Week Four: El Niño Report from the Huntington Botanical Gardens

Rain is coming tomorrow. That’s what the very excited meteorologists and weather anchors are gleefully reporting. And Jay has been up in Oakland all week helping our son and daughter-in-law with a large project, working around rain in the Northern California Bay Area.  They have agreed to send it on to us down here.

But here’s my Thursday view from the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. It doesn’t look like rain is coming, does it?


For some of you buried under winter’s snow all this talk of “where’s the rain” may seem a little overblown. I understand that and get a little self-conscious some times.

What may be worth mentioning is that Californians are under a constant information barrage regarding the El Niño implications . In my lifetime I have never before been made so aware of snowpack levels and how the snow water content is going to affect whether we pull out of the drought.

snowpack photo

These totals do not include the current storm, so perhaps we will move closer to the 150% scientists say we need as our minimum. It’s too soon for us to feel the effects in Southern California, but last weekend our city offered filled sandbags to residents–once again, that’s never happened.

So I suppose we’ll sit tight for now and just see what happens. But meanwhile, there are a few things at home requiring focus.  How is Darwin handling the weather shifts?

We had him all tucked away in a nice warm home with a spotlight for added warmth, but then the temperatures spiked into the low 80’s and he escaped. Now he’s nestled under a hibiscus bush close to the water heater. He’s too large for me to move, so with “Ironman” Jay not home to help, I placed a large umbrella up against his hibiscus den, added more timothy hay and then tarped it. He’s 15 feet from his warmer den if he chooses to move.

Until we have wet and rainy conditions, I’ll continue to make the most of outdoor time. This week I took two active little girls to the Huntington and suggested we pretend we live there.


It’s been a long time since I have spent any significant time in Henry and Arabella Hungtington’s home, but this week we used their lawn to practice cartwheels.

By “we,” I mean Karina and Sophia. They asked me if I thought I could do a cart-wheel. I assured them I could–but also added it would result in injury. They took advantage of some lovely space and a warm afternoon.

We were much later in the afternoon than I normally visit. The fading light was a different garden experience.


We didn’t go too deep into the gardens, but made a game out of finding interesting seed pods and flowering trees.

We found a stunner!


This “Pink Ball Tree,” (Dombeya wallichii) is native to South Africa and Madagascar, but it was sure full of pink flowers–and bees, here in Southern California.


The tree was absolutely loaded with these gorgeous pink flowers. I would like to continue to monitor this tree’s flower cycle.

We also found this beautiful Staghorn fern (Platycerium). I’d love to know its age.

I love the name of this green, leafy plant: Monstera delicious, or Swiss Cheese Plant.



This Australian tree is called “Lilly Pilly,” or Acmena smithii. We agreed that Lilly Pilly was a wonderfully playful name for a tree with purple-pink berries.



And speaking of unusual berries, this Ficus auriculata, originally from India, is very intriguing. The trunk is covered in unusual berry clusters.

Thursday was a beautifully warm day, just inviting outdoor play and discovery. But today, the sky is definitely getting darker and I can feel the storm coming. I think I’d better go check on Mr. Darwin and see if he’s staying put or making his way back to his warmer den.

This series of posts is following Jude’s Winter Garden Challenge. To follow along and perhaps add photos of your own winter garden experience, click HERE. You would definitely enjoy visiting gorgeous gardens on Jude’s site. Do visit HERE.