Progress Report

 As you are on the edge of your seat wondering how those early spring projects turned out once the dust settled, let's do a progress report. A few tweaks here and there and I would say many items on the to-do list are checked off. Hooray!

Of course, ongoing maintenance is another time-consuming fact of life around here. But, let's forego that dull topic as this post is about (hopefully) more interesting gardening. Reporting from Chickadee Gardens in early June, here's the latest:

This is the new gravel area as it looks today. Rosa 'Mutabilis' is happily blooming and foliage has softened the edges of the whole garden a bit. How about a reminder of what this area looked like before the sod removal and gravel application?

This was actually fine for part of the year, but it was really hard to mow and intense summer mole activity detracted from its potential to look good. Plus, less lawn is a bonus in which you can add plants instead. Way more fun.

During sod removal. 

Again during sod removal with a shot of the gravel path.

After: With the path now echoed by the shape of the new graveled area. In this new area I planted a few small hebes, just a few. It's enough to visually connect the whole area. I plan on sowing native wildflower seeds this autumn to add a pop of color as well as food for pollinators.

At the top of the grassy area after the first round of sod removal.

After with a few new plants installed. Tiny but they will be great here in time. Included is Muhlenbergia rigens and a very small Mirabilis multiflora among others.

A little further up towards the top with a now cleaned path that was entirely choked with Eryngium giganteum. I had to dig out a pathway for access. And to think I never planted these here, they showed up and multiplied on their own.

 Closer in towards the birdbath. I show this photo because there used to be a cistus next to the birdbath but it had a rough year. It was cut back for septic-tank access last summer then this winter was unkind to it and it sat in cold, wet, saturated soil for too long before it finally pretty much died. I have had to take out several cistus this year for similar reasons. They just can't handle extended cold, wet clay soil. So it's a little bare around here. 

In fact, looking back at photos from the last few years, I see many of my evergreen shrubs that were once full and gorgeous have suffered. I continue to prune and make their situation as good as can be. Many have rebounded and will be fine but for now they are certainly not at their peak.

Moving on to the new Oscar the Agave site. This is the "before' area, full of one such aforementioned shrub - a miserable Ceanothus gloriousus. Please note, however, this is really the only one that suffered, it's a fantastic plant especially for erosion control for sunny sites. Not all plants make it, as we well know, not all plans are successful.

Oscar on a wet spring day before he dried out.

Moved to his new home where the ceanothus was removed.

Today, having dried out for a few weeks.

The "after" shot as it looks today. There are a few Clarkia amoena, delosperma and cosmos planted in here for pops of color. We are much happier with this than looking at the "before" situation day after day. It took a decent amount of work but those sore spots can be incredibly rewarding when proper attention is given to remedy the problem. I  put it off far too long.

Now let's visit FM's new garden beds. Here's the "before" to remind ourselves what it was earlier this spring.

FM midway through sod-removal.

Finished and mulched with wood chips.

After FM removed sod from the edge of this healthy Ceanothus gloriosus (see....they really are lovely!).

FM decided gravel would look nicer than wood chips here, and since it did not require a lot of gravel he went for it.


All filled in. So satisfying.

FM's garden bed "before" 

With sod removed and wood chips spread. I also planted many Muhlenbergia rigens, Festuca 'Beyond Blue' and a couple hebes in there.

The other side of the new bed with Grevillea 'Neil Bell' on the right, Ceanothus 'Adair Village' center and Leptospermum grandiflorum on the left.

Looking west, you can see the row of olive trees on our property's edge on the left.

Let's revisit Mr. Log who was carted up to the shade garden to decompose in place and provide habitat for insects.

He's been swallowed up by Oxalis oregana 'Klamath Ruby'.

My newest garden bed is filling in nicely. I'll keep mowing around each little Teucrium chamaedrys until the clover eventually goes dormant for the summer and the teucrium grow. Eriophyllum lanatum, Oregon sunshine in the back is filling in too, although mole activity earlier caused a couple of gaps. There is also Madia elegans and Dorycnium hirsutum planted here. I will post updates later this summer.

That's a wrap for the bulk of the spring projects and a progress report. Now for a few "around the garden" photos. This is Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' looking very happy in its new home in the western woodland garden that has heavier soil and no fir trees to absorb all the water. The surrounding plants are pretty much all native plants for shade - Oxalis oregana, Gaultheria shallon, Polystichum munitum (sword fern), Anaphalis margaritacea (pearly everlasting, it popped up on its own), Physocarpus capitatus (Pacific ninebark) and others. This whole area is mulched deeply with wood chips and it's really doing the trick to suppress weeds and hold in moisture.

Amsonia hubrichtii are blooming a pretty pale blue and are loved by bumble bees.

I'm enjoying this unintended mix up of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and Parthenocissus henryi.

Oemleria cerasiformis, also known as osoberry (and formerly known as Indian plum) with fruit! How exciting, I have never had fruit before and have many of these planted throughout the edges of the garden.

Fremontodendron 'San Gabriel' (flannelbush - a native West Coast shrub) is finally growing to a decent size. It just wouldn't grow the first few years we lived here. It nearly died. FM wanted to remove the "dead looking stick" but I have a stubborn streak. I had a feeling it would rebound. It did, with gusto.

Kolkwitzia amabilis, beauty bush, was described by a garden visitor as a grandma shrub. OK, I like grandma shrubs then. It's gorgeous in bloom, kind of dull the rest of the year.

A wider shot.

Athyrium niponicum poking up through a sea of oxalis.

Linum lewisii, prairie flax

Chiastophyllum oppositifolium 'Jim's Pride' blooming in the shade garden.

Helianthemum 'Fire Dragon' with Eriogonum heracleoides (parsnipflower buckwheat) blooming behind it at the edge of the labyrinth garden.

Sarracenia (pitcher plant) blooming on our deck.

Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' has recovered somewhat from a few bad years due to weather extremes. It didn't bloom very much last year at all, so I am happy to see this. It is a favorite among a variety of bees large and small.

Baptisia 'Wayne's World' is another seemingly fool proof plant in my dry labyrinth garden. Baptisias have tap roots so are better equipped to deal with dry spells (or years).

More helianthemums, this is H. 'Henfield Brilliant', a dark orange variety. Mixed in are Heuchera 'Northern Fire' and H. 'Firefly'.

Penstemon h. 'Electric Blue' which I have killed several times in my garden before. I'm trying it again in a really dry spot. 

Rounding out this post with Gardenia 'Frost Proof'. I wasn't going to include it but I choose to show it because it's all part of the big picture. It looks terrible, I know. But it's alive. That's a major theme this spring in my garden - "Is it alive?" - this has been so incredibly frost-proof indeed, that is until this past winter and very wet/cold spring. So many plants that have always pulled through before are so stressed, barely hanging on. That was the case as mentioned for many cistus as well as Daphne bholua, a few Osmanthus 'Goshiki', rosemary, santolina, a vitex and several others that I can't recall at the moment. Previously healthy plants that had gone through what I thought was extreme weather have just about said "enough." But they are alive. So I give them a chance.

I feel as if the garden has plateau'd and is in a new phase all together. Many plants have simply disappeared over the years, likely swallowed up as shrubs and small trees continue to grow and shade them out. Some plants are beginning to fizzle out, likely at the end of their lifespan as some are short-lived. This spring and projects are all about injecting new life into this garden and hopefully as the garden simplifies itself by survival of the fittest, we will have less to do.

There's a snapshot of how a few of our most recent projects turned out as well as a few beauties around the garden. Between checking the cambium on woody shrubs and defoliated evergreens for signs of life and working on projects, we are incredibly busy around here. Grateful for what we have and busy, so if you've invited me to something and I haven't been able to attend, my apologies. It's springtime, after all, and we're in fourth gear heading to overdrive in June and July. Please forgive. I also would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came to our plant sale. It was great to see you, meet some new fresh faces and talk plants. Get in touch if you are after something I was out of or didn't have, I do have lots of plants in the greenhouse. More plant sales to come so stay tuned.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening!


  1. That's a LOT of sod removal and gravel spreading! Congratulations - and I hope your backs are still in working order.

    1. So far so good, Kris! Going slow and heating pads help.

  2. Barbara H.6:54 AM PDT

    What a wonderful update on your projects and your recuperating garden. We had a very damaging freeze at the end of winter, too, here in NE Alabama. I lost some things that will be greatly missed but other things are showing faint signs of life. In the meantime, this spring provided wonderful conditions for roses and oak leaf hydrangeas, so at least there is a balance between bad news and good news.

    1. Ah, yes, the balance between good and bad news. You provide a good reminder that there's always the other side - there are good moments out there! Thank you. Those late freezes are terrible for one's nerves.

  3. Does Facilities Manager hire himself out? The two of you have done a phenomenal amount of work in a relatively short period of time. Everything looks so neat and tidy. Someone once told me that a fresh edging and a coat of mulch makes a garden. So right. Gardens are always changing so looking at it as a 'fresh start' creates interesting opportunities.

    1. Ha! We have neighbors ask if we hire FM out. With enough doughnuts and German chocolate cake, maybe? I'll ask. Neat and tidy - yes, for now. I think it will get scruffy around the edges as time goes by. Gardens are always changing and that fresh start is a lot of fun to us!

  4. I thought I lost my 6-yr-old Gardenia 'Frost Proof' this winter as well... But just as I was considering a replacement for it, it started pushing out new leaves (2 weeks ago) - so hurray, she lives another day (or years, I hope). So many of my broadleaf evergreens took a hit with that 20-degree weather, but all of them are pushing out new leaves now. The ones that lost whole branches look a bit wonky, but I can trim to shape once they are fully recovered. Plants are so amazing! And I like to think my words of encouragement help a bit, too ;-)

    1. You too, Colleen? I wonder why this was the year for them to suffer. Yes, so glad yours pulled through as well! Plants are amazing and yes, I talk to my plants too. ;)

  5. Well done, the clean-up and sod removal really shows everything off! That is a lot of work.

    1. Woo hoo, thank you TZ! A lot of work, hopefully a little less maintenance in the future. That's the hope!

  6. Anonymous8:30 AM PDT

    It must feel great to move this massive project to the 'done' column. FM's garden bed is looking so good... the removal of the grass and new dressing makes it focal point (rather than lost in the grass). Across from it, photos 22-23, there's a large shrub encroaching into the grass path... how long before it becomes a nuisance for mowing master? It is probably jealous of the special treatment (and excellent results) the Ceanothus gloriosus received!
    Athyrium niponicum poking up through a sea of oxalis is magical!

    1. It sure does, Chavli - feel great to get that off the list. That large shrub is Grevillea 'Neil Bell' and I think it's a bit of an illusion in the photo - it's well tucked in there but yes, you have a point. Jealous of the ceanothus! Good one. The Oxalis shot - I really love that one. It's kind of tucked in there too so not easy to spot - you have to look for it.

  7. Impressive amount of work! It will be fun to watch the new areas fill in over time. You've got excellent restraint, not to overplant, which I do because I always have a backlog of plants that need installation. Your Oxalis oregana is lush. I've tried several times and it just doesn't last, which is strange because there are several other species of plants with similar needs in the same place. Heh, and I almost went and took cuttings off of a Kolkwitzia at an apartment complex near work, except I don't have a place for it at home. Count me in for grandma shrubs. For me that would include Weigela, Spiraea, and arbovitae. Lastly, I too have tried Penstemon 'Electric Blue' repeatedly in a number of places. It just doesn't last unless I constantly start new plants from cuttings each year. I have a feeling it's a very short lived perennial compared to some other Penstemons that do much better. Trying Penstemon 'Catherine de la Mar' this year, which has a similar, though perhaps less intense, color.

    1. I soooo want to overplant, Jerry - but I know I'd have to remove plants later so I wait. As far as your oxalis - I have heard the same from several plant people. I am quite surprised as it's a beast in my garden.

      Go get those Kolkwitzia cuttings and count you and I in the Grandma Plant Club! As my dear friend Maurice of Joy Creek Nursery just told me today, there are no boring plants - it's all in how you use them. Plant snobbery be damned! Ha!

      Not that I'm happy you lost plants but it's good to know such an excellent plantsperson as yourself has also lost Penstemon 'Electric Blue' too. Yes, must be short-lived. So be it. Catherine de la Mar is an excellent substitute, we sold it at Joy Creek and I often admired it.

  8. Anonymous2:56 PM PDT

    Only a few of your photos showed up for me but I don't see anyone else complaining so it must be something on my end. Hated to miss your plant sale & seeing everyone but we are taken over by house sale activities & find it hard to shoehorn in anything else (as do you, apparently, so I know you understand).

    1. Oh no! I hope they have since reloaded, Rickii. Yes, I totally understand, you much busier than us, a move is always so overwhelming and stressful that I'm honored you commented at all! We'll connect soon my friend once our collective dusts settles. Hugs!! xoxo


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