après moi, le drainage

Greetings and salutations everyone; once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, who’s been busy planting before it starts to thunder again, which it’s doing right now. You may remember me from such posts as “A Beautiful Day” (which today isn’t), and “The Dog Days” (which these days aren’t), as well as a number of other informative and delightful posts. Here I am in a characteristic pose, before it started to thunder.


On the garage wall are newspaper clippings showing the weather for each month, and the guy I live with says that for August the average number of thunderstorms is 8.3. I’ve heard thunder every day but one, this month. It hasn’t brought all that much rain until lately. It’s raining now.

There are some cyclamen in bloom. Here is a self sown plant of Cyclamen cilicium, with intensely scented flowers. There was a big tuber of C. fatrense behind that, but a rodent dug it up. He blames a lot of things on rodents. (The flowers are too purple, by the way.)


And another one.


And what he claims is a big tuber of C. mirabile covered with buds.


And what else? Grindelia squarrosa, I guess, which the guy I live with says was probably brought in by me, since the plants are all over the field where we walk.


And Sphaeralcea incana, with S. fendleri behind. This and the grindelia are in what the guy I live with says is a lawn.


I forgot to mention in the last post that the guy I live with had to replace the garbage disposal this past week, and it took a whole day, because he thought he had plumber’s putty when he didn’t, so he had to go back and get some, and he discovered he’s too old to lie on his back with his head under the sink and not get dizzy, so no gardening went on that day, and there were a lot of naughty words when he tried to get the “snap ring” back in place, but it did give him the opportunity to talk about drainage.

You know how gardening books and stuff talk about drainage all the time, well, the guy I live with was at a nursery a while back and was talking about Salvia greggii needing way more water to flower than people say it does, and the person said, “Yes, but with really sharp drainage” which made the guy I live with wonder what on earth this could possibly mean.

Like, the water just goes by the roots, waving to them as it drains down to the center of the earth? How could plants possibly survive this? I know when I drink water, it doesn’t drain away; right away anyway. (I save it for our walk…) I didn’t know the answer, but guess who did.

The guy I live with says that when people use the word “drainage”, they mean “soil not waterlogged in winter“, which doesn’t have much to do with anything in our climate. He also points out that the kind of soil people are thinking about when they use the word “drainage” here is better defined as permeable. Here are some plants of Agastache ‘Desert Sunrise’ growing in sandy loam, on top of two feet of gravel, after one quarter inch of rain.


The rain doesn’t “drain away from the roots”; the permeable soil captures every bit of rain that falls, and every bit is utilized by the plants and their gigantic, deep roots.  It takes a while for the plants to develop their roots properly, but when they do, well, look out. Try to grow the same plants in clay-based soil and the plants will need ten times as much water, because the water moves sideways in clay, and the plants’ roots go down. The guy I live with says that’s the way the plants grow in real life, in permeable soil, and we like to try to duplicate real life as much as possible.

Why is why, of course, he now says he “only reads French gardening books”, even if they’re in English. I’m not sure that’s a logical conclusion, but let’s pretend that it is. He says this is the best gardening book he’s ever read.


That’s my “fetch’n’cuddle” in the picture, to add a soupçon of cuteness, and to make up for the fact that the guy I live with insisted on “le drainage” instead of the real word, l’écoulement, just to be funny, and the Louis XV thing, too. Very funny indeed.

So now I’ll say adieu. See you next time.

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14 Responses to après moi, le drainage

  1. Lucie says:

    Yes! Just read this book a few months ago on Kenton’s suggestion. Had it checked out through Prospector for too many cycles of weeks…Need to get my own! Love the emphasis on Santolinas and Lavendars! And found the planting suggestions extremely helpful.

    • paridevita says:

      Planting suggestions, methods of planting, soils, explanations of drought tolerance; the book has everything. And totally free from weirdness, which figures in a lot of things said about gardening these days. Too bad we don’t live in a Mediterranean climate, though. Lots of cistuses which would look good in the garden here. Oleanders too.
      According to the Tattered Cover website, the book is out of print, but I think Amazon has it. A brilliant book.
      Author’s website, http://www.jardin-sec.com/

      Oh, that reminds me. One day I was admiring a group of roses-of-Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus, in full flower, and the homeowner said “Those are oleanders from Hawaii.”

  2. Thea says:

    Chess, beautiful portrait as we’ve come to expect, although you do look on edge. Anticipating the next thunder clap? We ourselves down here on the coast by the Mexican border are slated for a thunderstorm tomorrow, but I scoff at our chances. My husband says we get nine inches of rain per year, but me and my roses stick by four. Our garden is full of santolina and lavenders, your Border Collie nose would be working overtime. I love anything with a good fragrance — I wonder if Cyclamen cilicium will do well in our sandy but *permeable* soil. Must go check Filippi’s Dry Gardener Handbook. Gotta trust a man name Olivier.
    Petey and Shredder are curious about how you keep your “fetch ‘n’ cuddle” so pristine. Their toys are a soupcon dingy, somewhat like them.

    • paridevita says:

      I was indeed on edge.
      It thundered later, and lightning hit about 500 feet away. I did not enjoy it at all.
      We get about ten inches a year, living in the rain shadow of Mount Evans, and some of that is snow, which, in winter, doesn’t count, but I like snow a lot. The guy I live with feels differently about snow.
      The cyclamen are growing in awful clay soil. Anything but permeable…..Dry, though.
      The DGH is supposedly out of print, but he says it would be perfect for you. We have santolinas here, too, and lavenders, but he planted more of both.
      He washes my toys in the washing machine, with a detergent he gets at the health food store. If the stuffing comes out, he sews them back together. I am not spoiled, however.

  3. Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

    Hello, dear Chess. Thunder, you say? I feel your pain, although for me it takes a back seat to the terror that is fireworks! My Dad (who would never think of spoiling me, since that is my Grammy’s job) bought me one of these http://www.thundershirt.com/Product/Thundershirt.aspx?item_guid=ad60b946-f758-45e2-a589-331dda09637e and it has made a huge difference in my Summer Fireworks Experience. I would NOT go so far as to say that I now enjoy fireworks, but it is fair to say that I do no longer feel the urge to crawl behind the toilet tank when someone launches a bottle rocket anywhere in the Lower 48.

    • paridevita says:

      I have a Thundershirt too. I still get scared. And it no longer fits, because somehow it shrank.
      The fireworks, which are illegal here, are a different story. We have some really annoying neighbors here. What the guy I live with did was walk over to the people shooting off fireworks, take a photograph of them doing it, making sure they saw him do that, and then he walked away. (He erased the photograph and you couldn’t even see anything on it anyway.) The fireworks stopped.

      • Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

        In addition to the Thundershirt, my dad (who loves me too much to ever spoil me) also builds me a fort to hang out in during the annual Summer Fireworks Experience. He would never put me in a crate with a blanket over it because I have too many painful memories from being left alone in a crate for long periods when I lived with my first family, who were very, very busy people. (My first family loved me and took very good care of me and because they felt badly about having to leave me in a crate so often, they arranged to have me live with my new family, where I NEVER, EVER have to be in a crate.) Dad uses cushions from the couch and some blankets, just like he did when he was a kid, or so he tells me. Dad says that there were plenty of times when his mom (my Grammy) wanted to put Dad in a crate when he was my age, but she never did and that’s just one of the many reasons why I love her so much because I know that my dad would not be the wonderful dad that he is to me today if she had given in to that particular urge. Anyway, point is that the fort is a place where I can go to feel cozy when things get scary and then sometimes Dad also drapes a beach towel over my body–that makes things really cozy. Stay brave, my friend–the season of thunderstorms (and fireworks) will soon be over and we can have fun rollicking in the snow, which is not at all scary.

      • paridevita says:

        I have a crate, though I prefer to call it a fort. It doesn’t have a front door so I can’t be locked in. The floor has a bathroom rug from P.B. on it. It’s very soft. This is roughing it, in my book.

  4. Chess, your person photographs miscreants? In our area, swarming with high adrenalin, foolhardy to the point of foolish. In your area, appears to be effective. Must be the calming presence of Mount Evans

    • paridevita says:

      This was kind of a special case. He says he could have sent me out to be incredibly vicious and biting, but I never went to school for that.

    • Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

      The fools who set off fireworks in an area as dry as the rain shadow of Mount Evans are probably too stoned to have the energy required to be a true miscreant.

  5. pamit says:

    The rose-of-Sharon oleanders comment reminds me of the time a young know-it-all (incredibly, a hunter!) told me that mule deer were a cross between mules and deer.

    When I was young my southern granny decorated her house with plastic flowers. As a child, seeing cyclamen in a store, they were so beautiful I was convinced they were fake.

    You bring up a lot of memories Chess!

    • paridevita says:

      Mules being sterile, that would indeed be interesting. I met someone who insisted that chows were a cross between a dog and a lion.
      It’s just one more step to think that rabbitbrush is a cross between a rabbit and a paint brush.

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