I was recently asked for an update on the Gravel Garden by a reader, so here it is. As is the case with any low maintenance area, not much changes back here, at least not quickly.
You can see though, that the screening shrubs between our property and the neighbors are continuing to thin. This is in part due to the demise of the oleanders in the area due to oleander scorch disease and just the normal growth of the overhead plants shading out the under plantings. We planted Carolina cherries (Prunus caroliniana) to replace the dying oleander and continue to plant vines and shrubs along the fences to encourage a dense thicket, but the right combination takes time to grow in and fill in the gaps in this shady space. The dry weather has not be helpful. The automatic sprinkler system can only provide so much water to these large specimen plants and even the drought tolerant ones are a bit stressed these days and not as full as they could be under optimum conditions. There is a large old Brazilian Pepper Tree to the right in these pictures that covers most of this area with shade that is looking very stressed and I am planning on giving it and the orange tree in the back a good long soak with a hose-end sprinkle this weekend to give them a little relief.
I've added layers of hedges and although I was overly romantic and optimistic when I first put this garden in a few years ago with planting a row of white hydrangeas and a drip system, but it has not quite unfolded as I had envisioned. Since then I have tried to wean myself off of reading so many blogs from the rainy part of the country where 'Limelight' hydrangeas grow like wildfires do here. I planted some 'Yuletide' camellias last year in this shady area and I am still contemplating some more shrubs to fill in that can tolerate the shade. Because both neighbors' yards that border this area are far removed from their homes, they don't pay much attention to what goes on here on their sides of the fence, so it is pretty much my issue. One neighbor's yard is actually a horse stable and riding area with lots of chickens, which kind of adds an interesting atmosphere to the backdrop of this garden.
Overall, with the challenges we are facing with the drought this year, the Gravel Garden with its low maintenance and low water needs along with lots of cool shade make it one of the easiest parts of the property to manage. It handles as much or as little time and energy as I want to put into it quite gracefully and provides a lovely space to hang out on top of it all!