Backyard Garden Tour – Flowers and Plants!

This is the most exciting part of my backyard garden tour, where I show the flowers and plants I selected in more detail! In selecting my plants, I wanted to make sure that most were low-water plants (with the exception of the roses…those need more water but I justify it because they are my favorite and I use them for lots of culinary uses and herbal teas in the winter). I also gave myself the added challenge of making sure there were no poisonous flowers or plants since our cats and dogs like to nibble on anything they can find. They used to munch on grass, but now that we have no lawn, anything is fair game to them. Also, I would hate for our little guy or any of his friends to get sick if they put a plant in their mouth!

I ended up using a variety of flowers that are actually edible and/or herbs. Roses are edible, as are fuchsias, nasturtiums, and many other flowers. The cats love finding a cozy spot to curl up with some of the herbs I planted such as lavender. Below, I have some nasturtiums, Santa Barbara daisies, geraniums, Mexican sage, California lilac, Shasta daisies, red valerian, elephant’s bush, and a David Austin rose. I planted lots of geraniums and Santa Barbara daisies throughout the garden because they do so well in our climate. They were actually planted here in a couple of spots by a previous owner and survived despite the house being vacant for about a year.

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Another variety of sage with some more David Austin roses.
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My David Austin Malvern Hills rambling roses.
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I selected almost all David Austin roses because I love their scents and old fashioned charm. They look so different from most of the roses that you see these days, and to me they are worth the extra investment.
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Bacopa and ivy geranium in hanging baskets near the Malvern Hills roses.
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Lavender, nasturtiums and our dwarf lemon tree.
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A little vignette of color in a semi-shady area…coleus, fuchsias, bacopa, sweet potato vines, and heuchera.
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These firestick succulents in the center of this arrangement have actually been relocated elsewhere since I took this photo. I learned from one of the instructors in the series of gardening classes I am currently taking that they are extremely toxic and can cause temporary blindness, and even be poisonous enough to kill if enough is ingested. When I initially read about them online, all I saw was that they could be a “mild skin irritant”. Apparently they can do a whole lot more than just irritate your skin!
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I planted pretty much any kind of sage and lavender I could find.
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The bright pink flowers below were actually here when we bought our house. They are one of the very few plants that were here originally that I left growing (there were many diseased, dying, poorly planted, and poisonous plants that I removed over the past couple of years). They are called red valerian or Jupiter’s beard. They are amazing and super hardy. They are self-seeding, and come back year after year. Occasionally, I trim off the spent blooms to clean them up a bit, but they are really low maintenance. They also require almost no water. I literally barely ever water them. Right now, in our horrible drought, they are one of the few plants that I see in the nearby wild areas that are still alive. Even lots of the native plants are just brown with the current drought.

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I also recently found a similar white flower, which I was excited about.
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In the level below all of the red valerian, I have lots of geraniums and Santa Barbara daisies planted. They also need very little water.
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Under our fig tree, I have a little shady area of the garden that needed some shade loving plants. I used lots of fuchsias, with some jade, Persian shield, coleus, and mint. The jade plants were burnt in the heatwave recently but are recovering quite nicely now.
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This is another little shady area under our hibiscus tree. Here I planted helichrysum, begonias, heuchera, fuchsias, coleus, Persian shield and iresine. I just love all of the bright colors in this area. Most people tend to think they have to grow impatiens in a shady area (which I think are such a boring flower), but there are so many more options for shady areas of your garden!

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Behind the row of roses, the sunflowers that my son and I planted from seed are really starting to bloom like crazy. 🙂
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Backyard Garden Tour – Furniture

These chairs were old Craigslist finds that we had from our old house. I painted them a while back, and we recently got new cushions for them. They are fun and colorful in E’s garden area. 🙂

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These chairs float back and forth between our firepit area and the patio table. I found them for the firepit, but they happened to come with a table, which we then decided we wanted to use anyway.
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Once we found this amazing patio umbrella (Pier 1), we really started enjoying using this patio table. We can have some snacks at the table while E runs around in his garden. 🙂
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Originally, we wanted to find Victorian style circular tree benches that would go around each of the dwarf fruit trees. We couldn’t find any anywhere, even after contacting companies in England. We looked into having some made, but did not like the idea of spending somewhere in the range of $10,000 or more for a few benches. So instead, we found three benches like this at the Rose Bowl Flea Market (for a total of $110!), and circled vintage chairs around the other two trees. I like the end result much better than our original plan.
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We are really into hammocks. We have a few different hammock chairs around the pergola now, and we also put up hooks for our big hammock as well. We have a stand for the big hammock in our downstairs yard, but that area is not as nice as the upstairs now so we are using it more up here. We have had some great weekend afternoons with all of us cuddled up in the big hammock.
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I also have my little reading area set up, so I can read while E runs back and forth on the fake grass area. He loves to run laps around the little area. 🙂
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We also got a chimnea that we move around the garden at night since our firepit table isn’t very portable. We initially tried a propane powered one but it was absolutely awful (didn’t produce any noticeable heat) and we much prefer this wood burning one.
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Backyard Garden Tour – Garden Accents

One of my favorite things about our backyard garden is all of the whimsical accents we added. We did a lot of shopping, and I collected some items that I just love peeking out in various areas of the garden. Our son E also loves to chatter at all of the various little garden animals tucked away in all the various corners. 🙂 Most of the items shown below I found at Home Goods, Big Lots, 99 Cent Store, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, Amazon.com, Craigslist, and my favorite antique/vintage store, Magnolia and Willow in Long Beach, CA. The items that I ordered on Amazon can be found here.

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I love this bird bath that we found at Big Lots!
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I have two thermometers set up, one in the shade and one in the sun. I like to keep an area on the temperature in both areas so I can make sure to move our son elsewhere if it gets too hot out.
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This is the beautiful hummingbird feeder that started this fiasco. I am going to put it back up, just without any liquid. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog28

Pretty bird feeder! The birds haven’t really been using it since they have tons of things to eat from all of the plants around the garden, but maybe one day they will go in there for a snack. 🙂
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I absolutely love having a gazing ball, and was happy to find an unbreakable one on Amazon. I had originally purchased a glass one and realized that was a bad idea to have out on a display stand once our son started walking.
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Isn’t that the cutest little birdhouse? Another great Amazon find!
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This little tree seems like it is supposed to be a dwarf apple tree, but never fruits since it is shaded by the huge fig tree (poor planting location decision by previous owners). To give the poor little tree a little more pizazz, I started turning it into a windchime tree. Some we got new and some were vintage finds. All three of us absolutely love the sound of all of the windchimes! We don’t collect many things, but we are going to start collecting windchimes. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog35 aliciainwonderlandblog36 aliciainwonderlandblog37 aliciainwonderlandblog38 aliciainwonderlandblog39 aliciainwonderlandblog40 aliciainwonderlandblog41 aliciainwonderlandblog42 aliciainwonderlandblog43 aliciainwonderlandblog44 aliciainwonderlandblog45

I have nicknamed our backyard Alicia’s Wonderland Garden (the hashtag I use on Instagram is #aliciaswonderlandgarden). You can’t have a Wonderland garden without a white rabbit, right? I am going to be making lots of re-purposed teacup accents soon to continue the theme, and eventually we will put up our Wonderland themed signs from our wedding. 🙂
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Backyard Garden Tour Continued – Garden Structures

Continuing my detailed tour of our backyard garden makeover! This post features all of the various structures that we have in our garden.

The first structure is our big wooden pergola. My husband built this when we were at our old house that we were renting. He built is so that he would be able to take it apart and bring it with us. The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced, so my dad cut us some new ones (they still need to be painted though). I planted some David Austin Malvern Hills rambling roses in big terracotta pots around four of the posts on the pergola., and eventually they will be climbing all over the structure (this is a photo from a few weeks ago, and they are growing like crazy now!). The pergola is extra special since we had our smaller wedding reception under it in the patio at our old house (we had two wedding receptions…long story). 🙂

Under the pergola is the artificial turf that my husband installed. He started with laying down a layer of base gravel, leveling and compacting it down, then a layer of decomposed granite, also leveled and compacted down. The fake grass that he chose was from a local supplier, Thompson Building Materials. My husband compared artificial turf at a number of places, including big chain stores, and liked this one the best. Apparently it is Thompson’s own product. It is super thick and soft, and has a 15 year warranty, which is much longer than most other artificial turfs that are available. If you are in Southern California and thinking about replacing your lawn, I would definitely recommend checking out Thompson’s.

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Part of my original design included a couple of gazebos with climbing roses. I wanted a smaller gazebo for this area, with this little table and chairs, and I found this one on Amazon which was an amazing deal (available here). We just spray painted it white, and the whole thing cost less than $100! I added one of the little chandeliers that was leftover from our wedding decor. 🙂

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There are David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted around this gazebo. 🙂
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Originally, the thing that started this whole garden makeover was the fact that I saw an amazing bridge at Home Goods. I took a picture of it and texted it to my husband. I also saw an amazing gazebo and a cute tripod trellis, and I sent him pictures of those too. That started my planning and convincing for the whole project. 🙂 We ended up getting the bridge, and painting it as well. It is in an unfinished area for now, but eventually we will be building a pond-less waterfall behind it (pond-less since it conserves water and is not a drowning hazard for small children).
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We also ended up getting the tripod trellis, which got spray painted (like almost everything else). I planted a non-toxic version of jasmine on each corner. If you are planting jasmine and have animals or kids, be sure that you select a variety of jasmine that is not poisonous (some are poisonous and others are not). The ASPCA website is always my go-to resource when I am unsure if a plant will be toxic to our furry kids or our son.
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When we were planning our wedding, we purchased a metal arbor at the Rose Bowl Flea Market to set up at the entrance to our wedding reception. We loved the idea of incorporating decor that would later become part of our garden at home. We brought the arbor with us when we moved, and it is in the center of the garden.

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It also has David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted on it and a chandelier from our wedding. 🙂
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Last major garden structure is our big gazebo! This one was a big ticket item (also from Home Goods), and it took a bit of convincing before we brought it home. 🙂 The one that I originally saw there was actually sold out by then, but we ended up liking this one a lot more. It is the only thing that we didn’t paint white or cream, and I kind of like it that way. It has a beautiful shabby chic, chippy finish already, and I love the muted green color on this one. This gazebo has iceberg climbing roses planted on each corner (purchased from Armstrong Garden Center). Like the others, this gazebo also has a wedding chandelier. 🙂 This is where we keep our fire pit and we have had some cozy nights under this gazebo already.

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All of the roses have really taken off since I took these pictures! Once I am a bit more caught up, I will post more updated photos. 🙂 Lots more garden details coming soon! If you are on Instagram, be sure to follow me @aliciainwonderlandphotos for lots of regularly updated photos of the garden. I even have different hashtags for all of our different gardens throughout our property. 🙂

Here We Go Again….

Okay, I will admit it. We are project crazy. We have problems bringing any project to completion because something else urgent always seems to come up. I know that’s typical with homeowners, but we take things to the extreme. 🙂 We finally got everything planted in our back garden, and then we had that awful heat wave. I had been talking about getting rid of all of the grass for a while, but the heat wave made our grass in the front yard look pretty awful. I refuse to drown the darn lawn in tons and tons of water since we are in such a bad drought. I had a plan in mind that was supposed to come later, but it ended up taking priority.

My husband blames one of our neighbors since he asked me when I was going to do the front yard like I did the back yard. I am a Craigslist junkie, and one day last week, I stumbled upon two separate SUV loads full of free landscape succulents. Since my garden design plans for the front included landscape succulents, drought tolerant native flowers, some paths between flower beds and dry river beds, I was pretty ecstatic. Suddenly the front yard makeover got bumped from “when we have a chance” to “NOW”.

When I started planning the back yard makeover, I sketched everything out on paper first, which got translated to a bunch of different versions drawn up to scale on the computer. That was a lot of work but we were trying to make sure we had room to put in all of the structural elements that we wanted. The front yard design was going to be much simpler, and hopefully faster, so I just sketched out the design I had in mind with landscape spray paint.

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Next, my husband rented a sod cutter, then shoveled out all of the grass. He loaded it up in the wheelbarrow, and it all got dumped down into our lower side lot for now. Some of that will be repurposed when we do his rustic man-cave garden down in that area (he wants a bunch of different levels and layers of plants and trees). Next, we started the frantic process of yet again trying to get all of the plants in the ground. I was hoping that we would get more done over the holiday weekend, but since I was fighting off a nasty sore throat and cough, we didn’t get as much planting finished as I had hoped. Hopefully it will all be in the ground shortly!

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Plants Are Like People…They Can Get Sunburnt Too!

When planning a garden, timing is crucial. It is important to plant in early spring or fall so that the plants can establish themselves before dealing with any extremes in heat or cold. The past couple of months, I haven’t done too much blogging since I have been so busy trying to make sure all of our new plants are comfortable in their new environment. With the exception of just a few plants, I selected only things that are very drought tolerant since we are in Los Angeles (we are currently in the middle of a really bad drought here in Southern California).

This week has had extreme temperatures here in L.A., definitely way out of the normal range for spring. Hot even compared to our normal summer temperatures. Like 105 degrees in the shade, just a few miles from the ocean kind of heat. Some of my plants were definitely not ready for this kind of heat. Yesterday was the worst heat all week, and when I went outside in the evening, a lot of my new plants were wilting and looking quite miserable. The nasturtiums in specific surprised me the most…some of them literally got burnt to a crisp! I was surprised since nasturtiums grow wild here along most of the horse trails nearby. However, we don’t normally get that kind of extreme desert heat here!

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Some of my sun-loving succulents also got a bit crispy as well. 😦

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This one surprised me the most…I moved most of my houseplants out of the living room so I could keep the dark drapes closed and keep as much heat out of the house as possible. I relocated all of my houseplants to our two patios so they would still be able to get some sun. These jade plants were placed in the south facing, covered patio and got pretty burnt. I guess the change was too much for them since they had been indoors previously. My outdoor jade plants are all doing okay.

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Last night, after seeing how droopy everything had gotten, I gave everything a good deep watering, and I mixed up a super-revive solution for all of our new plants. I made a diluted mixture of compost tea, seaweed emulsion, fish emulsion, and expired breastmilk that had to be cleaned out from the freezer anyway. I know it sounds crazy, but expired breastmilk does wonders for wilting and depressed plants! It is packed full of nutrients, and whenever I have some to spare, I feed it to whichever plants are most in need of a pick-me-up! This morning, everything looked much better (minus the crispy bits). 🙂

And just for fun, here’s our little cutie, trying to stay cool inside the house. 🙂
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Garden Update

The roses in the front have started blooming again. Roses are seriously one of my favorite things in life. 🙂 The tiny cream ones were actually from our wedding reception (they were the centerpieces), and moved with us when we bought this house two years ago.

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My husband finally finished trenching the lines for the new irrigation system in the back. He had a lot of trouble with bad tool rentals so far with this project, and the trenching took way longer than we expected because of that. He is finishing up the water lines and we planted the roses in their permanent homes. While he was trenching, I put lots of plants in flower pots and urns. I also picked out lots more plants that will go in the ground…more info on what I will be planting coming later this week!

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