Friday, December 30, 2016

Year-end Retrospective

Yesterday marked my fourth blogging anniversary.  Although it feels as if I've been blogging for no time at all, a lot has changed in my life and in the garden within that period.  I was amazed to find that I've published 690 posts, registered over14,000 comments, and racked up 597,965 views since I began.  I'm not about to slog through the garden's entire history here (much less my own!) but I thought a 2016 garden retrospective might be an appropriate way to recognize the anniversary.

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


Most distressing of all, our lemon tree, which had provided an abundance of lemons continuously since we'd moved in, dropped two-thirds of its fruit within days.  What didn't drop rotted in place.  Fortunately, the tree has recovered since that heat apocalypse, although we've picked only one ripe lemon since June.

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

34 comments:

  1. This is an excellent summary of your garden year with all your changes and accomplishments. Fun also the grids of your beautiful bouquets.

    The Eustoma you gave me is doing okay! Fingers crossed I get at least a flower or two like your beauties. We can hope 2017 brings rain and better than expected developments. Happy New Year!

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    1. Eustoma grandiflorum is considered a short-lived perennial in our climate so I hope that one lives to bloom for you next year. For whatever reason, the pink cultivars seems to be the hardiest of the bunch. Burpee is offering a dark purple variety (not available until April or thereabouts), which I think I must try.

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  2. I've enjoyed following and commenting on your blog again this year. I also enjoy your IaVoM posts, although I don't participate. You're so talented at putting them together. I agree with your wish for 2017 too.

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    1. I always appreciate hearing from you, Alison, and look forward to seeing you in person again in June at the DC Fling!

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  3. NO - I thought the tree-hating neighbour was history!

    Much enjoyed your gathering of vases filled with delightful flowers.

    I wish you a year of kind rain, and happy plants.
    It hurts to think of only one lemon. Even my potted lime has much more than that.

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    1. I thought that tension over my trees was history too, Diana. I was distressed to learn that the sale appears to be off. Re the lemon tree, there are LOTS of lemons on the tree but they're still all green - the tree is rebounding, but its progress is slow.

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  4. Wow 4 years and those are wonderful stats Kris. I love your garden's transformation in harsh conditions and with those water restrictions....here's to hopefully a bit more rain for you....oh and lots more garden views and vases....oh yes more vases please! Happy New Year!

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    1. It's raining again this evening, Donna, and there's a good chance of another storm tomorrow. It really is a pleasant note on which to end a most unpleasant year. Happy new year to you!

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  5. Happy 4th blogiversary, Kris! It has been great following the progress in your gardens and I've learned a few new plants outside my zone. :) I loved seeing a review of your vases - all that beauty in one post! And I agree that lisianthus deserves its own highlight.
    Hope you have super successful 2017, both in and out of the garden. :)

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    1. Reviewing my posts over the year, I realized just how many (duh - 52!) had been devoted to floral/foliage arrangements so I couldn't leave them out of the retrospective. Best wishes for a happy new year to you as well, Eliza!

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  6. Happy blogiversary, Kris! I love reading your posts and lusting after all of the plants that are hardy for you in the ground. You've done so much with your garden since you moved there and your Monday vases are always drool-worthy! Here's to many more!

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    1. Thanks Peter! The virtual relationship with you and other bloggers has been the principal gift of blogging.

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  7. It's been fun to follow you and your beautiful garden in 2016
    Happy New Year
    Mariana

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    1. Thanks Mariana! Happy new year to you too!

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  8. Happy blogiversary and happy new year, Kris! I've enjoyed following the progress you've made in your garden and lusting after the plants you can grow in your warmer climate.

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    1. The climate definitely has its up sides, Evan. Happy new year to you as well!

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  9. That eustoma is truly your signature flower. And having seen your garden I know that it not only produces an abundance of flowers, but it's really coming into its own as a unique landscape, a tribute to your taste, research skills, and hard work. Happy blogiversary and New Year!

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    1. Thanks Denise! And the hard work shall continue...

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  10. Kris, I have enjoyed following your blog this year. So interesting to see how you've overcome the water crisis while maintaining beauty and charm in your borders. And of course I love seeing your vases. Best to you for a happy new year. (And you are coming to the Fling, right?)

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    1. I've paid my Fling registration fee and booked a hotel room, Susie! I look forward to meeting you in person there.

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  11. Happy New Year and blogiverseray Kris. I enjoy your adventures in the garden, and especially so because you are located so close to where I grew up. My childhood garden was full of Fuchsias, Begonias and tropicals and my memory of heat waves only involved September. I look forward to 2017 in your garden !

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    1. The climate, it is a-changing, Kathy! Heatwaves happen at intervals almost year-round now and, sadly, I've given up on fuchsias, begonias and all but the least thirsty tropicals, even though all had a place in my old garden just 6 short years ago.

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  12. Happy blogiversary and New Year! This was a fun post to read, despite the drought and heat-wave damage. Two things stood out to me:
    1. that you all can crowd your agaves! I have to leave space around mine or else they can quickly rot.
    2. that's a lot of vases and they are very florific! You've inspired me to maybe put together a grid of mine, which will probably mostly be foliage.

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    1. Seeing my vases in a group (or the ones that made the first and second cuts anyway) gave me a snapshot, not only of what was looking good at different points of the year, but also my own habits in putting arrangements together. January was a bad month for vases last year - none made the final cut.

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  13. Too bad you don't have a money tree or you could buy the property next door! High temps and lack of water are the death knell. Your garden always amazes me. :o)

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    1. The troublesome neighbor is actually three doors down the street - she "asks" the owners of the 2 gardens in between us and those across the street to hack their foliage too. I'm sure there are quite a few people who wish her well with her sale.

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  14. Congrats on four years of blogging and even more on your water reduction efforts. One of the unintended consequences of reading about your plants is noticing things I am having trouble growing and realizing my conditions are too moist. Also it is pretty amazing to realize how many vases you've put together this last year.

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    1. I really couldn't count the actual number of vases I put together last year. It's almost embarrassing. It's become an addiction of sorts I guess.

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  15. Congratulations on four years of successful blogging. And I think you deserve an award for your determined (and largely successful) adaptations to climate change. -Jean

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    1. I keep working at it, Jean. The question is: am I adapting at the same pace the climate is?

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  16. Congratulations on four years in the blogosphere, and Happy New Year! I really enjoyed this post, especially your collages of your bouquets. You have a wonderful talent. And I hope your next neighbor will love plants!

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  17. Love those collages Kris. Congratulations on your anniversary and I look forward to another year of your beautiful vases and especially the Lisianthus! Hope that rain continues for you. It's a snowstorm here right now! ;-)

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    1. There's some snow here too, albeit in the mountains to the east and only visible when the clouds move out of the way and the smoggy haze clears! Stay warm, Cathy!

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