In the summer of 2006, we tore out basically everything from our backyard, save some lawn, a Japanese magnolia, and a Japanese maple. We were removing years of neglect and overgrowth, and plants that were either not water-wise, or not designed for homeowners who can't spend every waking hour working in the garden. The plan was to tear out what wasn't working, mulch everywhere, and leave the yard relatively bare for a year to make sure we had wiped out as much of the invasive and spreading vegetation as we could (eek! the trumpet vines and ferns and bulbs, oh my!). We saved up a fair sum the following year, with the intent of being able to do a full garden renovation - planting, hardscaping, water feature, the works!
Not surprisingly, unexpected things happened in 2007 that depleted our savings. Isn't that always the way? Save up for a vacation, but the car needs a new transmission... save up for a new sofa, but the water heater dies. I guess I should expect this by now, but I continue to hope that these surprise financial hits will cease. The result of all this is that we have had a largely bare and dreary back yard for the better part of 2 years. And so we formulated a new plan: tackle small, discrete areas systematically that so that we feel as if *some* progress is being made. The hope is that our initial space planning will guide us through mini-projects that we can afford now.
Two weeks ago we decided to attack the so-called "parkway" - that suburban strip between the street and the sidewalk. Rather than a dull and useless patch of lawn or (gasp!) the dreaded lava rock, we decided to go forward with our goal of planting southern California natives that attract wildlife to the garden, while still maintaining a clean, modern look to go with our wanna-be Eichler home. The first weekend was spent removing 300 square feet of existing concrete pavers that were too nice an invitation to weeds. We piled these high in the street where they were repurposed by some neighbors. We weeded and pick-axed roots from the full strip, placed weed barrier fabric along the full stretch, and then piled mulch on top. That weekend's work led to a very sore Monday morning for all of us!
Last weekend was the fun part: planting! We went to 2 of our favorite nurseries in Carpinteria: Island View Nursery and Seaside Gardens. We loaded up the car with our top choices, had a quick lunch at Esau's (yum!), and headed home. Unluckily for us, the weekend was not only unseasonably hot, but just plain hot for our area any time of year. We knew we'd have to limit the work to early morning and that we'd need a bit of energy to get us through. We got up early Sunday morning, and I made my first Dutch baby. We had a pile of gorgeous strawberries from the farmer's market, and I kept reading about Dutch babies - seemed like a great excuse to try it out! I was a bit bummed that none of my cast iron skillets was large enough to use, but we had great results with a glass baking dish:
It was so easy to make, and so delicious! Buttery and flaky, with powdered sugar and fresh sliced strawberries... definitely a winner! Plus, it's made with stuff we usually have on hand, so it's easy to whip one up without a lot of planning and prep. I used this basic recipe, and I think it's pretty funny that some places are selling a "mix"... I must be missing something!
Once we were well-fed, we set out to work. I dug and planted while Jerry worked on the new drip system. We planted a variety of native groundcovers, with a few flowers around the base of a tree: manzanita (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Tom's Point' and A. sp. 'Emerald Carpet') California lilac (Ceonothus maritimus 'Frosty Dawn'), hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea, aka "hummingbird crack"), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum 'Arroyo de la Cruz'). The results are wonderful, and I can't wait to watch as the groundcovers fill in and the flowers bloom. Here are some tiny peeks:
California lilac blooms
poppy and blue-eyed grass
manzanita with tiny, pale pink, bell-shaped flowers - so sweet!
It feels so good to make some progress - no matter how small - with our yard. I can start to dream about the little outdoor refuge we are going to create for our family and the critters that let us share this bit of space with them.