My Big Ass Lady: Update on the Coastal Coral Tree

I know what you’re thinking, “how many times can this fool write about the coastal coral tree?” or “Does he make out with that tree?” well the answers are; infinitely and just a little. Not necessarily in that order. I can’t help it. When I first pilfered a branch cutting from an undisclosed location (definitely NOT in Robb Field in OB), I intended it to be a bonsai tree. I was living in a small but lovely beach apartment at the time, so it was all bonsai for me due to space constraints.

Now that I have a wee bit of land, I can spread some roots. My erythrina caffra (coastal coral) couldn’t be happier that I did either considering the insane growth that this tree has undergone in the last few years. To force this beast into a tiny bonsai pot would seem cruel.

[urlpreviewbox url=””/]

And this year is no exception. She is just now beginning to wake up from her short winter slumber. All winter long she has been busy sending out miles of hungry roots and storing vast amounts of sugars for what is promising to be a vigorous growing season. Now she is putting out a lovely display of flowers right before she comes into full leaf.

Erythrina caffra will typically bloom before leafing to attract pollinators.

She starts off after winter with her flowers before the leaves really set in. This allows all the pollinators to see the blooms without any bland and flavorless leaves getting in the way. Hummingbirds adore these beautiful blooms. Here’s another tree that is rocking a very impressive bloom with some rando walking a cute dog. Continue reading “My Big Ass Lady: Update on the Coastal Coral Tree”

Help!! My Plant is Healthy!

That’s not a phrase I usually cry in despair and self-loathing, but it was today. I’ve been side-eyeballing my potted ficus on the front lawn in a very un-trusting manner for that last few months. Shiny leaves with a lush and deep green happy vigor and an ever expanding crown reaching towards the heavens are usually a really good sign. But this tree is in a pot that’s way too small for such growth.


There is a very good reason for such a limiting pot. It’s not because I hate this tree or wish to see it stunted or sad. It’s because the location I chose for this ficus is directly over my sewer lines going out into the street. As illustrated in this high-tech 3D rendering of the “brown line express” (oh, how crass!).

The poop evacuation route. Well, the second evacuation route actually.

As a homeowner, you can imagine how costly it would be to have some root invasion for this essential poop escape highway! Like several grand to replace these pipes. And the last thing I want is any backing up or flooding in the house to let me know that I have made a grave error! Gross and costly are not my favorite combinations! Gross and cheap is okay in a pinch. Continue reading “Help!! My Plant is Healthy!”

Tales of a Stupid Gardener: Why you Shouldn’t Plant a Willow Tree Next to a Water Feature

“The bestlaid schemes omice an ‘men. Gang aft agley”

-Robert Burns 1785

How appropriate that the above excerpt from the poem To a Mouse, on Turning up Her Nest with a Plough was written by a farmer while he was still holding the plough. He had just destroyed a mouse’s home right before the winter. You may recognize it from the wonderful Steinbeck novel, Of Mice and Men. Basically it translates as the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. And so it goes for me.

I don’t know how you like to spend your Sunday mornings, but I really enjoy eating crow. At least I seem to really like doing so because I do it so often. My hindsight is that of an eagle with laser vision surgery but my foresight amounts to something resembling Ray Charles with dark shades in a dark cave. At night.

Apparently I really really really enjoy spending countless hours on back-breaking landscaping efforts only to have them come back and bite me in the ass. Good exercise, terrible gardening. Does life grade on a curve? I hope so because I’m bordering on the fail side of pass/fail. I need to remind myself that having additional chromosomes is not a bonus, but a hindrance.

In short, I’ve done it again. I f’d up. Why break tradition with my usual faux pas? Like when I spent days making a gravel pathway the wrong way. Why quit when you’re behind?

My water feature has quickly become THE most annoying landscaping feature in the known universe. I’d rather try to terraform Mars with nothing but rusty scuba gear and a bag of cow shit than spend any more time with that beautiful beast. I’d probably have more success.

By the way, did you know that the movie The Martian was based on me? A goofy white guy in a foreign neighborhood trying to grow some food. It’s a metaphor for Mind Your Dirt. Do you think I saw a penny of the box office cash? No. No I did not.

So here’s what I had to wrestle with on this chilly Sunday morning. The invasion of the roots from my willow tree that continuously sneak into my water feature.

Tales of a Stupid Gardener 02_Willow Root Ball
A five foot long root ball nightmare!
Tales of a Stupid Gardener 03_Willow Root Ball Detail
This is the face of invasive roots.

And this is only after two months of letting it go!! I’d walk past the waterfall and look at it and sigh deeply. Then I’d scurry off to another project on the other side of the yard. You see, this represents a much larger concern for me. There is a certain finality that I need to come to terms with. One of the two item needs to go away.

Tales of a Stupid Gardener 04_Willow and water feature I

But I love them both. The cool babbling waterfall with gentle hummingbirds bathing in morning light or the gentle whispers of the swaying willow tree. The two can’t live in the same area without some major and constant maintenance. I could disassemble the entire waterfall and rebuild it in a fashion that blocks out all roots. But OH MY GOD, that will take a lot of work and my back will be aching for weeks. Some of those rocks are over a hundred pounds. I remember all too well how much effort it took the first time.

Tales of a Stupid Gardener 05_Willow and water feature II

And even if I do do that (hehe doodoo), roots have a nasty way of breaking through any barrier. And willow roots are particularly tenacious when a water source is nearby. It’s what they do! Holy hell, does this tree drink some water!! Smart addition for the yard in a drought-stricken SoCal climate huh?

At this point, I’m MORE than willing to entertain any ideas that you might have!!! This is me asking you for help! Because AARGHHHH!!

As it stands now, I have to get in there with clippers at least once a month and cut this beast back. I just removed a lower slate rock so I can get better access to it. Luckily it wasn’t too hard to remove thanks to my excellent Jenga skills. Observe…

Tales of a Stupid Gardener 05b_Mad Jenga Skills yo
Mad skills yo.

But it could’ve been a nightmare situation if I lost this particular game of Jenga as I would’ve been buried under tons of rubble. But gardening without danger is no fun at all!

Here is the water feature with a low water level and a haircut.

Tales of a Stupid Gardener 06_Water Feature Root Intrusion Zone

It matters very little as this is the Task of Sisyphus and they will just return in short order. This time around, I have removed all of the rocks that normally hide the rubber lining because the roots completely encapsulate every last one of them anyways. Part two of this project included me tearing away in hopes of reclaiming my precious stones. Now, I just don’t care about the rubber lining showing. When the waterfall is full, you can’t see it anyways.

If you stare at this photo long enough, you can see the tendrils growing before your eyes. Evil and invasive things that should do as their brethren do and stay below ground! Just watch…

Tales of a Stupid Gardener 06_Water Feature Root Intrusion Zone Detail

There! Right there! Did you see it? There are some days when I feel it would be best to get my hands on some enriched uranium and just nuke the whole yard. I’ll sit on the back porch and just watch it glow all purdy like as I scratch my butt with my extra flipper arm that has just grown out of the back of my head. Big deal. Who cares.

So, that said, I’m certain you can gather my current state of mind on the whole torrid affair. What advice can you offer? Help me Obi Wan, you’re my only hope (brace yourself…).

Tales of a Stupid Gardener 07_James as Princess Leiah_Yeah sorry
This is soooo disturbing! But, it’s almost Star Wars time kids, so live a little. Plus, check out my curves! Hubba hubba