Under A Big Tent

If I named my home at this moment, something I’ve been mulling over for a while, Hotel Chaotica would be a good fit.
The big tent is coming next week under which death will be dealt to the termites chewing away at the ribs of this 100-year-old wooden house.

I find this photo of Manihot grahamii’s little flowers so soothing.


Maybe you didn’t know, but it is very selfish to think of one’s garden at such a moment. I read this in everyone’s eyes and the errant comments they let slip about being accepting of the damage that might occur to plants, plus being cheerfully admonished to think of the big picture. Psychologically, the work is underway to thicken my hide. Plants are plants, whereas a house is your home. Priorities. Buck up, for goodness’ sake.

But the garden is where I live.

I let that comment slip yesterday. The plaintive tone in that voice surprised me. It was my voice all right, but very thin in tone, lacking the adult timbre I’ve built up all these years.

Time for another soothing interlude. Blue is such a calming color.


The biggest danger is to the 15-foot triangle palm, Dypsis decaryi, planted about two feet away from the foundations.
There’s room enough between palm and house for the tenting tarp and sand bags, but I’ve read that the gas can leach into the soil and kill a plant two to four feet away.
Nothing to be done at this point but wait it out.


I briefly checked out of the Hotel Chaotica Saturday morning to attend the annual salvia sale at Fullerton Arboretum.
I was hoping to find a Salvia madrensis, a yellow-flowered sage with sexy red stems, and fortune smiled.


Fortune more than smiled, it laughed maniacally. Along with Salvia madrensis, I brought home S. karwinskii, S. macrophylla ‘Upright Form,’ and S. broussonetii, with a large leaf very similar to the clary sage. All but S. broussonetii will make enormous-sized shrubs. (At the arboretum, I looked up from the salvias long enough to note that quite a few of the salviaphiles’ hair was matted to their head, probably in the same configuration as when they leapt out of bed that joyous morning of the sale, which made me nervously run fingers through my own hair, even though I was fairly certain I had remembered to comb it.)

Salvia macrophylla, more soothing blue.


Salvia karwinskii’s thick, felty leaves sold me on this very big salvia. No idea where to put it.
You think the cats know something is up? Joseph is usually skylarking on the roof by this time of the morning.


The salvias were added to the giant holding area where garden stuff has been herded to make ready for the tenting crew, all the potted plants, chairs, tables. It looks like the aftermath of a disaster movie about a garden, with all the props ready to be loaded into trucks.

Sunday’s priority was moving some choice plants along the west side of the house about to have the curtain literally drop on them this Wednesday. An Agave bracteosa was moved with a good-sized ball of soil, a beschorneria had very little soil come away with its roots, and a large Aloe striata had to be stripped of most of its leaves, since very little root or soil was left to transplant.

In anticipation of the big tent, we’ve been juggling safety issues of people, animals, plants. Just when the plants’ safety seems settled for a moment, down comes another ball of anxiety:
The cats, four of them.

This morning I have been offered a VW bus to keep the cats in for just the two nights. I’ll probably sleep in the VW with them. A Hotel Chaotica on wheels.


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10 Responses to Under A Big Tent

  1. hoover boo says:

    My experience was if the plants are not under the tent, and are pre-watered very deeply, they are fine. Full hydration is supposed to help. A couple under the tent died, and a few survived without any noticible harm. The dead ones were drier, so perhaps the advice about watering deeply was correct.

  2. Wow and I get stressed about the idea of painting the house and all the plant trampling that might occur. Yours is an entirely new level of worry. Don’t let the non-gardeners get to you. We all understand what you’re going through.

  3. Denise says:

    Hoov, thanks for the input. When driving around town, all I can see now is how close plants are to the foundation. What a lot of heartache!
    Loree, I’ve consoled myself today with the purchase of a variegated echium. Onward!

  4. Kathy says:

    Damn Denise, didn’t know you were on the verge of getting the fumiga-caftan. I hope Hoovers observations hold true.I think it was more than appropriate to soothe yourself with Salvias. Will they also spend the night in the bus ?

  5. Megan says:

    Oh this is terribly anxiety producing, I would be a nervous wreck. You really want people to understand that the plants are important, that they should be saved if they can be, even if there’s some unavoidable risk.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for your plants. I hope this is over quickly and you can get back to enjoying the garden shortly.

  6. Les says:

    As a devoted and gardener and the owner of a very nearly 100 year old wooden house, this post has sent a chill down my spine.

  7. Oh, I’m so sorry. Just reading this makes me feel your anxiety. I’d feel exactly the same way – to hell with the house, what about MY PLANTS!!! I’ll say a little prayer for your palm…..

  8. Cindy says:

    eeks, been out of touch — I’m crossin my fingers for all green, 4-footed, 2-footed creatures, plants and wooden structures. What a stressful thing. Of Course, you Live in the Garden! I’d be checking more medicinal plants to assist in stress levels too. Hoping it works out well for all.

  9. David says:

    Termites are in my top 10 fear list since we have a 1949 all wooden bungalow. I’m thinking your plants will make it. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
    David 🙂

  10. Denise says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments. For those with wooden houses, apparently the thing to do is use caulk liberally, filling in any possible points of entry, even caulking between the siding. And the termites favor the warm, south sides of the house, so special attention there.

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