Dad's Garden Bed Makeover: Smaller, with New Retaining Walls

So - this is the story of the great cottage garden makeover. It illustrates the fun of doing your own stonework! It also illustrates a paradox confronting the native plant gardener who lives in a wild area.

In case you don't read to the end - here it is up front: the end result!
Here's what it looked like before, at its best (though not shown during bloom time unfortunately). Note how the rosemary is growing up the cottage? Talk about fire hazard. It got worse. Much worse! And see how big and white-gray those stones are? It does look nice, but is out of scale with everything else, and the color is wrong too. It was a miscommunication - the garden guys who did the work are wonderful gardeners.
I wasn't planning to do the whole makeover yet, so I took out the rosemary - that was quite a job I can tell you - and completely replanted the beds. My dad likes flowers and he is quite elderly so I wanted things that will fill in fast. See end of post for more on the plants.
But then Mr Wood Rat pointed out that as we were having some folk up to demolish the old horse barn, now would be the ideal opportunity to remove the big stones. We needed to reduce the size of the beds because it's hard to turn in our driveway. I gave some great sighs and removed the mulch, removed the plants to pots, and rolled up my sleeves. The demo was done by Kunz Valley Trash, who do our garbage service, and they did a great job and were good people to work with. Mr Kunz's wife was very happy to get the big gray rocks for her garden, too! 
Dang but those garden guys did a good job. The whole bed is underlain by lots of gopher wire! I had to dig back the soil to the reduced bed size, and also cut away all the extra wire. 
Then came the fun part! I love working with stone. I built some low retaining walls using Sonoma field stone, a kind of volcanic rock from not too far away that is fairly inexpensive around here.
Here's that bed finished. We mulched all around the areas that are no longer garden bed, which matches other parts of the property. The mulch will become gray - it's startlingly bright right now.
And here's me taking my hat off to myself beside the other bed. I kept some of the smaller gray rocks to use here and there. Some I used in the dry creek bed. Some I just left where they dumped them in this bed.
Looking good - and a lot smaller (used to extend to edge of mulch).
Whew! Duncan gives the final project approval. Not that anything is final final - I'm planning to stuff the rocks with California fuchsia, growing from wild seed in the greenhouse, and put more clarkia in and I put some pots round the end of the path and... 
Here are the plants laid out by Nicky at Gold Rush Nursery to give me an idea how they might go in the two beds. I'm not that good at garden design. I bought one or two more plants after that, but followed her general layout. Needless to say, I recommend Gold Rush Nursery in Soquel very highly! Winter hours: open Friday 9-4, and other days if you give a call ahead of time.

Plant list and Paradox
The paradox is that when you live in the midst of wild California native plants like I do, you are restricted in what you can plant. I have native manzanita, clarkia, ceanothus, coffee berry, dudleya and etc; therefore I don't purchase anything from their plant families that will hybridize with them. I don't want to mess up the unique wild species that exist here. This is a pain in the nether regions. However to make up for that - I have the amazing good fortune to be able to propagate these local unique lovelies and offer them to others - either neighbors, or others in urban settings where hybridization is not an issue.

So around the house where I want to have some pretties, I choose from local wild natives, non-local natives that won't hybridize, and other ornamental plants that won't naturalize or hybridize or otherwise stray from their garden locations -- and that benefit wildlife. (Farther from the house I focus on just weeding.)

OK, here's the plant list. I don't know much about the purchased plants but I do trust Nicky at Gold Rush Nursery to be an ethical supplier of plants that fit my criteria:

  • 3 Hesperaloe Parviflora hummingbird yucca: 3-6’ - yellow or red flowers on stalks
  • 3 Penstemon “Miss Moneypenny”: 12-24” coral red flowers
  • 6+ Dymondia margaretae: low, variegated foliage, yellow flowers
  • 6 Senecio talinoides “Jolly Gray”: 12-18”, blue grey succulent, white flowers 
  • 2 Phormium “Black Adder”: 3-4’, purple foliage
  • 3 Arctotis “Strawberry Fields”: 10-14”, mauve flowers green foliage
  • 1 Agastache “Blue Fortune”, anise hyssop: 2-3’, summer bloom blue.
  • 2 Correa “Dusky Bells”: 3’ X 8’ late summer - spring dusky red
  • 1 Sempervivum “Sanford”: low growing succulent
  • 1 Euphorbia amygdaloides “Black Bird” 16-18" yellow-green flowers in winter/spring
  • 1 Grevillea lanigera “Mount Tamboritha”: 2’ X 6’, pinkish red flowers winter-spring (purchased later)
  • 1 mystery white one like a big allysum - lost the label! (purchased later)

Plus local natives I'm growing in the green house - so far these ones:

  • Epilobium canum, California fuchsia - grey foliage, red blooms in September
  • Clarkia rubicunda, purple chalice clarkia - green foliage, magenta booms in June
  • A little round sedge I haven't IDed yet - green
  • Eriophyllum confertiflorum - green foliage and chrome yellow blooms through summer

I tucked in all the babies with lots of redwood bark mulch (not around their root crowns) and I've been watering them every few days to keep them happy during this dry late winter, with an occasional deep watering. I probably over water, but they are tolerating it all and are thriving! I'm so enjoying this project - and look forward to showing you some Garden Blogger's Bloom Day pictures - and First Views pictures - later this year.


Terra said…
I like your plant list and how your beds bordered by rocks turned out. Your dad will enjoy his new native plantings, I am sure.
I did read the whole post and I am amazed! What a project! I am also taking my hat off to you!
I wish my rosemary grew as well as your Dad's.
ryan said…
Nice work. The ruddy Moss Rock matches the house a lot better. I've never grown some of those plants either, it should be fun to see them grow in. Your dad must be really pleased.
Country Mouse said…
Thanks for leaving your thoughts! My dad does find it a big improvement, Terra,- and yes that rosemary did do astonishingly well, Tatyana, and was much loved by bees. I'll have to get more blossoms going for then as soon as possible! and yes - I'm really pleased and curious to see how the garden matures - thanks for the compliment, Ryan!
Jason said…
The new wall does look much better. I like to work with stone also. I have made a planter and retaining wall with stones from our old patio.
Jean Campbell said…
Love your stone work, can appreciate the effort it takes.
Ostrich Fern said…
You are doing hard work for this garden. And this is looking so nice. Really nice.
Country Mouse said…
Thanks for your kind comments - and empathy for the work that went into this project!
Diana Studer said…
it's the TV chef thing, here's one I made earlier. The before and after without the blood sweat and tears. In the next, cooler, garden I'll try our Dymondia again. You could try it with silver ponyfoot?
Lazy Susan Ltd said…
It is indeed a big improvement for your dad's garden bed. Your plant list is great too. Anyone would want to grow plants in them.