Third year in the garden

Posted on | December 17, 2013 | 8 Comments


This set of pictures captures a year in which I was away from the garden on a writing assignment for more time than I would have wished. Then, when home, I was inordinately preoccupied by the construction of new living quarters. But it is a source of tired satisfaction to report that, barring primping, the most important things in the garden were done and, for the most part, done right. Clippings were composted, not trashed. Mulch was replenished. Diseased trees hit by a shot borer carrying a deadly pathogen were removed and neighboring trees monitored. The mature citrus and avocado trees as well as the young stone fruit orchard were tended and harvested and the food found good homes. I even made a couple hundred dollars selling citrus to restaurants. The new stone fruit orchard produced its first crops of plums, peaches and nectarines. Plus, from the apples, we had enough Annas to make a pie. The Gala, alas, was probably a mistake. Not enough chill hours. And the Elephant Heart plums seem to want to move somewhere colder. By the time they were ripe in late summer they were so heat-struck as to taste cooked and spent right off the bough. A fruit crate business for carpenter friends based on antique crates found in an old shed in my garden had a faltering start.

It was a dismal rain year in which I deep watered throughout the winter to prepare the garden for dry months. This year is shaping up to be as bad or worse for native rain. If it sounds wasteful to irrigate with imported water in winter, it isn’t if you have a largely native garden that requires little summer water. The important thing is not to run the soil moisture down to zero in a dry winter because you will be hard pressed to irrigate yourself out of a drought in mounting and occasionally ferocious spring and summer heat.

After many false starts, I finally got four wine barrels fitted around the most difficult-to-manage downspouts at the back of the house and in two spots around a new cottage. Once hoses and drip lines are attached to these, I should finally catch 100% of this site’s rain — if it ever rains again.

What strikes me at the end of this long year is how much work it is to maintain a good garden. How wildflower shows only look effortless. How only masochists try to maintain blue eyed grass next to turf. How the gardener must jump when the fruit says jump. How much there is to learn.

But I begin with the death of my constant garden companion, a terrier called Glancey, who I adopted as a three year old from a city pound near Central Los Angeles. For 15 years, where I went, Glancey went. When he took a liking to a stray Great Dane mix, we adopted the pony-sized dog for him and called him “Clunk.”

Glancey was not my smartest dog, not the biggest, not the cutest, not the funniest. He looked like the dog on the Beneful sack, and so, for most of his life, he ate Beneful and kitchens scraps. And he was my shadow, my friend, my constant garden companion. It’s been two months since I found him wandering the garden, unable to stop moving because he was in the grips of dementia. He may have been 19 years old. He was certainly a very old dog. It’s been two months since I had him euthanized. I still don’t get up without looking behind me to see where he is. I probably never will.

For those interested in the big push to create a rain garden during first two years in this still very new garden, a previous Flickr set can be seen here.


8 Responses to “Third year in the garden”

  1. Michael Prather
    December 17th, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    A very sweet story Emily. Your garden efforts and dreams sound wonderful. My eyes water a little for Glancey. Best of luck catching this winter’s water.

  2. Laurie Perry
    December 17th, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

    It is frighteningly dry–I noticed that my Salvia clevandii ‘Winifred Gilman’ were wilting. True, they’ve only been in the ground a few months, but still….
    My sympathies for Glancey. It’s so hard to lose the old companions.

  3. EmilyGreen
    December 17th, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

    Michael, Laurie, Thank you both. I even miss Glancey’s fleas. To Laurie – I’m glad you brought up the wilting and even more glad you caught it in a plant that recovers. If anyone with a new native garden containing stout-leaved additions from this season such as ceanothus, manzanita, any of the ever-green berry bearing plants — is reading this, start watering. Stout leaved plants with those tough, calcium-rich leaves, cannot wilt and recover. They can only die if they dry out. So check your soil and make sure that the first couple of seasons they are never bone dry.

  4. Leigh Adams
    December 17th, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

    Glancey is still very much in that charming and productive garden. The garden is extraordinarily beautiful, striking from some angles, startlingly sophisticated from others and evocative of Architectural Digest layouts throughout. You have done a wonderful job and you’ve let us all learn with you. Thank you!

  5. Kazi Pitelka
    December 17th, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

    You’re such a beautiful writer Emily. Your garden and your beloved Glancey both moved on to the next phase.

  6. Laurie
    December 18th, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    He was a sweet dog and you write better than anyone.

  7. ilsa
    December 18th, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

    Sorry for your loss. Miss you, Glancey!

  8. Brent (Breathing Treatment)
    December 20th, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

    That’s a nice photo set. I’d sure like to hear the longer story that goes with each photo. Still, it’s nice to see your garden and let it fill me with inspiration.

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