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Here is a smallish eco-pack, whose main feature is a beautiful little Solanum “potato vine” (maybe S. seaforthianum or S. jasminoides) climbing up a post in the middle. This plant was deliberately placed here, sprouting from a bulb harvested from a client’s garden in San Jose, CA. I’m going to up-pot it into the round black pot.

150222-1213Right: The vine is not the only plant in the eco-pack. It also contains a tiny little stinging nettle deep in one corner. There are also a few small seedlings of scarlet pimpernel and Kenilworth ivy plus a few other seedlings that are still too small to identify.

When up-potting an eco-pack (or planting it in the ground) it is important to do our best to preserve as many of the plants as possible. Let’s see if we can keep the little nettle and the other seedlings.

Placing a few fingers directly on the soil (between the plant stems!) I invert the pot and squeeze it gently with my left hand. After a few squeezes the whole thing slips easily out.

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Above: The pack has been very carefully removed from its pot and the destination pot has a bit of good planting mix in the bottom. This is the perfect time to up-pot this eco-pack because the roots have grown enough to hold the soil together but not so much that they are sucking the last bits of nutrients out. We want to see the roots around the outside, but we also want to see a good amount of soil.

150222-1227Right: The pack and its rectangular chunk of soil rests on the planting mix in the bottom of the new pot. I do not “rough up” the root ball in any way – in fact I am very careful to preserve every bit of its structure. There are several kinds of plants here and their roots are deeply entwined. Let’s not damage them!

With one hand I scoop a bit of new planting mix and very gently pour it down into the open slots along the edges of the root clump, all around the outside. I am very careful not to pour any planting mix onto the existing soil surface.

Still very gently, I use two or three fingers to push down the new planting mix, adding more as needed until there is a new level surface outside of the plants that were already in the eco-pack.

A gentle shake and bump-bump of the pot settles the new mix into place. The results are below. Can you see the tiny stinging nettle, still happy at what used to be the corner of the old pot?

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One more thing. Any time a plant’s roots are disturbed, and especially if they are in contact with new, dry soil, it is important to give a serious watering. With the hand spray set on “shower” mode I give it a good deep watering, until it drips out the bottom.

That’s it! Now this little vine and its community will have some room to grow bigger!

Did you miss the first episode of this series?

Before we venture to the back yard, let’s have a look around the southwest side.

A large, dense and old jasmine bush (Jasminum species – there are many varieties) has wrapped itself around the south corner of the house. It is way out of control, but it can be vastly improved with some good pruning.

To the left, two giant, doddering rose bushes have been struggling for years. Even so, they bloom.

This narrow strip is a harsh part of the property. The wall behind reflects back a large amount of sun and heat, so that on a hot day this space is seriously blasted.

Long-term, the only kind of ecosystem that is appropriate for this space is a desert one. It will be cleared and relandscaped with excellent rocks and berms. There will be cacti and succulents of many strange and fascinating forms.

Now, let’s go to the northeast side of the house along the driveway, through the gate and to the left. There is a roughly square-shaped back yard. We enter at the east corner, and this is our view across the diagonal of the square:

A beautiful Japanese maple dominates the scene. As shapely as it is, it is sadly doomed. It is way too close to the foundation of the neighbor’s garage.

In the left foreground is a brick patio. It takes up about a third of the garden space. We will be removing it entirely, to be replaced by a free-form patio of beautiful, irregular flat stones.

On the right a large, dense viny bush has grown into a serious monster. I don’t even care what it’s called. This kind of vine is unbelievably invasive. It will go!

Above: Behind the patio looking northwest. At the right in the shadow a big tomato plant climbs a trellis, tangled with morning glory vines. Pretty!

Above: The north corner. At left is a much better view of the pretty tomato vine with morning glories, whose life will end with the first frost.

At right against the southwest wall of the garage an old rose struggles in a (currently shadowed) space that is subject to a powerful afternoon solar blast. Does this sound familiar?

Above: Turning further to the right and looking northeast, an aging and sickly pluot tree is covered with sooty mold. Even the new leaves are yellowing and frail. The branches are brittle and cracking at the base. Its time has come. Yes, it too must go.

But we’re still not done…

Above: We turn to face the back of the house. Looking southeast from the center of the yard, the most horrible monster of all! It is a gigantic, looming potato vine, one of the most dreaded of invasives!

For the above portrait, I cleared away a bunch of dense undergrowth to reveal its graceful, spindly legs. Isn’t it grand?

Yes, it too must go. Except for the camelia bush at the far right, every plant in this back square will be removed!

Next: Streetside lantana strip and south corner.

Did you miss little yellow house #1?