Early Spring

The weather this winter has been downright bizarre. And it has confused the plants. Lots of things are blooming much earlier than usual, and I am a little worried about potential late-season rain. Though any rain would be good at this point.

I went out in the garden today to take some photos. I'm still trying to hire a gardener to deal with the weeds so I can spend my free hours doing the more fun parts of gardening. Oddly, I have only gotten a few responses to my inquiries, mostly offering paid consultations on design. I'm not really looking for design services right now -- I have plans for that sort of thing but we're spending this year's house money on cute light fixtures and Japanese robot toilets. I was kind of surprised by the lack of response, frankly, since the economy has been so bad for so long.

The back yard

I decided to take a couple of pictures of the garden to show what it is we're trying to deal with. Maybe that will help. So now you also get to see how the plants are rapidly overtaking the pathways.

The weeds out front

The front is looking very lush and green, but about half of that is actually weeds. They aren't looking so unattractive right now, but I would like to get them a little more under control. When the California poppies go off this year it's going to be spectacular, I think.

The magnolia is in bloom

In the last few days the magnolia has started blooming. It's looking very attractive now that I've pruned that one weird branch out and after last summer's work to straighten it up. I'm not sure how soon we can remove the stake that is holding it in place, but I should think midsummer at the latest.

daffodils coming up

In the swath between the houses, I planted white daffodils in the fall. They've started coming up and should be opening up soon. Daffodils should theoretically naturalize in this climate, but that sort of thing is iffy on the margins of their natural range. Alameda can't quite decide if it wants to be USDA zone 8 or zone 9, and I think the warmer parts of zone 8 are pushing it for most spring bulbs.

Crocuses and nigella

What does seem to do well here and come back every year are crocuses. I planted them around the yard a few years ago and they come back regularly, popping up in small, glowing clumps. The purple ones, anyway; the white and striped ones have disappeared. Here they are mixing with the first sprouts of Nigella in the raspberry bed.

crocuses and salvia

They do well even in the dry parts of the garden, where I don't water at all. That's a hummingbird sage runner popping up in the path in the orchard. I love coming across little pops of colour.

Mysterious dead spot

The big mystery of the day is this weird dead spot in the side yard. It looks as if we had something lying on the grass there, but we did not. I can't say I'm too broken up about the loss of some grass, but it is confusing. I like to know why my plants die off.


Other than that, we have blueberries (doing much better since I planted them in the ground where they get consistent water and don't get knocked over).

Blooms on the pluot

And the lonely pluot is blooming alone with no pollinators. It seems awfully early, but maybe this is because I pruned it so heavily when I transplanted it.

Camellia blooms

Also the Camellia finally bloomed, a month or so later than normal. What a weird year.

posted by ayse on 02/25/12


The Magnolia looks magnificent! it will be a real stunner when it grows bigger and complements the house.

The Magnolias in my neighborhood all exploded this weekend! it is making me itch to plan one in our yard.

I do think this is the best year for the magnolia. Only a year ago I was saying maybe I should cut it down and try something else in its place. I'm glad I gave it more of a chance (though the spot is one of the few large enough for a dramatic weeping cherry, so it's all about compromises).

If you're getting design types, you may be asking in the wrong places.

When I lived in Palo Alto, I got a lead through my neighbors. After I moved to the East Coast, I found that websites tended to be by design types. The people who do the actual work were advertising in the service category in the small local newspaper, or on supermarket bulletin boards, etc.

There are two type of gardening companies: mow and blow, and hand weeders. For the most part, the hand weeders have web sites (this is tech central, after all). My neighbors who use gardeners use mow and blow types. And the issue is not getting recommendations, but getting the companies thus recommended to reply to my efforts to contact them. Out of seven contacted, three have responded.

Also, a surprising number of them seem to not realize that one reason for hiring a gardener is having a job that doesn't allow time for gardening, which might mean not being available for consultations and meetings on site during the work day. It's a lot more frustrating than I expected.

the house is so charming. i love old houses and the history and memories they quite possibly posess. you are making tremendous progress with it. so how old is it approx?

I can recommend a local gardener who is a mow-and-blow guy, but also does one-time cleanout jobs. His men "m-and-b" for us twice a month, but he's also very responsive if I want a bush pulled out or something special. Let me know if it's kosher to put his name here.

Nancy, you are welcome to recommend him, but mow and blow guys generally end up destroying gardens like mine by trying to weed by weed whacker rather than by hand.

I haven't actually observed our guy doing the work. We come home and it's always a lot nicer than when we left it. So, I'll just suggest Jose Garay and if you talk to him, you can ask how he would do the work. He's on Buena Vista.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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