Our Garden Seems To Be Marie Kondoing Itself

Puffball Kitty inspects fallen pine

Nature in the form of our garden is having a purge. First, a huge branch of a decades-old willow tree dropped, narrowly missing our most productive mulberry and blueberry patch. Next, a sizeable limb of an old red maple fell. And then one evening while knitting, I heard a splitting crack and felt the house shutter. Was it an earthquake? No, it was a pine tree up on the hill splitting at the base and hitting the ground with force.

Fallen pine tree
We were sad to see this tree go down. It was a living Christmas tree–given to us decades ago by family members–when it was only a couple feet tall.

Time to Marie Kondo the Garden!

The whole garden is in the mood for a thorough spring cleaning and has inspired us with silent whispers to help it along. It reminds me of when we Marie Kondo’d (that’s a verb now right?) our indoor spaces five years ago–piles of stuff to go through and see what still sparked joy.

brush pile ready for chipping
A looooooong pile of brush awaiting chipping.
Puffball Kitty inspects fallen pine
What happened here? This calls for a kitty inspection.

Perhaps it was the extreme drought last year that weakened the trees? In any case, it does seem like a good time for a clearing out. It’s been 20 years since we first moved here, and there are so many elements of the garden that are leftovers of projects or plantings that didn’t work out or have completed their purpose. They weren’t “sparking joy” anymore– just remnants of an earlier time.

A Garden Purge To-Do List

So we’re clearing out things like:

  • Broken pottery that resisted repair
  • Plants that never thrived
  • Dead plant material from the drought
  • Rotting structures
    • For us this involved demolishing a rotting deck and a charming but termite-infested old doghouse from the preview owners. (We had named it “The Bumtrinket,” a name borrowed from a boat in “My Family and Other Animals.” That’s a family-friendly comedy by Gerald Durrell in book or dvd, if you haven’t seen it/read it. 🙂 )
  • Garden tools and supplies we tried in the early days but didn’t work for us or we no longer need and which are collecting dust in the shed
  • Actually, the whole shed needs a clean-out!
  • Garden designs that are overdue for updating
    • For example: in the early days, there was no privacy at all, just bare land, so our first goal was to create a thickly planted privacy garden around the house. Nowadays, areas have matured beyond the immediate house zone and there are pockets of privacy, so this earliest section is now getting thinned out.
    • Also, I now have different physical abilities than I did up to this point, and so making space close to the house for an outdoor table to sit at, and a safer space to sit around the koi pond are becoming priorities.

brush pile ready for chipping ...
More piles to get processed.

Just as regular deliveries to the thrift store were common during our indoor Marie Kondo-ing purge, the outdoor purge has involved lots of visits by arborists. In fact, I’ve seen more arborists lately than I have friends and family!

The skills of arborists amaze me. There was a professional arborist crew working for weeks in the neighborhood, taking down the enormous eucalyptus trees that used to line our street. (Yay! That’s a big fire danger removed. They are not native trees here, and yet they naturalize readily. They are very flammable, and drop masses of flammable debris. They are also allelopathic, meaning they inhibit growth of many other plants near them.)

It was amazing to watch the arborists work, being hoisted up by a crane the size of which is usually seen at work in cities… up, up, up… perilously high into the tops of eucalyptus trees, with chainsaws hanging from their belts. It’s like watching Olympic athletes.

Arborists remove Eucalyptus trees
Extra points if you can spot the orange-shirted arborist high up in the eucalyptus tree and the tip of the crane behind it. (This probably won’t be viewable from a phone. Try an ipad or desktop and go to the website here.)

A professional landscaper is coming next week to install decomposed granite paths in the rest of the vegetable garden, so I can get around easier with my dodgy knees. Hooray!

The Old Barn and Mayacamas in distance
The old barn has almost finished demolishing itself. A plum tree somehow seeded and grew in the middle of it — perhaps by a bird dropping a pit there?

Making Space for Renewal

A good purge feels like it makes space for renewal, doesn’t it? I don’t have plans for all the spaces we are clearing. I think it might be fun to let any given space inspire me with what it wants to be. It reminds me of meditating, when the clutter of thoughts, identities, and all the jumble is allowed to just soften and fade a bit, and I stop trying to fill the void (well, for a moment or two anyway). Sometimes amazing inspiration seems to come from that open receptiveness. I remember sitting up on the bench on the hill one day–just hanging out quietly. And as I was looking out over a patch of bare field, it occurred to me to transplant the struggling citrus up there. Seemed like a crazy idea. But so far, they are doing much better there than anywhere else we had tried. So I’m looking forward to what inspiration may blossom from the potent emptiness–if you will.

Hope your garden is filling you with inspiration! Ours has just started to burst into early spring blossoms.

Winter Sunset in Sonoma County
The end of a day, the end of a year…winter into spring…ends and beginnings…can be so beautiful, yes?

I hope your garden or nature spot (or houseplant haven) is a great comfort to you!

Warmly, lisa

These garden articles look best when viewed directly from The-Compulsive-Gardener website, here.

Oh! I almost forgot. This weekend is a good time to start bird-watching! You can contribute to The Great Backyard Bird Count. Go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for info. I like using the app Merlin for photo or sound ID.

14 thoughts on “Our Garden Seems To Be Marie Kondoing Itself

  1. Beautiful photos as usual Lisa, and your cat is just gorgeous! I like the collapsing barn with the cherry tree growing out of it, very romantic. Sounds like the new phase of your garden will be interesting. It’s true that some of the best ideas just occur without too much thinking sometimes.

    1. Hi Sel! Thank you so much. 🌸 We also are very fond of the old collapsing barn with the patina of years gone by and a new glowing plum tree blossoming from inside it. Puffball Kitty is such a great friend. She was a stray and we were not looking for a cat but she let us know that, in fact, we would be adopting her and it’s been a love fest since then. She is the most polite housemate I’ve ever had and very smart. However, I’m glad I’m not a rodent or my impression of her would probably be very different. 🙂

  2. You have certainly started with a determination that is needed to step back and look at the garden with fresh eyes. I find it so difficult to finish with old unproductive plants and yet I have never regretted their passing. Our garden is changing too and so different from the almost barren field we started with. Now we have to say that we will not buy a plant before deciding on a good place to plant it. Amelia

    1. Hi Amelia! Yes, it’s hard to say goodbye to, say a lavender that is so old that only a small bit of the tips are still growing, or say, a paulownia tree that we had high hopes for but the gophers mercilessly tunneled around and prevented from growing. After 20 years, so many plants have just lived their course and only have a bit of life left on the tips. Hard to say goodbye to those, but as you say, whenever we take them out, the space feels refreshed and we do not miss them. In the early days, we’d visit nurseries during bare-root season and come away with an armload. This year we acquired zero (so far). It’s a good discipline to, as you say, determine what space you will plant something before buying it. Would love to see your “before” photos of your property if you wish to share them sometime in your blog. I always enjoy reading it.

  3. Wow! Your place is beautiful and your kitty too! We are still anxiously awaiting Spring here but until it arrives I can browse through your garden!

  4. Beautiful garden indeed! It’s a scary time when trees fall or break and quite sad too. Like yours, our pines were once living Christmas trees that we inherited from the previous owner.

    1. Thank you! So sorry you lost that nostalgic tree. I was just enjoying your February in the Allotment post. Please share your secret to growing great rhubarb. Ours never does well. Too dry here? I have no idea but I love rhubarb and would love to learn to do better.

    2. You’re correct, they are very thirsty and hungry plants. Our summers in the UK don’t tend to be very hot but occasionally we have a ‘heatwave’, meaning the temperature goes beyond 27C and rhubarb is the first to suffer. I don’t really do anything to it other than feed in spring with a thick mulch of well rotted manure or fresh compost, during a heatwave I will water more than usual.

    3. Good info, thanks! I’m going to try one in a new place with a bit of shade and near where I filter the fish pond water (rich in nutrients) and see if that works. Much appreciated!

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