In My Garden – March 2018

In My Garden – March 2018

It’s time to chronicle the progress of the garden in Fort Bragg (CA), this a monthly update on progress with the new garden. At the end of the year I will post a summary so you can see the changes throughout the season as the garden matures and I learn my way around.

A new garden is exciting and definitely a learning experience; often by trial and (many times) error as well. It’s a challenge to learn the soil, climate (not to mention mini climate zones throughout the garden), as well as how the sunlight changes through the year. All those influence what will flourish. The soil of the Fort Bragg garden is very different from that in Oakland. Fort Bragg has sandy soil which is very low in nutrients (Oakland was clay), but Fort Bragg drains nicely which was a problem in Oakland. It is also quite acid due to all the conifers surrounding it, Oakland was more alkaline. Both gardens are cursed with browsing deer; but add rabbits and gophers in Fort Bragg (plus the occasional mountain lion and bear).  In Fort Bragg I am about 1/2 mile inland from the coast, so thankfully I don’t have to worry about the salt spray.


Garden Plan

The garden came with mature plantings of rhododendrons, Lily of the Valley bush, bottle brush bush, ferns, and a few azaleas. The rhododendrons bloom in late March into April and May. They are gorgeous. In planting additional garden beds my preference is to have flowers throughout the seasons, emphasizing plants for pollinators and birds. I was shocked to hear almost no birds for the first year we owned the garden, that was 5 years ago. Since retiring we have spent most of our time at the house and the birds have found us…much to my joy (after spending many dollars on bird seed and feeders). We now have flocks of junkos, chickadees, song sparrows, goldfinches, robins, hummingbirds, and an occasional thrush (seen for the first time last week). The property sings.

As you saw in last month’s garden post, hellebores do well here. They have been blooming continuously since late January. They were among my very first plantings when we bought the property because nothing eats them. They have not only thrived in a long bed beside the garage, but self seeded themselves as well. They are happy with very occasional summer water and a side dressing of compost in early winter. You can see pictures in my post from last month. This year I planted 5 new ones of various colors, some in a new island bed with a transplanted rhododendron and a couple of azaleas.

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Lots of buds on the rhododendrons 

Dahlias do very well here, the Mendocino botanical garden is famous for their dahlia show. In Summer that area is completely booked for weddings and other events. Before putting the house on the market, I dug up most of the tubers from the garden in Oakland. Here is the beginning of a new dahlia bed. It needs to have a lot more compost added to enrich the soil. I am reluctant to put them in with the rest of the plants because their water and nutrient needs are so different. But I originally put them in pots, where they did not thrive. So, hopefully they will sprout once the weather warms and I can move them to a new home which meets their needs.


Future Dahlia Bed

The Daffodils are blooming (both in the garden and pots) like crazy, new ones coming out almost daily. IMG_7227


There were several mature plants that the landscaping stager used in the Oakland garden. The ones in the ground I left for the new owners. But the ones in pots I brought to Fort Bragg. This lilac vine will grace the railing near the front door, blooming in winter. I understand it is a native of Australia and only needs a deep watering once a week or so, which will suit the other plants nearby nicely.


The bearded iris tubers I transplanted from Oakland seem to like their new location in full sun along the driveway.


Along the side of the back patio I planted a row of candy corn (Manettia Luteo) along with lime colored creeping thyme and some red sedum. The candy corn plants are supposed to reach a shrubby 4 feet at maturity, be drought tolerant, and a magnet for hummingbirds. We shall see if they live up to their hype.

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They look a little sad at this point but I see new growth.

I am a sucker for hummingbirds, this mature  bottle brush tree has been a favorite for the local Allen’s hummingbirds. It is just starting to bloom, and I have seen a couple of males at the feeder in the last few weeks. The Allen’s migrate and are just now returning. I have read that the males will stake out a territory before the females arrive. Last spring there were several nests in the tree as well as a nearby rhododendron; I was buzzed when I passed close by them in the garden.

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The flowering current beside the garage is starting to bloom. The new growth is a lovely shade of green which sets off the bright pink flowers.

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And lastly there are a couple of rather messy island beds, recently dug and planted.

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I found digging garden beds very therapeutic and calming. They keep expanding in size and may eventually have a nice even shape, or maybe not.

I planted sweet peas in a half wine barrel. They are one of my favorite flowers, my English grandmother always had a trellis of them in her garden outside London. They are just getting started but should take off as the weather warms. The wire baskets are there to protect them, or at least give them a bit of a head start.

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Most of the plants in the garden are listed as deer resistant, but nothing is really safe if the deer are hungry. We are starting to look at fencing which will keep the deer outside and our dogs safe inside.


You talking about us?


February 2018 – Garden in Fort Bragg

February 2018 – Garden in Fort Bragg

I am going to start a monthly regular post recording the changes in the garden in Fort Bragg. We have now owned the house for almost 5 years, but with the remodel and addition, there hasn’t been much time to spend in the garden. As well, without a fence, the garden is prime dinner material for the gophers, deer, and rabbits…not to mention the 6″ banana slugs. So, the garden currently consists of deer and gopher resistant plants. I don’t think anything is completely deer and gopher proof, they like to sample things especially when young. But these plants have survived without our constant presence and without a fence.

It’s a new challenge. A brand new garden, in a brand new mini-climate. The soil is different, the weather is different, the sun and shade patterns are different. The garden is also surrounded by redwood tress with their invasive root systems. In the winter when the sun is low, the meadow surrounding the house is shady. In summer when the sun is high, it can be quite warm and sunny.

What does it look like now in the beginning of February? Well, we are in another drought and the weather has been up to 60 degrees. The plants think it is spring. The daffodils are coming up, some are blooming. The hellebores are gorgeous, I planted several from the Oakland garden when we first purchased the house and they are thriving, even self seeding themselves.

The snowdrops are up, these were planted only a few weeks ago and I was surprised at how quickly they bloomed. They were one of the first winter blooming plants to appear in my Oakland garden. I planted several different varieties up here. Although I understand they are not deer and rabbit proof, so far they have left them alone.

The daffodils are up and some are blooming.

The first grape hyacinth are up as well, some in pots and some in the ground with the hellebores. The larger hyacinth bulbs were planted in a pot last spring to escape the hungry critters, they are blooming as well. IMG_7150IMG_7148

Two of the azaleas, the pink ones are starting to bloom.

In a freshly dug bed, amended by lots of compost, are native California poppies, regular red poppies, and other bulbs. IMG_7146

And what is going on in the cage on top of the wine barrel? Well, one of my favorite flowers is sweet peas. It’s my effort to keep off the deer until they can get a start. IMG_7132

The rhododendrons have large buds but no bloom yet. It is a little early.

The grafted plum tree has a lot of buds. The graft has taken. Yippee, it was my first. I plan to cut some scions from the wild plum trees bordering my Oakland garden and graft them on the baby tree. Hopefully we will plant it in the garden this spring. Once we build the fence.IMG_7156

The belladonna lilies have put up their green leaves, so far they have not bloomed for me but I understand it can take a few years and these were transplanted which they don’t like.  IMG_7153.jpg

And finally this wonderful shrub is blooming, the early native bumble bees are crazy for it. It was a sad little thing when we first moved in, this year it is thriving. I don’t know what it is, let me know if you do. IMG_7154

The potted Meyer lemon has lots of blooms, and my potted lime tree has both blooms and limes. The lemon looks like it would like an inch of compost.

It’s a busy time. It has been so warm and dry that I think the plants think spring as sprung. The garden is alive with the sound of chirping chickadees and junkos, plus the occasional pine siskin. I am looking forward to the return of the hummingbirds.


June – Fort Bragg Remodel IV

June – Fort Bragg Remodel IV

The new Fort Bragg kitchen is finished, yeah! There are still several things to complete in the house…new front door, French doors off the kitchen, repair the deck, and shower door. But the most important “heart” of the home is done. We spent the holiday weekend moving back in. It gave us an opportunity to question what we want back in the house. When we purchased it almost 5 years ago, we moved in the “leftovers” from our main house. What do I mean by that? The battered and chipped and odd china and pots and pans (and tattered and torn clothing). When putting things away it gave us a chance to re-evaluate and keep only what we truly love. The house has much more of a minimalist feel.

Here are some before and after pictures of the progress:

Before - Fridge and stove wall

Before – Fridge and stove wall

After - Fridge and Range Wall

After – Fridge and Range Wall

After - New Fridge

After – New Fridge

Before - Island sink and dishwasher

Before – Island sink and dishwasher

After - Edge of New Island and Sink

After – Edge of New Island and Sink

What a pleasure to cook our first meal in the new range (gas top and electric oven), a quick roast chicken that I will be posting. This is the most amazing way to roast a chicken in only 45 minutes.

45 Minute Roast Chicken

45 Minute Roast Chicken

The remodel has been taking up all of our spare time these last few months. I hope to get back to posting more recipes soon, including the one above. You need to have this trick up your sleeve.

Meanwhile we did manage to fit in a hike with the dogs on the “haul road” along the coast.

Coastal Haul Road

Coastal Haul Road


April – Fort Bragg Remodel – Demolition

April – Fort Bragg Remodel – Demolition

We just got back from checking on our remodel. There isn’t much “there” any more. The great room (combination kitchen, dining, living room) has been gutted. The bathroom window has been removed and they are repairing the the deck and siding because of dry rot.

Front door and bathroom window with part of the deck.

Front door and bathroom window with part of the deck.

We will need to replace the front door as well.

Here is some background on the house.

When (as a complete lark) we started looking at houses on the northern California coast, the house on Nameless Lane was the first house we saw. We were “kicking tires” and didn’t plan to fall in love with Fort Bragg much less a cabin build in the 70’s (and it looked as if it still lived in that era). For years the idea of finding a “weekend get-away”, “vacation home” and “retirement nest” had been floating around but we couldn’t seem to agree on the big question of where.


My husband, Steve, is a sailor. Plus we lived on a trawler in a San Francisco marina for the first year of our marriage. Those are very happy memories. Do you see the the boat-like angle to the windows on the side of the house? It’s the first thing you notice driving up the driveway. It looks like the bow of a ship and caught his imagination. He was hooked!

Fort Bragg front meadow deck

Fort Bragg front meadow deck

For me, it was the sunny back meadow surrounded by trees but open to the sky. And, the mature rhododendrons surrounding the house. I saw the possibilities immediately…garden. Oh my!

Fort Bragg back meadow

Fort Bragg back meadow

And for both of us it was the quiet. We heard only the wind in the trees and the distant pounding of the surf about half a mile away.

Fort Bragg house - front

Fort Bragg house – front

Our first home is in Oakland, and we are not far from the freeway. It is not quiet. We hear sirens. And motorcycles. And, although it is a lovely neighborhood, it is definitely an urban setting. I garden on the only sunny spot not shaded by big trees, which belongs to the neighbor behind us. They have been kind enough to grant permission for me to squat. But it could be taken away at any point if they decide to use that area to the side of their driveway. I might be asked to remove the raised beds and all the plants at the drop of a hat.

I wanted my own garden. And Fort Bragg is a town of passionate gardeners.

In Fort Bragg we practice “forest bathing” (the house sits on 7 acres of second growth redwood trees) and saturate ourselves in the negative ions of the coast. Do you know about “forest bathing” or Shinrin Yoku? From Wikipedia:

Studies support claims of the benefits of Shinrin Yoku. These have demonstrated that exposure to nature positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system. In addition, the level of the hormone serum adiponectin is also increased. When this hormone is present in low concentrations it is linked with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome, among other bodily disorders.

Every study conducted so far has demonstrated reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness amongst the subjects who have participated. In Japan there are now 44 accredited Shinrin Yoku forests.

Our little forest would definitely be accredited.

But, when we purchased the house four years ago we knew the inside would eventually need renovation. We loved the open room, the stone fireplace, and the big windows. The rest, not so much. It was just a matter of time.

kitchen post demoliton

kitchen post demolition

Living/Dining Room

Living/Dining Room



The time has come.