of wild wood rose - pretty! I've also planted a few larger shrubs  - wart leaf ceanothus and coffee berry - locally native - to provide some shade. The slope here faces north west and gets quite a bit of afternoon sun.

Where you see steps (above and to the left of my granddaughter) I'm growing mostly buckwheat and california fuchsia.

BTW the urbanite for the steps came from a path demo at Town Mouse's garden and I'm happy I finally got to use it all up!

Around the urbanite steps, I'm planting buckwheat, Eriogonum latifolium, in the lower area and California fuchsia (Epilobium canum in the upper area. I've also got a row of soap root lilies just below the concrete block retaining wall but the deer have been munching those.
Actually I made a mistake in the eriogonum planting - I thought I picked up the flat of Eriogonum nudum - naked buckwheat - which (like the epilobium) is locally wild-gathered. Instead I grabbed a flat of Eriogonum latifolium.  I only noticed when they were all in. I had grown these for a friend who lives on the coast — in Santa Cruz, where they are locally native.  Sorry! Fortunately I am allowing myself "Eriogonum latitude" this year - not sticking to only naked buckwheat - our local species, but also using others like Eriogonum crocatum for a bit of color and variety in the garden. And really, I think the low form of this buckwheat will look better here.

I'm still tucking odd things in here and there, like Iris fernaldii and Heuchera micrantha - and some new items for me that I've managed to grow from local seed, like California aster and verbena and goldenrod. I'm trying to figure out where these local natives thrive in my garden. But I'm trying not to interrupt the "mass of one thing" areas.

At the bottom of the area to the left of the urbanite steps,  I put in a thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) to add some height. The deer don't agree with my plan though, and it remains quite low!
I'm looking forward to the time when the masses of one thing are actually there. You can hardly see where I've planted them right now. I hope they'll look good — I'll keep you posted!

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