Weekend roundup

I made more progress on pruning the Brazilian Pepper tree. This followed a blood donation to the Red Cross earlier in the day, so it was a bit more fraught with hazard than normal. However, I have a good track record of activity after giving blood and I managed to avoid becoming sick and dizzy while scaling the heights of the tree.
Here it is after I was done for the day. I'm making great inroads on my side of the fence and its taking well to the form I had in mind for it. I'm not on great terms one neighbor due to an old mistake but with luck I won't have to go on their side of the fence.
I dug some compost into the vegetable garden, both purchased and home-made. The soil changes from sandy at one end to clay-like at the other, so for vegetables both types of soil benefit from organic amendments. At the clay end, the garden soil changes suddenly into a hard clay that I don't really like to grow anything in. I'll be digging some of that up as I expand my garage area outdoor workspace - some will be garden and some will be useful work area. It's not a useful work space now because it's broken up by lame brick trim (not my doing) and set on multiple levels - about a foot of height separates highest and lowest areas.

While gardening I managed to step on a cultivator which promptly levered up and knocked me in the eye. Very cartoonish. Maybe next time I'll try following Road Runner into the tunnel painted on the wall. After I decided that I wasn't going to lose my eye, I applied a bag of frozen corn and went about my business. This made a funny story later that day when my parents visited, then later that night when I was dining with some of Juli's friends, and finally on Monday at work. Imagine how funny it could have been if I'd actually maimed myself.

After the cartoon emulation, I took out two of the Rosemary plants and replaced them with Artemisia. In addition to relieving the rather unrelenting green of the Rosemary, the native plants might attract more beneficial insects to the garden. The foliage contrast of Artemesia against Rosemary is more subtle than I expected, particularly when the underside of the Rosemary leaves are exposed - Below, I've recently uprooted the Rosemary plant's close neighbor, so its leaves are in a bit of disarray and we see both tops and bottoms of them. The bottoms are a lighter green than the tops. Gnaphalium is at left, Artemisia at right, and Rosemary in the background.

It's a key element of good garden design to consider foliage color and texture as primary plant attributes and flower color as a secondary attribute (or even as an incidental attribute). However, like many males I just don't have an intrinsic sense of whether these two go together. Placed side by side this weekend I was having doubts that they were sufficiently different to be noticed, but when mature I expect the difference to be more apparent as suggested below. There, I'm holding the Artemisia up so that it's backed by the dark green top sides of the Rosemary leaves.

Another design failing on my part is the failure to be bold. Small, tentative gestures - like one isolated Artemisia - risk being overwhelmed and perceived as an afterthought. Many Artemisia, boldly growing among the Rosemary, are a statement. I'm not confident enough to make a statement right out of the gate. Since I'm experimenting and can propagate from cuttings if I like them, I have two; not a bold statement, but hopefully not an afterthought either. I had also planned to hedge my bet by trying some Gnaphalium, but I'm having second thoughts about it since it dies back.

I noticed that there had been some predation on the leaves of my Ceanothus - not enough to complain about since it's only noticeable up close. Since I'm reading Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas Tallamy, I found this an encouraging indicator of a native insect species in my yard, because those leaves are tough and waxy looking and probably require some evolutionary adaptation to gnaw on. I'll post a review and notes from the book from the viewpoint of a California gardener later. I'm about half way through and finding it quite good, but it's begun to veer into east coast specific planting recommendations so I may end up just skimming the last half.


  1. Hope the knock from the cultivator has done no permanent damage. We usually get it from the hoe!

  2. I like the Artemisia/Rosemary combo. At least from the pictures, the forms are very similar, which is nice because they'll look like one mass from afar, but the whole grouping will be shimmering from silver to dark green. It'll look really nice when the rosemary is in bloom too. Definetely worth an experiment, anyway.

  3. topveg - No permanent damage, though I did have some aching the next day.

    golm - Thanks for the prediction of success. I know you speak from a fair amount of experience, so it's encouraging to hear that.

  4. Uh, thanks, but (disclaimer) I don't really have that much experience. I'm just a kid trying to garden. Nearly everything is an experiment for me at this point (and I'm not just being modest).

    Best of luck to us both.

  5. That pepper tree looks great! Whatever design hesitations you might have with color and form, you sure know how to prune a tree!

    About the artemisia, I'd say plant it next to coarser texture than rosemary. But there are no set rules.

    In my garden, I have it next to a large blue ceramic planter where I grow vegetables. The Bornstein Fross O'Brien book says to use it as a filler. Glenn Keator seems to like it with lupine.

  6. golm - I think that some people have a knack for design (you, perhaps) and others have to scratch and fight for every accomplishment (me, though I am getting better).

    chuck b. - I like the idea of the Artemisia with something else. I'll try to keep that in mind next year when I'm reassessing how well I accomplished my hedge-making goal.

    Thanks for the compliment on the tree pruning. I don't lack for confidence there, though I doubt the parts hanging over the neighbors' will look so good as they've been hacking at it over the years and the underlying structure just isn't there.