garden recovery

After sulking with the same crown of tattered, leathery leaves for years, this is the best crop of new leaves I’ve ever seen on my Mountain Cabbage Tree. The container was moved onto a high metal stool that gets morning sun and late afternoon sun. Boom, lush new growth. (Cussonia paniculata)

I knew I was going to have emergency abdominal surgery for a very large but benign cyst just a few days before it was scheduled, so of course I spent those few days in a frenzy of moving pots and heavy objects, getting this personal distantia (latin for “world apart”) ready for post-op recovery. I’ve always loved shoving stuff around and would have made a great stage hand. I can think of nothing more satisfying than whirling enormous pots filled with towering, columnar euphorbias on their bases, spinning them away from the east gate to ready the space for the metal workers who were going to get busy any day on constructing the new metal gate/fence I’ve been so excited about. (I needn’t have bothered — after several prompts and reminders, the fabricator never called back with the quote. We’ll be doing it ourselves with probably corrugated panels. And just when I was ready to throw money at a project too and bring in the pros! Nice dream. Back to DIY.) It will be a long while before I’m able to muscle large pots like that around again.

Old pots reconsidered. Farfugium japonicum ‘Shishi Botan’ fills the rim of a potted bottle tree Brachychiton discolor — the two plants have been partnered and thriving together for years. Time to bring the pot off the shelf for a little more love and appreciation.

After surgery I was ordered to lift nothing heavier than 10 pounds — what a privation for someone who lives by spatial balance! (At least my own quirky sense of spatial balance and symmetry — a few inches to the left, half an inch to the right — ah, perfect! Order in my universe restored!) But the 10-pound limit allows for lots of little fiddly pots of mostly agave pups to be cleaned of debris and cleared away to the narrow, 3-foot deep potting area behind the garage/office that was also cleaned out presurgery — and where the addition of a new hose bib has been life altering. There’d be no way I could drag hoses around this summer. And to water the potting area previously, I’d have to fill a can of water and carry it back. By mid summer, any good intentions to do so daily, sometimes twice daily in heat waves, have long shriveled up along with any cuttings and seedlings.

One of my last presurgery jobs was to safeguard the leaning Sonchus palmensis bloom with fishing line, using paper as a girdle so the line didn’t cut the stalk.
By the time I was home, the sonchus was completely leaning on and supported by the line. I want seeds and seedlings, dammit!
Brodiaea californica ‘Babylon’ — first sight, first year in the garden. The idea was to grow it around and through lomandra. I’ll leave the bulbs in place to multiply, but they should have been planted further outside the perimeter of the lomandra which nearly swamped the brodiaea entirely. I think with better placement this little bulb shows promise! It opens slowly and at a quiet interval after the early spring stuff.
Not long ago I wrote about my quest for a bird bath — amazingly, a family member caught that blog post and sent me as a belated Mother’s Day present the CB2 Skinny Dip Bird Bath which arrived the day before I left for the hospital. All this activity prior to leaving for surgery during a pandemic had the desired result of keeping my mind off the chaotica outside my garden as well as worrying about my mom — who has been safe and well looked after. Her likely diagnosis is a motor neuron disease, which is thankfully painless if untreatable.
The Minoan Lace, Orlaya grandiflora, is so good this year. I think it’s possibly due to the fact that I let all these grow where they self-seeded. Often I transplant seedlings and move them around the garden. The deep roots these formed in situ have made a difference — along with the mild May weather we’re having, at least here in Long Beach a mile from the Pacific. The coyote gourd is part of the “vine medley” corner, all potted, Senecio confusus and Solanum wendlandii — hopefully the gourd will find a leg up on their stems.

A plant order did arrive after surgery, and I briefly waffled over what to do. In the end, I carefully, so very carefully planted the order myself. The ground was soft and I knew exactly where everything would go, so it was quick work. In early May Plant Delights’ catalogue unexpectedly listed the coyote gourd I was so impressed with at Red Butte last September, Cucurbita foetidissima, so I threw in a few more plants to justify the shipping fees: The moon carrot Seseli gummiferum, a spectacular umbellifer Peucedanum verticillare, and Sinningia ‘Cherries Jubilee.’ These gesneriads are surprisingly tough and work well with succulent plantings.

I think I’m done finding perennials to work with a dry, succulent-based garden other than short-lived stuff like verbascums and glaucium. Agaves grow, proportions change, perennials have to be moved and take years to settle in again. Duh! Reseeding annuals like the Coreopsis tinctoria on the left are much lighter on their feet, and bring serendipity to the plantings, which to me is the soul of a garden. That is, if this coreopsis does reseed as well as orlaya and poppies…
Glaucium just starting bloom, with the bronzy but weedy beauty haloragis in foreground, reseeding Centranthus lecoquii on the right

And when the world shrinks down to the size of the back garden, no detail is too small, no incident too trivial. This afternoon we sprayed the hose on a squirrel attempting to raid a nest of fledglings — not on our watch! And it looks like we’re going to be on watch in the back garden for the foreseeable future…onward to June!

This entry was posted in journal, plant nurseries, pots and containers. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to garden recovery

  1. hb says:

    Happy to hear you are on the mend! Your jewel box garden looks wonderful, and that bird bath is a beauty, very elegant.

    I have a weightlifting limitation on the arm that was broken and it does push one towards dealing with small container plants, which I have been doing. An unexpected good thing.

    Take care, hope to hear that you are completely well very soon and traveling again as you love to do, when this COVID thing is all finally sorted out.

  2. The garden is looking lovely, that last photo perfection. Only 10 pounds huh? That’s gotta be a challenge. Hopefully Marty is willing to assist when needed. Please take care!

  3. Kris P says:

    Somehow it didn’t surprise me in the least to read that you were busy working in your garden up until you went in for surgery, or that you’ve been successfully puttering there since surgery despite limitations on what you can/should lift. HB aptly described your garden as a jewel box – it’s filled with uncommon treasures throughout. I love the look of the Brodiaea weaving through Lomandra ‘Platinum Beauty’ and may have to borrow that idea.

    Best wishes with your recovery. How long is that 10lb limit in place?

  4. Nell Lancaster says:

    Hope your summer is one of rapid, steady healing!

    It’s fascinating to follow your decision-making as the garden develops more shade, more bulk, and even more beauty. I laughed out loud at your ordering the Peucedanum; the ones in England looked pretty sizable. But gorgeous!

  5. Denise says:

    @Hoov, the weight restrictions are such a nuisance — hope yours is lifted soon.
    @Loree, I have never done so little housework, cooking, etc in my life. Marty does it all, and very cheerfully I must say!
    @Kris, I think the brodiaea and lomandra might work if the bulbs are planted just at its periphery. As soon as I get the weight limit lifted, I’ll most likely blog about it!
    @Nell, isn’t that peucedanum something? Sounds like you’ve seen it in the flesh/leaf! I

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.