More Confessions of a Delinquent Gardener

I can’t believe how this month is rushing by. The good news is that I’ve been so busy in my garden, I haven’t been updating my posts. I haven’t achieved my goal of 20 minutes a day in the garden, but i have good reasons! In addition to seeing friends and live music some nights, and being really busy here at work, we went to a great presentation by the good people at, and another great presentation by The Splinter Group at the Moraga Barn. To make up for it, I’ve been spending hours outside on the weekend with my husband and our dogs and the one million (slight exaggeration) hummingbirds that have come to call our garden home. Did I mention I’ve inadvertently created a garden chock full of hummingbird food? More good news: We’re mostly on track to meet our October 6 (San Francisco staple) Hardly Strictly Bluegrass garden party – check back for pictures of our garden party.

So what is considered hummingbird food in my garden? Almost everything. I have Tecoma stans, two cultivars of Abutilon, Iochroma ‘Sunset’, Cuphea salvadorensis, Pandorea pandorana (much more fun to call it by its common name: Wonga Wonga Vine), Thunbergia alata, three cultivars of Cannas, Fuchsia boliviana (both straight species and alba), lovely Meyer lemon blooms, and the giant flower spike of my Agave vilmoriniana while it was blooming (more on that later). It’s also amazing to see hummingbirds fly up into the depths of the giant tubular throat of the Brugmansia.

With all of this natural hummingbird food blooming almost all year long in San Francisco, who needs hummingbird feeders? I didn’t design my garden to be a haven for hummingbird food, I guess we just like the same kind of flowers! Regardless, if you’re in Sunset Zone 17 (areas influenced by the ocean, including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley), try any combination of these plants to provide hummingbird food for your fine-feathered friends. My next venture is to see how many hummingbird species actually frequent my garden. I know we have lots of Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) for sure. And I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a ruby-throated hummingbird, but i have to admit (this is a confessional after all) that I’m not the most experienced birder. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Just what have we been up to over the past 24 days, you might ask? A giant garden clean-up and reorganization of the tool shed. Reorganization and a lot of replanting of all of my container garden. I’m most excited about my new, lovely Meyer lemon tree. It’s absolutely loaded with fruit, and Meyer lemons are a staple in my cooking. Planting up some herb pots to enhance my kitchen garden is on this week’s agenda. We’ve also focused on weeding, weeding, weeding – with all of the animals in my garden, both domestic and wild, I have to keep things organic. Fortunately, I actually enjoy weeding. I also spend A LOT of time removing spent Brugmansia flowers. We also retrofitted our irrigation. One of my favorite things this weekend was spray painting my rusty garden chairs. They’re going to look great if we switch our gravel to basalt.

We have two looming questions: 1) Do we change out the gravel in our garden or just top dress our existing? And 2) Do we go with real or synthetic sod?

I REALLY hate our gravel. From the moment we poured the first wheelbarrow-full out I hated it. I believe my first question was, “Did we just create a giant litterbox?” We kinda did – but at least it’s easy to keep clean. I do love the gravel for its crunchy sound as we sit around the fire pit on those chilly San Francisco nights. I think I’ll love it more if we switch to black basalt gravel. I just need to decide how MUCH more I would love it…

If you asked me two years ago if I would even consider artificial turf you would have gotten the hairy eyeball. But my thoughts have changed – at least for my garden (and many San Francisco gardens) requirements. First of all, I have very limited space. We mostly use our garden to entertain at the picnic table or around the fire. I like the idea of a flat soft space, and I currently don’t have a space to recline, relax and enjoy the circus of hummingbirds flitting about the garden (I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve counted no fewer than 15 buzzing around at one time). I’m embarrassed to say it, but this is my confessional, we have already installed real sod lawn, wait for it, THREE times. Here are my sod problems: My garden is pretty shady – mostly from a beautiful, prolific and extraordinarily messy giant Brugmansia. There are dogs. I love to let my plants to grow into the lawn area. I want to keep my lawn chair on the lawn. And this last should be no surprise, I’m a lazy mower. Artificial turf technology has improved by leaps and bounds, especially for residential homes. The artificial turf is lush and green – my dogs even enjoy laying on it. One major complaint is that it’s much hotter to walk on than real sod, but we rarely have that problem in San Francisco. It still seems kinda crazy, though. Artificial turf can also be cost-prohibitive, at least at the time of installation. It promises to pay off over time with maintenance and water savings.

Wow, that’s a lot of stuff. If you actually made it this far, check back in October to see the results!