privacy issues (or what kept me busy Election Week 2020)

Dark times, dark photo. The last two cypresses had already been limbed up slightly on Saturday Oct 31 and all the surrounding plants moved out, whether in pots. stock tank, or in the ground, other than a few stragglers. The metal siding of our neighbor’s shed shows through the partially removed fence. The third cypress had been removed a couple weeks before because it was browning out. Marty and our neighbor felt the remaining two 25-footers were a potential threat to property as well.

And so the lemon cypresses (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Citriodora’ or Golden Monterey Cypress) came down last Sunday, November 1st. I couldn’t bear to watch the removal of the last two and hid out in the office. They were excellent privacy screens but ultimately too much of a good thing for this small garden and closely neighboring properties. Before they were deemed a nuisance, I treasured their scent and how they gleamed and majestically swayed in the wind, and how the birds found refuge in their boughs and a lookout from their topmost branches.

We’ve had two eucalyptus trees come down and even the entire east fence at one point during a windstorm. Marty rebuilt that previous wooden fence with metal posts set in concrete, seen above, over a single course of cinderbock; the metal posts and cinderblock were retained and used to build the new metal fence. So long termites.

The east fence construction had been halted for a week while we waited for the dreaded appointment on Sunday, then the fence was completed Monday, November 2nd.

Metal meets wood, the past confronts the future, neighbors adjust to life temporarily with less privacy via the gap in the east fence for the last week of October as we waited for tree removal. We could wave to the neighbors, who helped us with the fence project. Tools and material were passed through the opening. It was a week of dreaded appointments, both tree removal and trips to the dentist, and of course the appointment with democracy!

The only damage from the tree removal was to the Yucca rostrata. One of the first cypress branches cut came down on it (revenge?), which Marty immediately jumped in to remove. Thankfully, damage was just a few bent leaves.. This small pad of bricks, left over from the network of paths and patios I laid down decades ago, was removed so I could level the ground. A slope has gradually built up in this area over time, and the rib of rocks was laid just about at that far edge of the bricks.

After the fence was finished Monday afternoon, I removed the small square of bricks, leaving the three-inch bed of sand on which the bricks were dry laid. As the light faded, I played around with raking and grading the area, which has slowly been transformed over years into something of a berm that slopes toward the house, built up from having the compost pile in the southeast corner and then all the shredded hedge clippings left to sheet compost in this far corner as well. Not to mention the accumulated tree litter, both from when the trees shed their leaves and the residue of their remains when they were gone. Two eucalyptus trees we inherited with the house, planted to screen this southeast corner, each blew down at various times. The smoke tree ‘Grace’ grew as large as a magnolia, exuberantly flinging her branches across the three neighboring back gardens, and was ultimately removed around the time I started the blog (2010ish). You could say this southeast corner has been vexatious as far as screening out the three properties that meet up with ours here. The properties are small and the screening strategies always prove problematic in one way or another, for one neighbor or another.

Sounds like a sad story so far, right? Not exactly. Along with the neighbors’ rooflines and satellite dishes, sun and sky have also poured in again. All that recovered sky is especially a revelation when filled with brilliant stars, as it was 5 a.m. this morning.

With the rocks laid late Monday, Election Tuesday I planted. With a few exceptions, most of the plants came from the garden or pots. A potted Agave ‘Arizona Star’ left container life to grow as big as it wants in the garden. Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’ and several of its pups were also moved from pot to garden. Small grasses and sedges collected from the garden include self-sown Carex testacea and ruby grass, Melinus nerviglummis. A few of the smaller potted aloes were tucked in with lots of other stuff like rock gardenish limoniums and other smallish odds and ends.

Monday night, Nov. 2nd, with the fence up, the area raked, and twilight approaching, I decided to address the berm somewhat with a spine of rocks. Not a path exactly, though it can be walked on, and not a rock garden exactly, though it has been planted. A spur? We’re calling it a cobb (after the famous one we visited in Lyme Regis, England) or a jetty, because it’s been built from rocks quarried on Catalina Island to build the Los Angeles Harbor breakwater. Piles of the rocks were always staged at the LA Pilot Station in case repairs were needed to the breakwater, and when he worked there Marty couldn’t resist bringing a few home from time to time. We call it Catalina ironstone, but I have no idea as far as its true geologic composition (what the heck is schist?). Like an Easter egg hunt, we prowled the front and back garden in the dimming light to collect the rocks, and I laid them until twilight faded and it was too dark to see. I expected to hate the rock experiment Tuesday morning, but didn’t. All day Tuesday, Election Day, I planted and found homes for all the displaced plants, many of which were bromeliads that had been massed near the base of the cypresses and in a stock tank.

Silvery shrubs against the fence are Gomphostigma virgatum and to its right a Matillija poppy. I’ve wanted a spot for a romneya since forever. Unseen in he back corner is the African Spear Lily, Doryanthes palmeri, and I’m trialing a Snowflake Aralia here (Trevesia palmata) hoping it can handle the sun. (The trevesia can reach 15-20 feet but has few side branches.) The fernleaf acacia’s trunk is out of frame to the right
Astelia and Bilbergia ‘Violetta’ were moved under Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ — with lots of potted plants still to be sorted

The enormous astelia in the stock tank was moved under Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ near the office, in the spot recently vacated by Salvia mexicana. A variegated fatshedera was also moved out of the stock tank and planted at the base of the grevillea, along with a blue bear’s paw fern that surprised me by flourishing and sending out enormous fronds.

Grevillea ‘Poorinda Blondie’ should easily grow to 10 feet, at least if it’s anything like ‘Moonlight,’ and help out with screening. Cypress stumps were left in situ.

Tuesday night we watched season 4 of the sci-fi epic The Expanse. After the last four years, I was saving myself the needless trauma of a political horse race. You can’t choose the time you’re born in — some get the Enlightenment, some get the Visigoths storming the gates. At least we will always have heroes like RBG, who died as we all will, not knowing how the fight ends, to show us how to make the most of our time and wring as much truth and justice out of it while we’re here, whatever the outcome.

East fence with gate to the front yard at far end, past the Chinese Fringe Tree. Leaf of Trevesia palmata in foreground.
The east gate is a bi-fold that fully opens flush against the house and fence — the cypresses were carried through here
bottom planting is Aloe ‘Dwarf White,’ Orthophytum magalhaes[i, dudleyas, ending with Mangave ‘Purple People Eater’

On Wednesday, November 4th, I brought in and spread 10 bags of crushed granite (3/8″) for mulch. More sci-fi viewing at night and remainder of the weeknights.

Looking west across the garden to the office/garage, Alcantarea odorata on the right, slightly beat up Yucca rostrata on the left
Looking east
I love the openness and being able to walk up to the plants and inspect the “cobb.” I really mean to leave it open and lightly planted. Really.

Today, November 7, it’s raining in Los Angeles. How perfect is that? And the election has finally been called today, November 7. What a week!

Have a blissful weekend.

This entry was posted in agaves, woody lilies, journal, pots and containers, succulents. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to privacy issues (or what kept me busy Election Week 2020)

  1. Kris P says:

    What a transformation, Denise! I love it but I’ve no doubt you’re still adjusting to the change. I laughed at your “Easter egg hunt” as I’ve been engaged in one of my own, stealing stone (of various kinds as none of mine are of a consistent type) from various areas of the garden in an effort to create a more plant-able area in one section of the front slope. Have you any interest in an Agave colorata? I pulled a good-sized pup before our mimosa tree came down.

  2. Wow, big big changes. I certainly understand the good and bad of increased sky and sunlight (and views of neighbor’s structures). I appreciate your taking us through the week with you. More space is a good thing.

  3. Elaine says:

    I like the changes. Will probably take a bit to get used to the openness but the extra light keeps things looking spacious. Glad you got some rain. A good news week.

  4. Denise says:

    @Kris, other than the squid agaves and Arizona Star, I’m opting out of agaves for now, but thank you for the offer. I’ve got a couple plants that might interest you — a Montanoa grandiflora ( I picked up but decided it would be too big for this area. Let me know!
    @Loree, that was a minute chronology of the week! But it seems like the blog has turned into more of a journal and is most likely a snorefest to read, but it is what it is….
    @Elaine, I think you’re right. I’m hoping to keep it spacious but now I can’t stop planting echeverias and stuff…incorrigible!

  5. ks says:

    What a week indeed. I am also involved in major re-do activities and although it seems like that is the case every year, this is the first in awhile that involved hiring out infrastructure repairs. Like your project liberating plants out of their long-time container is part of the process. I think your new plantings look great , and wow-the photo looking to the east fence from the other side of the pergola is kind of shocking ! What fun you’ll have playing with that new exposure. And I’m not fooled by your pledge to ‘leave it open and lightly planted’ -what gardener can resist open ground ?

  6. Nell Lancaster says:

    Surely all that sunny planting space and cool plants with room to thrive will make you forget those beloved golden cypresses in no time! Looks really wonderful.

  7. Nell says:

    What’s your sweet cat’s name?

  8. Denise says:

    @Kathy, I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve been up to! As far as this new area, I think I’ll plant it up temporarily for summer and thin it down for winter…we’ll see.
    @Hi Nelll — it’s been a fun distraction anyway! The cat Banksy is technically Mitch’s cat, and he is a sweet but very neurotic kitty!

  9. hb says:

    If you have water flowing over the rock, it could be schist creek.

    I avoided all news sources from that Monday night to Friday night, which for mental health, was wise. You stayed very busy, also wise. Saturday morning was pure relief.

    It hurt to take out the golden italian cypress here, but now they are gone the garden seems more spacious and open, and the rat population took a dive. Your refreshed area looks excellent, and bravo on the metal fence, termite and fire safe! So much more light now.

    Callistemon ‘Slim’ has indeed a slim footprint, and my oldest is 12′. Flowers for the hummers…if you find you need some sort of screen. Light clipping for narrowest possible footprint makes it bushier, better, not worse.

  10. Denise says:

    @Hoov, thanks for the rec of the callistemon. Another neighbor pointed out potential rat problems with the cypresses, which we didn’t have, but I noted that he grows avocados, infamous rat attractors! I have to say it was a relief not to worry about the cypresses in those fierce winds a couple days back.

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