Another new flower bed - in the south garden

The south garden has been a challenge for us since we arrived here. Flat and in full sun, with a southerly exposure, it was a lawn when we got here, and it wants to be chaparral. But it is right next to our house, and we need to think of fire safety.

The recommendation is - mainly hardscape in the first thirty feet. That is a bit dispiriting and probably futile here, where we have fences and trees and palms (next door) and etc. We just try to keep the fuel load down and keep things weeded and free of dead wood. Our maybe more realistic goal is to be able to manage a small, local fire. In the event of major fire - we are out of here! In fact right now - we have a big old fire truck stationed in our corral, while the new substation about a mile from here is being built - so response times should be - how can I put it - blazing fast?

I've been putting off working in this area, since the "meadow" failure - but as is our wont, Wood Rat and I just decided to set to this weekend and we cleared the area of weeds to create a blank (or anyway blanker) canvas to work with.

Ms Town Mouse mentioned that we discussed our different design approach last time she came up for a visit. I don't know if I can dignify what I do as "an approach." I need to move stones around, with a general idea in mind. That's what I was doing in the photo above.

I have a difficult time working from a drawing. When I did a bit of hands-on art, some years ago now, I enjoyed clay sculpture, and I really like seeing things "in the round." I do try to keep the design principles I've learned in mind, and think about what I want to see and experience in the garden. My garden, perforce, must evolve. Well, that's the current game plan anyway.

The shape shown above changed a bit over the course of the weekend. I'm standing at the steel post that used to hold up the prior owner's satellite dish (you can see it in the shot below). We think it "might come in handy" one day, so we haven't removed it as yet.

I nudged things this way and that till we ended up - up to this point anyway - with the look that follows, taken from the trellis you can see in the last shot:

Here it is from the greenhouse looking out.

Duncan takes credit for everything, of course.

I'm thinking of planting a lot of the Madia elegans (common madia) I've grown from local seed, letting this area be mostly a "madia fountain" this year - spurting seeds into the landscape where I hope the madia will naturalize. In summer their yellow flowers are cheerful. They themselves are not the best for fire - another common name for madia after all is "tar weed" - but I want to beef up the natives to compete with the non-natives that I'm trying to eradicate - though this year I've been short of time as far as weeding goes. Hate to let that go - you lose a lot of ground in one year. Maybe I can do some catchup later on in spring.

I need a plant palette that has low growing natives for the 30 foot defensible zone - I can try to grow blue witch next year, and other "fire follower" natives that can take full sun. I'm not sure if that will provide a complete look, or if we'll need to augment with some ornamental non-invasive plants for the garden aesthetic we want.

Unfortunately because of our little bunny friends - I'll have to put up a small fence around the mound, at least temporarily. I'm planning on a 2 foot wire fence, just staked into the ground. Till they are a bit bigger, I want to protect any baby plants we put here.

I hope to show another post in the not-too-distant future, with the babies planted and safe in their "playpen!"


Anonymous said…
Oh boy, I love a new planting bed! Like a blank canvas waiting for paint.
Here the CDF says plants plants in islands just as here, so fire can't jump easily from fuel to fuel. They say the key is having a defensible space, so the fireman can get in and out easily and guard your place, and they will, too. During the couple fires we've had here they arrive at your house and 'make sure' it's safe. On the other hand, you're right about getting out when you have to.
I wish I could find that study that says tarweed burns slower than non native grasses. I surfed by it and remember being impressed.
We have both tarweed, Madia, and Rosinweed, Calycadenia truncata, and both are colorful and fragrant, but I prefer Madia. If you can get it going, you'll always have it.
A ceanothus would go with, colorwise or Cleveland sage if you like those. I'll be eager to see what you do with your beautiful new bed!
Chandramouli S said…
Wow! That's a huge area! What combination of flowers one can plant there!!!! I am excited to see what it would look like next month when fully crowded! Good luck and have fun!
Diana Studer said…
Good grief, that banana slug in your header, is banana sized and gut-heavingly ickky!!

We are in town, and South Africa is not nearly as geared up to firescaping. Tho it would be necessary, especially for houses that border on nature reserves.
Christine said…
I love how there's a firetruck parked in your corral! That area looks so exciting... and intimidating! Do bunnies chomp on Sysrinchium bellum? Oh and Duncan, good job!
Look at that rascally rabbit! I'm amazed Duncan doesn't keep the bunnies at bay. If Madia elegans grows half as well as our Madia madioides, you'll be cursing...I mean thrilled, that it does so well. We have some very dense stands that exploded here when we cleared the orchard area, and honestly, for natives, they're thugs...I mean wildly successful ;) Good luck if you try the Blue Witches. In my experience, they're a bit fussy to get to grow, and if in full sun, they seem to need a fair bit more water to look good. I've resorted to just letting the wild ones grow, rather than plant them. The combination would be beautiful though.
Town Mouse said…
How about some succulents (native or not)? They'd be perfect for fire safety, add a nice structural element to the garden, multiply but not aggressively. Some seem to prefer part shade, but some do OK in full sun.

(One day we'll have to do a post about banana slugs. No one understands what wonderful critters they are...)
James said…
I love your blank slate. Few things are more exciting to this gardener. Blue witch decided it didn't like me and croaked--twice. But hopefully it likes you better. I think it could make a nice informal but yet garden-ey statement. Maybe some screaming yellow madia could provide an exclamation point in the stand, coordinating with the yellow floral parts of the blue witch? Enjoy your new bed. You've earned all sorts of great rewards.
I wonder what it is about the kidney shape that is so very pleasing to the eye. Your bed shows that, I find that shape all over in my gardens.

At any rate, your new garden promises to be quite wonderful, and an asset to your place. I wonder about your bunny rabbits, though. Mine are perfectly capable of jumping over a two foot high fence. I also discovered that they are quite slim enough to wiggle through a 2x4 inch wire fence too. But maybe my bunnies are hungrier than yours?

Good luck. That reminds me that I have a note to cage my liatris today. Rabbits.
Country Mouse said…
Thanks so much for your comments, all. Succulents I find are irresistible to gophers. The bunnies seem to avoid my neighbor's plants with a low fence and I'll choose things I know they are not fond of. My trouble is finding time right now - it may be fall before I truly get this area planted - but the madia I think I can get in quickly. When life gets busy, unfortunately the luxury of gardening is the first to suffer. Still, it gives one time to plan.