Week One: El Niño Report from the Huntington Botanical Gardens

Here in sunny Southern California we are heading into the weekend and I have an active day ahead of me, but before I head out the door I will share a few photos from my visit yesterday to the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

DSC_2370Early in the week I’d set my intention to visit the Huntington on Thursday, rain or shine. As you can see, I was fortunate to find “shine!”

After several days of Mr. El Niño’s gift of more than three and half inches of welcome rain over the vicinity of the Huntington, it was warm(ish) and delightful.

Although the earth had absorbed a good soaking, one man was overcome by the evidence that the grounds had enjoyed a bath and a nice long drink.


Don’t worry. He’s still breathing! This sun worshipper decided to soak up a few more rays before the next storm whips through here some time Saturday.

I have been admiring these “red hot pokers” for some time now. Their stunning color just bursts out of the muted grasses and deciduous plants.

I wonder if hummingbirds are attracted to these “pokers?” Its botanical name is Kniphofia Christmas Cheer, sometimes just called Red Hot Poker. and adapted to full to partial shade, Zones 8-10.

A visit to the Huntington gardens assists me in determining what will do well in my personal garden. Of course, I need to take scale into account. Everything looks more attractive when the beds are huge and the plants massed to create spectacular color.



But I do get a few hints for what I could be considering. I always spend a few minutes in the herb garden. It was because of a trip to the Huntington that I realized cotton could be grown in our home garden. You can read about my success as a cotton farmer HERE.

With water conservation ever-present in my garden planning, I haven’t invested in edible gardening for at least two, maybe three years now, but I don’t hesitate to continue adding new herbs to my small plot.


I seem to be attracted to “red” this time of year. I think I’ll hunt down some Zorba Red Oregano seeds.

I recall right before the end of the year listening to a climatologist interviewed and asked, “How will we know when El Niño has arrived.” And the response, delivered with a chuckle, “Oh! You’ll know!”

The rain this week has washed everything clean and we are poised and ready for more. As an avid gardener, I have found this rain exciting as I think about the seed catalogues soon to appear in my mailbox. I may not ignore them this year!

I’m breathing lighter, and headed into a quiet weekend. My mom and I had plans to meet with a few of her friends, but rain and freeways in Southern California are ridiculously hazardous so that luncheon has been postponed.

What will I do with that “found” time?

Just exhale!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends, and breathe lighter.

And, rain or shine, I’ll report again next week from the Chinese Garden at the Huntington.





47 thoughts on “Week One: El Niño Report from the Huntington Botanical Gardens

  1. I’m watching! 🙂 🙂
    You really could link this up to Jude’s Garden challenge. I’m sure she’d be fascinated.
    Enjoy your lightly breathing weekend! We appear to have an ice and snow forecast 😦

    1. Thank you so much, Kate. I was so enthusiastic all week and then caught myself laughing a few times thinking that it’s awfully early in the season. When three days turns to thirty days of rain will I still be excited? I probably won’t be able to admit it if I’m not! 🙂

  2. I am so glad you got rain! I follow a few bloggers from California and the story was the same all over. El Nino is giving us a warmer than usual winter and our precipitation has been rain rather than snow. That’s just fine for me but the skiers are bellyaching big time.

    1. I do understand about the disappointment for the skiers, and it’s the complete opposite here right now. All of the mountain resorts are experiencing the best season in years and years. I think the one thing we all know is that we get what we get! When we have a balance in our favor it’s such a gift. I hope I’ll still be enthusiastic by March! LOL!

    1. It was crazy this week, Nancy. One of our neighbors lost a tree. It just popped up out of the ground! I have no way to interpret that, other than to say the ground must have been saturated. I suppose we’re in for a season of mixed blessings. 🙂

  3. Weather looks much better than the news clips that I saw this morning from near SF. Cool with rain for us, but temps dropping thus cold rain for Saturday’s playoff game here.

    1. One of our neighbors has already lost a red. The ground was saturated and a very large tree just completely upended and there has been a lot of flooding, but Thursday and Friday have been beautiful. Zena was glad the rain stopped. She hasn’t known what to do being indoors most of the da;y! Your weather comment sounds like the guys in our house. All the concerns are sports related. LOL! I hope the temperatures are moderate for the playoff game and that you enjoy!

      1. In terms of the weather for our game, today has been warmer (50s) than anticipated and the rain is slow … so the game may be dry … but forecasts are predicting 1/2 of snow by morning.

        1. Out of curiosity I just checked and we are only 5 degrees warmer (55) than Cincinnati (50), and it’s two hours earlier here. To be that close in temperature in early January is certainly unexpected! Now, if we get snow that really will be something! 🙂

    1. I am just now focusing on the gardens, but I really need to begin to share about the library acquisitions. They are definitely worth your time, Andrew!

  4. 44 degrees and misty here, Debra. Unseasonably warm, though predictions of snow coming. We have benefited from El Nino, and I have benefited from your lovely photos of the Huntington.
    I’ve planted a golden oregano and a frosty-colored oregano, which keep coming back here. I don’t cook with them as they get sprayed with vile deer repellent. 😦 This red oregano looks wonderful.
    Enjoy the rain, safe travel, and know that I’ll be here, breathing lighter as well.

    1. I learn something new from you every time we discuss our different gardening regions, Penny! I always wonder at your deer and think of how lovely they are, but I completely forget about deer repellent, and the “why” behind the application! You can definitely have a thriving edible garden, but we know who will eat it! And 44 degrees is definitely still cold, but I can see how this would almost feel warm in comparison to the last couple of years. Maybe your heating costs will be a little lower this year? We can all predict an interesting winter. 🙂

    1. “Measured increments” would be ideal! I think we’re in for a long and crazy winter, but if it results in lot of green, I’ll put up I’ll be patient. 🙂

    1. The men and women reporting the local weather news are absolutely levitating! It’s almost funny to watch. They’re so excited to have something to report. LOL!

  5. We’ll be down south the latter half of February and have been following the weather very closely. The rivers and creeks in Orange and San Diego Counties are as full as they were in 1968, which is really saying something.

    1. Isn’t it exciting to see flowing water, Jim? LOL! We are expecting more rain tonight. I think you’ll see quite a difference in your hillsides when you come down to the SD house. Already there is more green than we’ve had in such a long time. 🙂

  6. I’m sorry to hear you had to cancel your luncheon but Praise God you’ve had some rain! I know California has been so dry. I like how you have a herb garden. My herb garden became over-run with weeds and neglect but I’m now back on track and eager to plant some new varieties xx

    1. The rain is really such a gift and thank you for saying so! I think that herb gardens take a fair amount of work. Sometimes mine really does get very weedy, and if I don’t use the herbs quickly enough they bolt and go to seed. But at the cost of fresh herbs I do try! Since I am the “gardener” for my granddaughter’s school garden I have been known to make a trip over to the garden boxes and cut a little basil or oregano if mine isn’t doing well! I keep thinking of all the things we can grow again if this rainy season continues. Hope you’ve had a good weekend, Charlie. xx

  7. The Huntington Botanical Gardens look wonderful, Debra. My favorite part was the stone bridge which looks like it came from an English garden. I like that while capturing photos you saw a man lying in the grass. Many average bloggers would walk on by, but you had a vision of a story or cool lines about the sun worshipper and adding humor. I love quirky “lines” in movies. Thanks for all of this tour. 🙂

    1. You gave me a smile about taking the photo of the gentleman resting on the lawn. I think I was in such disbelief. It was cold and the grass was wet, but he seemed fine. I was glad to see him sitting up later. LOL! You were observant about the stone bridge. That particular section of the garden is called the “Shakespeare Garden,” and the Huntington is known for its British library holdings. I hope to share more about this fabulous place each week. It’s amazing to me how many “locals” drive right on by and never visit. It’s my duty to inform. LOL!

  8. Oh my goodness…it looks like SPRING over in your neck of the woods (country)! I’m jealous. Although today we enjoyed a GLORIOUS 60 degrees for the high kind of day (before the below freezing temps hit in the 10’s on Sunday, of course). Makes me appreciate every ray of sun we get during the winter months here! Soak in some sun for me!

    1. I wish I could bottle a little sunshine for you, Stacey. It’s actually been chilly–coming to work in the morning it’s been about 50 degrees! But there is sun. And today it was a little warmer. Maybe it will be a short winter my friend! 🙂

  9. I miss my visits to California in the winter months, but I don’t miss those L.A. freeways! Fortunately I only had to drive on them once and it was a Sunday and dry, so relatively quiet. Not an experience this Brit wants to repeat though 🙂 Your post has reminded me of the lovely gardens and flowers I saw at this time of the year. I wish you well with El Nino!
    Jude xx

    1. How nice to hear that you’re familiar with Southern California, Jude. But yes, our freeways are just crazy! I frequently question how anyone who isn’t totally familiar with the freeway system would ever dare to travel them. I don’t like to do it myself! Thank you so much for stopping by and visiting!

  10. I’ve wondered how El Niño was affecting you and your area, Debra. The earth there is so dry that a downpour can do more harm than good. Happy to see that’s not the case. I have your “red hot pokers” in my garden, though here they’re called “torch lilies”. No matter. They’re supposed to draw hummingbirds, like my trumpet vines, cardinal flowers, bee balm, and butterfly bushes. I’ve not seen a single hummingbird in the 17 years I’ve lived here. Friends that live about a mile away have plenty of the little darlings. I’m not bitter. Really.

    1. That’s so interesting about the hummingbirds. I’m so curious as to why they wouldn’t be all over your garden. I’m reading a book right now about hummingbirds and they are very interesting creatures. I wonder if there’s something nearby that is disturbing them.And the drought has been so disturbing to my gardening ambition, but I have some seeds for “red hot pokers,” and I’m thinking I’d like to try going that route, although I will purchase at least one larger plant! I don’t suspect any started from seed will look like much for quite a while. And I like “torch lilies” a lot–more graceful than the “poker” name. 🙂

      1. I don’t know, Debra. I’ve sat on Zia’s porch and they have landed on her shoulder before heading to her feeders. My trumpet vine is huge. (I once had two.) They wouldn’t be in any danger. I dunno. They don’t know what they’re missing. 🙂

  11. So glad the rain arrived for you, Debra. Yes, the gardens do look refreshed and burnished and I really hope plenty more rain comes and starts to fill up those reservoirs and aquifers.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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