Monday, July 2, 2012

Planning other people's gardens

My sister recently texted me with a request for plant ideas on her back patio. The owner of their condo installed a new fence and took out the English ivy that was covering the old fence (my guess is that it will be back) and gave them an additional four inches of bare dirt. She misses the greenness of the ivy but doesn't want to do edibles this year. She wants tough, drought tolerant ornamentals that can take part shade and won't require daily watering once they are established. She has young kids that play out there, so the plants can't be poisonous, pokey, or irritating.

The area is 17' long and 22" deep. This is a split view of the area at 8am:

And 1pm:

And 6pm:

So half the the space is getting dappled shade and half is getting full sun at the hottest part of the day. She lives in Campbell, CA. Her zone is 9b, which gets pretty hot in the summer, with about 19" of rain annually. It's not unreasonable for her to take a trip to Richmond to visit Annie's Annuals. Her kids are out of school for the summer and they'd have a blast there, right? As a result, I picked out plants solely from Annie's. She should be able to dig up and move everything she plants if they move to another house.

Here's what I have picked out so far. If she had full sun at her disposal this would have been a LOT easier. Salvias! Agastaches! So! Many! Grasses! This was a fun challenge. For whatever reason the color blue has always reminded me of my sister, but she's also a brash, sassy shit-talker, so I included some hot orange with lots of chartreuse to brighten up the shade. Presented in no particular order (all images are from the Annie's Annuals website) . . .

Aeonium escobarii, a blue-hued succulent:

Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee', a compact, chartreuse perennial that smells nice. This is only plant that might need regular water.

 Anchusa azurea 'Alkanet', a pretty 3-4' bush covered in blue flowers. I just purchased one of these for my yard. 

Asclepias curassavica, a grey-leafed evergreen milkweed with hot orange flowers. It attracts butterflies and is 3-4' tall and wide.

Muhlenbergia rigens, a tough low-water grass that might self-seed but she's in a rental so who cares! This one really might be too big for the space.

Crassula lycopidiodes, a chartreuse succulent that I want to grow in my yard so badly.

Senecio mandraliscae, a blue succulent that will work as a groundcover. Bonus: it grows in our brother's yard, so she can dig some up and not spend any money on it.

Here's the mock-up of what I had envisioned. I used the iPad app Paper, which I'm deeply in love with right now.

And with chicken scratch writing on it. Can you tell I don't own a stylus?

Option 1, nothing is to scale.

The grass anchors the L-curve with the Aeonium on the left and the Crassula and Senecio to the right. That leads to the orange milkweed, the Anchusa, three bunches of the Agastache, then another milkweed, and finishing with another combo of Crassula and Senecio.  Here's how the plants would look, going left to right.

The total should clock in at about $73, if she goes with this list. 

I've also thought about this placement: 

Option 2, nothing is to scale.

Or this one:

Option 3, nothing is to scale.

Seasoned gardeners: do you have any opinions on plant placement, plant choices, or anything else? Any glaring errors? As I'm writing this I'm noticing that her cement is stained with a light blue, which pretty much matches the Senecio I'd planned to use as a groundcover. That might look dumb. 


  1. That'll look awesome! And I love all the color.

  2. Ah!!! I LOVE it! I am going to steal from your sister's plan. This is awesome--the whole thing, conception, blueprint, laying out the visuals--seriously, I want to hire you.

  3. Let's go shopping! Sadly, half of the plants I picked out for her aren't hardy to our area.

  4. How fun...and the drawings are seriously should frame one for her after she's done! I love the Muhlenbergia pretty, but if it's too big, Muhlenbergia dubia looks exactly the same...but is about half the size :-)

  5. I LOVE those drawings! I agree - frame them for her!! This is going to be so gorgeous. There is just something about succulents. They make my heart sing. Your sister is going to love love love it.

  6. Thank you! I hope she likes them too.

  7. This is amazing and so affordable!! Thanks so much, Sissy!