More than any other subject, water - or the lack of it - dominated my focus in the garden this year. In June 2015, after 4 years of drought, California adopted restrictions on water use. The restrictions varied by location and water agency but my area was one of those faced with the severest limitation: a 36% reduction in water use vis-à-vis our 2013 rate. As we started removing lawn and replacing thirsty plants almost immediately after moving in December 2010 and as we'd managed to reduce our water use 25% during the prior year in response to the governor's call for voluntary reductions, we had a head start in tackling the target. In addition to adding 2 large rain tanks to the smaller one we already had, the last remaining strips of thirsty lawn went in January 2016.
|This area in front of the garage and adjacent to the street was the last to be stripped of lawn. It's shown here in late January after I added plants.
Having done extensive replanting following the removal of the last of the lawn in both the front and back gardens, I'd hoped that the heavier-than-normal rains we'd been led to expect with the arrival of El Niño would help my new plants get established before summer's heat made life more difficult.
|Arthropodium cirratum after a rain shower in January 2016, when doubts began to emerge about El Niño's impact on Southern California
Despite all the warnings to prepare for a "Godzilla El Niño," it proved to be a total bust for Southern California, although Northern California received its benefits. A stubborn ridge of high pressure kept the rain at bay here. Our roof-top weather station registered only 5.65 inches of rain for the October 2015-September 2016 period (as opposed to "normal rain" near 15 inches). Still, we were successful in staying well below our monthly water budget. I used up the water collected in our rain tanks and I continued to replace thirsty plants with drought tolerant ones, flaunting some of my favorite combinations in blog posts.
|Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' with Cotyledon 'Silver Storm' and Pelargonium 'Mrs Pollock'
|Agave ovatifolia with Dorycnium hirsutum and trailing Lantana
|Phormium 'Maori Queen' with Coprosma repens 'Inferno' and Gazania 'White Flame'
The garden and I limped along fairly well with minimal rain and irrigation for months. Then a horrific heatwave hit us on the first day of summer. Minimal water meant that roots of recently introduced plants didn't go as deep. The onset of intense heat after a relatively cool spring seared tender foliage. We're used to heat but this heat was as devastating to us as the ice storms that afflict gardens in colder climates. I lost some plants virtually overnight and others more slowly.
|Campanula primulifolia, left, after and right, before
|Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Wonder' after and before
Although we had other heatwaves over the course of the summer and well into November, nothing was as awful that first event in June. I focused on removing dead and dying plants, which included several Ceanothus shrubs that had made up a hedge running along the front slope. I inherited these shrubs with the garden and they'd been in decline for some time - winter drought and summer's heat just moved things along. Situated within feet of another hedge that runs along the street, they also created a funny tunnel of sorts. In addition to removing the dying remnants of the Ceanothus hedge, I enlisted my husband's help in extending a dry-stack wall in the same area in late August. When the final Ceanothus shrubs came out in early November, we brought in still more rock to stabilize the front slope. Succulents and other drought tolerant plants went into the newly created beds.
|The dry-stack wall's extension after planting
|The front slope after removal of the last 15 feet of Ceanothus hedge and replanting
In late October, I learned that a tree-hating neighbor who, despite our removal of 2 large trees and annual tree trimming, regularly threatened me with action under the city's "view conservation ordinance," had put her house up for sale. She accepted an offer but, unfortunately for all concerned, it now appears the sale may be off. For her sake and ours, I hope it's just a glitch in the escrow process.
In December, Christmas came early as Los Angeles recorded the wettest December in 6 years. Although lower than "normal rain" (whatever than means anymore) was predicted this winter in connection with La Niña conditions, some forecasters have speculated that the stubborn ridge of high pressure that has prevented rain from reaching us in Southern California finally may be breaking down. I don't want to get too excited yet, but I'm hopeful. (It's raining again this morning!)
Despite the dry conditions and heat, my garden continued to pump out blooms, which I've shown off on my regular posts in connection with the weekly "In a Vase on Monday" meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden. Averaging 2 vases a week over 52 weeks, I've produced over 100 vases this year. (I couldn't bring myself to actually count them.) I'll close this retrospective with some of my personal favorites as they reflect my garden as well, or better, than any of the photos above.
If you're a regular participant in the "IaVoM" meme, you may have noticed that none of the vases shown above contained Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus), a plant I've become well known for using. I didn't ignore those - I just thought they deserved their own collage. Lisianthus bloomed in my garden from June through December this year.
Thank you for doing me the kindness of reading my blog posts and for commenting when moved to do so. It's you out there in the blog-sphere that really keep this blog going. I hope you enjoy a wonderful New Year's Day holiday weekend! What the future holds in 2017 seems unclear but I hope that peace, good sense, and kindness toward our fellow human beings will prevail.
All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party