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It happened one night; August rain

I bought my first water plant Saturday, and it rained all that night. Not a downpour, but a steady drizzle. I’m not saying there’s any causal link between the two, just that they’re both rare events that happened to coincide one day in August when I finally made good on an old, wilted promise to start a water garden. Nobody is immune to a little magical thinking, especially gardeners and other anxious weather watchers. And I don’t mind at all buying more water plants in the offchance it pleases the drought gods that I do so. After the overnight rain, it was so nice waking up Sunday morning to the clean world.

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My first water plant. Ruby-stemmed Sagittaria lancifolia ‘Ruminoides’
The fiberglass/concrete container was not intended to hold water and may be a temporary arrangement. Marty sealed it with waterproofing, so we’ll see.

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I don’t think that whitish mottling is a good sign, however.
It clouded up like that before the waterproofing, too, when it held just a few glass fishing floats.

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What’s submerged and rendered invisible by dark waterproofing is the desperate need for repotting, with the gallon container split open by bulging roots.
For repotting, it will need muck, won’t it? I asked the kind nurseryman, trying out the one word I know that has something to do with bogs and ponds.
Have you got muck? he queried me with a strange expression.
No, have you? I’m muckless, I rejoined, matching his strange expression with one of my own at the bizarreness of it all.
It’s not often that “muckless” gets incorporated into daily conversation, but given the chance, I’m going for it.

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Tiny romneya-like flowers bloomed Sunday morning.

The nice nurseryman said a cheap solution for a suitable potting soil is a 50/50 mix of decomposed granite and pure compost.
Compost I’ve got. I just need to beg some d.g. off of Holly across the street.

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Inspired by the garden rejuvenation wrought by a single pot of the common arrowhead, a container of Salvia guaranitica was plunged into the garden near the tank.
This salvia has been hanging around for years in the garden, deprived of the care it needs as I’ve moved on to other salvias, but still it lingers.
I noticed it growing near the fence under the cypress and potted up some straggly shoots a month or so ago.
No sense in taking a survivor like that for granted.

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Welcome to the clean world.
Not glistening from the hose but from that holy of holies, August rainfall. That cussonia has already been moved elsewhere.
I’m on fire with pot shuffling lately, motivated by this shiny, new world.

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The cussonia will get more sun here. Naturally, table and chairs had to be moved nearby to admire the cussonia.
The rain’s shiny polish doesn’t last long, does it?

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The tall burgundy line in the background is drawn by a gawky Pseuderanthemum atropurpureum ‘Black Varnish,’ a plant that never loses its polish.
A tender tropical, there’s no problem overwintering it here, just that crazy legginess it gets the second season.

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Pinching it back doesn’t seem to help.

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More news on dark plants. Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ is faithfully performing her job of hiding the compost pile behind her massive girth.

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Since it’s clean, let’s take a walk on the east side.
Pots reshuffled against the fence that separates the front and back gardens on the east side, which has always been problematic for me.
Too many fences, gates, awkward angles, the canyon effect. Seen through the window behind the leggy pittosporum is the blurred shape of the east boundary hedge of dwarf olives.

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It’s such a great “breathing” space despite all the harsh angles, so I’m working on making it more inviting somehow. (On the cheap, of course.)
I’d love a long table and chairs and some great hanging lamps, so will keep it mostly empty until that fine day miraculously arrives. Until then, nothing terrifyingly big and spiky will be allowed here.
This entire east side was covered in overgrown oleanders when we bought the house, which made the house’s interior dark and gloomy.
The dark woodwork indoors gives the interior more than enough gravitas already. (Marty and I have the typical seesawing argument that takes place in old houses such as this:
Paint the interior woodwork white to brighten things up or leave it original? I always argue for keeping it original, but then I’m an impractical softie.)

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Speaking of terrifyingly big and spiky, Agave ‘Mr Ripple’ greets you through the Dutch door, usually left open during the day.

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Mr. Ripple’s lower spines near the walkway have been clipped back, but he still has his uppers.
Marty cannot wait for the day Mr. Ripple blooms (and dies).

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The copper pot is filled with rhipsalis and other hanging cactus. A Mina lobata is climbing up the iron scaffolding.
Apart from the pittosporum, now tree height, there’s currently not much planted in the narrow strip against the blue fence other than some succulents.
I’m enjoying the starkness of it all, but old habits die hard.

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I can’t stop adding stuff, like the giant tree aloe ‘Hercules’ to the right of the potted agave. But that’s it, I swear.

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The newly planted City Planter just moved in, the first attempt at planting anyway. It may need revision. (Too stark against the blue fence?)

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Currently planted with rhipsalis, Echeveria multicaulis, and the trailing blue echeveria, whose name I’ve forgotten. A couple sprigs of Sticks on Fire may or may not root.

At the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling, Lisa Calle, the raven-haired bloggess from Spain, was the rightful winner but graciously threw it back into the raffle since it didn’t fit inside her suitcase.
(Thank you so much, Lisa ! Thank you, Potted !)

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And that concludes the mini-tour of the rain-fresh east side. Mind Mr. Ripple on your way out!


15 comments to It happened one night; August rain

  • The August rain you was a treat for you but the photos you posted were a treat for us! Loving the plants you have, their arrangement, and the different layers and texture in your garden Denise, inspiring!

  • First water plant?! There must be water in the garden, and there must be plants within it!

    By “muck” you mean the normal clay soil that most of us have? Strange that he suggested compost, as keeping organics out of the water is somewhat important (that’s why clay soil works so well in submerged pots, topped with some gravel)

  • Denise

    @M&G, when I think of your water garden, I am in…complete…awe.
    @Alan, and so I believe! Just been slow getting around to it — and the research necessary. I figure plunging in and buying a plant will force the issue. I’ve just always associated water plants with “muck” for some reason. He told me the mix they use is 50/50 d.g. and compost, but I do know where to get some heavy, unamended clay soil so may try that too.

  • Lovely clean tour, thank you!
    I have quite a few plants that Other Half is waiting to see flower, if you get my drift. Some because they are spiky but mostly just because they get in the way of the lawn mower.

  • Pam/Digging

    Haha, I loved your “muck” conversation. I used to dig up clay out of my yard to repot my water plants, but since my garden is now all planted out, I just buy bags of heavy soil from the pond nursery. I agree it’s strange that he suggested you use a mix of regular potting soil, which is so light it floats — but maybe with the DG mixed in it won’t.

    Love your ominous Mr. Ripple lurking outside the door!

  • Denise

    Pam, I’m pretty sure he was referring to compost straight out of the compost pile, not bagged potting soil. He did have some aquatic potting soil for $17 a bag, which I passed on. Another big learning curve ahead. I’ve got to go back and reread your blog on the stock tank.

  • ‘Mr. Ripple’ is terrifying and fascinating at the same time! If your water garden purchase brought on the rain, thank you and keep shopping. I laughed at your mention of magical thinking – in a similar vein, encouraged by the extreme tropical mugginess of the air Saturday afternoon, thinking that rain just might happen despite all the disappointments of prior forecasts of our 10-20% chances, I, very deliberately, chose NOT to set out my rain-meter so as not to jinx the possibility. Voila! For all I know there are hundreds – or thousands – of Californians engaged in a variety of rain-making rituals. Now, following our rinse, we need to repeat.

  • hb

    That ‘Hercules’ isn’t in the ground, is it? We got some rain here in the night; I didn’t go outside for fear it would stop. With the drought, when it comes to rain we are all as superstitious as baseball players.

  • ks

    Oh yeah, I know just what you mean..we had a bit of a shower here, but hardly enough for the housekeeping aspect. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had one full inch of rain in August every year, without fail ? City planter really pops against that fence..I vote yes. Maybe something with white flowers to spread the wealth ?

  • Denise

    @Kris, we’re all getting a little drought obsessive. And supposed 80% chance of rain tomorrow!
    @Hoov, yep, he’s in the ground, just a small tyke now.
    @Kathy, I’m glad you got some of the rain too. Yes, that whiteness needs some backup and reinforcement. I’ll see what I can do.

  • Rain in SoCal is such a magical event. The contrast between the day to day smog and the dazzling clarity of a post rain vista is so dramatic as to seem unreal. Those were my favorite times to be in Los Angeles.
    Beautiful photographs. And I love that muck conversation. The closest I’ve gotten to that was in our many mulch discussions over the raised beds in the back yard. 30 years and I’ve never said mulch so many times in a conversation — if I’ve even used it at all!
    xo

  • Love what you’ve done with the City Planter, and it up against the dark wall. As for Mr. Ripple he’s quite the hunk, silly Marty.

  • Ohhhh!!! the City Planter looks great!!!! I love it! I think it looks perfect like that.

  • Denise

    @Jessica, I immediately climbed up into the “lookout” against the back of the house to see and listen. Our poor rain senses wither and need recharging! So funny about muck and mulch — name of a law firm maybe? or a blog?…
    @Loree, I can’t even imagine Mr. Ripple in bloom, please not for a couple more years. This year it’s been the dasylirion, a parryi, and now a mangave. I think that’s plenty for now.
    @Lisa, thank you again! Maybe the CP will stay put here then.

  • Yay for a refreshing rain…it’s so great to wake up to a fresh, clean garden with all the dust washed away :-)