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My Patio Garden Photo Diary 2011

Updated on January 15, 2015

Backyard Shade Gardening in Southern California

[Feb 2011] "May I have a bit of earth?" That question from The Secret Garden stayed with me, and I had it in mind when house hunting. Now I've got my bit of earth to garden. I've got a terrible brown thumb, but I've had some success!

My patio garden is a challenge. First, it's high-walled and shaded by nearby trees and my own cape honeysuckle, so much of it gets 3-4 hours of sun a day.

Second, I grew up in Pennsylvania, and I'm still getting used to California plants and seasons.

Third, I've got arthritis and I'm just not up to working for long.

And fourth, I hate pulling up anything that's still growing. I let things get messy when I should yank out everything and plant afresh.

Finally, last year, my tomatoes and squash got a white powdery mildew that really hit them hard. My neighbors had it too.

But what garden is without its problems? We'll see what I can do this year.

[Update May 2012: My 2012 garden photo diary is on a new page!]

February 7: A Fresh Canvas - With A Little Left Over From Last Year

There's not much to see, but I thought I'd take a "Before" shot:

From right to left: Asia Pear Tree (here when I arrived in '08), Strawberry pot (planted spring '10), herbs from '10 including oregano, sage, chives, thyme, rosemary; In front of the herbs are leftover '10 fingerling carrots. Back corner: dwarf babcock peach planted in '09. Left: remains of flower bed with dianthus and pennas. Hanging basket: violas, geranium summer '10. Far left: Eucalyptus.

Moving farther to the left, we have (again from right to left, just to be contrary):

Eucalyptus, remains of flowerbed (mostly alyssum), pomegranate planted '09, Cape honeysuckle in back corner.

Front and center: a cat. This patio comes equipped with a cat. It will seldom be found without her. The species is Samhain the Cat, and she dances with bricks.

So, it's pretty bare right now. When I moved here in '08, there was nothing but the eucalyptus, a gnarled Asia Pear tree, a completely overgrown jasmine trellis and cape honeysuckle, quite a lot of gravel, quite a lot of cigarette butts, and an unpleasant layer of cat pee and poop. The soil was highly acidic from all the cat pee and a hard, slablike clay that required a lot of hacking. I've put in several bags of organic compost for the flower and veggie beds to rescue the soil.

March 15 - Initiate Veggies

Starting to Get Things Into Place

I forgot to photograph the left-hand wall and side of the patio. This is directly to the left of the cat photo above. One month later, it's time for the magic jasmine trellis to burst into bloom!

When I bought the place, the jasmine was a Giant Tribble of Doom. I didn't know there was a trellis or a wooden barrel under it (full of more cigarette butts and cat poop, ugh) until I took a machete to it. The barrel has been completely emptied and refilled with compost and organic potting soil, and has geraniums in it. Last year there were verbenas, but they didn't make it through the winter. A few impatiens have come back up on the ground around the barrel.

I wish I could remember the name of that purple flower at left in the sun. It's lovely, but the plant stems tend to get scraggly.

I cheated with a $13 a bowl of pansies and violas to add some color while I work on the rest of the garden.

Veggies are going in. On the far right (south) wall I've put in sugar snap peas with ironwork fencing for them to climb. The strawberry pot has lots of green strawberries. To the right of the strawberries I've planted two tomato seedlings: Sweet 100s and Cherry (one is under the ironwork cage, the other loose.) Just to the left and behind the strawberry pot, I've added yellow crooknecked squash seedlings.

Here's some white alyssum from last year, and now I've added some dark purple pansies and California poppies:

I love wild California poppies growing on the hills. Really, I should be planting my garden with nothing but California native plants like this which require less water. When I saw these, I grabbed them and tried 3. I think I may add more.

Are You a Backyard Gardener? - Calling All Green and Brown Thumbs

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April 12: Now THIS Is More Like It! - I've Been Busy...

... so that the cat and I can be UN-busy, enjoying the garden. This is a boring video, but you can hear the birds, mostly song sparrow, house wren and black-chinned (?) hummingbird going "zzz-zzz".

April 12, 2011 - Springtime Flowers, Veggies - It's looking good right now...

Despite a freak cold snap last week (40-50 degrees in southern California in April?!) and some unusual hail pounding the dickens out of the jasmine, the garden's in much better shape now.

So, Sam's waiting outside to give us a tour. Click photo for a larger version. In the background, next to the tree, I've put in more orange California poppies (left), the white alyssum from last year is plumping up nicely, I've got a row of yellow and red gerbera daisies, a short row of purple petunias in front of them (somewhat hidden by the wood border), and several tall blue delphiniums behind them. The hanging basket of violas and geraniums last year is putting out again.

At right, the strawberry pot has some good strawberries -- the barrier is to stop a possum thief --and the herbs behind the strawberry pot are mostly from last year. There's a tomato in the cage on the right.

I fertilized everything with EB Stone's organic rose and flower food for the flowers, tomato and veggie food for the veggies, and mixed in more organic compost wherever the soil was hard and clay-ish. I see many more earthworms this year-- a good sign!

Turning 90 degrees left from the last shot, you see -- an eyesore. This is why I always take photos away from the house. The flower box is full of lanaria, firstly because it's beautiful, and secondly because I love the common name "toadflax." The three plants in the big bucket are sweet corn, because I'm silly. I did this last year and got small but yummy ears for one dinner...cost, $2!

The ironwork trellis holds up red Mandevilla, which is going to be gorgeous once it starts blooming. (In 2008, because I'm crazy, I grew sugar baby watermelons up that trellis, supporting them with old sheer stockings as hammocks...but they were stunted due to not enough hours of sunlight.)

Samhain is making her daily inspection of the borders of her realm, so we'll just keep following her clockwise around the patio...

Here's the back left corner of the patio.

The jasmine was already starting to go when that hailstorm hit a few days ago. It's about finished now-- it started at the beginning of March-- but still smells lovely. I'd planted cascading lobelia seeds and impatients in this barrel, but got, well... impatient...and added columbines. I will probably regret this when the impatients start sprouting.

I still need to do more work here; the impatients on the ground are leftovers that made it through the winter (along with, unfortunately, a lot of those little white balls found in potting soil). This spot only gets a few hours of afternoon sun.

So here's an overview of the left, shaded side of the patio that Samhain was just exploring. I call it my "outdoor office" because I'll take my laptop out here to work on Squidoo!

You can see the toadflax/corn at lower left; the jasmine trellis and barrel in the back corner, my table and chairs (Great Indoors), and the big old cape honeysuckle casting some shade at right. Behind the table and chairs is a deeply shaded spot that has ferns and a few dark ground covers like ajuga; I need to work some more back there. At right is the baby pomegranate tree in a pot and the edge of the sunny flower bed, mostly white alyssum.

So, continuing to follow the cat clockwise:

I've added most of this since March. From left to right: Orange California poppies, purple cineria, a multi-colored cluster of lanaria sticking up just left of the tree, leftover purple and white alyssum from '09 in front of the tree. To the right of the tree, three rows: purple petunias, red dianthus and a few blue lobelias in front, yellow and red gerbera daisies in the middle, blue delphiniums in back and the geranium/viola basket above.

To the right is the dwarf babcock peach and my mini veggie garden:

Herbs (rosemary, chives, thyme, basil, prolific oregano and sage) at left, with the last of last year's carrots in front of them against the border. At the corner of the bed closest to us is yellow crooknecked squash.

The bed marked out with ceramic mushrooms at the corners is planted with spinach. To the right are three tomato cages -- Japanese momotaro, sweet 100s and cherry tomatoes -- and an ironwork fence-like border against the back wall, behind the pear tree, is supporting sugar snap peas. At far right is a shrub of bay for cooking. And of course in foreground is the strawberry pot! I put a pipe in the pot and drilled holes in it, to help get water down to the bottom. Probably unnecessary; water goes through the compost in the pot quite quickly.

The light green rectangular container behind the strawberry pot was just seeded with cat grass.

Veggie/Fruits Status on April 12 (click thumbnails for full-sized):

Sugar snap peas, strawberries, dwarf babcock peach...

--Spinach and cat grass just beginning to sprout.

© 2011 Ellen Brundige

Guestbook - Thanks for Dropping By!

Submit a Comment

  • orangegirl6020 profile image


    6 years ago

    Love your pictures!

  • mythphile profile imageAUTHOR

    Ellen Brundige 

    6 years ago from California

    @TopMovieSoundtr: Thanks for nudging me to update!

  • TopMovieSoundtr profile image


    6 years ago

    How's your garden coming along this year?

  • Virginia Allain profile image

    Virginia Allain 

    6 years ago from Central Florida

    You've really accomplished a lot with the space you have. I garden in shade also and it is tough to get that lush look without much sun.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Love it! Especially love how your cat was there helping you every step of the way.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I have a Garden and a Huge Yard, I love doing Yardwork!! I really enjoyed this Squidoo Lens! :)

  • Hairdresser007 profile image

    James Jordan 

    7 years ago from Burbank, CA

    looks relaxing! I want to sit there and read a great book with a nice tall cold ice tea!

  • puzzlerpaige profile image


    7 years ago

    Very nice! I like all the colors you have planted. They are a feast for the eyes. Your kitty looks like the happiest of cats!

  • Charmcrazey profile image

    Wanda Fitzgerald 

    7 years ago from Central Florida

    Your garden is so inviting and the plants are growing. You don't have a brown thumb at all. The strawberries look yummy too. I just planted some here in Florida but they aren't ready yet. Great photos and thanks for sharing.

  • mythphile profile imageAUTHOR

    Ellen Brundige 

    7 years ago from California

    @LisaAuch1: I like baseball, but I hate to just sit. So I'll run out and buy some flowers during the pre-game show, then plant them while listening to the radio.

    I got in the habit of doing this in spring/summer 2009 when I had a really awful eye infection and couldn't use the computer much. I could garden, even if I couldn't read very well!

  • LisaAuch1 profile image

    Lisa Auch 

    7 years ago from Scotland

    How wonderfully colorful, a little piece of paradise, our little flowers are only just starting to show through, where do you get the time?

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Your garden spot looks lovely and it will be fun to see how it grows. Cute kitty too!


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