I Made a Pretty



The southerner in me is adapting. Out of necessity, mind you, but it still counts.


Here in drought-ravaged L.A., the greenery I love simply cannot survive. So I’m turning to natives, succulents and cacti. What you see above is a planter I put together a few weeks back. I chose these plants for their low water needs and their beauty. So far, it’s hanging in there.


This planter, as well as the few other plants in the same area, are being watered with greywater. And though it’s odd to keep a bucket in my shower (for the purposes of catching greywater), I’m adapting to that as well. It’s what we do here.


I’ve given up on the small azalea by the back door, as it just doesn’t look like it’s gonna make it. (I’m still trying to save the Magnolia trees. Fingers crossed.) These losses are hard to take. And they seem to affect my soul a bit. By making bits of beautiful greenery in the yard, I’m attempting to heal my southern psyche. Honestly, I don’t think it will ever fully take. But it’s the best I can do.


And so I keep trying.

Nice Haul!



This was my morning haul on Saturday. Nice, eh?


No need to answer. I already know.




I finally got ahead of the leaves that have carpeted the lawn for weeks. But I’m not kidding myself. I know the leaves will always win. I’m just crazy-lady enough to have told them that, too – out loud – while raking them and putting them in the yard waste bin. Even though they’ll keep falling (like leaves do), it felt good to get them raked up once.


And then I got out my handy-dandy, new, human-powered reel mower and cut the grass in the freshly-raked area. And I’ve got to tell you – it looks fabulous. Really. I’m astounded that I don’t need to pay a gardener to take care of my yard (and to be rude to me, in the process). Granted, that gardener took care of the yard every week, whereas I’m getting my ass out there every 3 weeks or so, but it’s okay. And for today at least, it’s easy on the eyes.


Not only that, but I sweated like a monkey on a treadmill while working out there. That’s got to be good for me, right? Self-satisfied and fit. What a great start to summer.




A couple of months ago, Mister and I let go of our gardener. If you ask Mister, he’ll tell you the primary reason for this is our intention to get rid of our lawn (drought). And though we’ve had this idea for years, our hope is to actually follow through and xeriscape the front lawn this year. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that our gardener (who came with the house) was quite disagreeable. The dude would argue with me when I asked him to do something. For example – one day I told him the grass didn’t really need cutting, as it hadn’t grown since the previous week and that I would prefer he weed the beds instead. He responded by telling me how bad it was for the grass to skip a week of mowing. I said that it was actually good for the root system to skip a week and that the beds really needed weeding. He proceeded to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that grass roots weren’t affected by not mowing and blah, blah, blah.


So anyway, we let him go. And as we haven’t yet gotten around to taking out the grass, it needs tending every few weeks. To that end, I got myself a beautiful reel mower, powered by human force. It does a great job and I get exercise. Bonus!


That problem solved, I still had to contend with another issue: leaves. We have three magnolia trees and as much as I love and romanticize them, the little bastards drop a butt-load of leaves this time of year. So I went out and got myself a good, old-fashioned rake. And yesterday I put it to use.


Here’s the thing – working in the yard or garden is terribly therapeutic. It stills one’s mind and works one’s body. I can see why folks used to look forward to their weekend yard time, long before we all hired kids or gardeners to take care of the outsides of our homes. And I think maybe we gave up something beneficial when we handed off those tasks. I think we all lost a meditative part of life. And that’s too bad.


Now some of you may be thinking that your weekends (or other days off) are far too precious to spend doing yard work. And that may be true – for you. But for me, I find the work to be calming. And I get a sense of self-satisfaction out of finishing some routine maintenance. Though I admit my satisfaction on this go-round will have to wait, as I loaded our green (garden waste) bin to the rim and I didn’t even get half of the leaves in. Oh well.


Best of all, when I’m working in the garden, I don’t have to take three deep breaths and count to ten before I convince me to do what I want done, the way I had to with the gardener. I am much more pliable than he ever was. Thank the gods.

Cactus Conundrum No More



So I consulted with the interwebz and a few real, live folks and decided to go ahead and plant that danged cactus I wrote about a couple of days ago. I went all xeriscape  on this little planter and I’m pretty pleased with the results. My intentions are to tackle other small garden areas in a similar fashion, and to use the same materials around other drought-tolerant plants. My fingers are crossed. So are my toes, and my legs and my eyes.


As for this little area, I admit to seeing a lot of flaws. The retaining wall is stained (though I did try to clean it). The fence needs serious repair. Everything in the area should be painted. But you know what? I still like it, imperfect as it is. And to me, it’s pretty and ready for summer.


I sure do hope the cactus survives. I’d like to see it blooming again.


Cactus Conundrum



Mister and I inherited a couple of plants when we moved in here at the new pad. And I’d like to put one of them into the ground. It is the sickly looking cactus shown above.


But I’m having a bit of a cactus conundrum, as I don’t know anything about planting cactus. And honestly, I’m not sure this one is even worth planting. I mean, has it gotten so pitiful as to be unsavable? Should I bother going through the work of transplanting? Or should I dump the poor little cactus and pretend it never was?


These aren’t rhetorical questions, by the way. I’ll gladly take any advice I can get.

Living Wall



A while back I planted a “living wall.” I’d wanted one for some time, and finally found a small enough version to suit my needs.


I’d like to say I have a green thumb, but that isn’t always true. Tomatoes – sure. But everything else? I shake my head and pray. Because even when I knock myself out for a plant, it might up and die. Dem’s da breaks. It hurts my heart, but I get over it.


As for the living wall on the patio, it seems to be hanging in there (no pun intended). I’ll know for sure in a few more weeks, when – and if – the plants start showing some growth. For now, I pray to the garden gods…

You Have Got to Be Kidding



This week promises more 90+ degree temperatures in Los Angeles, right through the end of the week. That would be the start of October, for those keeping track.


Yesterday I read a report about “Indian Summer” wrapping itself around parts of the UK, and how folks there are soaking it up. I saw photos of people in shorts, grabbing some sun, as well as pics of kids running along rocky beaches. When the article got around to telling the expected high temperatures, I about fell off my chair: 68 degrees F.


A lot of us around these here hills would give part of a pinky toe for 68-degree weather. We don’t have to do that, however, as it wouldn’t matter anyway. The heat is here for a while longer and that’s all there is to it.


Even though the azaleas by the back door have gotten so discombobulated that they’ve bloomed as if it’s spring, other parts of nature are right on track. Our tomato plants finally looked at us, threw up a few spindly branches and said, “No mas.” So yesterday Mister ripped them all out and cleaned the area. (I would have helped, but as I have a few days left of The Crud, it seemed prudent to avoid inhaling all that dust.) As I watched through the window and saw Mister remove all signs of our abundant garden, I felt a little sad. I know I go through this every year, but for some reason this year tugged at my heart a bit more. Maybe it’s age. I don’t know. But each passing season seems to chip away at this sweet life. And though I hope to live for a long, long time, I am all too aware that everything comes to an end.


But I digress. Yes – summer is officially over. And yes – it is still Satan’s-Butthole-Hot here. But there are also subtle indicators of the autumn that is yet to come. And it surely will. For now, I can’t believe I’m still getting in the pool. You have got to be kidding me.

Garden Inspiration



I visited a gardening center this weekend and made the rounds. I only needed a little something for an indoor plant, but the way I see it – window shopping at a garden center is a sure-fire way to get an eyeful of some real beauty.


When I saw the artichokes shown above, I stopped in my tracks. Wow! I was so inspired. I started envisioning several of the spiky plants, clumped together in my yard. I could see the earthen paths around the patch. I could smell the artichokes steaming in the kitchen. I could taste the tender leaves, drenched in butter.


And then I thought of the drought and how I absolutely, positively cannot plant anything right now. And since I didn’t find the danged thang I was searching for in the first place, I bid farewell to the beautiful artichoke plants, got in my car empty-handed and drove home.


I am grateful for inspiration, wherever I can get it. And it doesn’t matter what type. Garden inspiration triggers the creative juices just as much as painting inspiration. So that was a good thing to have encountered. But I have to admit – putting gardening dreams on the back burner is a bummer.




Mister and I are beginning to get some fresh tomatoes from the garden, and we couldn’t be happier.


The freshies are like crack, I tell ya! And we savor every little orb. There are larger tomatoes, too, but those aren’t yet ready. But we’ve got our eyes on them, and can hardly wait!


If you’re a fan of fresh tomatoes and aren’t growing your own, might I suggest a visit to a farmers market. Few pleasures in life equal that of the taste of fresh, home-grown tomatoes. And to think – it isn’t even summer yet! Woo-hoo!