Gardeners are a faithful lot. We have to be. Native plants, those most virtuous of garden citizens, test our faith entirely.
I have finished this spring’s new plantings. California natives under the Live Coast Oak, olive and “strawberry” trees along the back fence, and a couple of heuchera and nandina to fill in gaps close to the back patio.
Does everything look fabulous? Not even. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got under the oak. Boy, that’s a ragtag crowd.
I needed the hose to hand-water the natives and settle them in during this drought. In a couple of weeks, if we get just a little rain, I will be able to leave them largely to their own drought-tolerant devices. And I’ve ordered this, tested and and deemed to produce the fewest toxins, for future use. Garden responsibly, right?
So how about a view along the fence. Any better?
Maybe a few plant closeups will do the trick. (BTW, when I got to the nursery we changed the planting plan, in response to availability and the advice of nursery staff.)
Here’s what I mean by gardening faith. On the left, a bush anemone as it looks now, against my fence. On the right, future promise. An aside, all Internet sources say bush anemones grow to 6 feet and I need at least 7, if not 10, to screen the neighbors’ house. But the women at the nursery were sure.
We managed to scrounge up 3 flowering currants, 2 white, 1 pink, for the middle range of the planting. Again, the now and future shrubs.
Close up, the pink currant shows us its ratty ol’ foliage. Let’s face it, plants that can survive clay soil and a summer-dry climate don’t waste their efforts on large glossy leaves. I forgive them. Plant natives only as close to your house as you can tolerate vegetal impolitesse.
For the lowest planting layer, next to my flagstone patio, we decided on groundcover manzanita and grasses. Right now the manzanita looks like a few green specks amongst the brown and gold oak leaves. But it’ll spread. I’ve been promised. I only wish I remembered its name.
The grasses, one of which chose to bloom, offer the most new-planting pleasure. I don’t remember their name either. I kind of like to pretend nothing has names when I garden, as though the world is still pre-verbal.
But on the whole, I’m waiting. As gardeners do.
In a while, the currants’ foliage will smell faintly of sunburned roof tar and lemon. The bush anemones will grow taller, their leathery leaves will rattle a bit. The grasses will mound over the backyard berm, pretending it’s a real hillside. We can imagine California without people, marsh ponds reemerging from under the freeways, the Bay filling with creatures. So maybe the gardener’s wait is its own thing, valuable as much for what we make out of nothing, as for what we see when the plants grow in.
All plants purchased at Native Revival, in Aptos California. Photos of plant futures via Las Pilitas, a nursery a little further south.
Plant List (Next time I’ll remember all the names. I promise.)
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