By Jim Bishop.
Last month I wrote about finding and buying our current home in Mission Hills. However before we could move, we had to sell each of our houses. The spring of 1998 was the start of a housing boom and above asking price offers were made on Scott’s house the day it went on the market and it quickly sold. I needed a little more time to get my house in Encinitas ready for sale. Given how quickly Scott’s house sold, and against my realtor’s recommendation, I raised the asking price of my house just before it went on the market. We had a very rainy winter that year and the garden was at its best. After staging the house for sale, Scott and I went on a Sunday bike ride. We had heard from several realtors wanting to show the house, so we planned to return in the late afternoon. However, when we returned home there was a line of cars in front of the house all waiting their turn to show the house. The next week, I had several above asking-price offers to choose from.
Leaving my house and garden after 13 years wasn’t as difficult as I expected. However, we relocated my cat to the new house several days before I moved and I hadn’t realized how much of a companion he had become. He used to poke his nose into everything I was doing and follow me everywhere. The house and garden seemed very sad and empty without him.
We hired movers with a large van to move my possessions. The plan was also have them move most of my potted plants as well. However, I had underestimated how much furniture and plants I had and only some of the largest plants were able to fit onto the truck. So, we rented a U-Haul truck to move the rest ourselves. To my surprise it took two trips to get everything. The new house didn’t have an irrigation system and very few flat areas for the plants, so most everything ended up in the front courtyard. It was then that I realized that I had a lot of potted succulents. I had always enjoyed succulent plants, but never thought of myself as much of a collector, but over the years other plants in pots had died and the succulents survived, so I ended up with mostly succulents. It also became apparent how well they matched the architecture of the house. To this day, I still keep a collection of prized succulents in the front courtyard and the collection has grown to cover just about every other available space for pots.
While we worked on plans to renovate the house, I started figuring out what to do with the rest of the property. The original intent of the remodel, besides fixing all the problems inside the house, was to figure out what to do with the pool area and strange veranda behind the house. However, our architect said our budget wasn’t big enough to cover everything we wanted and the pool area would have to wait. So while worked progressed on the remodel, I started work on the front garden. The previous owners had filled the beds in front of the house with loads of pansies and three large clumps of king palms. This was too many palms in such a small space. I also thought the house needed some “framing” when being viewed the street. The entire front of the house except for the main planter area was entirely brick paving with 2 small white stucco retaining walls between each of the 2 neighboring houses. Removing some of the brick work in front of the walls created more planting space and I transplanted a clump of king palms into each bed in the hopes that someday they would be tall enough to frame the house.
The pansies looked great through the spring, but needed constant deadheading and died out by summer. This was the only open flat area on the property so I planted many of the divisions and cuttings that I had brought from my former house here. I had fallen in love with the rose Sally Holmes at my previous house and planted one against the tall white wall that creates the front courtyard. By the front courtyard door (now an iron gate), I planted another white climbing rose in a large pot.
There were also 2 vines of Thumbergia grandiflora. One was struggling to stay alive and was removed. The other quickly grew up over the front wall and onto the roof of the garage. The vine has lovely large blue flower with a yellow center, which unfortunately turn brown and drop off after flowering. This created a large daily mess right at the entrance to the house. The dead flowers also stuck to the bottom of your shoes and were tracked into the courtyard and house. It also drew a large number of yellow jackets which made it impossible to sit on the front patio. Once we found that the vine was home to large rats, we removed it and the large underground tuber that it was growing from and replaced it with star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides.
The garden did well for a few years, but as the palms grew larger, their roots made it increasingly difficult to grow perennials. Also, the white wall faced due south and in mid-winter, the sun angle burned many of the plants. So gradually, all the perennials and roses were gradually replaced by succulents.