Mediterranean Climate Is Something Special

90925thumbThe climate here is pretty cool, at least in winter. Right now, it is pleasantly warm. It does not often get uncomfortably cold or hot, and when it does, it does not stay like that for too long. In between the warmest days of summer, the nights typically cool off nicely. In between the coolest nights of winter, the days typically warm up nicely. Humidity is normally minimal. Rain is adequate in season.

We have here what is known as a ‘Mediterranean’ climate. Obviously, it is similar to many climates of the Mediterranean Basin. Beyond the Mediterranean region, there are not many other places in the World that enjoy such reliably temperate weather. Most of such places are in southern and southwestern Australia, the Western Cape of South Africa, central Chile, and evidently, right here.

This particular region of Mediterranean climate is quite large, and extends into northern Baja California. Native plants know how to live here, and many of those that are adaptable to landscapes and home gardens can survive quite nicely with little or no irrigation. Some exotic (non-native) plants want climates with more warmth in summer, more chill in winter, or more rain through the year.

The best, as well as the worst, exotic plant species for local landscapes are those that are native to other Mediterranean climates.

The worst are those that are so happy in the local climate that they naturalize and become invasive to native ecosystems. Without pathogens or competing species that inhibited their proliferation within their respective native ranges, many naturalized species are detrimentally aggressive in ecosystems that they invade. Pampas grass, broom and Acacia dealbata are familiar examples.

The best exotics are not so threatening. Australian fuchsia, kangaroo paw, coprosma, westringia, bottle brush, grevillea, dracaena palm and eucalyptus originated from Australia. Lemon verbena, mayten and some salvias are from Chile. African iris, lily-of-the-Nile, bird-of-Paradise and all of the aloes came from South Africa. Olive, oleander, cistus, and all the lavenders are Mediterranean.

Krispy Kritter

P80715KThis really is the best climate here. Winters are just cool enough for many plants that require a bit of a chill, but not unpleasantly cold. Summers are just warm enough for most plants that need warmth, but the weather does not stay too unpleasantly hot for too long. Warm weather here typically lasts no more than a week, and is accompanied by light evening breezes and cooler nights. Minimal humidity typically makes the worst of the heat a bit more tolerable.
While much of North America and parts of Europe were experiencing abnormally and uncomfortably warm weather earlier in summer, our weather somehow stayed relatively mild. For a while, it was significantly warmer in Portland than here. It certainly was nothing to complain about. Vegetable plants that crave warmth were not too inhibited by the mild weather. Flowers that typically deteriorate in warm and arid summer weather lasted a bit longer than expected.
Then the weather changed. It did not get too unseasonable warm. In fact, the weather merely did what is typical for this time of year. The problem was that it happened so suddenly. The weather went from pleasantly mild and somewhat humid, to more seasonably warm and arid overnight. Flowers faded and warm season annuals wanted for more water.
The worst of it was that exposed foliage of some plants got roasted. English laurel and rhododendron were particularly susceptible Because we had no way of anticipating the sudden change of weather, we had just shorn a large hedge of English laurel, just in time for the warm weather to cook the freshly exposed inner foliage.
At about the same time, new plants were being installed into a small newly landscaped area. The transition from the cool and comfortable nursery on the coast to the warm and arid landscape where they were surrounded by black groundcloth (prior to the installation of chips) was too much of a shock for some of them. We could not water them enough to prevent some of the foliage from desiccating.
This crispy barberry is fortunately not as dead as it seems to be. Only the outer foliage is roasted. The stems and buds do not seem to be damaged. It will probably foliate again before defoliating in autumn. Even if it induces premature dormancy, it should recover as next winter ends.
Nonetheless, such damage on new plants is disconcerting.


My Internship Was NOT In Australia

P80106Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were the hip and trendy places to do internships in horticulture back in the late 1980s. Everyone who was anyone was doing it; which is sort of why I was not that interested in doing what everyone else was doing already, even if I could have afforded to go to any of those exotic places. I did my internship in Saratoga.

All I knew about Australia was Olivia Newton John, Helen Reddy, eucalyptus trees, and that it is the place where summer goes when it leaves here.

Since writing online and learning a bit more about horticulture in Australia, I incidentally found that Australia is stranger than I would have imagined.

There are no Pontiacs in Australia! Seriously! When someone asked about what to do with a surplus of peaches that were too overripe and squishy to can, I suggested that they get thrown at the neighbor’s Pontiac. It was such a fun tradition among kids in the Santa Clara Valley back in the 1970s. I did not expect to be taken seriously; but I did not expect to be informed that there are no Pontiacs there! How totally primitive! I did not even ask about Buicks. If they lack Buicks, I REALLY do not want to know about it. I did happen to ask if cars were driven on the left side of the road, which they are; not that it matters. Without Pontiacs, who cares?P80106+

Then there are these terrifying animals known as wallabies! They look like humongous rats! They come out early in the morning and again in the evening, when their victims are most vulnerable. They always stare at whomever is taking their picture, as if plotting revenge. They aim their ears too, in order to hear everything that is being said. They are watching and listening right now!P80106++

The middle of Australia is known as the Red Center, which sounds rather like Oklahoma. Uluru is a huge red rock at the center of the Red Center. It really is the color of Oklahoma, and sort of shaped like the 1979 Pontiac Bonneville in the other picture above. You should have seen the pictures that another blogger posted of this fascinating place, and nearby places! The geology alone is fascinating, and mixed with it are all sorts of eucalyptus trees just growing wild. I mean wild, as in they are native there; not exotic like they are here. It is weird to see them out in their natural environments, like valley oaks and coast live oaks here. Wallabies do not seem to bother them much. Most of Australia seems rather flat. There are not many high mountains, and they are not really all that high.P80106+++

Queenslander is an architectural style developed for the climate of Australia. It is named for the northeastern state of Queensland; so has nothing to do with slandering an unpopular queen. I did not know that it was all that different from the Ranch architecture that is common here until someone explained that the homes are up off the ground to allow for air circulation underneath. Some are up high enough for another story to fit below. I suppose that the lower floor could either be at ground level, or elevated as well. Unlike Ranch architecture, Queenslander can be either one or two stories. Also, they tend to be somewhat bisymmetrical, with the front door and steps in the middle, and the left side matching the right side. Some have extra rooms, such as a solarium, on one side. Porches extend at least across the fronts of the homes. Many extend around the sides as well. Simple Queenslander homes tend to be rather square, with only four sides. Their roofs are also rather square, sloping toward all four sides, instead of just sloping to the front and back like roofs of common Ranch architecture often do. One advantage over Ranch architecture is the hood over the steps to the porch. It diverts rain to the sides if there are no gutters. Queenslander homes do not seem to have prominent garages visible from the front, perhaps because Australians lack Pontiacs or other cars that are worth showing off.P80106++++

Australia is less populous than California is, and almost everyone lives near the coast. That is something that I was sort of aware of. What I did not know is that there are FIVE cities that are more populous than San Jose! BOTH Melbourne AND Sydney are more populous than Los Angeles! How are there enough people left over to live anywhere else? Adelaide is one of the five major cities, and also has a climate remarkably similar to that of San Jose. It even sort of looks like San Jose, with the East Hills in the background. It does not look as big as San Jose though. Adelaide seems to be a bit more centralized, with more high density development, and less urban sprawl. This might be a result of a lack of Pontiacs or other nice cars to drive to suburban areas. Perhaps people just prefer to live closer to town because wallabies live on the outskirts. Queenslander homes seem to be on suburban parcels that are probably on the outskirts, but they are also outfitted with those distinctive fences.