Not Quite Rain

P91116KMost of us here agree that the minimal bit of precipitation that fell from the sky on Thursday was not real rain. There are a few different theories about what it actually was though. It could be considered to have been drizzle. It alternatively could have been heavy fog or mist. Some of us make up silly names for what it was, such as fine rain, dusting, spritzes, sprinkles or mizzle.

Is it just me, or do those last three sound like inane kitten names? ‘Dusting’, sounds dirty and dry, which it was not.

Whatever it was, it was the second occurrence of such precipitation since the rainy season ended last spring. Something similar happened on the last day of September. I wrote about it in my other blog, with a picture of it on the hood of a parked car, rather than the windshield. I think it was more of a surprise then because it was earlier, and the chance of precipitation was slim.

This weather pattern is still within what would be considered normal here. The rainy season typically starts a bit earlier, even if with just a single primary storm passing through, followed by a long pause before more follow. There is no strict schedule though. We know that the rain will eventually start, and that rainy seasons that start late tend to provide significantly more rain.

Rain is likely just as uncomfortable here as it is everywhere else. Perhaps it is even dirtier, because it rinses off dust and crud that has been accumulating since spring. No one wants to work in their garden while it is wet. Nonetheless, because there is no rain for nearly half the year, the first storm of a season is something to be celebrated. The forecast predicts no celebration yet.

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Six on Saturday: Light Duty Autumn

 

Autumn is mild here. There has been no rain yet. None is in the forecast. Nights are only beginning to get cool. A thermometer outside claims that it has been cool enough for frost, although none has yet been observed. As pleasant as such mild weather is, it can be boring in the garden. The few deciduous trees that develop good color are only beginning to do so, and in no rush. Some chores that rely on chill or rain get delayed.

1. 32 degrees! Does this qualify as frost? This is the same thermometer that said it was 96 degrees last week. I do not believe everything it says, although cold is not as easy to fake as heat.P92202

2. Krispy Kritter had a bad day. It is not from frost though. This formerly exemplary Heavenly bamboo succumbed to warmth and aridity, . . . . and unintended disconnection of irrigation.P92202+

3. California buckeye defoliated through the warmth of summer, and should foliate for early winter, only to defoliate as winter gets cooler. I knock these big seeds out because they look silly.P92202++

4. African iris, Morea bicolor, got split early where it crowded a walkway. We did not want to plug it until the rain starts, so soaked it in a bucket of water, where the roots started growing!P92202+++

5. Mrs. Pollock zonal geranium, Pelargonium hortorum ‘Mrs. Pollock’, likewise needed to be pruned back prematurely. I was able to process cuttings from the scraps, and plug them directly.P92202++++

6. Such intricate variegation is genetically unstable. Mrs. Pollock zonal geranium often gets less variegated mutant growth that must be plucked. Well, . . . . I sort of plugged some as cuttings.P92202+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

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.

Pasadena Windstorm

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The weather in the parts of California that most of us are familiar with is generally rather mild. Some of the hottest temperatures every recorded were in the Mojave Desert, but not many of us even know how to get there. Some of the heaviest snowfall ever recorded was near Tahoe, but many of us think of that as almost Nevada. San Jose, Los Angeles and the most populous regions enjoy mostly comfortable weather throughout they year.
‘Drought’ is often an inaccurate description of the naturally prolonged dry chaparral and desert weather, as if it is abnormal. There would be no chaparral or desert if it rained here as much as it does in other climates. What is considered to be normal rainfall in some regions would be disastrous to regions that do not normally get so much precipitation. Drought does happen here sometimes, but it is not as common as outsiders believe it to be.
Once in a while, we get something that really is strange. The floods and mudslides of the Winter of 1982 were disastrous. The wicked frosts of late 1990 were the worst in recorded history, even though they would not have been much of a problem in most other climates farther inland. On the morning of December 1 in 2011, Pasadena and the surrounding regions of the San Gabriel Valley experienced historically strong and destructive winds.
When I went to Los Angeles shortly afterward, I was amazed to see that pieces of the glass facades of some of the skyscrapers had been stripped away. Thrashed fronds of queen palms hung limply as if a hurricane had gone through. My colleague got these startling pictures of destroyed Canary Island date palms, which are famously resilient to wind, in Leimert Park, about fifteen miles southwest of Pasadena.

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Summer Turns Up The Heat

90626thumbDoes the heat seem to have come on suddenly this year? There was all that rain through winter, then a quick but delightful spring, and now it is suddenly over a hundred degrees in some places! What happened?! There is certainly nothing abnormal about such warmth in the middle of June. It just comes as a surprise when it arrives so suddenly after such pleasantly mild spring weather.

At least warm weather here is not as dreadful as it is in other climates. It cools down a bit overnight. Humidity is typically (although not always) low. There is typically at least a bit of breeze by late afternoon, just after the worst of the warmth. We need not contend with the sort of dankly humid heat, that lasts all day and into the night without even a slight breeze, that so much of America gets.

Of course, that is no consolation now. By our standards, it is hot. Gardening is no fun, and some of it gets neglected. We become more aware of where shade trees should have been planted. We might also notice wilted or pallid plants that are not getting enough water. Pruning that was delayed while new spring growth matured may need to be delayed a bit longer, until the weather cools.

Unfortunately, the minimal humidity and occasional breezes that make the weather more comfortable for us make it more uncomfortable for the plants in the garden. Plants can realistically tolerate more heat than we can, but prefer it to be in conjunction with humidity. Otherwise, they can lose too much moisture to evapotransipiration (evaporation from foliar surfaces), and wilt or desiccate.

Automated irrigation obviously needs to be adjusted accordingly. Potted plants need more of an increase than those in the ground. Those that are overgrown, in hanging pots, or exposed to the typical evening breezes will be the most consumptive. It is not always easy to know how much they need, but one can be certain that if they are wilting, they need more than they have been getting.

Pots exposed to sunlight can get uncomfortably warm. If cascading or bushy growth does not shade the south sides, smaller potted plants can.

Six on Saturday: Willow

 

Rain is rare here so late in the season. It is also potentially damaging to some of the plants in the landscapes, and some of the latest of the spring flowers that are still blooming. Most of the deciduous plants are lush with new foliage on limber stems that are still adapting to the increased foliar weight. Foliage gets even heavier when it gets wet from rain. For the willows, the extra weight is enough to break limbs.

Willow limbs do not often break away cleanly. They instead split apart so that they fall slowly while still attached to the main tree. In the swampy conditions where they naturally grow, the broken but still attached limbs develop roots where they touch the ground, and then grow into new trees. Broken limbs are therefore not a problem for willows. Nonetheless, they are a problem in the landscapes.

1. This looks like mozzarella cheese being pulled apart. My great uncle used to bring some of the good Italian stuff when he came up from Long Beach for some of the Holidays. Oh my, how off topic!P90518

2. This is what it really was. Willow limbs are surprisingly weak this time of year. They don’t just break. They split apart. I should have gotten a picture of it before I cut it up.P90518+

3. It landed right across a walkway, where I could not put off breaking it apart and taking it away. With all the rain that caused it to break, the lawn was too swampy to walk around on.P90518++

4. It landed on this bench too, or at least the left half of it. With hundreds of acres of unused and unlandscaped forest out there, why must falling trees land in such inappropriate situations?P90518+++

5. All that mess was not even a full load. It just didn’t take up much space after it was all broken apart and loaded up. There was plenty of other willow to cut later in the day, and for the next few days.P90518++++

6. Willow! My niece named him. I knew better than to argue. I never liked the name though. I and almost everyone but my niece knew him as Bill, which is short for Willow. My friend Steven knew him as William.WILLOW

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

If Mushrooms Could Fly

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If mushrooms could fly, they might look like this. Doesn’t it look like it is ready for take off? Maybe it looks like it is dressed up as a ghost for Halloween. I thought it looks something like the flying nun. Regardless of what it looks like, it was so weird that I took its picture.

I can not explain why it is in this weird position. It appeared just as the weather was warming up, and most of the earlier mushrooms were already gone or deteriorating. Perhaps the upper surface dried out a bit in the sunlight, and tightened up on the lower surface that remained more hydrated. Since I did not go back after getting this picture, I do not know what it did afterward, or how long it lasted. Perhaps it really did fly away!

This mushroom was just a few yards from where I got the picture of those associated with oak root rot fungus, Armillaria mellea,which many of us know as honey fungus. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/12/02/the-humongous-fungus-among-us/ Those mushrooms grew and deteriorated back in December. The other five types of mushrooms that I got pictures of to post along with a later picture of the oak root rot fungus mushrooms for a ‘Six on Saturday’ post were found just a few more yards away in another direction. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/12/29/six-on-saturday-shrooms/ They did their thing later in December, but still a few months ago.

There are always some sort of mushrooms out and about in riparian environments closer to the creeks and streams. They are just not as abundant now as they were during the rainy weather late in winter. Those out in drier and warmer spots that do not get watered regularly do not often develop so late into spring. They seem to know how to exploit the favorable weather.

Way Beyond Last Frost Date

90410thumbScheduling of gardening chores is as important now as it ever was. We plant warm season vegetables and annuals in time for spring and summer. We plant cool season vegetables and annuals for autumn and winter. We pick flowers as they bloom. We harvest fruits and vegetables as they ripen. We watch the seasons change on our calendars, as well as in the locally specific weather.

Yet, the one scheduling tool that we do not hear as much about as we did when agriculture was more common in the region is the ‘last frost date’. It refers to the average date of the last potentially damaging frost for a specific region. The last of such frosts might actually be earlier or later, but the last frost date remains a standardized time to plan particular procedures and planting around.

There are likely a few reasons why we do not talk about the last frost date much. The most relevant reason is likely the timing. Around here, the last frost date is sometime in January. It is earlier in some spots, and later in others, but it is sometime between January 1 and 30. It is simply too early to limit much of what we do in the garden in early spring, and is irrelevant to most winter chores.

It might seem to be just as irrelevant now, since the last frost was so long ago. Seed for warm season vegetables and annuals is sown as the weather gets warmer only because it would grow too slowly while the weather is too cool in winter, not because of a threat of frost. There really is quite a bit of time between the last frost and warm spring weather, while the weather is still rather cool.

However, pruning of plants that were damaged by frost should have been delayed at least until after the last frost date, and perhaps as late as spring. Although unsightly, damaged growth shelters inner growth from subsequent frost. Besides, premature pruning stimulates new growth that is more sensitive to subsequent frost. Most of such pruning is delayed until just after the last frost date.

If delayed longer, fresh new growth will show how far back damaged stems must get pruned.

Splat!

P90310There are a few consequences to all this excellent rain. Gutters are flooding. Trees are falling. Mud is sliding. As much as we should be grateful for what we are getting while we are getting it, it is getting rather old. Clear and sunny weather that is forecast after today will be a welcome relief from all this muddy sogginess.
Almost all of the flowering cherries have somehow postponed bloom. It has not been unusually cold. It is as if the trees somehow know better than to bloom while so much unusually heavy rain is falling. Otherwise, they might have bloomed only briefly before the blossoms got knocked off. The buds are so fat that I expect they will begin to bloom by the middle of the week.
Only one flowering cherry that always blooms significantly earlier than the others bloomed on time, and is already finished. Considering how heavy the rain was during that time, the light duty bloom actually lasted impressively well.
Daffodils tried to delay their bloom as well; but some could wait no longer. Many were not bothered by the heavy rain. Others were knocked flat, and needed to be propped with small hoop stakes. Only some of those that were planted late in the planting season kept their buds closed this late.
I should be pleased that these hyacinth bloomed at all this year. They are the sort of bulbs that bloom only once in their first year, but then do not get sufficient chill in winter to bloom again. They must be in a cold spot. Unfortunately, it is also a shady spot. The floral stems stretched so much in the shade that they were easily knocked down by the heavy rain. Now they lay there like they have fallen and can’t get up.

Looks Like Rain

P90202KSupposedly, all this rain has not been too terribly excessive. It seems to have been raining more frequently than it normally does, with only a few days without rain in between, and more often, many consecutive days of rain. The rain also seems to be heavier than it normally is. Yet, the total rainfall is not too much more than what is average for this time of year, and well within a normal range.
The volleyball court at Felton Covered Bridge Park looks more like a water polo court at the moment. The pair of ducks out of focus on the far side seem to dig it. The water is not as turbulent at it is the San Lorenzo River where they live.
Speaking of the San Lorenzo River, it has been flowing very well and at a relatively continuous rate. It came up high only for a short while. None of the heaviest downpours lasted long enough to keep it very high for very long. The ivied log laying in the river in the middle of the picture below was an upright cottonwood tree only recently, but fell into the river as many riverbank cottonwoods do when the ground is softened by rain and higher water.P90202K+
When things get as soggy as they are now, this great blue heron strolls the lawn at Felton Covered Bridge Park, probably because the San Lorenzo River is too turbulent, and also because the worms that live in the lawn come to the surface as the lawn gets saturated. He or she is never in a hurry, but just strolls about slowly, occasionally prodding the muddy soil. However, when it wants to move fast, it is quick enough to catch small frogs. Supposedly, this great blue heron caught and ATE a small gopher!P90202K++