Now what? A blank slate in the north valley garden area

Blank? well not really.

Looking east from the propane tank at the top of the valley. You can see two Garrya elliptica shrubs languishing there in wire baskets, about six years old. Think I'll prune them and see if it stimulates them to grow - next season. River rocks at top awaiting deployment somewhere.

But a lot of space to be turned from ruined wilderness - the top of the hill was probably pushed down here when our home was built 33 years ago - into a wilderness garden that blends into untouched forest. Well, untouched since clearcut maybe 80 maybe 100 years ago - as was most of the redwood along the Central Coast of California.
Looking east again, from lower down. We love our dead madrone. Pygmy nuthatches nest in a knot hole every year and this year we have lots of them at the bird bath. BTW Duncan the dog is knee high to me, just for perspective.

This phase is daunting. I come from tiny British pocket-handkerchief gardens. My vision doesn't extend farther than the reach of a watering can.

Looking east and up to the top of the valley. You can see the propane tank, which I'd like to disguise a little, and the madrone that shouldn't be there but how can you take down a lovely madrone? Sword fern growing from the pool overflow, wild. I just filled the gully up with river-rocks to start turning it into a garden feature. We don't often have to let water out of the pool. You can see how steep the slope is. About half of it is this steep, and half shallower.

But wow, what I place we get to live in here. And how we enjoy it.

Looking west now, along the path Wood Rat carved around the slope. You can just see the pool fence in the upper left, the thin line. The area above this path is what I'll work on this year - weeding the grasses and planting native irises and heuchera and bunch grasses and so on. Maybe transplanting a few ferns I've got growing elsewhere. 

For me enjoyment is never unmixed with worry. I worry that I'm spoiling the land. That I should take the "weed and wait" approach. But waiting doth not a garden make.

We've never liked this chain-link fence along the top, but it has to be a safety fence to keep kids out of the pool. Not that we're likely to get kids wandering around here unsupervised -- but wouldn't you feel awful.... And it's the law. So we are thinking of moving the fence line roughly where the hose is laid out, so it's not so - rectilinear - and we'll use a 4ft high bamboo fence. We have an eight-foot high bamboo fence on the west side of the pool, which borders our neighbor's property -- it's that high to reassure him deer won't jump from our pool garden into his veg. garden! You can kind of see to the left of the oak a bit of particle board sticking up. It's four feet high. So from the pool garden we would get a nice view over the top, as well as an interesting garden area, and the deer would be less likely to jump over cos it's on a slope (they very very rarely do anyway). The stump is from an oak that had sudden oak death syndrome.
Another view so you can see kind of what's on the other side and imagine that black barrier gone and a bamboo fence curving around behind the oak there. 

I just read Kat Anderson's book, "Tending the Wild," and it hit home. Humans as well as animals and plants interact to make the microbioregion they all participate in. There is no getting away from it. No John Muir standing back and just having a bunch of awe before breakfast. Well, that's not true actually. Some of my best awe happens before breakfast. But then there are weeds to pull, branches to trim up -- and planting plans to make.

Nature will indeed just happen in our north garden. The open area will quickly return to weedy grasses and mixed evergreen forest. If I were not living here, I'd just weed and wait and let the forest return. But I do live here. And though it seems counter intuitive, because most of the winds come from the cool damp coast, the worst fires will come from the north, driven by hot, dry inland winds surging towards the coast.

So I want it to be mostly redwoods, then mostly low vegetation with shrubs interspersed.

I also know I'll fail. I won't be able to take down the lovely toyons that are 30 feet tall.

Lovely toyons thirty feet tall, mixed with madrones, backed by redwoods - oh my! (And wood rat village below, maybe populated, maybe not.)

I won't be able to resist planting too many flowering currants because I know they will look lovely in spring. But - fire safety will be in my mind and I'll do my best. And then I'll worry that none of it will matter anyway and why am I doing this and....

Looking west again, top of the slope, from the path. You can see my dad's cottage (well, it was before he died this spring) and the terraced area. I planted that buckeye there, small bright sapling in the center, but the tree guys knocked its top off. And anyway it was probably a bad idea. I'm going to see what it does without a leader before deciding whether to remove it. (I'm not going to hire that crew again.)

But I will have unmixed pleasure in attempting to bring the very local natives in, and increase the ones that are there already, around the forest edges especially. And I'll plant a few bright nursery-bought natives from other parts of California (I think of these as ornamentals with wildlife value) like coast sunflower from the south of California, in the garden zone closer to the house, and I'll keep them pruned and a little irrigated so they are not brittle-dry. And some low bees' bliss sage, and deer grass, to make some impact. And maybe some Winifred Gilman sage which I love for its color and scent. I might even put a little English lavender near a bench, for old times sake. It doesn't escape its garden boundaries.

Here is a list of plants whose seeds I've recently gathered locally, or I already have in pots, or it is growing wild on the property already. I'm not done with the list, either. Another time I'll do the list again, with pictures. I need to get away from the computer as I've been at it for too many days in a row!

The valley has sunny and shady areas - the plants are not arranged by sun/shade needs:

Adenocaulon bicolor, trail plant
Aquilegia formosa, western columbine
Artemisia californica, sage brush
Artemisia douglasiana, mugwort
Boykinia saxifrage
Carex globosa, a kind of sedge
Eriogonum nudum, naked buckwheat
Eriophyllum confertiflorum, golden yarrow
Frangula californica, coffeeberry
Heteromeles californica, toyon
Heuchera micrantha, alum root
Holodiscus discolor, seafoam
Juncus patens, common rush
Lupinus albifrons, silver bush lupine
Lupinus arboreus - lavender bush lupine
Lupinus bicolor, little annual lupine
Maianthemum racemosum, false feathery lily of the valley
Melica torreyana, melic grass
Mimulus aurantiacus, sticky monkeyflower
Monardella villosa, coyote mint
Oxalis oregana, redwood sorrel
Prosartes hookeri, Hooker's fairy bells
Rhamnus californica, coffeeberry
Ribes (unk - from CNPS sale) flowering currant
Rosa gymnocarpa, wood rose
Rubus parviflora, thimbleberry
Salvia spathacea, hummingbird sage
Solidago californica, goldenrod
Stachys bullata, hedgenettle (not a nettle!)
Stipa cernua, nodding needlegrass
Stipa lepida, foothill needlegrass
Symphoricarpos mollis, creeping snowberry
etc! To be continued.