• Then and Now-The back slope

    by  • February 12, 2012 • Design, Garden • 6 Comments

    In a series of Then and Now photos, it’s satisfying to look back nostalgically to see how far we have come.  Bought in 2000, and in a completely natural area, we’ve tried to preserve the beauty of our 7 acres near the Sierra foothills of California, as we make a place for ourselves in this beautiful spot. The house was started in February 2004 and finished in December 2005, lived three months in a trailer here and the garden was started in earnest in 2006.

    In cutting the house pad, a method called cut and fill was used on our 15 degree slope.  This is the ‘down’ side at the ‘back’ of the house, but where all the windows are placed to take advantage of the view looking east.

    Slope below the house in Spring 2005

    Slope below the house in Spring 2005

    A downspout was fitted between the two small windows and a drain was installed going down the hill to a specially designed rain garden.  Looking at this picture for the rain garden post yesterday reminded me of the progress made on the plantings done to maintain the slope.

    This is what I planted in 2006:
    Lavender, rockrose, thyme, euphorbia, santolina, lamb’s ears, artemesia, phlomis or Jerusalem sage, iris, and  a rose. There were Sticky Whiteleaf Manzanita, M. viscida existing

    Slope below the house in Spring 2010

    Slope below the house in Spring 2010

    Here, five years later, are steps leading down from the stamped concrete patio leading to a path with rock steps.  The plants on the slope have every color of greenery so even in the off season there is interest and texture.

    Slope below the house in Spring 2010, wider view

    Slope below the house in Spring 2010, wider view

    In the wider view, the growth of the pine is striking,…it’s grown from a 6 foot to a 30 foot tree. Rocks rescued from the septic digging, at great risk (to me, dodging the backhoe) were used to construct the steps. Alongside were enough rocks to line a shallow trench to direct water downhill.  The concrete ‘blocks’ were found by a dumpster, snagged with seemingly no embarrassment, and I like the grotto look of them at the end.

    Planted to the left of the path are Variegated Sweet iris, Iris pallida, common iris, Pincushion flower or Scabiosa columbaria, Snow-in-summer or Cerastium tomentosum, and California fescue.

    To the right of the path is Ajuga, Swan River daisy or Brachycome and White sedum, S. album clusianum. On the path itself is creeping thyme.

    Slope plantings in November 2011

    Slope plantings in November 2011

    The slope in off season still has plenty of color and texture.

    Then and Now-The stamped patio


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    6 Responses to Then and Now-The back slope

    1. February 12, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      That’s a great before and after. There’s really nothing better than looking back and seeing what you’ve done. You made such a dramatic improvement.

    2. February 13, 2012 at 8:06 am

      Beautiful transformation! I love how you’ve combined foliage colors and textures. Our hillside is above our house rather than below and I’ll be starting a similar project very soon here. I really like the vertical element that the iris add.

    3. February 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      Well, this gives me hope. I planted a steep, stark, bare area this winter, with an assortment of ceanothus, sages and native grasses. Right now you have to squint to even see them from the road, but I’m hopeful that some day they’ll fill in like this. It really is a remarkable transformation across your slope. I just wish I wasn’t so impatient 😛

    4. Desiree
      February 18, 2012 at 12:59 am

      I always tell you this, Sue, but you truly have worked a miracle in your garden. I know you’ve had to work so much harder than I had to, to get a garden established from scratch and I often think of you when I’m gardening, knowing that you’ve never allowed yourself to be beaten by anything. That, and the cold coffee unites us across vast oceans 😉 Seriously, your challenges far outweigh mine. Just the sheer size and scale of your garden alone would have had me beat! I think you are quite amazing and an inspiration to gardeners, everywhere and I LOVE my visits to Sierra Foothill Garden! Thank you, as always, for sharing your immense understanding of gardening and your passion.

    5. Priscilla
      May 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Sue, I love what you’ve done, it’s all SOOO beautiful! We recently moved to Coarsegold from Long Beach and I am so overwhelmed with what needs to be done. I’ve always had small yards but never really needed to do anything with them and now a 3 acre property that has erosion problems, flooding in the backyard (not to mention lack of privacy from the street), and the WEEDS……..dear god…the red-stem filaree and the bur clover are everywhere it seems. We are still working on cutting back the dead branches and trees, as well as, clearing out the poison oak (that might take a few years). I’ve read so much about plants, landscaping and gardening but I’m paralyzed. Wish I had your obvious skill and know-how. Kudos to you!!

      • May 10, 2012 at 6:09 am

        Hi Priscilla, thanks so much for your nice comment. I really want to encourage you. We did not know how we were going to manage either, but first worked on the poison oak. We soon got over any aversion to spraying with roundup and the neighbors told us about the 41% concentration to use for it. Since we have grandchildren, we wanted the place near the house to be safe. Next we worked bit by bit clearing 10 ft up and 10 ft around each tree. You would not believe how satisfying this can be! I read up on deer and drought resistant plants and using planting zones, with thirstier plant near the house and less thirsty ones out farther. We added lots of mulch to protect new plants, suppress weeds and improve the soil.

        A DR mower/weed wacker was our first purchase! That was essential for fire safety. Mulch future planting beds while you’re deciding what to do….can’t hurt! I used logs to mark out areas for those. Rustic! Best wishes! Sue

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