Winter in my Southern California Garden

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Winter is my second favorite time of the year in my Southern California garden. It can’t beat spring, because it is just…well, it’s spring! Spring is cool mornings and warm breezes and an explosion of growth and color and texture and it’s all just magical.

But winter does not follow far behind in my esteem. Winter holds the promise of spring. And while we may have a night or two with temperatures plunging below freezing, and I may lose a plant or two as a result, there are still things growing out there, telling us all that if we wait just a few more weeks the world will suddenly be resplendent.

Sometimes anticipation is sweeter than fulfillment.

52 weeks
52 Weeks in the California Garden by Robert Smaus

It’s usually about this time of year that I pick up my Garden Bible. I found this book at a garage sale about three years ago. I paid exactly $1 for it. Of all the books I own, this one is probably the most valuable and has given me the biggest bang for my buck. My one buck. It‘s written by the garden editor of the Los Angeles Times, and it simply lays out, week by week, what gardeners in California should be doing in their little patches of earth. It lists chores, what to plant and when to plant it. It offers clear advice on what grows well here, and why. It is a book that has helped me become more methodical in my gardening, and the results show.

Care to take a little tour?

BACKYARD

My backyard is a concrete jungle, save for a small strip of dirt. I decided there wasn’t any reason that tiny patch couldn’t be an awesome veggie garden – and it is! Especially in winter, when it’s not so scorching and dry. I’ve got it on a drip irrigation system so I just pretty much let it do it’s thing. I’ve stapled nursery flats along the bottom, because my neighbor’s pit bull, Skittles, likes to dig. Right now, I’ve got mint, Brussels sprouts, kale, rainbow chard, broccoli and cauliflower growing out there. There’s also some volunteer lettuce peaking up through cracks, from the lettuce I let go to seed in the summer.

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FRONT YARD

Most of the gardening at my house happens in the front yard, out of necessity. I’m a big advocate of growing edibles in the front yard, and try to choose those that are most ornamental. These spring peas are awfully pretty crawling up a spherical trellis Hubs picked up for me from a garage sale (garage sales are garden goldmines!).

Delicate - and prolific - spring peas grow well in winter
Delicate – and prolific – spring peas grow well in winter

January is the month to plant bare-root roses in California. It is also the month they start to wake up. I only have four bushes – one of them miniature – but they provide just enough blooms to collect for a twee little burst of color on my desk.

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The last blaze of sunset glory
The last blaze of sunset glory
A tiny, pink, miniature rose
A tiny, pink, miniature rose

January is also the month where succulents take center stage. I have several varieties in my garden, due to the ease of propagation and their drought-tolerant lifestyle. Many of them are coming into bloom now, including the aloe and the ice plant. I’m not even sure what this little guy is – again, I bought it at a garage sale – but it sure is pretty!

IMG_0845Many of the perennials are dormant in January, but there are one or two that are coming alive, such as this gorgeous canna lily, which boasts the most colorful leaves in my garden. Later in the year it will bloom with a magnificent and soft orange flower.

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Last, but not least, we can’t forget about the birds! I have a few feeders and birdhouses in my garden, as well as not one, not two, but THREE birdbaths. I finally got around to cleaning them and filling them with fresh water yesterday. I can’t wait for the birds to discover them. Watching them play in the water always brings a smile to my face. And in this particular birdbath, they have a turtle friend. He’s very shiny and colorful and came from the dollar store!

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I hope this helps those of you who may be experiencing the winter blahs right now. And if you’re in my neighborhood, stop by for a garden respite! I’ll make you some kale chips!

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