Friday, December 8, 2017

What's new in the neighborhood?

I haven't taken a spin through my neighborhood since March so I took a stroll a little before lunch yesterday to see what's new as we head toward the end of the year.  The short answer is "not much."  My timing wasn't optimal.  While temperatures here remain on the cool side despite the Santa Ana winds fanning fires throughout Southern California, the sun's intensity wasn't optimal for photographs and it was so dry I felt as though my skin was being stretched across the bones of my face.  Our household weather station read 3% humidity at mid-day.

As a whole, I was struck by how parched most of the front gardens in my neighborhood looked.  Of course, back in March, we were coming off the heaviest winter rainy season we'd had in years.  In contrast, we've had only a trivial amount of rain since the new rain year tally began October 1st, less than a fifth of an inch in total.  Worse yet, the current extended forecast doesn't show any rain until mid-January.  Under these conditions, I probably shouldn't have expected to find much color but I did find some.  Here are the highlights:

Succulent bed with flowering Aloe arborescens beneath a canopy of red Bougainvillea

More succulents, along with Phormium, Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise), Tagetes lemmonii, and ornamental grasses

A noID  Cordyline, highlighted by the sun.  This neighbor recently replanted her front slope, adding pops of this red Cordyline, yellow Euryops, and Pelargoniums to her prior collections of red Bougainvillea and blue Agapanthus

Hibiscus in bloom across the street

Blooms on this Bougainvillea weren't surprising but blooms on Agapanthus aren't the norm this time of year

I don't know what this plant is.  Do you?  I discovered several of these huge shrubs covered with pink buds lining both sides of the street near the entrance to our neighborhood.  This area isn't irrigated so the profusion of buds - and the fact that I've no recollection whatsoever of these plants in bloom in prior years - was a surprise.

More Aloe arborescens, this clump sited below a Heteromeles arbuitfolia (toyon) covered in red berries

My favorite neighborhood garden (next to my own), sporting more blooming aloes

I knew the former owner of this property and I'm sure she identified this Salvia for me but I can't remember what it is.  It's covered in small blue flowers, although they're somewhat difficult to make out in my photo

The massive Leucospermum in the same garden has loads of buds but no blooms yet.  I didn't even notice that the Leucospermum had virtually swallowed the orange tree in front of it until I viewed this photo.

So as not to hold you in suspense, here's the photo of the same Leucospermum I took in March

There are quite a few Schinus molle (California pepper trees) in the neighborhood and most are producing berries


There were a LOT of dead plants too, despite last year's heavy rain and the subsequent loosening of water restrictions.

The dead tree on the left sits just outside one neighbor's wall, probably easy to ignore, but the one on the upper right sits  at the street entrance to that property.  I can't even identify the shrub in the middle right.  At first I thought it was the remains of a tree someone had cut down but the base was anchored in the ground.  It looked as though some of the plant's roots had tried to escape by pulling themselves out of the ground.  The Aeoniums on the bottom right are beyond sad - they've always looked as though they were just hanging on but now I think they've given up.


A few houses have changed hands but their gardens largely have not.

The house renovation that took 2+ years was completed some time ago but there's no landscaping yet other than 2 lonely cycads 

The huge empty lot is still empty


But one can only see so much from the street.  My own garden doesn't look that different from the street either, with one notable exception.

The dead oleanders that lined our neighbors' driveway on the south side have been replaced with Pittosporum 'Silver Sheen' and my lath (shade) house is coming together just inside our laurel hedge


As the holidays approach, I hope you have time to take in and enjoy your surroundings.  I'll be spending my weekend writing to Santa requesting more fire fighters - and rain.


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

34 comments:

  1. Those first two images sum up (fore me) all that is good in California in the winter! That no-ID blooming shrub looks like a winner, I hope you get an ID. And that poor swallowed up orange! Amazing it still has so much fruit given its growing conditions.

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    1. Well, the flip side of that (well-irrigated) bed in the first 2 photos are those poor desiccated Aeoniums, Loree. Winter should mean rain and we haven't had any! I've no ID on the mystery shrub yet - maybe it'll reveal itself when the flower buds open.

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  2. As Mr. Rodgers would sing, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood." Your lath house is coming along nicely & I can't wait to see what you grow in it.

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    1. I can't wait to see the lath house completed myself, Peter. Unfortunately, my poor husband is struggling with the roof. I wish I'd have told him to make do with a flat one - it would've been much easier for him.

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  3. I am sitting here watching the snow...yes, snow!...come down here in North Carolina and am envious of your sun no matter how little of it you can see. To me your neighborhood looks so lush for this time of year. Are you affected now by the fires? So, so terrible. I have several friends up in Santa Rosa who had an awful time.

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    1. Unfortunately, SoCal's winter sunshine sometimes carries a price, Libby. Thus far, the only direct impacts of the fires on me have been miserably poor air quality and a heightened case of nerves. My own area faces higher-than-average fire risk and every time another fire erupts - we're up to 6 major fires as of today, all as yet uncontained - I get a little more edgy.

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  4. Perhaps the orange tree is enjoying a protected microclimate, shade and moister air?

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    1. That orange tree does have a healthy crop of fruit, doesn't it?!

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  5. Kris, these pictures are gorgeous! If I visited your city I think all the Bougainvilleas, Agapanthus, Strelitzias and hibiscus would give me a strange sense of deja vu since they are very common street plants here. Have a great weekend!

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    1. All those plants are common throughout Southern California, MDN. I suspect their introduction here dates back a century or more. With the possible exception of the Bougainvillea, I don't think any of them currently get the respect they deserve. As I was taking my photos, it occurred to me that it was sad that Strelizias have fallen so out of fashion locally - they really do produce striking flowers.

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  6. Oh that remodeled house is quite stylish-it would be so fun to landscape it. Hope it doesn't get ruined with lawn and junipers. Your lath house ! I can't wait to see the interior installation.

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    1. I keep wondering what the hold-up is in landscaping that renovated house, Kathy. That would have been the first thing I did after the bulldozers and other heavy equipment was out of there.

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  7. Nice neighborhood! The lath house is really coming along - exciting. I can't imagine 3% humidity, gosh that is so dry! I would think your eyeballs and nose would dry out!
    I love the look of pepper tree berries - we used to get them at the florists, but they always made me sneeze!

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    1. Everything itches, Eliza! Oddly, the most annoying physical impact of the dry, windy weather in my case has been nasal congestion, including sneezing and coughing. A neighbor across the street reported a similar reaction, although I suppose both of us may be reacting to the ash and fine particulates in the air as a result of the fires rather than the dry air itself.

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  8. I love the winter blooming of the aloes. Did I notice them when I lived there in the 80s? Surely I would have done but I don't remember. Pleased you are not getting the smoke for the fires as I know how that affects the plants. We just heard from friends who live in Fallbrook that they had an evacuation at 2 in the morning. They are on a cruise ship. Imagine how worrying that is. Hope you stay safe.

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    1. I think there's been an Aloe planting explosion in the last 10 or more years, Jenny. Getting a notice like the one your Fallbrook friends received has got to put a serious crimp in a vacation - I hope their home is okay and that neighbors or family can put their minds at rest.

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  9. Your mystery shrub might be Rhus integrifolia- lemonade berry

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    1. Thanks Sue! I've reviewed photos of the lemonade berry plant and think that's probably a good ID. San Marcos Growers says the shrub is aromatic so perhaps I need to go back a take a good sniff! I didn't notice sharp teeth on the leaf margins but I note that SMG's write-up said the leaves "usually" have these. The flowers, when they open, should clinch the matter.

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    2. Sue's suggestion led me to Rhus ovata, which looks to be a good match too.

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    3. The photos of that species (flower buds and leaves) look exactly like what I found in my neighborhood. Thanks Susan!

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  10. Kris, it still looks great despite the lack of rain. Your shade house is stunning, it stands out but blends in at the same time.

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    1. I'm more than a little worried about the rain situation at the moment, especially after reading an article asserting that the melting of arctic ice is contributing to the development of the high pressure systems that keep winter rains out of SoCal. That article contended that global warning may decrease our winter rainfall 10-15% over the next couple of decades. That could mean a state of perpetual drought here.

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  11. I love the straightforward combination of aloes with bougainvillea - what a satisfactory pop of winter color! My problem with aloes is rabbits; now that I've got wire over nearby foliage they have moved on to my aloes. I'm with Diana on the orange tree - I do wonder whether it's happier with protection and humidity from that glorious Leucospermum.

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    1. Dastardly rabbits! There are rabbits throughout a large park just a mile away so I believe they're prevalent here too but still I've never seen any in my own garden. I can only assume that the coyotes keep them contained.

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  12. Hi Kris, I can't imagine 3% humidity! No wonder wild fires are such a problem in your area. I also am amazed at the many beautiful blooming plants that seem to flourish despite the lack of rain, which is a testament to the adaptability of plants, and their owners! Of course there are the dead ones...we are still cutting dead trees that died as a result of our 2016 drought.

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    1. We generally get low humidity when the Santa Ana winds blow, Deb, but they don't usually last this long! It's scary on many levels. As to the plants, at least we can irrigate, although I very much fear that we're heading back into drought, at least in SoCal, and if that happens water restrictions will probably be tightened up again.

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  13. Good walk. Nice you were able to get out and about. We worry here when it is so windy that a tree will fall on us. The Eucs in the park we walk though all look terminal. If we'd had a rain first to soften the soil some would have surely fallen this week.

    That Leucospermum looks enormous! How big is that thing?

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    1. I have similar concerns about the Eucalyptus lining our roads into and out of the peninsula, HB. That Leucospermum IS enormous! I never queried the former owner as to its dimensions but my guess is that it's at least 8 feet tall and nearly twice as wide.

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  14. Considering how dry it's been, you found a lot of good looking plants. A lot more than I would find here.

    I did hand-water my recently planted purchases this morning. Everything is bone dry.

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    1. I'm trying to keep up with watering myself, Gerhard, especially as I've recently planted 2 flats of creeping thyme that is far from being well-established.

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  15. There's quite a bit of color in spite of the drought. Sorry you're having to deal with the fires--that must be so frustrating and scary, even if the fires aren't near your place. Many of those plants look familiar from our trip out your way a couple of years ago. That Leucospermum is quite a specimen.

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    1. The neighbor's Leucospermum convinced me that I SHOULD be able to grow these plants, Beth, even though I've previously killed them 2 or 3 times. I now have 3 plants in that genus and, although they're taking their sweet time about blooming, at least they're not dead!

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  16. Oh how wonderful to see all that colour. We are living in a monochrome world here. I particularly like the aloes and the bougainvillea.

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    1. Yes, my thought as I strolled the neighborhood was: I need Aloe arborescens! They certainly light things up even here in our evergreen climate. The Bougainvillea are a harder sell as my husband hates them. They're VERY thorny and can be aggressive spreaders but they're excellent as boundary controls - a burglar has to be very determined to wade through a Bougainvillea screen!

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