My office replaced a swimming pool. WP668 is the 100-year-old railroad caboose in San Jose, California (“the Capital of the Silicon Valley“) where I work for Mentoring Standard. Above is WP668 in our backyard now, and below is what the same space looked like in the year 2000. The swimming pool was removed ten years ago – see more photos on the WP668 webpage.
I designed the landscape setting for WP668 based on large rocks and cactuses, including a Y-shaped arroyo (or dry creek) that is small enough to be called an arroyito. Like the bones of California, our arroyito is largely made up of granite, basalt, limestone, and quartz, with jasper, serpentine, sandstone, conglomerates, and other stones for variety. We bought two large boulders from South Bay Materials but the other rocks were adopted as individuals. Every time we go on vacation or a road trip, we come home with new garden rocks, so the arroyito becomes more solid and complex year-by-year. My family complains when they have to ride home from a trip with their feet on top of the latest stones headed for the arroyito but they still help me stuff rocks into the car.
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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson
On Saturday, we celebrated the 100th Birthday for WP668, the railway caboose where Mentoring Standard has its office in Willow Glen (San Jose, California). Many friends and family and train enthusiasts joined John and me in cheering on our old train car. You can read the history of WP668 on her website.
There were balloons and a cake and we distributed WP668 Caboose Con-Duck-tors (a rubber duck toy dressed as a train conductor) as party favors. John gave tours of his N-scale model train layout in our former garage. WP668’s birthday present was new night lighting along her roof line.
Images Copyright Katy Dickinson 2016
Our neighborhood sadly said goodbye to what was probably its oldest tree this month. Despite regular arborist care, the California Pepper split in half on 30 March. It had lived 81 years (1935-2016), and measured at least 162 inches in circumference and 51.59 inches in diameter. When it fell, my son Paul said that the light into his room got noticeably brighter. The old pepper was wet enough inside to be home to a Aneides lugubris, the Arboreal salamander, a species of climbing salamander native to California. The cut wood pieces were pink-orange and were quickly picked up by local wood workers.
Neighbors Gary and Linda hired more arborists to try to save what was left but an ultrasound test said that the remaining trunk could not survive and might fall on their house. This month, after four honey bee hives (and their honey) were carefully relocated, the rest of the tree came down and was replaced by a hopeful new Autumn Blaze Maple tree.
September 2014 – Thanks to Google Maps!
Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson – with thanks to Google Maps for the 2014 image
Sunday morning was our annual backyard Easter Egg Hunt – a very popular event among our friends, family, and neighbors. Children ages 20 months to 20 years joined the search for hundreds of plastic eggs filled with chocolate candies. For the adults, there were two specially hidden eggs: gold and silver. Only the following unreasonably-hard poems gave clues to their locations:
(Hidden in the thatch of a jasmine vine on an arbor)
A Silvery Sonnet in Iambic Quadrameter
You’d have to share Bruce Banner’s height
to see me, though Scott Lang’s would do.
I spy Prince Adam’s gift and strong
John Henry’s lifelong deadly work;
those battlefield banner icons
of Henry IV and Richard III;
beloved Doug rises near me.
You Ravenclaws’ll examine text,
Those Gryffindors’ll fetch ladders,
Gauche Slytherins will counterfeit,
my badgers — Hufflepuffs — prevail!
I shine like the good captain’s shield,
keep on your search and don’t you yield!
(taped to the top of a tree branch ten feet above the ground)
A Golden Sonnet in Rondel Form
From my stand I see tall privets
and high above me is a tree
above which trucks flew high & free
that now shade stones & thin rivlets.
You ate breakfast warm off trivets
while I perched here meek with glee
from my stand I see tall privets
and high above me is a tree.
My neighbor’s the joy of kid-lets
and grown-ups too shade in her lee
warm on her couch you can see me
above kitty’s curling ringlets.
From my stand I see tall privets.
Thanks to the Associate Easter Bunnies: my daughter Jessica for the poems, and son Paul who stuffed 775 eggs, and to John and Matthew and all the friends and family for helping create the festivities. Such a delightful celebration of Spring and renewal!
Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson
I wrote last month about putting in our New Front Yard as part of the Landscape Rebate Program of the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). I started working on this project in April 2015. The yard has already passed its final inspection and our refund check should arrive within the next eight weeks.
The drought-tolerant plants are growing happily and my hope is that the winter rains (should we get any!) will not cause mudslides in the new dirt mounds.
Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson
During the last week or so, we have been following up on the water conserving landscape plans I wrote about in August. So far, we have removed the old lawn, brought in new topsoil and decorative boulders, created Paul’s seating area, and placed hundreds of new plants. While I am in Monterey tomorrow with the TechWomen mentors and Emerging Leaders from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, John is going to finish installing the new watering system. The last step is to put mulch (bark chips) around the plants to conserve water and protect them. So far, I am happy with the results! Once everything is complete, I can submit receipts to the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) for a refund of part of the cost of this big project.
Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson
We have been reducing our home water use for many years and have recently been approved to proceed with a landscape redesign as part of the Landscape Rebate Program of the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). In April 2015, we started the process of replacing our 1006 square feet of water-hungry front lawn with a garden that needs less irrigation. During the last four months while the severe California drought has helped our our lawn to die, John and Paul and I have completed these process steps:
- “Pre-Inspection Survey” by Conservision – in which our eligible landscaping was officially measured and evaluated and reported to SCVWD, 8 May 2015.
- Returned “Landscape Rebate Program Request for Application Form” to SCVWD, 8 May 2015.
- Received blank “Landscape Rebate Program Application Form” from SCVWD – mailed to us 3 June 2015
- Returned “Landscape Rebate Program Application Form” to SCVWD – mailed 22 June 2015, complete with detailed garden diagrams (created using Garden Planner software) with plant, materials, and irrigation equipment lists. This required much cross checking of the Sunset Western Garden Book against the SCVWD Qualifying Plant List – as well as family discussions about what we want at the end of this process.
- Received “Notice to Proceed” from SCVWD, dated 28 July 2015.
In designing the new garden, I was very disappointed that many of the California native plants I had originally thought to use in my landscape design were marked in the Qualifying Plant List as having “Genetic Concerns”. I think most home gardeners will be like me – unwilling to hire/pay a plant ecologist (or find a qualifying native plant database) to determine the local wild populations. I ended up picking from listed plants that are non-natives.
“*G = Genetic Concerns This genus contains species native to Santa Clara County or cultivars that have parents which are native to Santa Clara County. Consult a plant ecologist or native plant database to determine if your landscape project is located within 5 miles of wild populations. If so, please follow these suggestions to protect local genetic integrity: 1) select a local ecotype 2) avoid use of cultivars or hybrids, especially those with non-local or unknown parentage and 3) avoid use of nonnative ornamentals which share the same genus in order to prevent unnatural hybridization.” (from the SCVWD Qualifying Plant List)
I think that the complex and drawn-out application process assumes that most people will be hiring a landscaping company to do the work. The Landscape Conversion Rebate potentially pays $2 per square foot for converting high water using landscape to low water using landscape (through December 31, 2015). SCVWD will only reimburse for materials (plants, equipment, dirt, mulch, rocks), not labor, so even with the rebate this could be a very expensive project for those who cannot do the work themselves. My planting list includes:
- Phormium – flax (purple/brown)
- Bearded iris (red and purple and yellow)
- Muhlenbergia rigens – deer grass
- Helictotrichon sempervirens – Blue oat grass
- Verbena lilacina (purple)
- Verbena peruviana (red)
- Achillea tomentosa – woolly yarrow (yellow/grey)
- Agapanthus inapertus (purple)
- Narcissus – daffodils (yellow)
- Dymondia margaretae (yellow/grey)
I have 90 days from 28 July to finish!
Photo Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson. Diagram created using Garden Planner software