Friday, December 31, 2021

It wasn't all bad - 2021 retrospective

The Daily Show on Comedy Central recently featured a series of segments on 2021 entitled "the least bad year of the last 2 years."  That description generally rings true for me, although a few events, most notably the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol and the persistence of the "Big Lie" despite monumental evidence to the contrary, stand out as among the most shameful I can remember.  But this is a blog about plants and gardening so I'll focus on that.

I spent a lot of 2021 focused on my own garden, which is not to say that I made many dramatic changes.  The biggest issue for me, which won't surprise anyone who's read even a handful of my posts, continues to be the drought.  The 2021 "water year" (measured from October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021) delivered 4.12 inches of precipitation in my location, which was truly dreadful.  Climate scientists have called it California's "driest year in a century."  Although I capture and store as much rainwater as I can, it's never enough and I rely a lot on irrigation.  How long I'll be able to depend on that resource looms large as an issue.  However, this retrospective will focus on the positives.  I can't claim to have used any particular logic in selecting the following images from posts published this year - the bottom line is that they're simply photos that appealed to me as I skimmed through all those I published this year.


Due to the pandemic, I get up earlier than usual once every 2 weeks to do our household marketing  early in the morning.  The upside of that is I caught more beautiful sunrises like this one.

Camellia williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection' produced this perfect bloom.  There are lots of buds on this shrub now and some are already showing pink tips so I'm looking forward to seeing another flush of bloom in the new year.

Aeonium arboreum and A. haworthii 'Kiwi' created this wonderful edging along the back patio from cuttings I planted there without much thought

A view of the Los Angeles harbor as rain was moving in.  The number of cargo ships in the harbor remained high for the majority of the year.


Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' showing off in a back garden border

An arrangement that came together on Valentine's Day due to the unexpected bi-color blooms of Anemone coronaria.  The bulbs weren't what I ordered but they were clearly what I needed.

Two little princesses enjoying the magic of pink trumpet trees (Handroanthus impetiginosus) in the upper meadow at South Coast Botanic Garden


Early morning shot from the back garden following rain

Limonium perezii (aka sea lavender), a drought-tolerant plant that requires very little care

The unusual flowers of Salvia africana-lutea (aka beach salvia)

An arrangement featuring the early blooms of Dutch Iris 'Sapphire Beauty' and Leucospermum 'Goldie'


An owl butterfly (Caligo species) photographed at the SOAR exhibition of tropical butterflies at South Coast Botanic Garden

Another of my weekly creations for the In a Vase on Monday (IAVOM) meme I routinely participate in.  All these materials were cut from my garden.

The Succulent Garden at Sherman Gardens where I met up with 3 friends for our first post-vaccination outing as a group.  We had lunch at the Farmhouse at Roger's Gardens after our Sherman tour.  I still remember how happy we all were in the belief that the tide had turned.  

Although this photo shows the Wisteria I've been trying to eliminate since we moved in, the way the plant squeezed in between the rain shield that protects our "catio" from getting wet and the screen underneath still amuses me


Yes, this is yet another IAVOM creation but then I put together one or 2 arrangements a week.  This one included a 'Medallion' rose, one of only a handful of blooms I got from the shrub in 2021.

View of the south side of my front garden, photographed from the driveway

After a LONG wait, the Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold', ordered in February to replace the dying mimosa tree we'd removed the previous October, went into the ground

Bees swarming a Maltilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) spotted on a trip to Seaside Gardens in Santa Barbara County


A colorful floral display in my front garden

Jacaranda trees in bloom at South Coast Botanic Garden

A slice of my south-side succulent garden

A noID pink lily I received years ago as a gift with purchase, backed by Mexican feather grass (Nasella tenuissima).  This photo was taken on an impromptu stroll with a neighbor during which he pointed out 10 plants that he particularly liked in my garden.


An IAVOM creation with a nod to the 4th of July holiday

Agaves 'Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame' in my south-side succulent border

Aloe labworana after I cut back Echium 'Star of Madiera' to reveal it

The first blooms of Lilium 'Pretty Woman', an Orienpet hybrid I planted the previous fall

The unusual flowers of Melaleuca thymifolia

A vignette in the Tropical Conservatory at Sherman Gardens on another visit, which included a plant sale!


I was lucky to have a female Allen's hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) hang out for a time right outside my home office window

The dahlias in my cutting garden were very late to bloom this year.  Dahlia 'Akita' was the first and became one of my favorites this year.

I did some minor work revamping my north-side garden.  The reward was a clearer view of the Agave ovatifolia in the background.

Another spin through South Coast Botanic Garden gave me this lovely view of the Banyan Grove

Passiflora 'Oaklandia' rewarded me with half a dozen flowers in 2021 instead of the usual one or 2


I was surprised to get a relative profusion of Plumeria flowers this year from a division one of my neighbors gifted me after collecting several from another neighbor's trash

Closeup of an Agave 'Blue Flame' I'd planted in my street-side succulent bed a year or 2 earlier

House and lesser goldfinches enjoying the backyard fountain

View of a portion of the front garden hidden from the street


Gaillardia 'Spin Top Copper Sun' picked up during a plant shopping excursion

The last of the 'Gitt's Crazy' Dahlias, another of my favorites, matched with Zinnias and Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Dragon Heart' (aka coleus)

The first rain of the 2022 "water year" deposited raindrops on a recently planted cutting of Agave attenuata 'Raea's Gold'

Dahlia 'Iceberg', planted in a half-barrel in my front garden, was the very last dahlia to bloom.  As its name suggests, the flowers were huge.


Arbutus 'Marina' was blooming heavily early in November, before receiving its annual pruning just after Thanksgiving.  Hopefully, the hummingbirds have forgiven me.

The front garden enveloped in fog

Caterpillars of the cloudless sulphur butterflies (Phoebis sennae) made a late apperance as our Santa Ana winds wiped out the remaining flowers on Senna bicapsularis, a host plant

This arrangement, created near the end of November, looked good for more than 3 weeks

Luck was with me when I had my camera, fitted with a telephoto lens, in hand to catch multiple photos of this male Allen's hummingbird 

The hummingbird "owns" this Grevillea 'Superb' 


After a long hiatus, I refilled the bird feeders.  The finches and the sparrows have flocked to them ever since.

When flowers got scarcer during the short days of December, the colorful flower-like bracts of some Leucadendron stepped up to fill the gap

In the good news category, this week's most recent storm brought our rain total to date for the 2022 "water year" up to 6.69 inches, which is 162% of the pitiful total for 2021.  It's a good start.

That's my personal garden year-in-review.  If there's a lesson to be learned from 2021, it's to temper the hard news of each day with the beauty that surrounds us.  May you find beauty in the new year.

All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


  1. "to temper the hard news of each day with the beauty that surrounds us." Well put, Kris. That's it in a nutshell, isn't it?
    A beautfiul retrospective of your gardening year and with the rain (more please), let's hope 2022 is even more so. Happy New Year!

    1. I feel a little like a Debbie Downer when I simultaneously rejoice in the rain we've received and warn that drought is still an issue but the experts seem to be sending the same message. Today's Los Angeles Times quoted one who pointed out that a single rainy month doesn't always result in a good rainy season overall.

  2. Very nice! Thank you for everything you are. Happy new year!

    1. Thanks Eric! I hope 2022 is a better year for all of us!

  3. Thanks for reminding me to do this! I wish you a wetter year and a healthy one. I don't have high hopes for world events but I tend to worry.

    1. P.S. - my favorite is the May shot of your southside garden. Just beautiful!

    2. Thanks Phillip! I'm a worrier by nature myself but I think anyone paying the slimmest attention to national and world events has good reason for concern.

      The south side of my front garden is particularly floriferous in May!

  4. A fabulous photo compendium! I have to say, as your garden responds to increasing drought, to my eye it grows more muscular and textural, qualities I love -- I know you're a flower floozie so you miss the display, but know that all your hard work has produced a garden that looks strong and adaptive and simply amazing. Happy New Year, Kris!

    1. Happy new year, Denise! In time I'm hoping to strike a balance between my ever-increasing reliance on succulents and other drought-tolerant plants and the flowers I adore.

  5. Loved seeing your photos from the past year. Your garden has been beautiful and quite productive (all because of the hard work you put into it and your keen design sense). Good health and happy gardening in the New Year.

    1. Thanks Susie! Hopefully, the new year will see an end to the Covid concerns that have plagued us all for the past 2 years.

  6. Yes, in many ways it has been a difficult year. And here, we are suffering from the effects of lunatic Brexit polcies as well, as Boris and his band of idiots, and the out of control pandemic. And world wide things look threatening. But we are the lucky ones, we have our gardens. I love the idea of taking us month by month through your year in the garden. I hope 2021 will be a happy and healty one for you, with plenty of rain.

    1. Sadly, Covid, supercharged by Omicron, is spreading widely here again as well. After high hopes that we were turning the corner back in April, I'm wondering how many vicious mutations we're going to have to navigate before we can truly say the pandemic is in our rear view mirror. And politics do seem to be nastier all over the world. As long as I have water to keep most of my plants alive, the garden will continue to be a refuge; however, if the water problem worsens, I may be campaigning to move north ;)

  7. This retrospective is full of all the things I love about your blog Kris, well done! Thank you for continuing to bring sunshine, succulents and flowers into my mornings. Happy New Year...

    1. Happy new year to you, Loree! As the December rains seem out of the picture, at least in the 10-day forecast, it's looking like there's going to be plenty of sunshine here again. I'm looking forward to a dry - and warmer - stretch of weather but I do hope the rain doesn't hold off more than a couple of weeks.

  8. I don't even know how anyone can pick and choose from a year's worth of photos. I'm glad you included a "best of" selection of your IAVOM creations: they are truly stunning. Your xera plants collection is getting impressive - 'Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame' looking great, and the gravel meandering path on the north-side garden is always a big favorite.
    Have a wonderful 2022; may it finally break the multi year drought.

    1. The experts say that we're nowhere near breaking the drought, especially here in the southern part of the state, but miracles do happen! In the meantime, I'm investing in more succulents ;)

  9. This was a pleasure to read as I near the end of the first day of 2022. Can't believe it's here but it is. Your garden and vases and birds bring joy every time.

    1. Thanks Barbara. I hope we can look forward to a better year but I'm having a hard time acknowledging the calendar date as well - I keep typing 2021 ;)

  10. I'm so happy for your rain, Kris. Yaay, let us hope this is the beginning of more water for our SoCal friends. Your whole romp through 2021 was fabulous, that bouquet in May has me swooning! I love your fountain, too - and all of your birds. Your garden looks amazing in every season. Happy New Year - here's to a wetter 2022 for you!

    1. Thanks and happy new year, Tamara! The 2022 "water year" is already wetter than 2021, although it remains questionable if we'll get close to our "normal" annual rainfall of 15 inches. I wish Mother Nature had a more even temperament but, given the abuse we've given her, it's hard to blame her.

  11. I look forward to 'growing up with your ginkgo' (so glad the ginkgo won ;~)

    1. I understand that Ginkgos are relatively slow growers, Diana, but I hope this one pushes the upper range of its growth rate and gains a couple of feet each year.

  12. A year of many garden beauties, despite the great sadness of 2021. Enjoyed all your photos.


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