Garden Update Part II: The Good the Bad and a Lot of Ugly

My last garden update post might have left the mistaken impression that one can just step out the back door of our humble bungalow into some kind of hipster Versailles. To correct this impression, I took a few more photos over the weekend to show the work that still needs to be done.

The good news is that we had a generous amount of rain as you can see from the photo above. It’s a reminder that Los Angeles has a Mediterranean climate and is not a desert, at least not yet. No need for those sparse cactus and gravel landscapes that the house flippers seem to love.

The bad side of the photo above is that, believe it or not, there’s a path somewhere under all that vegetation. A close look will also reveal a whole lot of baby fennel that, unless something called “weeding” is done, will take over the yard by summer. A greater threat is the asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus) on the right, a vile and invasive plant that is proof of the fallen nature of this vale of tears. The plant in the center is from Annie’s annuals and I can’t remember the name of it. Kelly knows what it’s called but she’s visiting family this week. You get bragging rights if you call it out in the comments.

Part of the reason for the lushness of the yard is that we divert the rainwater from the roof to a pipe that runs 20 feet away from the house and into the center of the yard. We get a lot of rain concentrated in February and March and it’s a whole lot easier to store it in the earth than to try to capture it in a tiny barrel.

Said pipe awkwardly crosses a path, however, something our landscape professional Laramee Haynes will address.

The pipe terminates in a slightly sunken area that was the quarry for our adobe oven. This is where the rain garden will go. Right now it’s a nasturtium farm. Nasturtium is what happens in our yard if you don’t do something else. We also have a generous amount of nettles this year, never a bad thing. And the artichoke in the background loves the rain too.

This shot shows the main problem with the yard. Marie Kondo would not be happy with the garden clutter. Does this pile of junk “spark joy?” Nope.

Some Marie Kondoing needs to happen in this area, on top of some weed wacking and the deployment of my electric leaf blower. There I said it, I have a leaf blower. Yes, a leaf blower is the gardening equivalent of vaping but it does make cleaning up faster. Don’t worry, I leave the leaves in place to enrich the soil. The leaf blower just helps me clear the hardscaping. There’s actually a nice brick patio under the weeds and clutter here.

Ugh, more junk.

Here’s the nice new patio the Haynes landscaping folks built. The adobe oven is under a blue tarp. Blue tarps are the architectural equivalent of a comb over. The oven needs a little roof which, to extend the metaphor would be the architectural equivalent of a decent wig, if such a thing exists. And, man, do we need some outdoor furniture. Thankfully I came up with an idea for some outdoor furniture that I’ll discuss down the road once I run it past the boss.

The chicken coop ain’t looking so good. One of the reasons I’m not going to replace our current flock is so that I’ll have a pretext for tearing down this eyesore. No more ugly. I may re-purpose the funny sign that I “borrowed” from a auto junkyard in Houston. It’s a joke, by the way. Some visitors to our yard seem to think that I actually electrified the coop with 7,000 volts.

Thankfully, most of the work that needs to be done in our backyard is a matter of tidying up and defining some paths. I suspect our landscapers will be able to do most of it in a day or two and I’ll be able to post some after photos. But then they’ll need to tackle the disastrous front yard which will be the subject of another exposé.

Leave a comment


  1. Wow! This looks neat compared to our yard.The green plants do hide things and that is why we plant. Thanks for sharing.

  2. No more chickens in your future?
    I take comfort in the fact that our Canadian yard is still buried under ice and snow; all the work that needs doing can legitimately be deferred. Ah, the procrastinator in me rejoices!!

  3. Hey there, I’m new to your blog. Would you say that you make such honest posts, at least, partly for personal accountability? This is something that I try to practice.

  4. Is your mystery plant a monarda? I’d go compare it to mine, but my pollinator patch was ill fated and the (former) monarda a sad, shrivelled carcass.

    Tempted to start an instagram feed that’s just photos of the secret and not so secret piles of junk gardeners have around the place. I could probably keep it going on my own.

    • I change monarda to salvia. Just strolled past one and it looked similar. And it’s alive.

  5. You are in excellent company. Last year, I conquered two sides of fenceline and mainly have them set for a good spring. But the other 3/4 acre of yard? Hahahahahahahahaha (sob sob sob sob sob) And my greenhouse, which I really tidied up a couple of years ago to act as a gardening shed, would currently cause Mari Kondo to straight up have a seizure. I think it’s the blackberry brambles that make entering currently completely impossible that put it over the edge. My vegetable garden is currently filled with bindweed and blackberries.

    That said, the sections I’ve kept up actually look pretty good coming into spring. Picking up Planting in a Post-Wild World is still one of the best things I have learned from your site. There is definitely plenty of errors to go along with the trials around here, but I’ve made a lot of progress. I will never be Thomas Rainer or Piet Oudolf, but there is at least a basic structure in place that fills me and all the flying critters around here with joy.

  6. I’d watch out for going TOO far into the Marie Kondo thing. As a homesteader, I think saving and then upcycling stuff we aren’t currently using is a good thing — in moderation. A lot of stuff we save doesn’t “spark joy” until we make it into something new that does! Marie Kondo lost me when she mentioned she got rid of all her tools and uses a frying pan as a hammer now. We clearly don’t live in the same universe lol.

  7. Those look like a couple terracotta jugs in the clutter. I’m curious if you’d intended to set up a buried olla or two for the dry months. I’ve read about olla use in the deserts of the SW and Mexico. Maybe you have some insight on whether people in southern California feel that form of irrigation is necessary.

  8. No! I’m wrong. It’s Lepichinia hastata. In the mint family, like salvia. Sorry. 🙂

  9. I’ll just say one thing…I am jealous. So much green and so many growing things. Yes, we have also had a good amount of rain in the desert but it will never look like the the rest of the state. I am trying to love and use desert fauna. Check with me again after 20 years here.

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