Houzz Logo Print

Am I insane? Seriously, I need your opinion. (Kinda long)

18 years ago

First, some background info:

I'm newly located in Santa Cruz (USDA 9/Sunset 15). We have a VERY steep slope right outside my front door, and it is a complete eyesore. I suppose I could post a picture, but seriously, it's embarassing. It's maybe 50 feet in "rise" and 20 feet in "run" (I could be way off there); it's at least 125 feet long. The soil is utterly depleted clay under 100-foot-plus eucalyptus trees, which drop buttons, bark, branches lots and lots of leaves all year round. God, I hate (and fear) them.

The previous occupant tore out all of the ivy that was once there, and had almost no luck with the willy-nilly, random, CA-inappropriate plantings they tried after that. (A few jade plants did okay, but look totally wrong.) Then the uphill neighbor installed a concrete drive that sent all rainwater coming down the street pouring onto our hill. Not surprisingly, most of the "topsoil" that was there washed away last winter.

So as of now, the whole area is grey as ashes, dry as a bone and hard as a rock, under a thin layer of powdery, grainy dirt. (Weeds, however, thrive. I had a stand of 6-foot stinging nettles this summer.) There will be NO digging, and therefore no amending, until the rain comes. I'm dubious about how I can amend much anyway, considering the slope. Most of the area gets all-day sun ranging from dappled to direct, and there is no irrigation system.

My husband and I don't intend to stay in this house for long-- it's my MIL's long-neglected house and we're just here to get it into saleable condition. So we have about a year or so to try to get this hill to look semi-decent for potential buyers. And I want to be able to honestly claim that this huge, dangerously steep, unirrigated area is (nearly) care free.

I want to plant the entire area as early as possible next year, and I won't have the money to buy all live plants. I have this idea that if I start my seeds indoors now, I can put them out in a cold frame toward the end of the winter and have lots and lots of good-sized plants to plant as soon as the weather is appropriate. And whatever lives, lives.

I'm most concerned with getting a groundcover established, and a few assorted clumps of... something about 3-6 feet high. Everything needs to be drought tolerant, but able to take the constant winter rain. Oh, and the street water runoff problem has been fixed, so I'm not (too) worried about the hillside being bare for another winter.

Also, I haven't had time to garden all year and now I finally have some time, so I'm itching to do something even though it's a strange time of year! I got a recent attack of the seeds that I simply couldn't fight off, so I bought a whole bunch:

- California poppy (white & lavender (!))

- English lavender

- Herniaria glabra

- Salvia (mexican blue, picante purple, cirrus & salsa rose)

- Artemisia (ludoviciana, schmidtiana & absinthium)

- Potentilla (argentea and comarum)

- Hypericum (pyramidatum and calycinum)

Which brings me to my question... am I insane to sow these seeds right now?

And as a followup:

What do you think of my seed choices? Anything I should know about them? Got anything else to suggest? Since I'm not a native Californian (and I can't quite get used to the, ahem, "seasons" out here) I figured it would be safest to to use plants that I've seen growing well in this area (but in more interesting colors). I've got a weakness for silvery foliage and/or purple or blue flowers.

Oh, and I categorically reject iceplant.


Thanks in advance for any comments!


Comments (11)