I have to admit that when I left for a trip two weeks ago during yet another heat wave here in Southern California I was wondering if I would ever find the passion for working in my gardens that I have always had, again. Talking to other gardeners confirmed I wasn't the only one.
A walk through the gardens at that time showed that what the heat hadn't ravaged, the insects had damaged. The heat loving natives pretty much just shut down in the summer and wait for cooler weather. The succulents, although alive, look a bit boring in the hot sun without any complimenting plants. Drought conditions make watering a guilt-ridden activity and so everything just gets enough to survive but not enough to thrive. Nothing new had been added in a while and as plants died off as they do, bare spots were left bare. Summer annuals never went in because it was just too hot and they used too much water so nooks and crannies that usually were filled with charm and sweet smelling annuals were naked all summer. Pots were left empty that usually housed annuals.
Most of the summer was spent in the house with the air conditioner on and the doors and windows shut, something I can't ever remember doing. Our Laguna House without any air conditioning sat empty waiting for a cool-down before we would even consider spending a night there.
But as is always the case, eventually fall arrives and with the shorter days come the cooler temperatures and upon arriving back home after two weeks away I was so happy to walk through the garden this morning and see signs of what the cooler months ahead had in store. The azaleas are already starting to bloom and the 'Yuletide' camellias that I planted in the Gravel Garden last year (and immediately regretted, why would I ever plant a red flower?) even looked cheerful and made me happy.
Roses and iris that struggled all summer perked up and looked nice and healthy. Chrysanthemums were flopping over with heavy blooms, a fine problem to have! Graceful Japanese anemones had obviously been blooming for a while and had grown immensely since last year.
'Frequent Violet' Iris
The sunlight is so lovely the way it comes across the sky and through the trees and lights the garden in October. The temperatures are just perfect for working in the garden and taking care of all those issues that cropped up over the long hot summer that it is hard to believe that there was ever any doubt in my mind that there would be any place else I would rather be than in my garden this time of year. It's good to be back!
Although there are some pretty pathetic looking scenarios this fall in the garden, there are also some happy ones. This is my little lemon tree that I wrote about last spring. It was suffering from a long list of bugs and diseases and looked very sad. I think I only got one lemon from this tree since last April. But after cutting back the damaged foliage, I fertilized it with an organic fertilizer, gave it long, deep soaks all summer and hosed it down every once in a while and now it is rewarding me with tons of sweet, sweet blooms that fill the air with their lovely fragrance, on top of an already abundant young crop of lemons with not a bug or yellow leaf in sight. No pesticides or insecticides were necessary, just some nutrients, a lot of sunshine, some thoughtful watering and maybe a little love!
Our weather continues to be unusually hot and humid. Days where the temperatures hit the 90's are not unusual for October for us, but they are usually accompanied by dry Santa Ana winds, not high clouds and humidity and they don't go on for weeks at a time. We are becoming addicted to air conditioning and rarely head out to the yards because there are no enticing breezes at all to lure us to visit.
I must admit I've been feeling terrible about how the fall months are slipping by, usually the best months to get things done in the gardens, without much being accomplished, until I talk to other gardeners and they share the same sentiment. I'm not the only one with bare ground where there once were lush beds. Other than the professionally kept up affluent grounds that are planted only in heat and drought loving plants, almost everyone is feeling the pain of the drought and high temperatures. The ocean fishing has been exceptionally good this year, which usually means there will be a wet winter. Let's hope that holds true. I am at least thankful for the shade trees in the back yard. It at least looks cool. The Mexican sage that I planted last year doesn't seem too bothered by the weather, but it is a stand alone oasis of color in an otherwise sad looking garden bed. I must admit I have been seriously considering tearing all the flower beds out and replacing everything with a tall fescue that would not need mowing. Kind of just make the back yard a wild field of abandon. But.. maybe I should wait and see how I feel next spring.