• Then and now, a slope full of blooming shrubs

    by  • March 25, 2015 • Drought tolerant plants, Garden • 18 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 striven 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.

    Our house was built on a slope and I attempted to stabilize the bare clay downward slope with shrubs that were drought resistant, deer resistant and that bloomed!  All this on a budget.  I only planted  gallons and 4″ plants.


    2005 September 2005 Before we move in

    September 2005 Before we move in in December and the slope is covered in straw.  I added pine needles to cover the bare ground.


    June 2006 4' plants and wildflowers

    June 2006 It looks so bare with sparse 4″ plants and a smattering of wildflowers


    June 2006 With gallon and 4 inch plants

    June 2006 Planted with gallon and 4 inch plants,…will there ever be a garden here?


    June 2007 Lots of progress

    June 2007 Lots of progress!

    What I planted:

    3 rosemary
    3 Santolina
    Artemisia Powis Castle
    3 Spanish Lavender, along the top edge
    Common thyme
    3 Variegated Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris Limelight
    3 Red yarrow
    2 Orchid Rockrose
    1 Cleveland sage
    Assorted Coreopsis from seed
    Black-eyed Susan
    2 yellow Jeruselem sage, Phlomis
    1 Pink Jeruselem sage, Phlomis
    3 ‘Easter’ lilies
    Shasta daisies
    Cosmos, (quickly eaten by deer) worth a try!


    April 2008 Young plants are healthy

    April 2008 Young plants are healthy and filling in.  The deer pass bu and I watch.  I’m relieved that they pass these by.

    From the front, lavender in bloom, rockrose, Rose ‘The Gift’ and French lavender.  The three dark green plants are Santolina, now overgrown by rosemary!


    April 2008 I can see I planted too closely

    April 2008 I can see I planted too closely. In 2009, all I did in the garden was transplant plants!



    May 2010 In peak bloom

    May 2010 In peak bloom.  This makes waiting worth it!

    The blooming slope creates a mosaic of rich color.  I’m happy! The clear yellow in the center is the Jerusalem sage, Phlomis fruticosa.  Deer resistant, lush with its furry leaves and has what I call ‘Dr Seuss’ flowers, three to four ball shaped flowers on a center stem, below.

    Jerusalem sage, Phlomis frutescens

    Jerusalem sage, Phlomis frutescens


    May 2010 Many colors of foliage

    May 2010 Many colors of foliage

    I can highly recommend the combination of Rosemary, Variegated Artemisia ‘Limelight,’ Jerusalem sage and Artemisia ‘Powis Castle.’


    May 2010 View from the top

    May 2010 The view from the top.  Rock rose goes brilliantly with Spanish lavender


    Rockrose and Purple Euphorbia

    The very striking Orchid Rockrose and Purple Euphorbia together


    May 2012 Now, completely filled in

    May 2012  Now, completely filled in

    The rampant rosemary overgrew both the santolina and the variegated Artemisia, (Lime green in front.) How can you hate it, though,..it blooms twice a year and its edible?


    By April 2014, the Rockrose is overgrown

    By April 2014, the Rockrose is overgrown and this year I trimmed it quite a lot, which it doesn’t like.  I hope it will cooperate.

    May 2014 Lovely slope and lessons learned

    May 2014 Lovely slope and lessons learned Look back at the first picture to see how this pine tree grew!


    The slope is watered with one drip line at the top edge, with four or five 1 gallon per hour sprayers set for 1/2 hour twice a week from mid-July to mid September or wheever the 100º heat ends.

    I cut the French and English lavender just past full bloom to bring inside and to use for crafts.  I trim the rosemary, artemisia, thyme, Jerusalem sage and Cleveland sage  in the Fall.  I prune the Rose hard, so it doesn’t block the view. Nothing else needs a thing.


    Things I would do differently:

    I’d plant rosemary on either end of the slope for balance, and fewer than three!
    Fewer rosemary would have prevented it overgrowing other desirable plants like the santolina.
    I’d plant the rockrose lower down the slope, so it wouldn’t block the view.
    I’d prune the Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ tightly to avoid the rangy look it’s has had.


    May 2014 The slope is very well stabilized

    May 2014 The slope is very well stabilized by the rosemary, rockrose and Cleveland sage, especially.


    Then and Now-The stamped patio

    Then and Now-The back slope 2012


    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.

    18 Responses to Then and now, a slope full of blooming shrubs

    1. Susan Flaming
      March 25, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      What a great gift to see all this garden success w. drought tolerant plants.
      Thank you for sharing and helping the rest of us see beautiful opportunities.
      Best regards, Susan

      • Sue Langley
        March 30, 2015 at 7:48 pm

        Thank you…the before pictures sure were worth taking.. I never dreamed… ~~ Sue

    2. Cheryl
      March 26, 2015 at 8:22 am

      What a great inspiration! We live just north of Sonora so should have similar slope that we’re “working” on. One thing that is very difficult is weeding on this slope. We currently have bulbs and iris and a few shrubs planted on the side and are slowly trying to fill in. What you have done sure makes us hopeful! Thank you so much for the posts!

      • Sue Langley
        March 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm

        Thanks, Cheryl. Timing makes weeding easier,…there’s a time when the ground is soft and the ground not too damp to sit when weeding is a breeze. I know I’m finished for the day when I begin to hurry.
        That Manzanita Howard McMinn loves clay banks.

    3. March 26, 2015 at 9:58 am

      How did the Purple Euphorbia last? We’re battling Euphorbia terracina, which is terribly invasive (I’ve personally removed hundreds of plants) , so when I first saw your picture I recoiled. However, I know that spurges of many sorts are perfectly fine in gardens, so I’m curious about your experience.

      • Sue Langley
        March 30, 2015 at 7:53 pm

        Yes, euphorbia is also a weed and even the one called Donkeytail spurge can be invasive. The Purple is well behaved and self-seeds here and there. You can easily pull it or transplant it here you’d like it. Careful, DO NOT get it or the sap near your eyes. Ask me how I know…

    4. March 26, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      Holy. cow. This is SO, SUPER useful, jeepers. Thank you!

      Apparently I have almost no ability to picture things, so your SHOWING the progress & listing what species you included is INVALUABLE.

      I love those plants, I love that they’re drought & deer resistant and clearly the climate is close to mine. Oh, also including how much you water it (volume, timing), seriously, this is SO HELPFUL.

      Two questions:
      1) what material is your drip line made of? I used regular drip irrigation line (black, slightly squishable) in our orchard and rabbits sheared through it all (to get the water) in no time flat.

      2) what do you do about gophers? I’ve finally decided if I want to keep it, I MUST put it in a gopher-proof cage. Yesterday I even googled “do gophers eat Euphorbia” ’cause I know Euphorbs can be super toxic. Apparently gophers may still eat them.

      If you think this level of detail is too much for your blog, please feel free to email me. Thanks again!! =)

      • Sue Langley
        March 30, 2015 at 8:00 pm

        Hi Biobabbler…the drip line is the regular kind, black squishable. We must have soe bigger predators,…no rabbits and a few gophers. I see the gopher holes,…plenty of them, but there’s enough here that they don’t make a dent in the garden.
        I propagate lots of plants and buy small 4″ plants,…have always been on a budget but there are a lot of plants and garden area for all of us, I guess. I mostly plant deer resistant plants so the other animals may not like them either. Could it be that this is the one thing going right in my life? 🙂

        Nothing eats Euphorbia here and der abound. luckily it’s a huge family. I have five or six kinds, mostly the 3×3 ft bushes. Easy, inexpensive, bought in 4″ pots. …or six packs!

    5. dawn
      March 27, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      Sue where did you get your jerusalem sage,phlomis??? I would like to get a few of them..Did you purchase them at oakhurst true value? Do you think they will carry them?? Thanks for the interesting posts,very informative…

      • Sue Langley
        March 30, 2015 at 8:02 pm

        Dawn, I found them at Roger’s Gardens in Orange County. I have seen them locally and in Fresno, but they are rare. I have no idea why,…they are perfect for our area. Deer an drought resistant.

    6. WhirleyGardener
      June 20, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      Gorgeous garden!! We have a slope very similar to this on the 5 acre Sierra Foothills property we have just begun to develop. I have not begun to plant yet .. it’s all stickers, rocks and clay dirt. I was wondering what in the world to plant up there and you have given me such inspiration. Thank you so much for posting your photos and the plant lists. Lots of times you find photos of gardens that could work but no plant list so you have to try to figure it all out. I love to garden but am not anywhere near your expertise at it. I love that the plants you used are drought tolerant, easy to find at most nurseries, native and deer resistant AND can take the 100 degree heat! Oh and the cistus and Spanish lavender combination is one I’m going to try right away. Gorgeous!

      • Sue Langley
        June 21, 2015 at 9:35 pm

        Thanks, I’m glad I could give you a few ideas… all these are simply easy to grow…

    7. whirleygardener
      June 21, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      Hey, I’ve got a couple of questions for you, Sue. 1) What did you do to prep the soil before planting; and 2) can you tell me what are the names of the irises you used in this planting?

    8. Sue Langley
      June 21, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      The bank was pushed out soil from when our pad was cut so the soil was whatever is about 4 feet under the topsoil. I raked lots of oak leaf down the bank and added no purchased soil… I weed and mulch every year…weed and mulch,..usually with oak leaves or pine needles. Putting down a two inch layer of ‘leaf litter’ causes good homes for worms and beneficial insects that ‘work’ the soil for you. Really helps with weeding, too.

      I got the Iris from neighbors and don’t know the names. If you’re anywhere near Cathey’s Valley, there is a wonderful Iris farm there.

      • whirleygardener
        June 22, 2015 at 11:41 am

        You did pretty much what I was planning to do. No purchased soil. We have a ton of old branches and vegetation my husband is going to be chipping up which I plan to save and carpet the slope with. I’ll be sure to save all the oak leaves and use those also. I’m up near Grass Valley but there’s a good iris farm out here as well. I just love irises and I’m happy to know that deer don’t prefer them and they grow well in the foothills. Thanks for your reply and the useful information and advice. Love your website!

        • Sue Langley
          June 23, 2015 at 1:44 pm

          You’re very welcome! With 7 acres and three in gardens, purchasing soil is impractical except for containers and even then I use half native soil, kitchen compost and a planting mix.

          Iris are extremely hardy,…you’ll even see them in abandoned gardens.
          If you’re on Facebook, check out the Sierra Foothill Garden page,…I update that often, too. ~~ Sue

    9. Nora
      November 11, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Thank you for sharing your pictures. I love what you did. I’m currently trying to design my plant layout for a slope and you’ve inspired me. I am now following you on Facebook. 🙂

    10. Sue Langley
      November 12, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Be sure to take before and after photos. I was surprised to look back and see how well everything had grown after a few years.
      Feel free to post a photo on the Facebook page!

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