The New England Patriots won their second consecutive Super Bowl and the Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros to win the World Series for the first time since 1917. That meant nothing to me, but my dad found it all very meaningful.
The Oscar for best film went to Million Dollar Baby, which I never saw. My favorite movie in 2005 took place in sun-drenched southern California...
"If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving! I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!"My favorite album that year must have been Loretta Lynn's incomparable Van Lear Rose, made with the White Stripes' Jack White. I listened to it incessantly.
In a booth in the corner with the lights down lowWhat other events serve as 2005 milestones? Pope John Paul II died in 2005. So did Rosa Parks. Richard Pryor. James Doohan (Star Trek's Scotty). Anne Bancroft. Peter Jennings. Terry Shiavo...
I was movin' in fast and she was takin' it slow, uh huh
Well I looked at him and caught him lookin' at me
I knew right then we were playin' free in Oregon...
The Huygens probe landed on Saturn's largest moon (Titan) and I thought that was cool. YouTube went online. French doctors performed the first human face transplant.
And this was my garden, as seen from my deck.
It may seem hard to believe, but back in 2005, noone Embellished the Tropics. Fairegarden fairies remained deep in seclusion.
The Transplantable Rose sat around bare-root waiting for Annie to dig a hole for it in her Austin garden. Pam wasn't Digging yet either.
Gardeners, though somewhat Intoxicated, were not yet Ranting or Going Wild, let alone making careful Studies in Contrasts.
The phrase Miller Time had nothing to do with gardening.
And--I just checked--get this: In all of 2005, Carol only Dreamed of May...twice.
Considering all that, you may be surprised to learn there was a little bit of whoreticulture happening in San Francisco. But it was still very cold and calculating. Nothing to attract the notice of real gardeners, that's for sure. How could it? I knew NOTHING about gardening.
Here you can see what level of thrill moved your erstwhile blogger to take pictures back then:
Yeah, fabulous retaining wall, chuck b. Armeria as a focal point? Why the hell not! Mulching with sphagnum moss? Yep, just another fine example of thinking outside the box. (Lesson learned: Show a little respect for the box.)
Guy and I closed escrow on October 31, 2003. There was no garden at that time, just a cheap sod job on heavy clay, with some ratty-looking lavender bushes in rows along the north- and south-facing fences. There was nothing to take a picture of. For a year or two, no pictures were taken.
Within a few months of moving in, we took out the lavender along the south-facing fence and planted bamboo, for privacy. It grew fast but mostly weeped and never formed the screen we had in mind.
We came in to possession of a 20-g ceramic pot, and put a Meyer lemon in it. I'd always wanted a lemon tree. We killed two or three Meyer lemons before getting it right a couple years later.
(Oh yeah, that lush green grass? Miracle Gro.)
At the time when we planted the bambooo, there was no deck or back steps yet, or even a backdoor. We had all that work done in January 2005.
If anything, this is where the garden really began, not with bamboo or a containerized lemon tree. The deck and the stairs re-defined the backyard space and gave us the impetus to come down here and do stuff.
Guy went first. One weekend in June he put in this cobblestone landing and path to connect the stairs to the garage so we wouldn't have to walk through the mud anymore.
He saw a guy in a store parking lot with a truck bed full of cobblestones and inquired if they might be for sale. He said yes.
He was a contractor taking them out of a yard in Noe Valley. His assistant delivered 80 of them to our garage door for $200.
These cobbles came to San Francisco on boats in the 19th century as sailing ballast. San Franciscans have been finding new uses for them ever since. Sewer walls in the old parts of town are made with these rocks. You see them used as edging material in city parks. Road repair crews still dig them up from time to time when they find sections of old cobblestone street under layers of asphalt.
Simply called 'San Francisco cobbles' or 'SF cobbles', you can find them for sale at Bay Area stone yards for $2-3 per stone. We've probably spent another $500-600 on cobbles since this first purchase. Who knows where our cobbles have been, or what new uses they will find when Guy and I ultimately leave this house.
Since the deck construction doomed the lawn underneath it, this was among the first places where I started to plant. I learned a lot about cultivating clay soil here. And ruined many clothes doing so.
I also learned that hosta and lily of the valley must be nice in gardens elsewhere, but not in Bernal Heights. Sadly, I wasted a year reading east coast garden books. Well, I was clueless. And I'm not even going to tell you about the swarms of flies I fed for months with my early composting efforts, or how I tried to snuff them out by shoveling garden dirt on to the compost pile. (No, that never works. Add shredded newspaper instead, and lots of it. Then wet it down and add yard waste. Once the true composting begins, you can add all the food waste you want. No more flies.)
It's hard now to recollect all the ideas and rationales behind the early design choices. Those were heady days, as my mind swirled with new possibilities. On many levels, I was starting to change inside too, into the gardener you know about now.
My southern neighbor's yard was still a neglected, overgrown forest that shaded half my yard. This picture would have been mid-day in summer; you can see where the shadow is. Lavenders on the north-facing fence had to go.
I kept going with the path...
For awhile there, I thought a series of quick, 90 degree turns would be just the thing. That didn't last long.
It was also during this period that I stumbled upon a mystery.
Just below the soil surface, I discovered the tip of an old iron bar set vertically in the ground while I was laying down cobblestone path. I excavated three feet down and still the bar wouldn't budge. At length, I gave up trying, and changed the path. The mysterious iron bar remains in place, buried in the garden for some other person to find at some future date.
As the path evolved, so it carved out some planting beds. I fell in love with flowering maple (Abutilon sp). Why not plant four of them right next to each other? Nice! ("Nice!"--Are you hearing the sarcasm in my voice?)
I still have the peachy-yellow one on the left, and you see it all the time in my Bloom Day posts because it always has flowers. The others are long gone.
This is the early version of my first raised bed, before I thought of using the cobbles to, you know, raise the bed. First, I had to convince myself that a pile dirt would not be sufficient.
From up on the deck, it wasn't so bad, once the plants started to grow.
Do you see the red plant material in the lower left? You'll never guess what that is. It's a hanging basket of red Rhipsalis that I bought online from the Tropical Gardens of Maui. Of all the weird, random things that I did as a young gardener, I have to say a) stumbling on the Tropical Gardens of Maui online, b) reading through the entire Tropical Gardens of Maui website, c) identifying plants for purchase from the Tropical Gardens of Maui, and d) and purchasing tropical plants from the Tropical Gardens of Maui probably reveals more about me than anything else I can tell you. I'll just leave it at that. Draw your own conclusions.
By November, I still had a lot to learn (and the Rhipsalis was long gone, of course--and replaced by a bird feeder that attracted mice and produced more weeds than I can tell you about; it's also long gone), but I was starting to get the hang of things a little bit. And I had my first gnome. See him? That's Butternut.
Meet my other great folly of 2005, the water feature.
For gardeners, the lure of the water feature, esp a pond-based water feature, is so compelling, so alluring, so intoxicating, so all-consuming, you pretty much have to just go there to see how it works for you. Because once the notion of having a pond grabs you, it will never let go, no matter how hard you try to escape it.
This is actually my second pond. The first one came and went in the space of a Labor Day weekend without ever being photographed. I fell under the charms of Ortho's All About Garden Pools and Fountains and became convinced that I could bang out a flexible-liner garden pond all by myself without any kind of experience building anything, ever. I won't go into it... I'll just say leveling the top of the pond on unlevel grade is very, very difficult and certainly not for the ordinary novice. That's all.
Anyway, when I accepted reality without a flexible liner pond in my garden, I still had a big hole in the ground--pretty much the entire planted area you see here + kidney-shaped pond. I decided to try a pre-formed liner version instead. The pre-formed pond was much easier to level, but I was never happy with the edging. It looked fake and obvious and I could never hide that. The raccoon who came by every night to knock rocks and dirt in the pond didn't care about the pond's facile fakeness. It was a just a gas to him, and he partied like it was 1999. A month spent cleaning up raccoon mess and replanting unplanted plants finally put me off the water feature. Even today, I have no interest in one. We have a birdbath. I'm good.
Come back soon and I'll tell you how things turned around for me in 2006. We'll talk about the advent of garden blogs and how they inspired me to a) garden, and b) garden blog. I'll finish discussing the path and we'll do some before/after comparisons.