I have been writing this encouragement on the January page of my calendar for more years than I can remember! Gardeners are by nature hopeful people with full faith that each new year will bring them garden miracles in abundance. This will be the year my soil, after many seasons of amending and turning over, will reach its peak friability and provide all the nutrients my plants require to perform their best. This will be the year perennial selections added in the last couple of seasons, having slept a year and crept a year, will leap with abandon. This will be the year the aphids will find my neighbors’ crape myrtles more hospitable than mine. This will be the year of a world wide snail and slug extinction event…
For the first time since Thanksgiving I have spent a bit of time in my garden assessing what needs to be done and reflecting on changes I would like to make this year. We have had an incredibly wet and quite cold last 6 weeks. At this midpoint mark in January we have had almost 10″ of rain since October with over 4″ of that in the last 2 weeks. These numbers will not sound like much to gardeners in other parts of the country but here in the Central Valley of California our average annual rainfall (July 1-June 30 being our rain year) rarely exceeds 11″. We are in a historic 6 year drought in an area whose best rain years would constitute emergency conditions for residents in states blessed with naturally wetter weather. We have prayed for rain and now, of course, don’t know what to do with all this water!
Don’t misunderstand me–I am excited to have the low areas of my dormant lawn look vaguely like weedy duck ponds. The water will eventually soak in and give me a little better start when the heat comes. What we really need is more snowfall in the upper elevations of the Rocky and Sierra Mountains. The spring melt of the mountain snowpack is the source of most of the water which fills the California reservoirs and carries us through the summer–many parts of this state receive zero rainfall from May through October. So it is more than likely that even this very wet winter will not change any of our water restrictions, residential or agricultural, and we will continue learning how to live in this new normal world of lawn free landscapes and unthirsty plantings. Of the 4 areas from which we removed lawn in 2016 two have been replanted and are prospering, one remains untouched and has a lovely covering of bright green winter annual weeds and the last is about 3/4 renovated. We were only about 5 feet from having all the tilling and amending done on that bed when my sweet Dave got out his big, bad axe to remove an especially large root adjacent to the driveway. Unfortunately there was a labyrinth of unseen sprinkler pipe under the root and well…you know the rest of the story. When the water finally drains out of the very large trench he had to dig to make the repair we will be back on the road to completion–look for pics of this very large bed in a future post.
So everything looked pretty much as I would expect at this time of year. It’s time to start pruning the roses. The weeping standard ‘Renae’ roses in the front are so top heavy I fear they may crack at their grafts and the climbers on the pavilion trellis have gone mad! My roses have always been incredibly forgiving and even in years when I feel as though I have just hacked at them they have rewarded me with wonderful bloom seasons–maybe they are ever hopeful that they will get a new gardener who knows what she is doing!
This time last year one of my planned changes was to remove this row of Prunus laurocerasus, common cherry laurels, which grow behind the pavilion in a very narrow bed up against our side fence. These fast growing evergreens are prolific reseeders and have to be constantly pruned to keep them out of the canopy of mature Bradford pears growing on the other side of the fence. I only got as far as cutting them down to bare trunks last spring. Even these plants have forgiven me and offered me another chance to decide in their favor. Hmmm…
Through heat, drought, rain and wind this rosemary soldiers on. It looks exactly the same now as it did in 110 degree weather with no water last July. The tag on this warrior said Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’, commonly know as creeping or prostrate rosemary. Last summer I cut it back by half and it did not even blink. It is about waist high now and clearly not prostrate. In the ground now for almost 6 years and yet to produce even a single blue flower. I am hoping that 2017 will be its year!
I’ll continue to keep you updated on what is happening in my garden and I have many fun garden road trips planned that you are invited to come along with me through posts and photos. The Mary Lou Heard Garden Tour in Southern California is back on my calendar this year after a few years absence. I also hope to do at least 3 of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days this year: LA, Marin County and San Jose. I am looking forward to seeing the offerings on this year’s Gamble Garden Spring Tour. I am very excited to be participating in the Garden Bloggers Fling being held in the Washington DC/Virginia area in late June. I will have the opportunity to tour a number of public and private gardens over several days and get to meet garden bloggers from all parts of the country. I also hope to bring all of you along to a series of classes I am taking at Filoli in Woodside. If you are unfamiliar with Filoli now is the time to check them out at http://www.filoli.org –you will be amazed. There are 16 acres of formal gardens as part of a large country estate established in the early 20th century, a lovely historic home and a full schedule of garden events and education. I will participate in their A Year in the Garden program which includes classroom instruction and hands on experiences in a wide range of horticultural topics. It is always fun to meet gardeners from other areas–no matter the differences in climate or growing conditions we all speak the same language of excitement, enthusiasm and hope that THIS will be our garden’s best year yet!