A chaparral walk on "our" bit of the road

The road we live on is a private road that cuts through each person's property. The road passes below our house and heads south. It bifurcates the south-facing slope of chaparral that occupies at least half of our 3 acres here. Earlier this year, we had a lot of it cleared of chamise and dead wood. No clearing today though. 104F in the shade today.

Instead of informing or opining, today I just about have energy to take a short short virtual walk with Duncan. I took some pictures as we strolled along the road one evening and one morning recently (I've combined the pics in a stepwise order).

Another time, I'll ask your advice about this narrow and steeply sloping triangular area at bottom of our driveway.

Hard to believe from looking at the picture, but in this area I have planted ever so many different things, few of which are currently growing.

OK, enough of the problems. Let's take a stroll.

As you turn right out of our driveway, you see across the road a grove of coast live oaks, Quercus agrifolia, sprawling down the hill to our neighbor's house. They shade the bottom of the driveway. This picture was taken on a foggy morning , and I find it wonderfully romantic, with the reddening poison oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum, twining up the gnarly trunk.

Now we are on the road walking southish.

You can just see the cupola of our home in the upper right. I'm wondering what is going to grow in the cleared areas on the right, come fall and spring. Also I'm wondering about the stability of the slope. Coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, is visible in the center - many abound in the chaparral, some may be scrub oak, not sure really. A delicate ornamental eucalypt is on the upper right. It's a fire hazard and it's not native, but the hummingbirds love to rest there between sips at my dad's nearby feeders. I can't bring myself to get rid of it yet awhile. And there's some kind of gnarly cypressy looking stunted tree near it which has character. I really should figure out what it is. On the left of the photo is a Monterey pine - I don't like them in our neighborhood (and there are hundreds of them resulting from a neighborhood planting of free trees many years ago) as they are not actually locally native, and they are highly flammable. Our manzanita are also flammable but they are indigenous at least - and so pretty. They are Arctostaphylos tomentosa crustacea. Here is a gratuitous picture of the very old gnarly trunks of one that is hidden in the chaparral area on the right.

The picture below is farther along the road, and gives you an idea what it all looked like before clearing - lots of chamise and dry stuff. It's actually only a layer about 10 feet deep and is cleared behind that (we cleared that area in prior years and didn't quite finish). You can see our neighbor's palms beyond. You might also notice that the bedrock, which is sandstone, is close to the surface, and there is not much topsoil even where they didn't cut the road into the hillside. There's a lot more chaparral sloping down on the left, not shown.

It's time to turn around. In this next shot we are close to the telegraph pole you can see towards the left of the picture above, looking back and up at the house. You can see the tops of the redwoods that grow in a small grove behind my dad's cottage. They continue on down the north-facing slope on the other side of the ridge, behind the house.

And now we're returning past the cleared areas...

Here Duncan waits patiently for me to take a picture...

The area above is close to the driveway. I call it "the driveway hump." I have been weeding it diligently for a few years now. It is August so it doesn't look nearly as good as it will in spring. But if you could compare this with the way it was six or seven years ago, when it was a tangle of poison oak and weedy grasses (and chervil and other weeds) in a huge prickly native blackberry thicket, you would agree it's becoming more pleasant for the humans. Unfortunately I can't find "before" pictures. It is an area in transition for sure and I hope to approach something like wild-garden-pretty next spring. We'll see. There are some amazing soap plants that grow there, and indigenous sticky monkey bush (Mimulus aurantiacus). The driveway turns left just before the white fence in the background, which leads to the corral we built. Or ex-corral, as we have no large animals now. It's too shady in the corral for vegetables, even though the huge eucalyptus tree is gone now, but it may make a reasonable propagation area - we're really not sure what to use it for.

And so home.

It's not a good picture, but lets you see how our home sits in relation to the driveway which is behind us. On the right, my dad's cottage with non-natives - I'm thinking about what to replace that rosemary with. The chaparral and the road we were walking along are below and to the left. As you can see ours is a six-sided, kit-built house, not fancy but wonderful for us. The entrance is to the left of the wall facing you. The living areas are upstairs. From our south-facing windows we see the ocean on clear days, and the twinkling lights across Monterey Bay on clear nights.

Thanks for taking a walk with me. If you'd like to know more about chaparral, check out the Chaparral Institute (also in our links).


Susan Tomlinson said…
Erm, I only know how to plant *flat*.

A very impressive set of slopes to deal with there. I guess I'd plant some big boulders on some of them and aim for some structure to hold plants in place...

And it is way, way too hot to go for a real walk if it is 104 in the shade. It's just about too hot to do anything at those temps.

Except maybe drink a beer.

In front of a fan.
Thank you for the walk. That pictures IS wonderfully romantic! And I am jealous - your dog can run loose!
I would kill for a big lot with oaks and poison ivy. Too bad the ivy has its problems because I think a lot of people would use it in their less wild gardens. That gorgeous bright red is a color most of our natives don't supply. Brown, green, gray--check. But not that lovely poison ivy red.
Christine said…
re: the red poison ivy. what about Roger's Red? I know it's only a half-native, but it's quite a stunner.