We conquer the hillside

The Schoolhouse sits on a quarter acre lot with very little growing on it. We’ve heard that Julie did garden at one point, but in recent years her health had deteriorated, and my guess is budget concerns stopped her from watering much (water’s expensive in Sonoma County). On top of that, we had a number of trees taken down, which meant branches and pieces of trunk dropped and dragged all over and a thick layer of wood chips spread over everything. Then we had the septic dug up (twice).

We’re dying to start gardening, but we’ve still got guys tramping all over everything, throwing plywood and beadboard out the windows and generally making a mess, and soon it will be too hot to plant. The one place we think we can get started is the hillside.

We’d had the same idea back in March. We’d just had some dead trees taken down, including one that was threatening the house. Lucas and the guys from Empire Tree Experts had left a bunch of detritus lying around and I wanted to plant. We were up on the hillside, throwing big branches and logs down onto the driveway, when I slipped and broke my left ankle. I’d never broken a bone before but I had no doubt; in addition to feeling it, I heard it. It was loud. We made it to St. Joseph’s in Santa Rosa and two days later an orthopedist in Berkeley put it in a cast. Almost two months after getting the cast off, I was still pretty weak, so this weekend, it was armchair (well, folding chair) gardening for me.

We’re still trying to get a handle on how much sun the Schoolhouse gets, but while I was convalescing, I’d done a lot of research on drought tolerant plants (best book: Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region by East Bay MUD) and made a plan. This weekend, we’d brought up a bunch of plants we’d gotten at Cal Flora and a native plant sale we’d stumbled on in Graton, as well as a rhododendron wonderland. I pointed while Steve clambered around the hillside digging holes and planting. We planted:

  • Huckleberries
  • Lepechinia fragrans – pitcher sage
  • Cistus Gordon Cooper – rock roses
  • Ribes aureum – golden current
  • Ceonothus – California lilac
  • Philadelphus lewislii ssp. californicus – western mock orange
  • Malacothamnus – bush mallow
  • Salvia – sage (wendy’s wish) and
  • a rhododendron

Now that we’ve taken down a bunch of trees, the Schoolhouse is in a sunny dell, but it’s still in the middle of a bunch of big trees, so we don’t know exactly how much “full sun” this area will get as the seasons change, but we’ll find out.

The hillside, newly planted
The hillside in shade

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