Week Five: El Niño Report from the Huntington Botanical Gardens

Do you notice anything different about the view this week?


The sunshine is the same. The colors haven’t changed too much. The difference was a bit of a crowd this week. I forgot that the first Thursday of every month offers free admission. It’s a big place. I still found some seclusion.DSC_2826

If you look carefully you can see the snow on the local mountains. We did have some rain last weekend. Not tons. But the snow is a nice touch.

I’ve been noticing this sweet little yellow flower for several weeks now. It’s called Lavender Cotton. That’s much more appealing to me than Santolina chamaecyparissus. I think I’d like to bring some home. It’s cheery!


Color is indeed cheery, but my little dirt-colored sparrow friend brought cheer of his own. While he was enjoying his dirt bath,  I was enjoying the surrounding early spring color of Sugar and Spice Stock. The  rainbow was a feast for my eyes, but the scent caught my attention before I even rounded the corner.

It may only be early February, but this is what spring smells like!


Let’s look at a ‘before” photo while we wait for the roses to bloom. The rose garden, which extends well beyond what I captured in this one photo, contains more than 3,000 individual rose plants and more than 1,200 cultivars.

Blooming should begin in late March, and in our milder climate will extend at least until Thanksgiving. That should give me plenty of time to share some favorites.
DSC_2873I’m also waiting to see what this plant will do. I don’t have much familiarity with lilacs in our hardiness zone, 10a. I took note of this bare plant because of its delightful name.


DSC_2839I have two mature gardenia bushes that may be on their way out. Sadly, although they’re favorites of mine, they haven’t fared well with drought-stress. Maybe introducing this lilac to my garden would bring some exotic fragrance.

On to  the palm gardens!



I passed a young woman sitting on a bench in this more secluded area just reading a book. I think if I bring a book and just sit for a while I really could pretend this is my home. It would be a nice cool spot to enjoy this weekend when temperatures are supposed to be back in the 80s. Yes, you heard that right. 80 degrees Fahrenheit–in February.

Good thing I’m not holding my breath waiting for rain, right?

I think maybe next week we’ll take a little stroll through the Japanese garden.

DSC_2134I’ll plan to wear my sun hat!



34 thoughts on “Week Five: El Niño Report from the Huntington Botanical Gardens

  1. Indeed, the sun was very warm today, wasn’t it? Not a single cloud in the sky at times but the upper 30’s at night I can do without. There is very little blooming in my immediate neighborhood except for a few succulents. You did a wonderful job with your photos again, too!

    1. I’m with you on the low temps, Koji. I have gone to so much trouble to introduce more succulents into my landscape for water conservation, and then temperatures drop awfully close to freezing! I don’t want to lose the succulents to freeze! I think the weather gods are toying with us!

  2. We had temps in the 80’s this week (beach day! yay!) . . . but now the thermometer has dropped to BELOW average. It’s a brisk morning. No snow though. 😉

    I’m enjoying your tours of the gardens. Love the name of that lilac.

    1. I loved the “beach party” lilac, too, Nancy. Someone had fun naming that one! It was warm and beautiful today and I couldn’t help but enjoy it, even if I am looking for some rain. Only one thing is certain, and that is my worrying about the weather isn’t going to change it. I’m still going to keep my fingers crossed, though. 🙂

    1. Just a week ago our city was passing out filled sand bags, so I’m as confused as the weather! 🙂 I’m still keeping my fingers crossed and hoping we see significant rainfall. But this spike in temps has me worried just a bit!

    1. I have never lived where there are really defined seasons, Kate. I think that waiting for spring as you do would definitely create a strong sense of anticipation, but would also heighten the appreciation. Waiting six months for a rose to bloom sounds like such a long time, but I can imagine a real celebration and full appreciation when it does fully flower. I somehow think that’s quite exciting in itself!

      1. You put it so beautifully in writing. In reality I go bonkers when the winter is too long. Last year was a really long winter with a cold spring. We almost went from cold to hot summer. Many people appreciate the seasons but as I am getting older the colder weather gets more annoying. There is a beauty but it’s offset by the shoveling and travel conditions that affect the social life. You are right though. When the trees starting breaking out in green leaves, I am all about the snoopy dance.

  3. My mom had loved lilacs, growing up in Wisconsin. She always missed them… until she found a variety that grows successfully in southern California. Where I live now, lilacs in all shades of purple bloom all over town in early May. I always love to see this reminder of her when spring finally arrives here.

    1. I’m really going to be interested in seeing how this lilac bush blooms and whether it is truly fragrant. I think my only real connection to lilacs is when on rare occasions Trader Joe’s offers bouquets, and I am confident those lilacs weren’t grown in Southern California. I would love to see the variety of purples you describe, Lori. How magnificent! And what a sweet story about your mom’s love of lilacs. They really reminded her of “home,” didn’t they? What a lovely way to think of her each spring, Lori.

  4. Debra, you have really been exploring this venerable garden and enjoying each week of blooms and wonder, including the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Beautiful post.
    I love lilacs. We have to wait so long for them here and then they often fade in sudden heat or lose their blossoms to storms, BUT, even if just for a few days, they are such fragrant delights. It is exciting that you have a variety that will bloom in your zone. Go for it! We have a town nearby that is known for their lilac season. The scents of hundreds of bushes blooming is so heady over several weeks. Now, I’m getting excited for spring. 🙂 Can’t wait to see the Japanese Garden.
    Enjoy your weekend, Debra.

    1. Penny, I’m not at all familiar with lilacs. I have enjoyed them in a purchased bouquet, but I’ve never even thought of growing them myself as I’m sure they wouldn’t do well here. I’m going to really keep my eye on this “Beach Party” lilac bush and see if it is rewarding enough to track down! I’m very busy taking out plants that haven’t fared well for at least a couple of years. I don’t often give up on plants that have even a little life left in them, but I’m thinking it’s time to try a few new varieties and I’m almost eager to make room for them. I am intrigued at the idea of a town with so many lilacs that it’s known for that season. What a wonderful way to usher in spring. Let’s hope that little groundhog was correct earlier this week and spring is just around the corner. 🙂

  5. The garden is stunning, even in winter. I love the image of the path with the bright pink flowers edging it. The photos of the water features look very peaceful and serene. This looks like a lovely quiet place to sit and soak up the serenity xx

  6. The snow on the mountains and the heat-loving plants in the foreground are such a wonderful contrast, and those stocks are gorgeous! I bet they did smell good. A garden is the best place to be in hot weather, so hope you can find a shady bit next week if your heat continues!

    1. I spent most of my weekend working in my own garden, Cathy. I took advantage of some of the warmth to do some cleaning and cutting back and just continuing to get ready for spring. I really enjoyed “tidying” up a bit. 🙂

    1. I’m still waiting for that moisture, but the weather has been so beautiful I’m just enjoying it and hoping we come out okay on the other end…eventually! 🙂

  7. Your cotton lavender looked so much like our dandelion weeds, I Googled it:

    Cotton lavender has many potential uses. Most commonly, the flowers and leaves are made into a decoction used to expel intestinal parasites. An oil used in perfumery can also be extracted from the plant. Branches may be hung up in wardrobes to repel insects, and leaves are also suitable for use in pot pourri and in herbal tobacco substitutes. In cosmetics it is used as a tonic. Wikipedia

    You should definitely get some 🙂

    1. Wonderful research! Thank you. It’s really a very sweet little groundcover and it appears to be hardy! I think we’re seeing a variety of plants and small flowers that were previously overlooked, but because of needing more drought-tolerant plants that don’t require much attention, some of these pretty little things are coming at us as “new.” It could very easily be not much more than a weed and because of the pretty color, it’s quite charming. 🙂 So nice to hear from you, Linda!

  8. I loved wandering through these gardens with you – and would happily settle down with a book in a secluded corner.
    I don’t know that lilac – but have several here. Always a joy.
    I do hope that you get some gentle life-giving rain.

  9. Easy to see why the gardens would be so popular when entry is free. Even so, it’s nice to see so many taking advantage. With such a warm climate, it is understandable that parks like this, no matter how special, could be taken for granted. How I’d love to find a nice park bench now to sit and read for a few hours. I do hope you can find a suitable drought-resistant lilac for your yard. I’ve a lilac on one side of my yard and just as its blooms fade, the wisteria on the other side of the yard blooms. Between the 2, my yard smells wonderful for about a month every spring. It’s my favorite time of the year to enjoy my morning coffee in the yard.

  10. I’m really enjoying these weekly updates, Debra. The sight of so much sunshine, blue sky and colour as well as the mention of such warmth is very welcome in a cold, windy and rain-swept Britain. 🙂

  11. Yes, that’s a lovely thought…I could also pretend the gardens were mine for the day at least if I were cozy on the bench as well. At least we don’t have to worry about the maintenance and the cost for such lovely gardens. Happy pretending!

  12. Pingback: An unprovocative look at the birds and the bees…and other bits | breathelighter

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