ghosts of gardens past

Cleaning out old photo albums releases lots of ghosts of gardens past. Do I feel guilty and as greedy as Scrooge over all the plants that have come and gone? Not a bit. I do notice that I’ve become more of a climate realist, following the rainfall patterns, with less emphasis on masses of summer-blooming plants during what is typically our dry season.

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Some of the ghosts are huge and come armed with hooks. The only time I bother to find some gloves and wear them is preparing to do battle with an agave. (That’s a knife in my hand.) I doubt I’d wrestle with a monster this size again. The only way to release the kraken was to break the pot. Actually, this agave is still alive and kicking, but in my neighbor’s garden.

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The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

T.S. Eliot was absolutely right.

The garden has lots of kitty ghosts too. Jones, our tabby, as of about a month ago, is no more. Also known as Joseph, aka Professor Joe B. Tiger aka Beaner. We think he made it to over 20 years’ old at least. What a cantankerous beast he was.

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More ghosts of plants past, like the beautiful but invasive feather grass, Stipa tenuissima, which has been systematically expunged from the garden. The cats particularly loved this grass — to sleep on, to hide behind, to play in like their own personal Serengeti.

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The yucca is one of the few plants still around today. With anthemis and the ‘Bill Wallis’ geranium.

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Yucca, coronilla, agastache. I need to find that pig-ear cotyledon again.

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I probably have a tenth of the containers I once kept. Holy mole…

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A dwarf form of Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea,’ the golden-leaved Persicaria amplexicaulis, fuchsias, plectranthus, pelargoniums, etc., etc., all ghosts now.

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At some point things started getting shrubbier and grassier, more structural, but always planting so densely that the intention became buried. Did a love of plants spoil the design? Oh, heavens, yes, absolutely. There will always be other gardens to visit and admire for their strong design. I still need the plants. In the background are two “golfball” pittosporums that were clipped into spheres, a shape that they seemed to outgrow weekly. Clipped structure is such high maintenance. Definitely not for me. The dark-leaved shrubs in the foreground are Lophomyrtus x ralphii ‘Red Dragon.’

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Better view of the golfball pitts. They always stubbornly inclined more to a light bulb shape than spherical.

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The yucca engulfed by Geranium ‘Dragon Heart.’

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The summer I let white valerian take over.

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The tawny, strawberry-blonde tresses of Stipa arundinacea (Anemanthele lessoniana) have been a long-time favorite. Sedum nussbaumerianum pushes these colors even harder.

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This grass and anything burgundy, like amaranthus or ricinus. Yum.

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Same color as the stipa but now in Libertia peregrinans. What a good year 2011 was for Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain.’

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Alstroemeria ‘The Third Harmonic,’ wonderful in vases, atrocious in the garden. Tall and unsteady, needing sturdy support (high maintenance)

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I can’t even remember the names of some of the many succulents that passed through the garden. This pom pom was rampageous.

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The many adventures in moss

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I miss the scent of the roses almost as much as their flowers. Chromatella’s was deep and complex, with notes of tobacco.

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Some things never change. The garden is as overstuffed as it ever was. 2013 will be remembered as the year the eryngiums bloomed well. Onward to 2014!

This entry was posted in agaves, woody lilies, plant crushes, Plant Portraits, succulents and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to ghosts of gardens past

  1. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I love this post as I too suffer from plant lust ruining the design of my garden. Very interesting to see some of the evloution of your garden!

  2. Hoov says:

    Different plants…but somehow the same garden. It’s educational to look back, isn’t it?

    How did the sale go?

  3. sweetbay says:

    I dunno, I still see a beautiful design in the garden in these pictures. 🙂

  4. Alison says:

    I enjoyed this look back at your garden in previous years. Sorry to hear about your kitty. I lost one too recently.

  5. Pat Webster says:

    They say copying is the sincerest form of flattery — I plan to copy this idea on my blog. Love the idea of ghosts of gardens past, both my current garden and gardens in other cities, at other houses, including the one where I grew up. Now, if I can only find the time to locate the photos!

  6. Pat Webster says:

    Denise, despite our growing conditions being so different, I enjoy your blog. Inspiration can come from many places. I hope you don’t mind me ‘stealing’ your ghosts of gardens past idea. If you do, please let me know and Ill restrain myself!

  7. Kris P says:

    What a nice trip down memory lane. Your garden, however packed, was – and is – beautiful. When I look back at pictures of my old garden, I’m always surprised at how good it actually looked at its various stages of evolution – in the midst of it, I tended to focus on what was wrong or what I needed to do next rather than its beauty. I realize that the same could be said for my “new” garden, now 3 years under my governance. As this is the 1st garden I’ve had with some areas of full sun, I went hog-wild with flowering and high-maintenance plants but I’m trying to dial that down. I just received Sydney Eddison’s book, “Gardening for a Lifetime,” and am taking some of its lessons to heart.

  8. David Feix says:

    Loved this post, and some wonderful photos of past renditions of your garden. You have a way with describing your temptations that is both enlightening and humorous!

  9. Denise says:

    @Peter, and this is just the past few years! So many plants, so little time…
    @Hoov, the sale was fun. Missed you!
    @sweetbay, then you have a very sympathetic eye! Thank you.
    @Alison, I’m sorry you lost your friend too. We still have little Evie, who seems to be blossoming as the One and Only now.
    @Pat, I hope you find those photos. Consider it a meme!
    @Kris, it is so exciting, isn’t it? Hard not to go hog-wild.
    @David, the photostreams of your work have fanned quite a few plant temptations!

  10. Les says:

    Sorry about your cat of three names. I am more of a dog person, but have kept a couple of kitties in my heart from time to time. My childhood cat, Tangerine, was 19 the last time anyone saw her in 1979. She might still be out there somewhere, who knows?

  11. Pam/Digging says:

    I sure don’t see how any design is ruined in your beautiful, stuffed garden, Denise. It’s fun to hear how it’s evolved from year to year. Mine changes constantly too, with an increasing reliance on xeric, structural plants like yucca and agave and water-thrifty sub-shrubs.

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