MARCH 6, 2012 5:02PM

Battling Entropy For Fun And Profit

Rate: 45 Flag

I woke up the other day not knowing where I was.  Urban sounds; traffic, rain falling on pavement, people talking on the sidewalk below.  What the hell? 

After a few seconds of sleep-induced confusion I remembered -  San Francisco.  Sirenita Lake's place.  Landscape.


 A couple years back Sirenita had mentioned she wanted to re-do her yard and I answered "What a coincidence, I do landscaping!"  but, as often happens with such conversations, we never followed through.  We were chatting recently, though, and I asked if she still wanted to do the yard makeover and it turns out she did and since there's no work in KC right now and I figured it'd be awesome to meet Sirenita and Mark and I've always wanted to see what California north of LA looks like, one thing led to another and I woke up the other day wondering where the hell I was.



The  yard in question, viewed from above in a photo Sirenita sent so I could get an idea of what we need to do.  It's about 25' x 25' with two planting beds in the center surrounded by a paved pathway and then another bed less than 24" wide running along the outer wall.    It's challenging for me because I'm used to working with big Midwestern yards where there's a lot of space - foundation beds, perennial borders, back yard, beds along the sides of the house, and etc.  Houses in San Francisco, though, tend to be on tiny lots and this one is no exception, so the task here isn't to create sweeping vistas (which is what I'm used to) but rather to fully utilize the limited space available without making things look too busy or crowded.



Another shot Sirenita took before I came out. You can see the planting beds are green and lush, but they're also kind of cluttered and tangled and the plants are grown into each other to the point where it's difficult to weed or to tell where one ends and another begins. Calla lilies and irises and alstroemeria and amaryllis and violets and verbena and other useful things are mixed in with assorted weeds and snails and so forth and the whole area needs to be sorted out and set right.



The first step in beating back the entropy was to determine what existing plants we want to keep to incorporate into the new landscape. Here are some irises in our "salvage area."



One bed stripped down to the bare dirt; behind the cherry tree are some new plants we're going to put... somewhere.  We have columbines and coral bells and cyclamen and cinneraria and maidenhair fern and wallflower and 0thers  too, though none of the nurseries we've been to have hostas yet, which is throwing a major monkey wrench in the plan.  I want a ring of hostas around the two cherry trees, but for now we have to proceed without them, and possibly also without the echinacea and rudbeckia and other sun-loving perennials we need for the less shady areas in the outer bed.  Hostas or not, at this point we're starting to get an idea of what we want the beds to look like, but we're also kinda making it up as we go along.



 The nurseries around here are different from what I'm used to, and though I wish they had more perennials they're nonetheless fascinating.  Here is a "wall-o-succulents"  at one of the local garden centers.  It's about 4' by 6' and is one of the coolest succulent plantings I've ever witnessed.



A succulent close-up.



Nurseries in San Francisco serve macchiato with an artful little plant drawn in milk. 



Back to the yard; a charming garden hippo lives here.



Another garden resident - what a cute newt!



Mark and Sirenita are kind folk and sometimes they let me out of the yard to recreate. Here are some California poppies I saw while walking in the park. 




Yesterday while hiking a ridgetop trail in Oakland we saw a day-time moon framed by redwood trees.  It's incredibly beautiful out here, and I'll hopefully post more about it at some point, but right now I need to get back in the yard and finish de-entropizing the wall-side planting areas.   Once that's done we can move on to the fun part, laying out and planting the beds and refurbishing the container garden and maybe designing a compact water feature and so on and so forth... 

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I'm glad somebody likes dirt.
" and I woke up the other day wondering where the hell I was."

Man, if I had a nickel for everytime that happened, I'd have a lot of nickels!! What?


Course rated!!!
oh, oh, oh, if i'd only known, i'd have driven up to help you dig. i've done amy's garden in the city and it was *so* fun to work in a space so different than what i'm used to down here. don't you find it so? lovely space and some good things going on at the start. adorable newt, that newt. did you go to Flora Grubb Nursery? is that where the vertical succulent planting pic is from? if you can't get hostas (not lots around in CA), you could try ornamental grasses for shade. if you have time to drive up into marin, you *must* go to cottage gardens of petaluma for plants. you will ::thud::, i swear. blab, blab. so cool that you get to do this, just so cool.
Cupcake, you play with plants! How cool. I wish I had some real training in it. I am going to do the northwest corner of my back yard this year- I need to screen the neighbors from view. I have about 6 plant catalogs to look through. One has a plant called Staghorn Sumac which it said can be a shrub or a tree and will send out new plants to fill in gaps. Which means it's going to be a pain and send out runners where I don't want them, too, but the picture is cool. And I have some other plants out there already that will need to move around. I'm picturing a really nice large corner bed when I get done.
Looking forward to more of the in-progress shots. I was muddy all weekend. Felt good.
Any room for a few of your favorite Digitalis purpurea? At least you would have the satisfaction of getting them into the right soil, not so easy in Kansas I know. Lots of rotty mulch is good.
Succulents as a wall hanging is getting to be quite a fad. May do a small one too this year if I can figure out the gravity defying part.
Lovely indeed & great photos. The garden looks pretty good right now, but I bet it will look amazing when you're finished - looking forward to seeing those photos.
FFO! (far fucking out)
Remember that time we woke in the car, me inside, I think, you-- you're feet in, back door open, upper torsil on the curb, and that nice man on his morning walk nudged you with his foot?

Succulents! San Francisco! Sirenita!!

So jealousing
Very nice post Nana, the garden is going to be lovely, hope you post some after photos too.
Enjoy, she seems like such a cool person.
I sure like that hippo! Keep up the good work and remember to use a few water-wise plants since it's looking like a drought summer coming.
I thought I would explode from you not saying anything about where you were! I'm so excited for you to be in The City, soaking up it's mystical beauty as well as enjoying time with Sirenita and Mark. I hope you gave the redwoods my message of love. I admit to wishing I was there enjoying it all too.

You do landscaping, hmph. Since you're always too humble to speak of your many talents, I'm going to say you're also a gifted artist and not just with your pencil or brushes! It's good to see you have an opportunity to do some professional landscaping again and honor the artist you are. I can't wait to see what it will look like when it's done.

Perhaps you'll feel a little inspired and pick up your sketchpad again. Hope you're not mad at me for bragging about you but someone had to do it and I have a reputation for being a big mouth who tells the truth. I'm also jealous you got to hold the funny little newt.
beautiful plants and's already spectacular and will only get better.

de-entropizing is a hot new word.
Too cool, Naneh! If I were not sick as a dog, I would be over there, digging away and planting newts with you all!
How did you get a shovel on the plane?
I love me some entropy, myself.
Everyone should have at least a little bit in their garden, or in their lives, in my opinion.
I grew up in an acre of entropy & I don't inthk ti idd me yan mrah. I hope you set a little corner aside anyway, with a big rock that holds water around it, for the newt.
Maybe in a pond.
Otherwise, carry on ~ nearer to god in a garden, as they say.
What a cool space to work in, a dirt canvas... The hippo is awesome, I want one!
I got an acre or more fenced in around my house and many more acres beyond that, so I can be expansive. However, a friend of mine in Toronto has a teensy back yard, scarcely bigger than a patio, and he's done wonderful things with it. Small canvass can really bring out creativity. Looking forward to photos in progress and then the final result.
Leepin' Larry ask:

"How did you get a shovel on the plane?"

Natatehay took a banker's dozen diggers.
He snuck into the luggage Doberman dogs.
They did faster than cat dig their pea holes.
Maybe that salamander/newt got in pants.
I've mentioned ( I forget if it was @ Salon):
'New Belgium Brewery' has a 'Fat Tire' beer.
They also brew a summer 'Dig' pale ale beer.
'Dig' has a image of a red shoe sneaker shoe.
The 'Fat Tire' Ale has a image of a red bicycle.

Sirenta 'ought' to have a Open Salon Garden Club.
We could sit in floating rubber inner-tubes. Gulp.
We could have beer parties and wear our pajamas.
Nan ate hay - He could fix-up broken beach chairs.
Maybe a loco neighbor (editor) could serve us gins.
ooh, can't wait for more!
I loved everything in this piece. Yes space is at a premium in San Francisco I can't wait to see what you have done with this space please don't forget to post the finished garden. You made me a little homesick here. Though I wouldn't give up my yard to go back to a deck with a couple of hanging spider plants, even for SF.
Really?!? You came to the Bay and didn't come see me?! You could have had a double whammy, dude! I live close to Serenita, yes I do! Geez! I had to find out that you were out here from that busy body, Tr ig on OS! Really?!
I like the serendipity of OSers getting together in a "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" way. Supply and demand also fits the bill. Good on you both.
Let an expert give you some tips. You want perennials? Do what I do: plant artificial flowers. My yard is a riot of color all year long thanks to the abundance of plastic flowers and bushes I stuck in the ground and also, the arrangements I steal off graves from area cemeteries. I chopped down all the annoying 100 year old shade trees and replaced them with fake ficus and lighted palm trees and voila, no more raking leaves! Fire hoses set on timers and wrapped around tetherball poles make pleasant water features and are useful for blasting out unsuspecting possum and rabbits. The whole thing's enclosed by a 12' chain link fence to keep out the annoying neighbor kids (only did that after the city made me remove the land mines) but to gussy it up I put blinking Christmas lights on top of the razor wire. Also, astroturf guarantees no more mowing or dandelions. I like it so much I'm thinking of siding my house with it. Because I'm all about going green.
Welcome to the Left Coast.
Another great connection story. Sounds like such a fun reunion and project. Loved the variety of images: before and after garden beds, the hippo, the cute newt, the moon through the framed by the redwoods and yellow poppies against a blue sky, etc. My thumb is quite green and I've been known to get some dirt under my nails too, so looking forward to seeing what your creative minds and hands come up with. Ah, and those succulents are just so ... so succulent.
"We could have beer parties and wear our pajamas."

How did Art know about the beer and pajamas? That's what we do around here. That and drink cognac. I'm jazzed about my garden and about having nana out here with us in the flesh, getting to know our nutty neighborhood and going on hikes with me, even if I get us lost. The hippo looks happier, too. Renewal is good.
N. California, sigh sigh sigh. So, is Sirenita keeping you filled up with those delicious looking little espresso drinks? What a dreamy garden oasis you are making for her.
Oh you lucky man. You're a landscaper!

And Serenita's garden is so beautiful. One of the things I learned living down in the Salinas valley for a few years is this: every plant is perennial and up in SF where the fogs and the overcast make it perfect for growing, it's an endless growing season and nothing goes away or dries out, dies or fades away. It self seeds, rests, then comes back in force. California is the biggest garden in the world.

I envy you your ability to know how to arrange nature. It's something I can't do, wish I could, read books and more books, dream away. But my temperament is to stick things in the ground without planning it out. I lack patience. And then end up with a mess of plants popping up willynilly, so I think "next year" and it just gets worse. (sigh)
What a fun project, especially when clients are called friends : )
Waving hello from just up the highway ~
Enjoy the frost free zone!
Screw Muskogee; soon you'll be proud to be a hippie from Olema. Entropy Begone - at fine yard and garden centers everywhere. Say hi to Sirenita.
Beautiful, and the cute newt is a lot cuter than that other Newt
Hey there OS friends - thanks for looking at the pitchers and for your comments. We're taking today off from the garden and driving up to Marin County to see some nature, Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais and so forth. It promises to be very interesting.
This is so marvelous and I wish i had a place like this myself with such fine things growing and making things beautiful
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Sounds like you have sensed the potential in a fun layout. Maybe some herbs and edibles in addition to all the beautiful seasonal color could provide a feast for both the eyes and the kitchen. The hippo is adorable. Will you post the finished project?
You do good work there, Nanner. Come on up to Portland for a visit while you're out on the best coast. We make little plants in our coffee here too.
wowee. How beautiful . Lucky Sirenita and Mark! I've done a lot of landscaping too.
I just moved to Austin. When I get a job and a house, I can't wait to dig in. My gardens in Seattle and San Diego meant so much to me. Something to look forward to. I'll look back though your stuff and see if you have other garden postings.
Have fun out there.
I missed this post!