Getting Giddy & Small Before and Afters

It is beginning, the exponential growth spring brings us. I am giddy. I never thought of myself as a "celebrating spring" kind of person - summer always took the slot of favorite season followed by autumn. But after a seemingly five-month winter, I get it. I'll take every twiggy shrub out there that is trying its hardest to grow new fresh green foliage. Every silly bud on every mediocre flowering cherry. This year's connection to spring is a visceral response at my core reminding me why I garden. Cliché as it sounds, I feel connected with the seasons so much more because, let's face it, I'm outside all the time. Please come with me as we look around our spring garden a bit and also review a few small before and afters. The afters aren't necessarily the better of the two choices, by the way. That's gardening for you, some plants just don't make it. Without too much sentiment I yank the dead ones with the possibility of fabulous replacements dangling in front of me as a reward . . . oh, the possibilities.

First up this week is a wider look at the gardens in general. This little vignette is near our front door and although simple, it is charming to my eyes.

A wide shot while standing in the "meadow" looking towards the gravel garden. What stands out for me here are three arctostaphylos that have grown considerably and will soon be the anchors for this side of the house. Intermixed are many hebes, primarily Hebe 'Sutherlandii' and H. 'Karo Golden Esk', two of my favorites. The creeping thyme is ratty right now but in a few weeks will be a carpet of bright green foliage followed by a solid mass of dark pink flowers buzzing with honey bees.

The fire pit lid has been removed for the season, that means spring is here. The Azara microphylla on the far right (the anti-diet tree) flowers smell of chocolate (really!) and make me want to bake brownies. Before I discovered the smell's source, I thought the whole neighborhood was baking cookies to taunt me. Or I was hoping FM was inside baking brownies. I still hold out hope. I have simple dreams.

At the edge of the labyrinth garden looking north towards the house. Brachyglottis greyi in the center with Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley' on the immediate left, Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' beyond and to the right is Ceanothus 'Marie Simon', a semi-deciduous pink-flowering ceanothus.

If you follow the path to the center of the photo the Brachyglottis greyi can be seen for perspective. This shot was taken towards the southern edge of the property near the honey bee hive. The greens are starting to overcome the brown and grays of winter, so I feel like I can look at wide shots of the garden without cringing so much.

A zoomed-in image of the previous photo, mini-Oscar is surrounded by Arctostaphylos pumila, quickly becoming one of my favorite arctos for its silver green unblemished foliage and fine solid shape. The flowers are frequented by bumblebees, all arctos are as a matter of fact.

From the other side of the gravel garden looking east. The Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys' - black pussywillow and its neighbor Lonicera involucrata, our native twinberry on the left are becoming green shrubs rather than bare branches very quickly. 

Looking west towards the western shrublands and our neighbor's white fence - mostly evergreens stand out now, but the Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' is one of the earliest deciduous shrubs to bloom and has never really been entirely without some leaf growth on the branches. A favorite spiraea for certain.

This is the same vignette I showcased last time, but the evergreen, drought tolerant shrubs deserve a second viewing. 

Next up I have chosen a few plants that caught my eye in the garden. This is Buddleja globosa, an orange flowering non-invasive buddleja. Stay tuned for photos of these fabulous orange balls.

Could the Eryngium giganteum place itself in an even more awkward location? No. Here at the beginning of a path deep in solid wet heavy clay. Did I mention I did not plant these here? One showed up two years ago and now this. I'm not complaining, however. I adore these flowers. But digging them out to move elsewhere is tricky business.

One of several Ribes sanguineum on the property. I have planted many of these over the years and each flowering currant has a slightly different color, all in shades of pink. I particularly liked this one.

A recent acquisition, a gift from a friend, this Pinus pinea or stone pine will have a new home in the ground as soon as we get the new chicken coop built. We'll have a whole new blank area when the old coop is removed, this will be the centerpiece. It's a fabulous pine from the Mediterranean area, commonly referred to as a stone pine. Its nuts are prized in Italian cuisine, so if we do get any, I'm one happy camper.

Ooo, raspberry season is coming. This is a very good thing. OK, pine nuts and raspberries. I'm getting hungry.

Hebe pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii' in the background juxtaposed with a mini-me Hebe vernicosa in the foreground.

In one of the raised beds where we grow greens, I sowed crimson clover as a cover crop. This is what happens, however, when you allow chard to go to seed. I have a chard cover crop.

Callistemon viridiflorus always looks smart. Its soft yellow bottlebrush flowers are a bonus - even if they only last a week or so.

FM's project for the warm months is building a new chicken house. Frida and Tillie came running towards me - they wanted in on the photography action. Actually, they thought I had some treats. Sorry, ladies.

Meanwhile, Sweet Pea got in on the action, hamming it up. FM says the poultry crowd is little help with construction, but great for excavation. Hundreds of worms gave their all for the digging out of the foundation. Yum, makes our eggs so much more appetizing.

A silly little project for me was the trimming of the rosemary once again. This went against everything I want to be - a carefree, live and let live gardener who rejected power tools. But but but. The damned rosemary grew a lot larger than anticipated and was supposed to be prostrate. You knew that, I've told that story before. So do I rip it out and start over with, say, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - a beautiful native that is truly short and trailing but painfully slow - or let the rosemary be but with a ridiculous haircut? Since it's here and healthy, we'll try the haircut method - with power tools (the last hand-pruning event made my hands sore for a week). Imagine 250 feet of orange power cord draped over the garden terminating with one electric hedge trimmer formerly owned by my mother. Yup. And it was fun. Is this the entry drug into more power tools? Lord help me. If you start to see photos of dolphin-shaped boxwoods on the blog, please intervene. Moving on...

A very lovely shrub, Ceanothus cuneatus ‘Adair Village’ began to fall over. It turns out that moles had been making this area party town so many cavernous pits caused it to fall forward. That, coupled with the downward slope made it on the horizontal side of orientation. FM and I wanted to save it so we (he) dug it out - a huge root ball - and twirled it around, made a level new area for the root ball to settle in and FM staked it. It might not make it but it's certainly worth a shot. If the roots can get re-established, and we gave it a healthy root ball to disturb as little of the root structure as possible, then it has a fighting chance. Stay tuned.

Melianthus major, honey bush, before - as seen in February of this year. 

Melianthus major - last week. So what happened? A late very hard frost. I hate March. But to be fair, it will be fine and grow out of it. It just looks nasty.

Looking west at the bottom of the deck March 2019. Note the two cistus at the end of the gravel path on the left.

Same area, last weekend. No more cistus. My favorite, 'Blanche' up and died last fall due to excessive mole activity around its roots. Its neighbor died this January/February for likely the same reasons coupled with overly heavy clay soil. It is on a slope but the clay just stayed too wet too long. 

How sad. Well, I did get to plant a couple hebes and a replacement Cistus 'Blanche' and improved the soil with more gravel.

The shade garden path last spring.

The moss! The moss! That's all I want in life.

The berm garden March 2019

The berm garden this week. The Erica c. 'Rosalie' has grown and blooms beautifully, a few plants were edited out and the pots at the base near Buddha have been moved.

The berm garden the other direction March 2019.

This photo is from last week. I am happy.

You might detect a bit of cheekiness this week, I chalk it up to letting out pent-up winter energy, so please forgive. I'm just so looking forward to moving through this mess of Covid and stress and cold weather and not connecting with family and friends towards a warm spring, vaccines for everyone and a greener, healthier life. Bring it on for everyone.

On that note I thank you all for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening one and all from all of us at Chickadee Gardens (Tamara, David, Hobbes, Annie, Sweet Pea the turkey, Blanche, Frida, Cheeto, Tillie, Penny, Gandy, Blondie and Effie the hens, Doug the Douglas squirrel, the crow family, Nigel the chipmunk and a bazillion chickadees).


  1. I'm always amazed at how fast things change around this time. Do you cut your honey bush back? This is how mine looked after the big freeze a few weeks ago.

    1. It's astounding, isn't it?

      Regarding the Melianthus, I could cut it back hard, but since there is some good growth I just pruned out the dead bits. It has died to the ground in colder winters, but this year there's just some top damage, not entirely a lost cause.

  2. Thanks for sharing your lovely garden! I too am experiencing “giddiness” at the thought of seeing friends and family, going on garden tours and not basing every life choice on “is this really worth the risk?” I am at the same stage you were when you bought your property with my garden and I love all the inspiration you have given me. Happy spring gardening to you.

    1. Oooh let's be giddy together!!

      Thanks for your kind comments, happy spring gardening to you as well! May you have many giddy moments in the coming months.

  3. Your berm garden has evolved beautifully, Tamara. Thanks for mentioning that Ceanothus 'Marie Simon' is semi-deciduous, something the mail order nursery I ordered mine from last year failed to declare. I was afraid mine was dying but now have my fingers crossed that it's just going through a stage :)

    1. Aw, thank you Kris. I'm finally satisfied with it...a few tweaks yet but that's true for the whole garden.

      That ceanothus - YES! It looks terrible right now and does so every year. To say that it's even partially evergreen is a bit of a mystery to me. Yes, keep it and I'm sure it will bounce back just fine. Keep us posted!

  4. It was good to see all. Everything looks healthy despite the freeze. Love and envy your moss path. My little patch of moss is full of weeds. Bah...

    1. Thank you Lisa! My moss path is full of weeds too, they are just cleverly hidden by the camera angle. BUT I still love it. Cheers!

  5. Even though March was mean much of your garden still looks like it came through with flying colours. We too battle diggers, pocket gophers, that play havoc amongst the tree roots. We have a Ponderosa Pine that I think will forever staked as it just does not want to regrow roots on the west and windy side. However, live and let live. Happy Easter.

    1. Thank you luv2garden! It did come through just fine, we are pleased about that. Oh, those critters.....they are sooo maddening. and let live. Indeed. Happy Easter to you too!

  6. Can you point me to the posts you did that showed how the property looked before you started working on it & then as you began working on it?

    1. Sure Sallysmom, the first post Making a New Garden, Finding Land from Nov. 2015 is the starting point. I've done a series nearly every year following up on this post title with additional photos from the same locale. Search posts titled Finding Land - that's a good start. Others are from early 2016 - they show the garden in the earliest stages. All posts are in chronological order, so go back to 2016 and that would be a good starting point. Just skip the posts about nurseries and other gardens to get right to the heart of this garden.


  7. Your berm is stunning right now - Rosalie is indeed a beauty! I cut my Melianthus back completely earlier this spring, and it's still mostly stumps, with little green bits slowly emerging. Good grief - I hope it picks up the pace a bit... soon! Happy spring, dear T! I'm getting my first shot on Monday - hooray!!!

    1. Thank you Anna Bean. Rosalie is from Gina, of course!
      I hope your Melianthus recovers - they are pretty tough, right?

      Happy spring to you, xoxoxo hope to see you soon!

  8. I once grew Cistus 'Blanche' and know what a beauty she is -- sorry for your loss! But look at all you have going on now to console you! I went through quite the cistus phase years ago but they all grew too large for this small garden -- now I'm playing around with halimiums. So many good plants...And I like your giddy side! Happy spring!

    1. you understand my 'Blanche' grief. Sooo pretty.

      Yes, many cistus do get quite large-ish. Halimiums are great, nice substitute.

      Glad you like the giddy side, I think my giddy alter ego may begin taking over this blog.

    2. Oh, and happy spring to you too!! :)

  9. Having followed your blog since the first entry after you moved to this property, it is thrilling to see your garden today! Your vision, discipline, creativity and hard work is very rewarding for me and I believe for you. You and FM are amazing ~~ what a team! Thank for sharing your garden and your inspiring way of living.

  10. Having followed your blog since the first entry after you moved to this property, it is thrilling to see your garden today! Your vision, discipline, creativity and hard work is very rewarding for me and I believe for you. You and FM are amazing ~~ what a team! Thank for sharing your garden and your inspiring way of living.


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