Last week a landscape crew ripped out most of the tired plantings and removed all the rocks that made up an ornamental dry stream bed in the upper garden.  What’s left is a whole lot of dirt potential.

“Things gonna look worse before they look better,” said my handyman Gustavo after shoring up the back deck and removing some rotten railings. He shook his head as he surveyed the garden demolition and took measurements to rebuild a decrepit wood screen in the front.

Guess so. The yard looks pretty desolate now with just a lone dasylirion left under the old oaks. Lizards sun on the rocks and robins hunt for worms but the deer don’t even bother stopping by.  Nothing worth munching here.

But soon the soil will be prepped and the irrigation installed and then we can plant new plants. My landscaper Keeyla and I picked out some old favorites like white wisteria, burmese honeysuckle and orange roses to climb up the back decks. Plus some deer-resistant perennials like red bottlebrush and sunset-colored grevilleas to light up the front driveway. A pink dogwood will blossom outside the living room window and a maple with leaves the color of Matisse’s favorite red will signal we’re home.

Last summer my brother planted a Bearss lime for me and now I’ll add both Eureka and Meyer lemons. (After you’ve had them growing in your garden, it’s so frustrating to buy them—I know, I know, us poor Californians.) At the nursery a Kieffer lime tree looked especially pretty and I added it to the order.  You might ask who really needs two different limes growing in their garden? But I figure who wouldn’t want to explore the possibilities? Kieffer lime leaves are used in Thai cooking—not something I do all the time, but will likely attempt more with one of the featured ingredients growing in my back yard.

Back from the nursery I put together a Pinterest board showing what plants are going into the garden and felt more hopeful about what’s to come.

It helped when two umbrellas the color of my soon-to-be-planted “Westerland” roses arrived to cheer me up ’til things look better.

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.