Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

House projects are never truly done – this warning should be written in bold letters on mortgage papers – but nevertheless I am declaring victory on the relandscaping project.

About a year ago I got serious about facing up to some long-standing garden issues that I hadn’t put the the time, money, or guts towards addressing. Bing had kept the lawn fertilized, weeded, and reseeded. . .and I hadn’t. Whenever I pulled in or out of the driveway in daylight, I was reminded that the lawn had become a far cry from its previous putting green self. Besides, after serving on the board of the USC Center for Sustainable Cities for a number of years, I became increasingly guilty about even having a lawn which required weekly mowing-and-blowing and watering, yet still turned brown during the summer water rationing. The roots of the liquid ambar tree were destroying the front brick patio and were preventing anything from growing inside the front courtyard. The fruit trees and climbing Cecille Brunner rose hadn’t been pruned in 10 years. I didn’t spend the time on the vegetable gardening that I wanted because the weeding overwhelmed me. I hated watching the azaleas and camellias burn every summer and saw the handwriting on the wall that water here in the Southern California desert not only will become more rationed and more expensive, it just won’t even be available.

So I decided it was time for a major make-over: get rid of the lawn and liquid ambar tree, clean everything up, switch to drought-tolerant California natives, and convert the sprinklers to drip irrigation. On top of that, I charged my designer with avoiding cactus, keeping the blue-purple-pink-white color palette, leaving me room to do “edible landscaping,” and adjusting for the microclimate problem areas.

Six months after the demolition started, the new materials, plants, and irrigation now are installed, and the new look is settling in. The deciduous trees are ready to pop, following my wisteria’s lead. The new citrus trees are bursting with white blossoms, adding their fragrance to that of the new sages, osmanthus, and thymes. With bird seed I’m enticing the birds back; I’m especially glad the mourning doves have returned. I’m watching for the butterflies and bees next. My gardener said “I must have known something” about the liquid ambar, because he said the roots were sick and that tree could have come crashing down in the next storm, of which we have had plenty this past winter. My water bill is higher than a year ago, although I have cut my water usage almost in half. Just think what that bill would be otherwise. And starting next week, the city of Pasadena will have a ten-day water shut-down on external uses. All in all, I’m glad I took the gardening bull by its horns, and am able to experience springtime in the new eco-order.

I can tell I’m feeling much better because I am itching to plant my new vegetable beds this Saturday. I’m continuing contentedly without any further word from the doctors and in the meantime, as Bing used to say, will “go play in my garden.”

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