My taste in plants for the garden has changed a lot since I moved to California in 2008. When I first got here, I was all over the plants I couldn't grow back in Europe. In particular I loved the bold and colorful flowering plants: bougainvillea, mandevilla, all the different kinds of fuchsias, gaura and many more. Having flowers year round and lots of them was my main goal with the garden. I still love many of these plants but many disappointments later, I've given up on some of them. Now I'm seriously contemplating succulents and grasses, both of which I used to scoff at as boring. In a way I still think they're boring, but they grow well in my difficult garden. A thriving succulent is much prettier than a dead bougainvillea.
April 2010: Iceland poppies, sweet peas, snapdragons and pinks in the foreground.
I've killed two bougainvilleas and too many fuchsias to count. Pelargoniums tend to get some sort of fungus in my garden, both in pots and in the ground. I recently learned that it's because I water them from above in the evening. That's the time I have for watering, so I'm not going to buy any more.
There are also plants that I still love and plant: salvias and agastaches come to mind. Both have pretty flowers and attract hummingbirds. Major pluses in my book. Viola tricolor is another flower. It self-seeds in the pretties locations. I've loved it since I was a kid. Such pretty, whiskered little faces!
July 2014: Viola, self-sown in succulent container
When I think back on other successes in my current garden, investing in self-watering containers is a big one. I've got a nice collection of those and they've proven themselves time after time. For example I fell in love with abutilons in Carmel and tried growing them in shady spots in the ground but they just don't do well. It's much hotter and drier here than in Carmel. But they thrive in large containers with a reservoir of water at the bottom.
March 2014: Abutilon in self-watering container
Another winner was my swing. It's one of the first things I bought when I got a balcony in my first apartment. I moved it with me to the house in 2009 and I've spent many, many happy hours in it. In fact that's where I'm sitting now.
Fountains have also proved worthwhile. I have several and love them all. There's nothing like moving water in the garden, even if it's just a trickle.
April 2013: Fountain, mains-powered