We have new neighbors immediately behind the house next door. One of their first acts was to erect this gonzo back deck.
The previous owner was a house-bound woman who for the last twenty years of her life lived mostly indoors. Her back fence stopped at the property line and was six feet high. We never saw her, she never saw us.
The new owners, a young couple, apparently didn’t care for the big dark fence getting in the way of their view. And they apparently didn’t think their back yard was large enough since the new deck juts out many feet into a city easement. I’m sure they have a great view of the ocean. But using the equation, I can see them = They can see us, I’m certain they also have a tremendous view of my back yard.
There are a few islands of privacy. This black bamboo provides a little bit of screening–if you’re standing in just the right spot.
But this view from the bedroom window shows that the isn’t much privacy from much of the garden. I planted a Dr. Hurd manzanita in front of the bamboo, before the new neighbors moved in. Once it hits its twelve foot target, it’ll help provide some shelter. But being a manzanita it’s taking its good old time getting larger. Had I known we’ve have this privacy issue I’d have planted something faster growing, maybe a desert willow.
A few things get in the way of planting more large plants on the property line. There’s a buried drain–not the best thing to plant a small tree over. This is also the the southern edge to the property. A tree would provide some shelter, but it would also shade a garden populated with sun-loving plants and homeowners. Also, the previous owners of our house installed a large fishpond in what would be the most welcome spot for a small tree.
We’re still trying to think of what to do. Until we have a larger plan in place, we’re letting some plants get taller than we otherwise might. This mystery shrub came with the house. Although it’s growing too close to a fence to let it get very large, we’re still letting it grow taller. There’s one of these plants in the canyon nearby and the best idea I have is that if it’s native it might be a Pacific wax myrtle (Morella (formerly Myrtica) californica), but I think the ID is incorrect because Calflora shows its native range ending to the north, in Los Angeles County.
Here’s a closer look at the foliage. Later in the year it has tiny white flowers with an insanely powerful fragrance–gardenias on steroids, maybe. Feel free to send me any ideas for this plant’s identity. It’s probably wishful thinking on my part thinking this is a native instead of an escapee from one of the local gardens.
[ EDIT, January 24 ] Well, I knew you guys would come through! Maggie and Bahia have pointed me in the right direction. Thinking that it was a local native was definitely wishful thinking on my part. The mystery shrub is a Victorian box, Pittosporum undulatum. The fact that it’s escaped into at least one spot in the local canyon makes me think that this is destined not a long-term plant, particularly when you consider that it can get massive size for a suburban lot, not to mention it’s ridiculously close placement to the fenceline.
The California Invasive Plant Council describes its problem potential this way: “Infestations in CA are small. More problematic on north coast.” Not the worst plant, but I could definitely do better.
The privacy problem could be worse. The neighbors spend almost no time outdoors, and much of that is in the relative privacy of darkened evenings.
Still, gardens are as much about fantasy as they are reality. It’s not that we’re doing anything particularly scandalous in the back yard, really. But if we were, we wouldn’t want the neighbors to see!