The different types of plants and trees featured on Never Enough Dirt grow in the gardens located on an 8000 square-foot residential lot that carves into a west facing slope. The topographic and urban features help create the many micro climates of which the gardens are distinguished by. The following page is a tour of said gardens.
What’s in the name?
The Front Garden is an east facing public feature of the house. The name is as descriptive as it gets. However, the name leaves out its other characteristic. Working in this garden, the community is exposed– it to me and I to it. Being out there exposes me to my neighbors and outsiders. Being predominantly introverted, nothing gets me out of my shell faster than sharing an experience through plants. From those experiences, it was learned that the Front Garden was more than a private garden. Rather, it is a point of interest for other plant enthusiasts who make a pit stop from their walks to admire and look for plants that are familiar. Thus when it was time to name the garden the word, “community,” naturally came to mind. However, “Community Garden” has a different sort of connotation.
When this house was purchased in 2010, the front yard was pretty much a blank canvas. There was some English ivy and baby sun rose growing sparsely. The yard had been in disrepair like this for a while and a makeover would not happen until late 2014.
Until then, there was effort made to transform the front yard. It was then discovered how difficult this slope was to work with in terms of getting plants to grow. Water retention on a slope with clay soil and full sun was the most difficult challenge. Plants did not grow or grew at a vastly slower rate than imagined. The challenges of growing plants on a slope with poor soil (or rather dirt) really threw a wrench into the time vs money equation. More on this later.
(Oct. 2011) The English ivy has been removed and the Front Garden is beginning its metamorphosis. Near the top of the steps on the left are a patch of wildflowers grown from a packet of seeds received as swag. To the right are a row of recently planted daylilies. The daylilies were from separating out my mom’s stock.
The plan for front yard was somewhat simple. Rather than plant it with grass, it would be covered with sedum. We went to the local home improvement store and looked at what sedum was available. There was one that I was drawn to– Dragon’s Blood sedum. Though I must admit that I was biased by the name.
The other part of the plan was to let time save us money. We purchased a couple of large flats and I divided the sedum up and planted them. When they did not spread as quickly as I had thought that they would, we returned to purchase some more and learned that this sedum was not regularly stocked. However, being a nursery explorer as a pass time, I found and purchased some out in Riverside and Buena Park. In the picture above, the dark patch is where I started the sedum with hopes that it will spread quickly.
In the picture below is a wider shot of the front of the house. Part of the planters on the right of the driveway can be seen. In the planters are roses that were relocated to the backyard after the entire front yard was professionally landscaped.
The professionally installed landscape
Mid 2014. We were finally able to do something about the rickety steps that lead to the front door. Well, a little more than “something.” The entire hardscape was reworked because not shown in detail are the cracks in the brickwork and walkway up top.
In the picture below, the new hardscape and drip irrigation system was completed in late 2014. I was sad to see that some of the existing plants were ripped out but I had to trust the landscaper’s vision. At my request, there was soil amendment added to the clay. It was half heartily dusted on but in the end it worked out– I would later discover permaculture/old farming practices that would help the soil in a more natural way.
Below is the freshly landscaped front yard. It is the cookie cutter landscape that is simple and clean. I am always conflicted because there is a lot of beauty in simple and clean. However, the pragmatic part of me sees a lot of unused potential.
It did not take long before I started to literally get my hands into the front yard and turn it into a living garden– one that moves, shifts, changes year after year. In the following spring, my gladiolus signaled that beginning.
Also making their appearance are the elephant garlic that have been growing in my gardens since discovering their parent bulb at a local super market.
Culinary sage, one of the first herbs to be planted as part of the landscape.
Sage, fennel, dahlia, California (golden poppy).
The Front Garden in November 2014
[to be continued…]