I *was* calling this the "ultimate garden" and then I went and tweaked things again. But this is pretty close to the finished product.
A view from the southwest corner, above.
A view from the northwest corner. Here you can see the painted tabletop that was the first furniture purchase Mr. P and I made, from an artist on the boardwalk in Venice. It's just particle board and the leg brackets aren't functional anymore, but I still love the image.
A view more or less down the middle. The hibiscus, by the way, is now blooming. :-)
Here is some of the stuff that has gone into the patio redesign. As you can see, "blue" is playing a big role this summer. The plates are from World Market's picnic collection, cheap plastic that does not look like cheap plastic and is, chez nous, employed underneath plant containers.
The basket shown above got painted.
The first coat is a denim-colored craft paint. I love craft paints (liquid acrylics); they do exactly what I want them to do and are infinitely blendable.
Second coat is a metallic blue-green craft paint. Quite satisfied with this treatment, which took about a half hour start to finish.
The recent additions are: three ambitious-looking fuschias, and one lovely red Nandina.
The garden design this year is based on "maximum light and color," versus last year, when for neighborly reasons the design was "maximum cover."
I have re-homed two sizable containers of dracaena, discarded a recalcitrant cymbidium, and bid farewell to an elderly money tree and peace lily. The plants that remain are smaller and lighter in both scale and attitude.
I have written previously of my bad actions toward my old ficus tree - host of several hummingbird nests in the patio garden. This past weekend I brought in some new colorful plants, did the consequent re-arrangement, and determined that not only had the ficus not begun to acclimate to its new container; its root ball was essentially ossified.
I found this out by trying to plant my hummingbird-feeder stake in the container and utterly failing. The stake - a hearty metal one - bent. And as I yanked it out, the ficus' root ball came with it.
All of the water I'd been giving it since re-potting? Had been running off the root ball, through the new dirt, and back out the bottom.
The only thing I could think of to do was something I probably should have done to begin with, after cutting it out of its original container: soaking the root ball.
In order to do this, I had to cut apart the rest of the dirt-filled loofah filling the original container and discard all that mess (a lot of roots, plus some very sad spent dirt, plus various potting rocks that the miser in me had to be forcefully restrained from trying to recover, two large trash bags full).
Then I put the ficus, its root ball contained in another large trash bag, into the now-empty container and submerged the root ball (inside the trash bag) in water.
As of this morning, it has yet to take up any of the water. I'm going to give it a couple of days and then will have to address it again, probably with my cultivating claw.
The tree is a survivor: it's put out considerable new growth since re-potting. I don't know where it was getting the energy! At any rate, I do expect that eventually I will get the tenacious old thing to start drinking from the bottom like it's supposed to, and then I will put it back into the lovely new fresh dirt in its new container.
Maybe by next year I will have left things alone long enough out there that one of the neighborhood hummers will bless me with another nest.
It appears I have been slandering the good name of the birds that have been hanging around my patio. I mis-identified them as cowbirds ... but am now pretty sure, thanks to Audubon CA, that they are California Towhees.
Photo from tringa.org, via Google Images.
Looks just like 'em. Here is what "All About Birds" says about the California Towhee:
"Your first encounter with a California Towhee may be prompted by a tireless knocking at your window or car mirror: these common backyard birds habitually challenge their reflections."
That is most definitely true. The patio visitors also exhibit the clear and persistent chirp noted by several commenters to an Audubon post.
My dilemma is actually worse now. I was quite willing to abuse cowbirds, up to and including throwing things at them and letting my cats try to catch them, because they are predatory parasitic birds responsible for decimating songbird populations in some areas. I despise cowbirds only slightly less than I loathe crows.
However, towhees are - to the best of my quick researches' ability to determine - inoffensive.
Except that they are deterring my hummingbirds (MY hummingbirds!) from visiting the patio. What to do? It's a small space. If I do nothing, the hummers will stay away all summer. They're a big part of my pleasure in that outdoor space (all the view we have).
The hummers I've seen so far this year were all, I'm pretty sure, new birds - that is, not territorially invested in my patio. There are other, better, territories in our neighborhood.
But is there, in fact, anything I CAN do? I'm not feeding any other birds. There's a little dish of water. Should I just roll with it, put out some millet, and have towhees this year? I may have no choice in the matter.
These two are riveted by the scene of a pair of what I believe to be cowbirds who have been visiting the patio garden. Please note that our cats are so thoroughly domesticated that they have no idea what, in the world of a wild cat, birds are FOR. That doesn't stop them from being fascinated by the fluttering, chirping birdiness.
And here is one of the stupid birds, who've been pooping all over the place and battling their own reflections in my mirrors.
I've been informed that the previous post is an eyesore. I AGREE.
I will probably have something more substantive to say shortly. Till then, In lieu of prognostication, rantification, and/or bloviation, here is something to make you feel better.
Don't we have pretty cats?
These photos were taken just under a year ago, in Palmdale, which has honest-to-goodness freezes so spring comes a bit later. Here in Los Angeles, the Bradford Pears are already blooming. I am told they are "junky" trees and not great for landscaping ... but not only can they survive alongside a highway, they are so ravishingly pretty!