new planting progress report

In November 2020 three Monterey cypresses were removed, the wooden fence replaced, a small brick patio removed, and the plantings reworked. Fernleaf acacia trunk is center photo.
roughly the same angle today. Agave victoriae-reginae needed potting up and received a celebratory matte turquoise pot

In November 2020 the east side of the garden saw some major renovations. The size of the lemon cypresses on the east boundary, Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Citriodora,’ had dictated the character of the planting in its root and shade shadow. After their removal, the planting became intentional instead of reactive. A lot of the new planting was woven around original plants that were retained, such as Yucca rostrata, aloes, forms of Agave attenuata, tough plants that had managed to thrive in less-than-ideal conditions. In the far corner, a purple-leaved crinum and Doryanthes palmeri were also retained. Rarely do I think ahead about before-and-after documentation, but there are a few photos of this area that show how it’s been filling in. I am a plant-crazy person, there’s no two ways about it, so this in no way is a comprehensive plant report but more of a quick overview.

Dustin Gimbel’s ceramic totems are temporarily on loan from Mitch until his own garden is ready for them. Most recent additions are the two Ballota acetabulosa ‘All Hallows Green’ in the foreground, the sharp end of the wedge (now Marrubium bourgaei ‘All Hallows Green’)

Today the planting has taken on a wedge shape, with the narrowest end meeting up with the brick patio. I initially didn’t intend to take the planting this close to the bricks but — you know how it goes when you’re weak-kneed susceptible to the stunning beauty of plants. My neighbor’s garage is the visible structure. Leucospermum ‘Tango’ and Grevillea ‘Poorinda Blondie’ are two big, shrubby, and hopefully permanent additions on either side of the totems.

Before the crushed rock mulch which was put down in November/December 2020. The tight buns in the foreground and in front of Agave ‘Arizona Star’ are a dwarf statice I found at Worldwide Exotics, most likely Limonium minutum. It’s sending up clouds of bloom now — love it! I have a slightly larger form too, no ID.

Breaking this down a bit more, in the fall 2020 renovations, a sloping, roughly east/west spine of rocks was laid up to the fence. Lots of my potted succulents were planted along the rocks.

the old LA street light shade was deployed when the gravel was empty of plants

There was a lot of gravel showing early on — not so much now as the planting has absorbed new acquisitions and as spring progresses into summer. The slim trunk belongs to a young Euphorbia cotinifolia which was planted as a small understory tree to the fernleaf acacia.

Poppies have already filled in, bloomed, and been pulled. Gomphostigma virgatum is now hidden under mauve bachelor buttons.

Another Yucca rostrata was moved in front of the fence, transplanted from the front yard.

newly planted succulents along the rocks settling in over winter. Heuchera maxima was planted behind the existing Yucca rostrata, now one of two here. Agave geminiflora in a tall pot was slipped in behind the heuchera. Yet-to-bloom Aloe wickensii in foreground, Aloe ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to the left. Grassy and strappy leaves are the predominant feature here year-round, whether sedges, yuccas, restios, agaves…
alstroemeria leaves filling in on the left
spring growth filling in along the rocks — especially prominent is the Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ — on the left, silver leaves, is the happiest dudleya I’ve ever grown. Carex testacea on the right is a prolific reseeder.
Yucca ‘Magenta Magic’ on left, Mangave ‘Purple People Eater’ on the right. With dwarf statice, echeverias, Chondropetalum tectorum lower left
wands of statice forming flowers
looking to the west, Plectranthus argentatus bulking up, the white flowers of Heuchera maxima now fading to tan
southeast corner with permanent planting of strappy-leaved Doryanthes palmeri, dark-leaved crinum, big leaves of Trevesia palmata. Alstroemeria ‘Third Harmonic’ was already established in this corner as well.

I’ve had a great time playing around with new plantings, keeping in mind the two categories of planting intention: plants that are hopefully permanent, such as the Trevesia palmata above right, and those that are intended for the 2021 season, like Digiplexis ‘Illumination Apricot.’ Silvery plectranthus, bronze fennel, palm-leaved geranium, gaura, verbascum, castor bean are all in the less-than-permanent category, though some will reseed or be easily renewed with cuttings.

Euphorbia cotinifolia engulfed by spring surge. Grevillea leaves in the foreground.

The Euphorbia cotinifolia, even though not an especially long-lived shrub/small tree, is also intended as a permanent feature. One of it’s drawbacks is that it is a prolific reseeder here. I intend to keep it clipped to no more than 8-10 feet, which will keep the reseeding down somewhat — although this morning I noticed flowers forming.

The leucospermum in particular will want frequent irrigation until it’s established.

I’m hoping to do another progress report towards the end of summer, with the aim of checking on size compatibility and seeing what’s survived the hot, dry months — “dry months” being relative terms, as this area has been hand-watered since planting last fall, with scant rainfall recorded. Oh, California! You don’t make it easy…

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8 Responses to new planting progress report

  1. Nick says:

    Beautiful plantings. It looks gorgeous.

  2. So many botanical treasures tucked into a relatively small spot, all done with the signature AGO style we know and love…

  3. Kris P says:

    The changes are wonderful, Denise. My impression is that you accepted the removal of the cypresses reluctantly – I have a vague memory of you expressing concerns about their size dating back to my first tour of your garden – but I think that was an excellent move, even if somewhat painful. I love the splashes of orange color you’ve got going on now but, with all the contrasting foliage textures and colors, I think it’s going to look great even when the flowers retreat.

  4. hb says:

    Most excellent in its latest revision. Onward!

  5. ks says:

    I do love freeing up new spaces to fill -sometimes at the expense of digging up perfectly decent existing plants. That’s what one has to do in a small garden . I really like how things have turned out in yours this far ! Didn’t you used to have a E. cotinifolia ages ago that you dug out because it gt too big ? Or was that someone else… . And the fact that you actually found one somewhere is kind of shocking. Mine rode home on a plane from DC Fling , thanks to Cynthia.

  6. Denise says:

    @Nick, thanks for saying so! Focused as I am on the constraints of climate, available space, etc, sometimes it’s hard to know if it looks like much to anyone else!
    @Loree, some day I’ll have to have a chat with you about what my signature style is!
    @Kris, your impression is correct, but removing the cypresses was the sensible thing to do. If only I’d tackled pruning when they were young like Kurt Wilkinson!
    @Hoov, always onward!
    @ks, Euph. cotinifolia has been in the garden off and on for decades. Training it as a standard usually resulting in the trunk snapping in two — it’s very brittle. We’re going with a multi-trunk this time…

  7. Elaine says:

    The garden looks lush and full. You would never know that you have been tinkering with different plants. Kind of fun when you get to recreate an area.

  8. Denise says:

    @Hi Elaine — it looks full because of the existing plants that were left in. And in the case of new plants, like the shrubs grevillea, leucospermum and euphorb, I bought large sizes, 3 gallons. And a lot of the full look now is coming from annuals, so it will look much different in fall.

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