By Bonnie Manion
Although we had below-average rainfall in Southern California in 2012 (due to La Nina, which tends to reduce our rainfall figures), we’re expecting to be slightly above average this year. The more that Southern California gardeners can reduce their water needs, the better. And we do it in various ways, from reducing lawn size to growing drought-tolerant and native plants that adapt well to dry spells.
The one big surprise of the year was the heat spike in late August through September. It is hard to manage your garden for a heat spike, but having adaptability with increasing your irrigation during these times is critical. Landscape and plants that can take the heat might suffer but usually will survive.
Our Syrah vineyard embraced this heat, as the grapes began to ripen and ready themselves for harvest. The heat was beneficial and increased the grape sugar content to the level we wanted.
I’d like to take you through some of the highlights of my garden in 2012. Perhaps you had the same experience in your garden too.
We experienced nice, adequate rains, which encouraged a blooming winter garden. My Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata, above) is always one of my first winter plants to bloom.
My first attempt at a winter vegetable garden was a success. I harvested fresh broccoli, cauliflower, beets, leeks and Swiss chard.
Our springtime was just as beautiful as our winter. I remember an unusual hot spell in the beginning of March. A spring garden tour highlighted a sensational combination of Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) and black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata).
Our summer was warm, which meant it was a good year for growing tomatoes. Sometimes our summers are cool and overcast the entire time. With an abundance of heirloom tomatoes, such as ‘Kellogg Breakfast’ (orange) and ‘Black Carbon’ (smoky), I made Insalata Caprese.
We had a beautiful Indian summer. We had many days of high heat and a record day of 99 degrees F on a surprising September 15. In the stifling heat I lost some of my established oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). This loss is prompting a possible new design using a more dense and heat-tolerant shrub, Texas privet (Ligustrum texanum).
Late fall into winter we had milder weather once again, which encouraged my 'Iceberg' roses to continue blooming.
Moving forward into 2013 we can’t always depend on consistent Southern California winter rains and mild temperatures. That’s why I plan to continue planting a drought-tolerant landscape, where plants are grouped according to their watering needs.