Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Accentuate the Positive.


Roses picked today from the garden, for my mother-in-law Blanche.

“A garden reminds you that things are growing, even when you feel life is at a stand-still.  And a garden reminds you that things take time, even when you feel life is a non-stop catastrophe”

– Ariel Gore (“The Mother Trip”: Hip Mama’s Guide to staying sane in the chaos of Motherhood)

* * * * * * * * * * *

So, I last left you on a wave of buoyant enthusiasm over the prospect of  beginning to convert our water-sucking lawn into a drought-tolerant native landscape. I was motivated! I was gettin educated! I was rarin’ to go!

Alas, due to sad events and this n’ that, “Immobilization” has set in and I haven’t done one thing on the front yard project since that first initial push.

The dirt patch sits looking like, as my mother-in-law pointed out, “the front yard from Malcolm in the Middle”. I’ve never seen the show, but I get her drift.

Problem is, I’m realizing that I’m kind of bi-polar in relationship to my garden. Some days I’m hot to trot and full of ambitious ideas and it all feels like it’s going to happen almost effortlessly.

Other days, I look around and I’m totally discouraged. I feel overwhelmed by how much needs to be done and I’m convinced that we won’t be able to take the next step whatever it is, because (invariably) it involves money. And if it’s one thing we’re short of – its money.

I’m not  sure which comes first the chicken or the egg, but what I do know is that if I’m feeling moody and introspective as I have been for the last week, I’m bound to take it out on my poor unsuspecting garden and have a negative attitude towards it.

While trying to snap out of this discouraged mood, I discovered a cure! It is to go walking in my garden, especially in the cool of the early evening. In looking around me, I try to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive – as the old song says.

I’ve been reminding myself to savour how has much has already been accomplished in such as short time. We spend so much time in this backyard garden that it’s almost another room of our home . Usually, a messy room.  All I can see is what hasn’t been done, instead of really paying attention to what has.

But recently I went back and  looked through some pictures that we took when we were first looking to buy our house, a little over a year ago.

When I started comparing what the backyard looks like now, to what it looked like then, I began to cheer right up! The garden has  really  changed from what we started with, and we’ve already achieved much more than I was seeing.

So –  in the spirit of the “Before” and “After” portraits that you see at Jenny Craig, or with any other personal improvement story, I’ve taken some pictures around my garden this week. I’m sorry for the resolution and quality of some of these. I admit up front that the only camera I use right now is in a phone – even though I must say, Keith’s Anroid phone takes some pretty good shots!

Anyway, I went back and pieced together a little montage and made a story for you,

of a little garden that grew:

Then – Established grapevines dormant, condition unknown.

Now – Lush and verdant and waiting for the grapes to ripen!

Then – Crazy old fig tree in a sea of onion grass.

Now – Beautiful fruiting fig, and home to the occasional garden sprite!

Now – Slowly converting this bed to a low-water perennial garden.

This is my favorite plant in the garden. Ptilotus or “Joey” plant –  a native to Australia. It was one lonely 4″ pot at Capitol Nursery and I felt so special for finding it, but then I went to Windmill nursery and they had them everywhere! Of course…. Windmill always carries the best plants.

I can’t wait to see how big this Joey grows. Maybe I’ll plant more?

anyway back to the story…..

Then: The back  South-West corner of the yard. This is where we dream of starting a vegetable garden.

Now: So far we’ve made a pretty good start. We have already harvested: lettuce,strawberries,chard,tomatoes, eggplant, 1 pepper, some basil, more tomatoes, and …more tomatoes.

resulting in, what else?



Then: This center bed was over-run with ivy, old holly, rosemary and weeds. We liked its central location (directly in sight of our living room window) and imagined it as a play garden with a sandpit and a creek. A miniature island for the boys to play on.

But, first we had to dig out the ivy, uncover what useful plants were already there ,and reshape the whole bed with shovels, weed barrier and buckets of river rocks.

As always,  the boys were the solution to our problem.

First we soaked the beds until they were mud….

and then we unleashed the wild mudman of South Sacramento, whose only joy in life is to dig deep ol’ muddy holes….

The resulting crater was ready for months and months, but finally with the lovely Lu Dawn’s help, we filled the 3′ deep x 6′ long pit with sand, and presto!…….

Now:  The first step is finally done and the sand  is great!  It’s  perfect for sand castles and it’s nice and deep- they can dig themselves right down into a hole. Big fun! Even the older kids like it. So far so good I’d say!

And then!! as final perk!

Today I finally got around to potting up some Agave pups which we scored curbside as we were driving through Berkeley last weekend. Some generous gardener had obviously been separately out the young plants and set the extras out in a Bananna Republic shopping bag, free for the taking. I made Keith flip a u-turn to go back for them and everything! But then under the cloud of my garden-mood swing, once I got home they sat in their bag under the tree where I’d unloaded them, for more than a week.

But hooray! Today I got them potted and watered and there were actually quite a few. They look like they might make it and I know that they can get very big so I’m going to keep them in pots until I can committ to where I want to plant them. I love their grey-green tone and their sculptural, undulating lines. Lovely!

Ah, that’s better. I  feel my mood improving all ready! Isn’t it amazing what some free plants, a bit of dirt under the fingernails, and some good-old fashioned perspective can do for a girl’s attitude?

So… stay Positive suckas!

See ya next time. xo

7 Responses to “Accentuate the Positive.”

  1. Norman Ross Powers

    An insprational story, and a true one (I saw the progress myself just recently) which is causing me to go straight outdoors and arm-wrestle with the unfinished stuff in our own yard. Thanks for the motivation, West Twin!

  2. Aunt Diana

    Felicitous corners…. that’s the way to look at a garden I reckon. Its rare that anyone achieves the ‘perfect’ finished look of say, Sissinghurst (not that a garden by definition is ever finished I reckon, far too organic an entity) but focusing on a felicitous corner/patch is the way I turned feelings of being overwhelmed by the ‘what’s to be done’ into ‘how gorgeous is that’. And from your photos Ru, I can see loads of conspicuous achievement (another favourite of mine) as well as heaps of felicitous corners. So you are a star…..and following in a firm family tradition (your great grandfather on your ma’s side was an accomplished and keen gardener) and my earliest garden memories are strolling round his patch in the gentle evening light as he comments on what is coming up, needs attention etc. xxx

    • Jacquelyn Marie

      Diana, I remember our visit to Sissinghurst and though the garden was amazing, it was not at its best as I think there had been a drought and the flowers were not blooming as well. So nothing is perfect!

      How does your garden bloom??? Your writing is certainly blooming! Love reading your notes.

  3. ursula

    i love the joey plant. the cutting you gave me stayed beautiful in water for a long time. i’m envious of all the bounty you’ve got out of the vegetable garden.

  4. oami powers

    Lookin’ good!! I remember how staid and formal the garden was when you moved in, so it’s exciting to see it transforming into lush goodness, filled with your busy buzzy boys….

  5. Jacquelyn Marie

    Accentuating the Positive for sure, Rucha! One thing I know from gardening (and I had a great role model in my mother) is that it’s all about change.
    Some things don’t work out, some die, some suddenly blossom, bear fruit. I also know the comfort that comes from strolling around a garden, even the short stroll I can take on my deck.

  6. Marion Henshaw

    Congrats Rucha. Your garden looks pretty darn good! I know da’ feelin’! I went gung-ho on my garden and now it kinda looks worse? I’m not sure. Oh well, I gave up, but at least I got some sunflowers, birdhouse gourds, and a ton of chickens overrunning the place.

    I hear you on the native plant thing, I got these visions of redoing our lawn to an herb lawn, so I stopped watering, but the rest didn’t really happen. 🙂

    Guess I should keep trying. But my new thing is, whatever I do, make it so it takes care of itself. Thanks for the inspiration! To gardening, one of my favorite hobbies!!!*!


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