The Southern California garden…the weeds are thriving!

I’d be very unwise to imply any complaint about winter weather conditions in Southern California. Many of you comment with a hint of awe at the warmth that comes through in the photos I’ve recently shared.  Our coldest day in February is probably warmer than most in the northern hemisphere.

But we have had some cold weather, too.

Mt. Baldy with snow

Southern Californians know this peak as Mt. Baldy–it’s rarely called by its real name, Mount San Antonio. This tallest point in the San Gabriel Mountains was named “Baldy” by the miners who came in the 1860s during the Gold Rush.

At 10,068 feet it’s the highest point in Los Angeles County, so when topped with snow, we certainly gawk a bit, marveling at the sight of all that unfamiliar white stuff.

This week’s storm didn’t produce that much rain for the valley, but we did gain plenty of fresh white powder in the mountains.

Baldy’s snow is beautiful, but what I’m most wondering is what is happening to the snow pack in the Eastern Sierras?

While we Southern California gardeners like to pretend water is not a problem, drought conditions are always a threat.

And since 65% of the water intended for Los Angeles comes from the Eastern Sierras, we hope for a good snowpack and a healthy supply of runoff to feed the Aqueduct.

I’ll never complain about our mild winter weather, but I do sometime feel weary with year-round garden maintenance. We don’t get much of a break in garden chores.

The weeds continue to grow, and although the sky may spit a little of the wet stuff, it rarely lets loose! Gardens still require some watering even throughout the winter.

These are just a few of the many succulents that  sweetly bloom in winter adding quite a bit of warmth to our landscape. They are drought tolerant, requiring very little care except for a covering of frost cloth during the most extreme cold snaps.

But do you notice the weeds? They never stop thriving!

Last weekend was dry and warm, and we thought about heading out to do something fun. Instead, I evaluated frost damage and trimmed plants, alternately spreading several bags of compost, while Jay spent the better part of two days on his hands and knees pulling dandelions and spotted spurge.

That’s part of the price we pay for a garden in a year-round Mediterranean climate. Light moisture and warm sun equals fresh weeds.

I haven’t yet decided how much time I’ll spend working in the garden this weekend, but I have a couple of hours between appointments in Pasadena today, so I’m going to spend at least a little time soaking up some garden inspiration.

Arlington Garden is a heavy dose of serenity in an urban setting. If I’m going to spend so much time weeding and pruning, I like to go where I soak up inspiration.

The garden emphasizes drought tolerant plants and the most creative use of space. It has an interesting history, too, so I’ll share that with you soon.

Arlington Garden will be my first step towards my weekend exhale.

Don’t you think we all could use a transition from the workweek to the weekend–a change of pace to help eliminate stress?

I like to give gifts.

So my gift to you is a short article from a few years ago,  “A Poet in Winter Relishes Spring in His Garden.”  This 2005 NY Times story features Stanley Kunitz, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet laureate of the United States, as he approached his 100th birthday.

Kunitz loved his garden in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and this short article makes me smile as I picture a poet using the joy he received in his garden as the palette from which he painted words…and I’ll bet that’s also where he did a lot of his own exhaling.

Now it’s your turn!


50 thoughts on “The Southern California garden…the weeds are thriving!

  1. What a generous and beautiful gift that article was! Thank you! I enjoyed meeting this fine old poet and his companions and imagined myself in his garden, listening to the language of his heart.

    • Thank you so much for telling me how you enjoyed the post and the article about the poet, Stanley Kunitz! I really want to know more about this fascinating man and his work! I would think with your avid interest in gardening he would definitely speak a similar language! 🙂

  2. I cannot begin to tell you how much your post means to me this morning, Debra; here on the Cutoff, several inches of the “white stuff” have fallen, a long drive to my sister’s house is ahead, with a relaxing weekend to follow. Your stunning photo of Mt. Baldy in my mind, and Stanley Kunitz’s poetry in my heart. I have bookmarked it for when time is abundant (after next week and before my own gardening chores begin) to use it as a benchmark to explore a bit more of Kunuitz’s poetry, especially his poem to his wife at 40 years. Tom and I will celebrate four decades this spring, and I suspect I will find some inspiration there for a gift. Finances are tighter than a Barnum and Bailey circus act rope, so, we won’t be taking a long trip, but, my dear, you have given me the lead to some inspiration.

    • I am so happy to think that sharing Kunitz with you inspired some thought and delight, Penny. I think his poetry lifts us up, helping us see something very special in what sometimes is mistaken for ordinary. Enjoying a garden, and the work that goes with it, is indeed a spiritual practice, I really do believe, if we choose to see it that way. I have had several friends tell me they are all interested in purchasing this poetry, which pleases me! This lovely man is inspiring yet! 🙂

  3. There are few sights more beautiful than the snowcapped San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains standing out crisp and clean against a blue sky after a brisk southern California storm. Thanks as always for the memories!

    • I’m so glad I can share some familiar sites/sights with you Lori! I was going to take some photos after work of the light dusting of snow on the mountains above Altadena…but by late afternoon it was already gone! 🙂

    • I am so glad the mushrooms are coming along, Andra. I had two boxes and then stopped cultivating. I need to do that again! It was very rewarding. One of the boxes was so prolific we almost couldn’t eat them all! 🙂

  4. My sis-in-law in Seal Beach sent us a picture of winter in So. Cal. She was wearing a scarf around her neck…. Thanks for sharing about the wonderful poet laureate, and my best wishes for your weekend. I feel a major exhale coming on now….

  5. The picture of the snowy mountain is beautiful. We don’t have mountains like that anywhere in Australia. I love the look of your succulents. We have a mild climate here too so yes, the weeks thrive. xx

  6. Your photo of Mount Baldy is perfect! My congratulations Debra.
    Your garden looks lovely. After rain the weeds… What a gift that so many succulents are already blooming. I have succulents in pots on my patio – none of them have put out flowers this year 😦

  7. Mount Baldy, eh? I bet if it were named San Giuseppe no one would have given it a nickname like “Baldy”. 🙂 A stunning picture, nonetheless, Debra, and it’s true. Every rose has its thorns. If it’s warm enough that freezing temps are a rarity, weeds are sure to take notice. Your succulents, though, look great!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the photo of Baldy! You’re right, San Giuseppe would have more endurance! I was quite proud of that photo, John. I took an entire lunch hour trying to find a clear shot. I have many lovely succulents, and when I finally get things looking a little better, I might share more of them. I really enjoy the variety. I suspect you are growing a little weary of winter weather and very eager for spring? It can’t be long now! 🙂

  8. I exhale every time I visit you here.. What lovely reflections on gardening and your life. I love your gallery of succulents, I think all of us could think more about conserving our water. Our snow pack was much smaller this past year. I’m off to read your link:) xx Have a blissful weekend!

  9. Yes, I suppose there are compensations for our freezing temperatures at the end of February – no weeding. 🙂 🙂 Your succulents are very attractive and that photo of Mount Baldy is superb. Thanks for the link to a thought-provoking article,.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the article and the poet, Stanley Kunitz. I have many more succulents and some are quite spectacular, but right now, my garden is looking a little sad! Maybe when spring comes and I tidy up a bit more I’ll share! 🙂

  10. Enjoyed reading the article and the beautiful photographs. You make a good point about needing the snow for the water run-off for your area’s water supply. There are certainly pros and cons to wherever one lives. I live right by the Rocky Mountains and beside a major river that brings the fresh mountain water. It can rise quite high and flow quite rapidly during the Spring run-off. The water so fresh, clear and pristine! I love succulents and the different kinds look so beautiful. Thank you! ~Thea

    • I have made quite a study of the Los Agneles water wars, Thea. It’s a fascinating history when you begin to realize how dependent we are on “others” for our survival. I think the upshot of that realization is to be very concerned with conservation. I do love succulents, and have for many years. They aren’t that hard to cultivate, which makes them a natural for our landscape and my lack of much time for gardening in the first place! 🙂

  11. Dear Debra, first, I never really realized that where you live is a Mediterranean climate. Second, thank you so much for linking us to the article about the poet Stanley Kunitz. These words he spoke just captured me: “”I don’t want to think about anything, except to become language.” That’s how I feel also and I just caught my breath because he put in words what I feel but was never able to articulate. And that’s really what poets do for us. They help us see and they help us speak.

    The other words that captured me were spoken by Ms. Lentine: “”It’s like when he looks at a manuscript. He goes right to that extra comma, that spent blossom, making less of a clear vista.” That’s what writing is all about–the “clear vista” for the reader to enter a new land. Thank you so very much for sharing this with us. Peace.

    • Thank you, Dee! I wasn’t previously familiar with Stanley Kunitz, I simply came across this article and had to find a way to share it! I would love to become more familiar with this poet. I’m delighted that the words were so meaningful to you! oxo

  12. Pingback: Today’s the day | Blessings through raindrops...

  13. The picture of Mount Baldy is magnificent. If there’s anything I appreciate nearly as much as a phenomenal book, it’s a phenomenal photograph of the incredible sights, flora,and fauna that the Creator made in this wonderful world.
    I empathize with your weed issue. I am impressed by the tenacity of our domineering marigolds. Once, I noticed a dandelion (known for their hardiness) growing among the baby marigolds I plant every year from last year’s seeds. As the flowers grew, they overpowered the dandelion to the extent that it eventually vanished. Maybe we should plant them everywhere in our yard…

    • I agree with you completely on being almost overwhelmed at the natural beauty in the world, and it sometimes grieves me that we don’t fully stop and “applaud” what God has given us to enjoy! And more and more, as some of those resources seem to be crowded out by our insensitivity, I just want to drink them in! 🙂 I smiled at your story of the marigolds remembering the year I broadcast Cosmos seeds and they came up by the hundreds. They took over! They were very beautiful, but at one point my husband referred to THEM as weeds! I can be very ambivalent in my garden habits, moving between such heavily plantings to crowd out grass and weeds, to lots of open space so the individuals flowers show up more dramatically, then I deal with weeds! I probably need to spend some time figuring out what I really want to do and sticking with a plan! LOL!

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