Sunday, January 20, 2008


We are beginning our fourth year in a new house located in a severely CC&Red community in the Sierra foothills. Before we lived 3 blocks from the ocean in a rural seeming suburb of Los Angeles. We enjoyed frequent fog and very temperate weather. It never froze and seldom got to the high 80's. My gardening was limited by time and budget (for two years I was working in Sacrmento during the week and driving home for the weekends) but I had a few roses, some cacti and succulents and a bunch of cymbidiums. I was growing a living hedge of lehua to enclose a front yard patio off my wife's home office.

Finally, we decided that a new house near Sacramento would make life better for us all and we selected our plan and lot and the builder started building. We selected a lot with an upward sloping back yard. There is a 15 foot level yard, then a retaining wall and maybe another 30 feet of slope. We selected the lot for the privacy and the idea of looking out to see a green slope from our house.

We found a landscape designer and he developed what is proving to be a very nice plan as it grows in. Three maple trees are just getting big enough to shield us from the incredibly hot setting sun in the summer but are bare and let light and warmth in for the winter. The hillside has Canary Island Pines and an African Sumac (the designer specified a Crepe Myrtle but I had never seen one that I thought was attractive and asked for something else). There are strips of pittosporum, raphiolepis and grevillea with manzanita filling in the bare spaces and rosemary billowing over the retaining wall. We have a dry creek bed meandering down the middle of the lot but ran out of money for a water feature.

On the flat area we have a crescent of lawn, a lemon tree and some small shrubs (mostly pittosporum. The beds surrounding the lawn were largely bare to begin with and four years later are not much better. I have tried to introduce some plants and had some success but more failure which I will recount at some later time along with some of my problems with the slope.

For now this will give you an idea of the kind of gardening I had leaned at my former house and some idea of what is coming as I relate my growth as a foothill gardener.

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