Strip along South Facing Wall

oberciJanuary 19, 2013

Hi everyone I'm new to this forum and gardening in general and am really seeking to learn from the more experienced! Bought this house last year, and started researching proper gardening techniques etc since then.

There's still a lot to be done but what I would really like to tackle as soon as possible is the eyesore that is this wall. No, I don't want to remove it because I appreciate the privacy, and well that's just too much work. There's a 2 ft strip along the south side (the side in the photo) and another 2 ft strip on the north side facing the garages, which has Calla Lilies happily growing in it although I hope to improve that side too, but let's leave that for later.

There was some sort of ugly plant along with bermuda grass growing on the south side that we tore out when we moved in. Some remnants are visible and not sure how to remove it entirely. The soil itself is either just extremely dry, or really sandy (I think the latter, I can post pics). So I figured I would just dig it out about a foot down and fill it in with topsoil. Thoughts?

As for what to plant...please please help! Some sort of vine would be nice esp if it can climb up the wall. I was thinking something like Bougainvillea mixed with some more green ivy type plant. Do I need to attach some kind of trellis support for this or do they climb up on their own? Is 2 feet away from the wall too little space to plant something like that? If so, one option could be to plant near that far end and maybe on the corners nearest to have something trailing on the edge at least...

What else can I plant even as far as non-vines that would survive in such a bright area that gets so hot? For reference about color I like the pinkish orange tones of bougainvillea "orange ice" and both deep purples and light blue-purples.

Any and ALL suggestions would be super helpful! From prepping soil to plant suggestions!

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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

I don't think the wall is that bad. A vine could potentially make it look worse rather than better - the vine might provide very uneven or awkward-looking coverage and also might take over the nearby trees if not regularly pruned. You could grow a vine if you want, though; I'd just recommend giving it some serious thought first to make sure you're prepared for the potential pitfalls.

The main thing you're going to need to keep in mind is that people and pets walking on the sidewalk are likely to step on your plants from time to time. For that reason, I recommend trying to limit the plants there to ones that can handle occasional stepping on or that can be easily and cheaply replaced.

If it were my narrow strip of dirt, I'd probably scatter some annual wildflower seeds there once a year (in the fall) and maybe plant a few smaller clumping grasses from pots - preferably grasses that would be green when the annuals would be brown. If you pick a wide variety of species to mix together, you'll have a better chance of finding some that grow well there, and I think you'll get a more interesting-looking planting as well.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 10:36PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

You should also try cross-posting this to the CA gardening forum. Not many amateur CA gardeners hang out here, and there's only 2 pro landscapers here who are CA based.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 10:40PM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Do not replace the soil. Look at other walls in the area and see what is being grown successfully on them, in similar soil and exposure. If there are arboreta, botanical or demonstration gardens in the vicinity, check those out for ideas and inspiration.

If you choose locally adapted natives and plants from other parts of the world suited to similar (Mediterranean) conditions you will not have to fight so much with heat, drought and alkalinity as you are likely to if you try to maintain kinds from rainy climates with different soils. Outlets will still have plenty of these last, supplied by conventional, heavily irrigated production operations so you will have to learn to be selective if you want to take this approach.

This post was edited by bboy on Mon, Jan 21, 13 at 13:56

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 1:54PM
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I'll repost to another forum. Thank you for the tip!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 12:00AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

A couple of thoughts re: your post. Bougainvillea is going to be too big and thorny for a tight spot against a wall and public sidewalk, and in any case, would suffer regular freeze damage in a zone 14 setting. The Bermuda grass is likely to return without continued weeding and/or chemical treatment. Sandy soil in't necessarily a bad thing, and I'd advise leaving it in place and amending once/twice yearly with compost as mulch to build up the soil. Self clinging vines that will take hot sun and some winter frost might include semi-deciduous Macfadyena unguis cati or Boston Ivy. If you prefer evergreen vines with flowers and non-clinging, look at the Sunset Western Garden Book's list of vines, cross referenced with their list of heat/sun tolerant vines or espaliers. I'd stay away from anything that requires regular pruning in such a tight spot myself, unless you think the extra work is worth it. If you don't mind occasional trimming and occasional frost damage or need to cover with sheets in a bad winter; Lavender Star Flower shrub, Grewia occidentalis makes an excellent espaliered shrub that can easily be kept 12 to 18 inches deep and will stay flat against the wall, and can be purchased as already trained espaliers in either 5 or 15 gallon sizes. As compared to many vines, it can retain dense foliage to the ground, and is sprinkled with flowers nearly all year round. It will suffer from foliage burn when temps drop below about 28ðF, and can be badly damaged at 24ðF, making it somewhat risky for SSzone 14 locations, but is still widely used there against south or even better, west facing walls. Early morning sun after a freeze tends to exacerbate frost damage, so Grewia on a south facing wall will typically show some damage in winter, as would the Macfadyena or Bougainvillea. There are other choices that are fully hardy, refer to Sunset.

Check out the Sunset book and their lists for more info, or if you're near the Markham Arboretum they'd probably have ideas to see/use. In any case, I'd think it useful to provide drip irrigation for what ever you end up planting there, as they will bake in summer.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 12:08PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Unless you have a paid maintenance crew regularly, I'd nix the vines. You'll have enough work to keep up the rest of the garden. In this case I would choose low-growing succulents selected in colors to flatter the color of the wall. I'm no color consultant, but I'd start with the many blue-green senecios, sempervivums, echeverias, sedums, or aloes. Select plants that have some pink/lavender shades in the mix with the blue-green, keep a small mature size in mind, and you'll have a pleasant, easy care strip. If you need more variety, add some clumps of Festuca glauca.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 2:15PM
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The bermuda grass was treated and I just need to go remove the dead parts in a couple of days.

As to the public sidewalk issue, if you look closely, the sidewalk ends after my property so there really isn't much traffic(only newly built homes require sidewalks in my area). Not that I want to take over the sidewalk by any means. I was thinking of planting the bougainvillea on the far corner and keeping it running towards the top of the wall. Since winters arent too harsh in my area, I figured I could offer it some protection until it gets more well established. I've seen plants around my area, so I figured it should work...especially in a spot which gets so much heat?

I'm also liking the BOSTON IVY suggestion. Does it tend to take over? What I don't want is to completely carpet over the entire wall, like what creeping fig tends to do. I'm OK with wall showing, I just want more nature on it.

CATKIM--I'd really like at least 1 or 2 vines as this is a very long wall and I want it at least partially covered. However, I like the idea of succulents at the base!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 7:50PM
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