Front garden pruning was one of many tasks I didn't manage to accomplish last year, because of the ankle break, so I made it a priority this spring.
There were a few branches that needed to come off the Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths' (above), but Arctostaphylos 'Monica' got the serious trim treatment. You can see Monica's skinny legs just to the right of Austin's thick ones...
I'm still thinking I might have taken it a bit too far, but from certain angles—like the one below—'Monica' looks fabulous. Here's hoping that as those branches thicken up, I will feel good about all the cuts I made.
The day I took these photos I planned to hit the third arctostaphylos, A. densiflora 'Harmony', which I did. Here's a before photo. I was too exhausted to take an after.
An exciting benefit to all the trimming up and cutting back that I've been doing is that I can see more of the front garden agaves from the house, like this Agave parryi 'JC Raulston'.
It's so happy it's thrown out a pup a good foot and a half away.
Thankfully it's growing well, even though surrounded by a sea of juniper.
I shared a close-up image of the Euphorbia rigida in my Bloomday post, but since big agaves make everything better, here's another...
This ever-encroaching rosemary got a good trim too, it's trying to eat an Agave 'Mateo' and a smaller Agave × leopoldii.
I wondered how this grouping would do over the winter and they all look great, although the test wasn't too hard. The big agave on the left is one I got from Sean at Cistus, but I must have written the name down wrong as I have Agave 'Streaker', which is actually a sport of A. 'Blue Flame', which this is not. The other agave is an A. 'Baccarat' and around them are multiple variations on Aloe aristata/Aristaloe aristata.
Also shown is Sedum obtusifolium, which I am happy to see has rebounded from it's ugly bloom stage last summer. Now if I could just convince it to not bloom in the future! (it's that green mound right above the words "I am happy")
Moving up the driveway we see the bright red "fists" of my Itoh peony, Paeonia 'Smith Opus', emerging from the soil of a large container. Stuck in there is a daphniphyllum cutting I took and put in a vase sometime last fall. That darn thing has refused to die so a month or so ago I stuck it in the soil, thinking maybe it wanted to root. We will see.
In the stock tank are about 30 or so bits of Saxifraga × urbium 'Aureopunctata'.
I pulled out a patch that was growing out into the lawn and saved the bits I could, they're rooting to be replanted in the garden this spring.
While we do have a huge yard waste container which the City picks up every week, spring clean-up means I usually produce more than it can hold, even when I use extra bags and cans. Thankfully a kind neighbor let me use her bin this week to get rid of the six large cordylines I cut down.
Saxifraga stolonifera ‘Maroon Beauty’ looking great in a hanging container along with some black mondo grass—Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (photo taken on a different day, hence moisture).
Bright sun means harsh shadows in the back garden...
The plastic covered bamboo tunnels will stay in place for another couple of weeks, then it's time to get rid of them and let the plants underneath (dry-loving agaves, aloes, cactus and other succulents) breath.
My wintertime dish-planters have done well, even with the season's wet.
I recently pruned the Brachyglottis greyi and as a result the small dark leaves of Pittosporum patulum are all the more prominent. Well, as prominent as tiny leaves can be...
Stepping back and shooting towards the shade pavilion greenhouse. Note Clifford, the big-leaf Magnolia macrophylla, is still bare.
If I had a before image to share you'd notice how shockingly empty the area to the right of the palm is. I pulled out an Osmanthus heterophyllus 'purpureus', Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’, Dasylirion wheeleri, and various other things. It looks so much better without them. Of course I already have a few plants ready to go into the empty spot, including the Rhododendron williamsianum I purchased recently at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden.
More pruning, this one is a fingers crossed "I hope it works out" kinda thing. The new growth on my Sinopanax formosana was horribly crisped up in last June's "heat dome" (heatwave topping out at 116F) so I chopped the top off. This was not an inexpensive plant. I'm hoping new growth sprouts either from the base or further down the trunk. We shall see!
Mahonia confusa 'Narihira', from Monrovia. They sent me two to trial and the more exposed of the pair turned ugly after the winter of 2020/21, so much so that I dug it out. This one however, it looks fabulous.
Looking out over the mahonia and across the upper back garden towards the garage.
You might have noticed the orange flowers above, I thought a close-up was in order. Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Akebono’.
Looking to ground level, Astelia 'Red Devil' and the large leaves of Rhododendron sinogrande.
A shady corner on the other side of the edgeworthia.
I shared this shot of the varigated aspidistra on Instagram recently.
Ditto for this moss and lichen encrusted callistemon seed pod.
Normally when I post an image of this part of the garden there are bromeliads vacationing outdoors. It's still too cool for that in March.
This small Schefflera taiwaniana was another gift from Mr. Hogan (Cistus) years ago. I moved it around so many times it didn't put on any growth at all. Thankfully it's finally settling in here now and starting to grow.
My chocolate mimosa, Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' has gotten so large I'm starting to think maybe it needs to come out. Has anyone tried pollarding one of these with success?
This spreading patch of Saxifraga 'Primuloides' makes me so darn happy. I love how it's growing down and over cement—who needs soil? Of course the fact a creeping rhizome of Pyrrosia linqua is working it's way through the saxifrage makes it even more spectacular.
During the winter months I move the containers of various sarracenia and Darlingtonia californica near the shade pavilion greenhouse. They need the winter chill, and so stay outside, but get moved under the "greenhouse" eaves when things get super snowy/icy or just really cold.
There have been a couple warmish days where sitting outside for a bit has been a treat.
Things inside the greenhouse are thinning out, as I start to move a few containers back out into the garden.
The agave farm stays put for awhile though, it can still be pretty cool and wet thru March.
Ditto for the cactus...
I picked up this Cheilanthes argentea at Marbott's Nursery a couple of months ago. I'm still trying to decide where in the ground it will be happy. It's a tricky one.
Not so tricky, Pyrrosia lingua var. lingua 'Cristata'—it's a strange one though.
Fuzzy new foliage on Lomatia ferruginea.
Tiny new leaves of Thalictrum ichangense 'Evening Star'
And cute as can be little Podophyllum pleianthum peeking up out of the ground.
I love the various purple tones of Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress' berries.
Hopefully the Mahonia x media 'Marvel' fruit will turn similar shades.
Looking across the back garden from behind the bamboo stock tanks that line the west fence.
And peeking under the plastic cover of the longest (and original) bamboo tunnel that Andrew made a few years back. It was a warmish dry day so I lifted the side to get some air circulation.
Agaves in containers, staying dry...
These covers will be coming off soon. I don't mind them in the winter months when we're not outside much, but once I start spending time outdoors again I want to see plants, not plastic.
This turned into a long post! Just a few more photos. Variegated daphniphyllum...
Recently pollarded Paulownia tomentosa.
I cut out all the crispy dormant sarracenia pitchers a couple weeks ago, the new growth will hopefully start pushing out soon.
Only two Echium wildpretii survived our brief wintery episodes, I think this one will be blooming later this spring.
And that's a wrap on my March garden!
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