By Nancy Johnson | La Mesa Beautiful
Back in 2003, David and Lu Anne Ringhand had one tall palm tree in the corner of their lot and a yard full of Date Palm seeds. They took the palm tree out and hauled off two truckloads of palm seeds. They leveled the yard by hand and planted their first flowerbed, knowing absolutely nothing about plants.
They chose Mexican feather grass, calla lilies, Dianthus grass, and cocoa mulch in between — because it smelled delicious. Next, they outlined a path.
“The path got defined by the path we took as we dragged our trash cans from the front yard to the back of the house,” Lu Anne said. They chose curvy border stones to outline the walkway “because everything else in the yard was straight lines. We loaded up the bricks 14 bricks at a time in our Mercury Mystique.”
Next, David wanted a tree to block the stop sign and the telephone pole on the corner.
“I grew up with jacaranda and mimosa trees, so the tree had to have flowers,” he said. “I chose the Giant Thevetia. It became the focal point of our garden. I mixed my father’s ashes in with the soil and named the tree ‘Artie’ in his honor. Later, I added a Mr. Lincoln Red Rose plant and named it ‘Ginny Lu’ after my mother, and fed the plant with her ashes.”
Some of the plants died, and they learned about drought tolerant options like succulents. They replaced dead plants with rosewood, African daisies, desert sage, hibiscus, salvia, and other butterfly plants like Wiri Blush Hebe. They acquired signature pieces such as the Blue Atlas cedar and the Australian peppermint tree.
“My favorite pastime is to count my plants. I have 220 different plants and 92 different species,” David said.
Over the last 15 years, the Ringhands have acquired a lot of knowledge on gardening. Their top 10 bits of advice to fellow gardeners are:
- Go slowly, but surely. Keep adding when you can and buy three of everything because at least one will die.
- Purchase a copy of “Sunset’s Western Garden Book.”
- Buy four-inch pots; they’ll grow and their cost won’t break the bank.
- Shop at nearby nurseries so they have the same climate as your home.
- Gro-mulch is your friend.
- Plant succulents.
- Some plants wilt during the day to protect themselves. Water early morning or late evening.
- Wear sunscreen when you garden, especially on top of your ears.
- Don’t use Round Up. It kills bees and the health of our gardens depend on bees.
- Plant in the spring and enjoy your plants in the summer.
The Ringhands are La Mesa Beautiful members who recently donated plants to the Annual Plant Sale held the first weekend of May. Their home garden has also been nominated for a La Mesa Beautiful Spirit Award. For more information about La Mesa Beautiful, or to schedule a visit to the Ringhand garden, visit lamesabeautiful.org.
— Nancy Johnson is secretary of La Mesa Beautiful.