What’s happening in Wild Suburbia

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Today I started a new way to report on what’s going on in Wild Suburbia. Up until now there was merely a list of gardening tasks that I wrote up way back in 2009 when I was preparing for my son’s backyard wedding. I am planning (and hoping) to upload a handful of garden pictures to a slideshow every couple of months. The slideshow will be posted under the tab, “In the Garden.”

This year March and April were a bit unusual. The extended drought, extremely scarce rainfall, and warm winter weather resulted in an early and diminished garden bloom period. Even the flannel bushes in the back bloomed a few weeks early and with less pizzazz, though still beautiful. I had fewer poppies and even the tansy phacelias and globe gilias were somewhat subdued.

Flannel bush blooms in the backyard

As far as garden chores, I did not participate in the Theodore Payne Garden Tour this year, and so my garden did not get the attention it usually gets in spring. Last week, however, a class from the LA Arboretum’s popular Thursday Garden Talks with Lili Singer visited. Of course I tidied up a bit. Most of the time went to mowing and edging the little bits of lawn that remain. I also swept and put things away, but I did not do any major projects. The people who attended were so sweet and supportive.

Once that was over, I decided it was time to unlawn a bit of the front yard. I removed an old Mexican marigold that has seen better days and rolled the rocks and logs a few feet in from the edge of the lawn. Thought maybe it would go unnoticed but my husband quickly informed me that I wasn’t pulling anything over on him!

Front yard
Removing old Mexican marigold (12 years old?). Tree poppy, Indian mallows and bladderpod will be low flowering shrubs in the corner.
March and April 2015 in Garden
Another bit of lawn bites the dust. This piece of turf will be mowed low and covered with leaf mulch.

Finally, the other gardening task I engaged in was starting tomatoes from seed. It is with a bit of chagrin, actually a whole lot of embarrassment, that I have to report that I had a bit of a mishap. I sowed the seeds, oh so carefully. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn and it was quite chilly both inside our house and out. The seeds didn’t germinate so I decided to put them in the oven. Even though ovens no longer have pilot lights I thought I could turn it on briefly and then let the seed tray sit in the warm oven. Can you see this one coming? Yup, I cooked the seeds, the seed tray, and the soil. I nearly burnt down the house and it has smelled like a campfire ever since. Not good.

What’s happening in your Wild Suburbias?

3 thoughts on “What’s happening in Wild Suburbia

  1. Anon

    Thanks, Barbara, for your outstanding blog.

    I couldn’t agree more about the unintended consequences of dryer hotter less shady environments exacerbating air conditioning/energy use/water use! Especially the adverse impact on our street and yard trees (native or nonnative) And, the state’s arbitrary formula of requiring So Pas to reduce by the same amount because we exceeded by 1 gallon per capita compared to other cities large excess is absurd.

    However, I personally think there is no reason to remove grass (much less by June 30th when temperatures begin to rise) and replace with drought tolerant plantings —all of which need water to get established. If necessary, let the grass die a slow and unattractive death— it will green up from time to time (if we ever get any rain) and as long as it is mowed and doesn’t look unkept, why not leave as is. It is still still habitat for insects and helps the food chain. You don’t get much insects hiding out in decomposed granite or sand gravel base and a handful of drought tolerant plants. It takes years and by that time, we may be in an el nino rain period. You mentioned mulching which is a possibility, but all my life I have seen our foothills turn green after one rain and then back to dry yellow-brown within a few weeks. Why not our lawns!

    So that’s my “blog”

  2. Anon

    We are so worried about our trees. Our camphors (I know not native, but gee our street would be ugly w/o them) well the camphors are green again; I had called city arborist few mos ago. Our deep watering, yes I did it once or twice & then the rains, helped.

    The one gallon cut off is ridiculous & this morn. or yest. water district man from Long Beach was talking about how they have been cutting back for yrs. and now they have to do so much more, completely out of whack. I recall giving An. Commission info on Long Beach’s water conservation efforts years and years ago.

    Our front lawn is St. Augustine; really does not need as much water as other lawns, yrs. of cutting and letting clippings lie there must have made a difference.

    I started “saving water in sink”. We do not have a dishwasher, the rinse water goes down drain, nothing wrong with it, dishes are clean, just rinsing them. Oh my gosh!!! So much water! We have been putting it into bucket and watering porch and other places…feel awful knowing all that water wasted. We have always collected water in tub/shower waiting for it to get warm…that amounts to a good bit as well. I am thinking of using this kitchen rinse water for laundry: jeans, scrub rags/rugs, etc. Pain carrying it around, but it is the new reality for people who care.

    My mom had “sanitary sinks” believe they were called. Saved the rinse water from washer or the soapy water if you wish like from dishtowels, sheets, clean things like that, she used that water to wash say doggie bedding, etc. Those people knew how to conserve before it was necessary or fashionable..they did it because they grew up in depression and learned not to waste. Wish I had those old sanitary tubs. Ed is talking about maybe we will put a barrel outside laundry room, connect the rinse water into that tub, not the soapy water. I use biodeg. deter. the rinse water should be fine for most stuff.

    Terrible that Bev. Hills has not only not reduced, but as I recall article, they have increased usage.

    Looking for more ideas. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

  3. Even a bad fremontia year seems to be a striking one. I hope your garden visitors were duly impressed Down here south of you it’s definitely been a year of diminished spring flowers, even with supplemental irrigation. And it’s been a winter of supplemental irrigation for other plants, trying to get them established or hydrated for the long dry season ahead. I hope we have some normal years ahead. If not, that lawn might have to go all native.

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