Sunday, December 18, 2011


A week before Christmas.  I walked out in the garden to cut some roses and to get a photo of this amazing nativity I bought last week.  I love this piece because it is made of simple natural materials.  I also love the story of the woman who made it, who spends her holidays roaming the beaches of California's central coast looking for small pebbles that remind her of the Coming of the Christ Child.  Even so, may we all seek Him this season.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Garden cover- tree shade

Nearly 15 years ago I started my vision for the side yard shady garden.  In 1997 we planted two Chinese tallow trees.  I had researched small shade trees for several years and these seemed to be the going choice.  Little did we know the drawbacks...
However, my idea for the garden was two larger trees that would create something of a ceiling over the side yard, giving us shade in which to garden.  Apparently it is working.  After a week of 28 degree nights my nasturtiums are still alive!  My pot of impatiens has frosted back, but otherwise there seems to be very little frost damage.  How that may affect plants that prefer a cold winter, I am not sure, and won't be until summer.  But it is interesting to see the results of an idea I had so many years ago.  Of course I would probably do it differently now, but in spite of all their weak points I still like the tallow trees. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reading the weather

We awoke this morning to lowering skies and temps 10 degrees higher than the past week.  My weather report said rain, Jerry's did not.  But one thing we know, if the mountains stand clear, with clouds above, those are rain clouds.  When the mountains are obscured as they were today, there is no rain. 
I love how we learn to read the weather; whether by experience or teaching we seem to learn to understand our environment.  I recall an early favorite memory of running across a field into the brisk fall breeze.  Did I know at age five that the crispness meant fall?  Was I learning from that experience or just enjoying it?  This past fall in Ohio, Nathan noticed the rising breeze with apprehension.  He has learned the wind means tornado, through frightful experience.  My attempts to persuade him the wind is wonderful, and let's pretend to be kites, or birds, or planes, were met with incredulity.  Crazy meema, wind is tornado weather. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Clear means cold

All week we have woken to 28 degrees.  We get that cold when it is clear in the valley.  So with the cold comes gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada.  Also with the cold comes much work for citrus farmers who must be up all night running their smokers and wind machines trying to keep their trees warm.  Here at home Jerry hangs a work light in the middle of the orange tree and turns on a dribble of water underneath.  The moving water makes the air just a tad warmer. 
The benefit of the cold is that many other plants, especially the stone fruit and nuts, along with the garden plants peony and lilac, just to name a few, need cold hours in order to bloom and fruit the following season.  It is interesting to follow the cold at the Pomology Weather Service  .  There is information on various plants saying how many cold hours under a certain temperature each needs for optimal performance.  800 is sort of a minimal general number. 
I love living where so many different things grow, with such varying needs, yet all succeed. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hydrangeas for fall color

 Since we love the fall color of the oakleaf hydrangea above, it was fun to see the new paniculata , below, colors up as well.  The macrophylla is still green, so not sure what it is going to do.   

Saturday, December 3, 2011

California Christmas tree

I was thinking the other day that if the folk who live in cold dark places had not been the ones who brought our Christmas traditions, especially the needled evergreen tree, we might instead have these for our Christmas celebration.  As seen from our garden room windows, we certainly enjoy ours each winter.