As I type I’m sitting on my patio here in the back yard, enjoying the weather while getting some writing done. it’s been one of those on and off projects going back to last spring, when we brought in a firm to basically scrape front and back to the ground, plant a tree and other new plants, and then realizing over the summer that I just wasn’t really able and willing to put the time into keeping it maintained, even though it was designed for low maintenance. So this winter we hired a gardening service — a first for me, since I enjoy gardening as an activity and as exercise — and let them do the grunt work. This has freed me up to worry about finishing out the details rather than weeding and raking.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been hauling in potting soil, visiting the nursery and bringing in the last plants to fill those pots, laying out the drip irrigation to the raised beds and containers while Laurie finished planting the veggies and getting the low voltage lighting going. And I’m ready to declare the yard done, finally. Well, not quite. I have one (maybe two) trips for more potting soil and a few final pots to fill and plant, on hold because the SUV went into the shop for it’s standard service and stayed a few extra days because of a transmission problem we found. Better that than on the side of the road….

I’ve got some work left to do up front, and we’re considering buying a japanese maple to replace one we had that died a couple of years ago, but most of what’s left up there is containers and setting up the sprinklers for them. And then I get to sit and enjoy and let the gardener keep it going…

This is a moderately small yard to me, although if you look at new houses here in Silicon Valley it’s almost got room for a second house the way they build them today. By doing away with lawns I cut water usage a lot and significantly reduce maintenance as well, but the real benefit is it allows me to use the space in other ways. We’ve got the main patio area with the BBQ and a table taking up the south third of the yard, but over in the northwest corner I have another concrete slab (remnants of what was originally an ugly metal shed and later a hot tub that we retired a few years ago and had removed last year), and I’ve built up a second conversation area over there with a nice fire pit and some teak rockers (I found a nice teak supplier here in the Bay Area, which makes me happy; they do much of the outdoor furniture for the hotels in the area so it’s all built like a rock from sustainable wood)

Laurie has the North East corner for the raised beds, 3 4×8 plots for her vegetables, and we’ve added a few pots for herbs this year. And in the middle dominating the place is a huge pluot tree, which is an apricot/plum hybrid that generates nice fruit, although the weird weather this year gave us about a dozen fruit. Well, us and the birds and the squirrels. it was supposed to be a semi-dwarf but nobody told the tree, so it sits in the center of the yard going a solid 25’ high. We also have a Meyer Lemon that is just jammed with fruit year round.

The tree I planted last spring is a Chinese Pistache, which as it matures will have late summer flowers and fall and winter berries, making it a favorite of wintering birds, and a primary t should also be visited by Cedar Waxwings if I get a bit of luck, and I’m hoping we’ll have the first berries on it this winter. We’ll see.

Oh, and I hadn’t planned on it, but when out pot shopping I saw this new fountain and decided I really wanted it, so I replaced the fountain that sat outside my office door with this new, quieter one. I miss the bubbling a bit, but I really like the look (and it’s still accessible to the local population what needs water, which includes some of the local feral cats, the local squirrels, a regular supply of possums and every week or ten days, a raccoon or two…)

I’ve generally tried to choose things that are california native an drought tolerant when I can, but I also added a Hibiscus, which has always been a favorite of mine. And a couple of day lilies, which along with oriental lilies have really become a favorite of mine. I’m hoping some of the pots I still need to plant will get filled with some nice dahlias, but I need to find a local source to buy from. As soon as I get my car back I have one I want to go check out.

The Buddelia, which I grew from seed at least 15 years ago, are starting to flower. Their other name is butterfly bush for good reason, and the hummingbirds also love them.

As I finish up the front, I’ll have some more planting to do (or have the gardener do). Since the front yard is pretty heavily shaded, it’ll be going in a different direction than the back, and I plan on bringing back some of my old (and missed) fern garden, some new fuschias to supplement the ones already there, and maybe some nice begonias. We’ll see as I get there.

And even though my office is right next to the door looking out onto the patio with lots of nice natural light (not always a great thing when trying to process photos in Lightroom!) that’s not the same, so one goal I set for myself this year was to use the yard, not just look at it, which is why I’m now out here with the laptop. Because, of course, I can.. All I need now is a Barista…