Growing by the Bay

Month: March 2015

retaining wall

Retaining Wall

retaining wall

Here you see a retaining wall in process near the crabapple tree. Because my lot is on a steep (but, fortunately, south-facing) hillside, I need to terrace extensively. I learned from travels in Inca country in Peru that multiple small terraces are better than a few larger ones (this is one of my biggest). It’s also important to try to reduce the weight the wall is trying to hold back, so my fill is redwood chip mulch. Finally, it’s essential to allow water to run through the wall rather than trying to hold it all back, so I don’t make the stones too tight fitting. This wall is made from broken-up slabs that used to surround the swimming pool before we made it into a garden.



Star Jasmine

The jasmine is blooming profusely. It grows over our front fence near the gate to the backyard. The flowers are very fragrant. The plant is native to East and Southeast Asia but does quite well here and needs little maintenance, except for occasional cutting back when it gets out of control.


Charles Grimaldi Brugmansia


The brugmansia has grown up quite tall, struggling to reach the light amid the surrounding trees. The ladder, placed there for pruning, gives a sense of scale. The large yellow flowers (called Angel’s Trumpets) are fragrant in the evening. This variety is called Charles Grimaldi, named, I think, for the grower, though the name always reminds me of the famous Victorian clown Joseph Grimaldi (he’s the reason circus clowns were called “Joeys”). This is said to be one of the best varieties of brugmansia around. My plant suffered setbacks from a few of our rare frosts when it was young, but it survived and has recovered nicely. This year I’ve started feeding it with tomato fertilizer, hoping to promote more foliage and flowering. We’ll see how that goes.

All parts of the brugmansia are poisonous. It’s related to datura — both are in the family Solanaceae — but is not exactly the same plant. Most daturas require more sun and less water than brugmansia, though there is a lot of variation among them. In the western U.S., some are known as “jimson weed.” Brugmansias tend to be woodier and taller — they are sometimes called “tree daturas.” You can read more about the difference here.

Crabapple blossoms

Crabapple Blossoms

Crabapple blossoms

The crabapple is one of my favorite small trees, offering interest year round. But never moreso than in the early spring when it produces beautiful blossoms like these. The plum blossoms first, and the crabapple maybe a couple of weeks later.




We inherited the lemon tree from a previous resident. We’ve been here for decades and have never bought a lemon since moving in.


Plum blossoms


Here in the SF Bay area, our seasons occur on the cross-quarters. The equinox is more mid-spring than the beginning of spring. Our spring starts with the cross-quarter: Candlemas, Groundhog’s Day, Lunar New Year, Imbolc, whatever you want to call it. Where I live, plum blossoms and quinces announce the change in the season.

What actually inspired me to take this photo was the golden morning light on the grasses behind my library buildings.

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