Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garden Tour

Just in time for our front yard lawn replacement planning purposes, Long Beach Lawn2Garden program sponsored a Garden Tour, featuring 32 gardens.  We eagerly signed up, having spent the previous weekend looking at random home selections from the hundreds listed on their website.  They were hit and miss -- some nice ones, but lots of them that were ho-hum.  So we were excited about looking at some that were top-notch.  When we got the map, it suggested choosing ones you'd want to visit, because the average person visits only 8-10.  That's crazy, we thought, we'll see most of them.
Oh, we were so naive.
The very first garden we chose to go to was closest to our own house, and it really was remarkably different from any of the others on the list.  First off, they retained a lot of lawn.  You can keep your lawn in part, the city will pay only for the part you remove and convert.  So this family had chosen to do the parking strip and chunks around the edges.  The other thing that was remarkable about their garden was that they had a very flowery, cottage feel.  A big difference from what we had been seeing lots of, which was a dry, desert feel. So that was encouraging: our yard could look green and colorful.  Finally, they had a lot of surprising plants that I would not have thought would qualify:  lambs ear, roses, daisies, butterfly bushes -- very springy and cheerful.  So that started us off well.

Another thing that we didn't expect was that the owners were sitting outside, and the first thing they did was hand us a full color sheet that had their entire plant list on it.  The Lawn2Garden program gave them a pile of copies for them to hand out.  It was great to take note of all the plants that we were interested in, and to write any notes that the owners supplied.

The next yard we went to had some great uses of greenery as well.  The gray-green groundcover above is dymondia -- a plant I had seen here and there and always found to be rather unpleasant, as it was always superflat and dry looking.  Not so much in many of the gardens we toured!  This garden above is only 2 years old, and the dymondia is thick and textural, which was encouraging, because it's one of the most commonly used plants around here, and I was kind of dreading using it.  Now I am eager to plant some flat sections in my own yard. 
Many of the yards we toured had great features already established - large, mature trees or other specimen plants.  We have almost nothing, so we know we need something to anchor the whole thing.  We saw a lot of great large trees/plants and feel more knowledgeable about choosing what's right for us.  One of the really helpful things about the gardens on the tour is that they had a large, color poster of the "before" yard, with the date, so we could see exactly what they kept, and how long the plants in the yard were.  Online, we could see the before pictures, but the after pictures are taken right after planting, so they are mostly of a dirt yard with a few sad plants placed here and there.  So it was great to see how much fuller things get, and how quickly they grow.

 For those people who had, like us, a fairly flat, bland 'before', it was interesting to see how they built interest using mounds and rock features.  This guy had a dry creekbed type format, with dymondia growing in the flat bed.  He also had a couple of fairly large pencil trees, but he had a sign on those that they were for sale for $25 each, he decided he didn't want those and wanted to replace them with something else.  That's another thing most people talked about, changing their plants when they found that things didn't work for them.  From the website, it seemed like you had to stick with your plan or you'd not get the grant.  Most people had changes here and there, but as long as they stuck with plants from the approved lists, they were fine.  

Everyone was so friendly and helpful.  We got a lot of great ideas, and people spoke about the sources for their plants, stone and equipment.  We went out yesterday to visit one of the most oft-mentioned nurseries and picked up a flat of dymondia and some ajuga to try out in the backyard.  I want to see how well it spreads while we plan our yard.

We also got round-up and sprayed the front grass. We can kill the grass, but can't remove it until our plan is approved.  It takes weeks to fully kill it, so we thought we'd get started right away.  It looks even worse now, all dry and crusty, but when I look at it, I think, "soon, you'll be gone!"  Today we had a landscaper come by and cut and trim it, so at least it won't look all hairy.  With any luck, it will just stay dead and flat and before long, we'll have the big job of removing it all!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Madness, I tell you!

Alright. Although our kitchen remodel has semi-stalled due to Dale's back problems, like a fool I have started yet another project.  It all began when we got a flyer in the mail for a program we'd heard about last year, the Lawn2Garden program here in Long Beach.

Naturally, the part that caught my eye was that notice down at the bottom in green - Receive up to $3000.  Of course, any time there's something like "up to" in the title, I'm skeptical, but I got on the website to check out the details.  Turns out we would be eligible for the entire $3000 - it goes per square foot of turf grass, and that's what we've got in our front yard.  They pay 3 dollars per square foot of replaced grass, and we have over 1000 square feet of grass.  Just to remind you what 1200 square feet of sad, sad grass looks like:
That's the day we closed.  It actually looks worse now.  We knew we were going to eventually take it up, so we haven't maintained it much.  And since we don't have kids or any real use for grass, it's expensive to maintain and a real waste of natural resources.  Out here, you have to pretty much water every day. 

So we are excited about overhauling this, but not so much about the timing.  But I don't want to miss out on the chance to get funding, so we applied and our application was accepted.  Our next steps are to do the online class, then submit our plans.  They do not require a professional garden designer, we can submit a drawing, as long as we use the plant resource websites to list and identify the plants we use. There are also lots and lots of garden plans available online, and we have access to every participants plans, so we can drive around and check out their finished yard, and if we like it, we can see their plans.  Lawn2Garden has a great website with lots of resources.

So we have 45 days to get to our next step, which includes our design.  I'm checking lots of Pinterest ideas, here are some of my favorite images:

all Pinterest images on my board are here:Ideas for the Yard

Of course, all these gorgeous garden photos show gardens that are lush and full, and ours will start out spare and wimpy looking.  Our biggest fear is that our garden will look wild and dry, so we really want to fill out the space, which will take a LOT of plants.  We also have NO attractive features to focus on, it's just a flat, boring space.  So we have to create some drama.  I am looking forward to having a summer project that I can work on without Dale (in case he require surgery or something!), and of course, I am living with a crap kitchen, but these things will work out eventually.  I am looking forward to this planning part of our yard transformation!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Well....look here

OK, it's been quite awhile since I posted last.  It's not that we haven't been doing anything -- really, we have! -- but there have been some other factors.  I mentioned that Dale had pulled a muscle, well -- it turns out he may have herniated disks.  So...that has slowed us down a LOT of course, he's been getting all kinds of various therapies and treatments for that.  And in the meantime, my daughter Leslie had her baby!  Our first grandchild!  So I had to rush out of town for that, of course!
isn't he adorable!?  of course he is -- Parker Jameson Reed, born on April 16 (his due date, his mother is VERY organized!). 

So I had to rush out and be there right away ... but because the IKEA sale ended on April 28, I knew I'd be out of town and so before I left, we ran off to IKEA and ordered our cabinets.  I told Dale he could go do it, but he wasn't about to fall for that one.  So they were ordered, and delivered while I was gone.  When I got back, this is what I was greeted by:
189 boxes. This view actually looks pretty good.  And the reason it looks so good is because Dale cleaned out the garage so there would be plenty of room to put everything. 

We spent some time this afternoon putting some of the cabinets together.  We're going to finish up tomorrow with the cabinet boxes, then I'll take some more pictures.  It's pretty overwhelming, but working a bit at a time, we're getting through them.

We did manage to save 20%, nearly $1000, so that made the last minute trip to IKEA worth it.

The other thing that happened while I was gone was that we had some really windy days, and we lost a couple of big branches off our lemon tree.  Our lemon tree is already rather sad looking, and it has a LOT of fruit on it, so the windy days were a little more than it could handle.  We have a couple of baskets of lemons to give away --

 OK - one last picture of our adorable grandson:

Blogging tips