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NEWSFLASH!!! Rain in Los Angeles!

by germinatrix | October 13th, 2009

I interrupt the regularly scheduled blog post … well, okay – we know I don’t schedule regular blog posts in the best of times, and I have been a little scattered in my posting as of late – but whatever … you know what I mean!


can you see the rain? it's that vertical smudging- nobody said it was dramatic!

can you see the rain? it's that vertical smudging- nobody said it was dramatic!

You in other, less drought-ridden parts of the country might be thinking something like “What’s the big deal, Germinatrix? Water from the sky – it happens everyday somewhere in the world …” Well- for your information, it hasn’t happened here in Los Angeles in any measurable amount since February. Think about this when you’re gardening; how would your habits as a gardener change if there was NO water falling from the sky and ALL the water your garden drank during the prime growing season was from supplemental irrigation?

succulents in the rain! all pink and glisten-y!

succulents in the rain! all pink and glisten-y!

Hopefully, you’d plant in a drought tolerant, unthirsty fashion. But no – many of my neighbors have lawns and hydrangeas and hybrid teas. One thing that happens to everyone here in SoCal is that we go mad when the rain falls, and today was no exception. I’m sure the people driving by my house an hour ago (I live on a pretty busy street) were wondering what the hell the sweaty woman (I’d just returned from Bikram Yoga) was doing running around in the rain taking pictures of wet plants with a silly grin on her face. Smiling like a proud Mama, like I was personally responsible for the rain!

my wonderful sexy curvy minion-made bench, getting drenched

my wonderful sexy curvy minion-made bench, getting drenched

After I took photos and got even wetter than I already was, I made my way to the side of my house and turned off my irrigation. Yes – I do have an automatic sprinkler system. I have to! For the first eight years of hardcore gardening I hand watered everything, and basically refused to travel (I can’t tell you how many housesitters SAID they watered, but what they really did was give the plants a cursory sprinkle the day we returned. I lost ALOT of plants during those years! And subsequently didn’t go anywhere for more than 2 days). When I realized that I was limiting myself and my garden, I invested in a good system. It was a wise choice. I only irrigate every third day, for approx 3 minutes tops per zone. I am free, and my garden isn’t over or under watered! But those years of hand watering were incredibly valuable – different plants respond to watering in different ways.  For instance … I don’t know why, but I could never keep a Kangaroo Paw alive until I put in an automated system. I think there is something about regular, small amounts of water that seem to benefit Anigozanthus more than the customary deep watering done once in a blue moon. I wonder if others have noticed similar water quirkiness in their gardens? If so, do TELL!!!

look! a sky necklace made of spiderweb and raindrops!

look! a sky necklace made of spiderweb and raindrops!

The rain is now stopped, but tonight is supposed to be torrential … FUN! We have a standing seam metal roof, and the rain pounding down on it sounds like a drum line! I love it! I can’t wait to hear the first drum solo of the fall season…

more rain jewels, this time adorning a Euphorbia 'Blackbird'. sigh. the beauty!

more rain jewels, this time adorning a Euphorbia 'Blackbird'. sigh. the beauty!

I can’t get my hopes up, though – the rainy season isn’t here yet. October can get REALLY hot, and the Santa Anas have just started. But this little bit of water from the heavens sure did quench a thirst, for me as well as my garden. Even though the first rainy day of the season always gives me a terrible sinus headache, I am happy at seeing the earth soaking up the wetness, I am elated when I breath in deeply of the ozone-scented air, and I can barely keep my tongue off the concrete (licking wet sidewalks was a childhood compulsion that often rears it’s head. I control myself, but the impulse is there…)

Happy Rain Day, everybody – wherever you are, whatever the weather!

16 Responses to “NEWSFLASH!!! Rain in Los Angeles!”

  1. What beautiful photos – especially the spider web! My spider webs are blown to bits right now (some from the wind, some from my shoe – yes, I hate spiders even though they’re a gardener’s friend, and knock them down when they’re close to face-level..)

    Even my poor banana plant has blown over, but it’s so worth it, isn’t it? Any rain is good rain – even when it comes down all at once!

    Enjoy this beautiful day!

  2. Yes, we do go crazy in the rain. I ran out to take pictures in between rains and have enjoyed the sound on my tin garage roof. Ah, the sheer joy!! Good photos and great post.

  3. We, my dear Germi, are floating here in the northern part of the state. Heavy duty storm…and I’ve yet to step foot out the door.
    The blustery atmosphere makes me sleepy. When the internet goes down, and the power threatens to go out, as well, I feel like curling up in many layers, waiting for it to pass. I know how much clean-up awaits outside the door. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Sigh….
    yours in green growing flora,

  4. Yea for rain! Germi, I’m intrigued by your every 3rd day, light-watering regimen. That’s the opposite of what we’re encouraged to do here in Austin: fewer, deeper waterings. In fact, all this summer and even now we’re under watering restrictions that allow homeowners to irrigate only once a week with automatic or hose-end sprinklers, including soaker hoses. Hand watering is allowed anytime, but of course one can’t do a whole garden that way. Not and still have a life anyway. So drought-tolerant plants are definitely the way to go here too.

    Do you have any watering restrictions in L.A., or is it a free-for-all? It must be if people are still growing hydrangeas and lawns and you don’t get rain for six months in the summer.

    Your dry-climate gardening friend, Pam

  5. Wow…congratulations on the downfall! The whole west coast is a big storm right now isn’t it? Crazy! Beautiful pictures!

    I really enjoy the hand-watering that I do during our dry couple of months in Portland but I definitely feel the pull to stay home when it is hot. Someday I may have to invest in a system too…

  6. Hi Ivette, and…

    ….”All Hail Tlaloc”

    I am so happy that you finally got some of the reviving wet stuff.

    I cannot believe how much we have received in Austin as of late. It seems like we have mutated from desert-like conditions to the rain forest climate, all in under a month! I am not sure if this is good for the plants or not, I am having a lot of “flopping” going on, especially with Amaranth and Mexican Bush Sage. But hey, I am not one to complain considering how much of a moisture crunch we have been in / continue to be in. Wet is the best! (is that a Doors song?).

    I loved the shot of the watery sky necklace, what is the tree in the background of this shot?..Curious.

    I have also been running around like a maniac as well, with my buckets, pans / everything but the kitchen sink containers that I have cunningly situated under my gutters, to capture this liquid-gold. Like yourself I must also look bizarre running around in the rain with buckets and cameras. I even caught myself recently dumping out buckets of water, adorning my Ugg slippers the other day! I was that excited!

    I know now, and have totally embraced the fact, that I am officially a completely insane gardener. The big gardening white van will take me away soon enough.

    Adorning my finest semi-white gardening straight jacket,

  7. Sky necklace, I love that description on an amazing photo. We get more rain than LA, but I was still excited when the rain started in earnest yesterday. It seems like rainwater refreshes the garden in a way my hand watering efforts just don’t. I don’t have an automatic system, but our weather here at least allows us to travel in all seasons, except for summer. Good enough.

  8. Great post and very cool pics! Dig the “Sky Necklace” & the Euphorbia both. Most of San Jose got off fairly easy, even though 2.2 inches of rain almost qualifies as a typhoon around here. Creeks swelling, standing water on roadways, wind-blown debris everywhere, but we never lost power (at least on my side of town). You won’t catch me licking sidewalks, but I can’t get enough of that morning after the storm clean air.

  9. My SWEET Rebecca! You got handed quite a WHALLOP! Your poor banana … but I agree with you – any rain in these parts is good rain right now, and a blown over plant creates an opportunity! One has to look at the half full side of the glass in these cases!
    The rain wasn’t as dramatic down here as it was for you NoCal types, but last night was a downpour. Just wonderful! But my spiderweb necklace is no more, sigh!
    I have a friend who makes beautiful paintings in collaboration with spiders. She finds webs, sprays them with paint, and lays them on colorful paper. Just beautiful! But I understand if you might not think so … spiders have a way of putting the ‘creep’ in ‘creepy’! XO!

    Hi Marey Delle! We were doing the exact same thing at the exact same time! The reason we chose a metal roof for our house was to get that fabulous sound (well, that and it is a bitchin cool roof) of the rain coming down – even though it would only happen a few months out of the year. And it was worth it! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – it was a great surprise to wake up to rain, wasn’t it? High Five!

    Tendril! Don’t float away! What would we do without you?
    I LOVE the cool, rainy weather – I ADORE that sleepy, cozy, turn off the world and knit type of feeling! It is so weird that I chose to live in the part of the world that gives me the least opportunity to be cozy than practically any other place I could live! But I hear you – the clean up is how we pay the price. I have sycamore branches and palm fronds all over the place. But I’ll think about that tomorrow – today, I KNIT!!!
    XO my dear!

    Pam the Wonderful! Hi! Yes, we are indeed the tough, the brave, the drought tolerant! Yes, we have water restrictions in LA County that were imposed in June of this year, but I’ve been watering that way for 5 years, so it was no big deal for me. We can only use automatic irrigation on Mondays and Thursdays, but we can hand water every day as long as we don’t do it between 9am and 4pm.
    This is a big issue in another way, though – a big part of my business is installing brand new drought tolerant gardens, and as we know – in the heat of the summer, newly installed plants MUST be watered daily until they are acclimatized to their new ‘digs’. I’ve spoken to public affairs people at DWP, and while they have no official rule about regarding newly installed drought tolerant plantings, every fine is given on a case by case basis, and so if there is a good reason for using water differently than the restrictions demand, it will be considered. We have had no problems so far … knock on wood!
    As for me, I was astonished that the more frequent small waterings actually made my garden happier than the customary deep waterings. I think it has something to do with giving plants in a dry climate a little ambient humidity, and that most of the plants I use are fairly shallow rooted. It does go against conventional wisdom. I also think drip irrigation doesn’t work as well for us as it does in other parts of the country.
    Hmmm… is there a post here somewhere? I think so! Thanks for the great question – I think it is so interesting to explore the way our climates create different conditions and habits for gardeners! Always great to chat with my pal from my spiritual home!

    Loree! Doll! Are you floating away, too? I am so glad we got to share in the wealth this time – so often those of us in the tail end of the West Coast get nothing! But here I am, listening to the musical rain!
    If it gets drier, some type of irrigation system is great. It gives you flexibility! For anyone who loves to garden, but ALSO loves to travel, it is a real lifesaver. And it doesn’t automatically make you a water-hog … you can program it to whatever you need. I am an advocate, my dear! XO!

    ESP, you brought the rain back from Scotland with you! Your posts have been STUNNING!
    Hail Tlaloc indeed!
    So now Austin is in a feast or famine water cycle, is it? Plants get so luxurious when the big spigot in the sky finally turns on – like they immediately become lazy opium addicts, laying down and dreaming and not caring if they get stepped on every so often, cuz it feels SO GOOD to be lush and wet! And if ‘Wet is the Best’ ISN’T a Doors song, it SHOULD be!
    The tree behind the Watery Sky Necklace (I WANT one for REAL!) is a Pittosporum undulatum, or Victorian Box. It is a total weed, but it has the most intoxicatingly fragrant spring flowers that I can’t bring myself to get rid of it – that and it hides my neighbor! The seeds are VERY messy – so it’s best planted way in the background where the sticky pods won’t bother anyone (other than to turn into MORE sticky seeded trees!)
    I am very fond of your Jerry Rigged (as opposed to Jerry Springer) Catch Basin System, and love the image of you running around, straight jacket belts flapping in the breeze, dumping water hither and yon. The rain brings out the crazy in we, the most fanatical of gardeners; those of us who are so into it we have to write about it when we aren’t DOING it!
    So I’ll probably be in that white van with you – I just hope my straight jacket has a faux-fur vest component … maybe I can commission your daughter to do up a design?
    Yours maniacally!

    HI Megan! How have you been! Gosh, I’ve missed everyone! You know, I have noticed the same thing – rain seems to be BETTER WATER than any other kind! I’ll bet most gardeners will say the same (of course, there are those know-it-alls that’ll say no … there always has to be a naysayer!). Thank goodness your climate allows for both travel AND a hand watered garden – that was a dream I woke up from here in dry as a bone Southern California! XO!

  10. Jean Prescott says:

    Ah, Germi, you are so funny! I cannot imagine a summer not filled with rain. Where I am, the humidity is high enough to make it seem as if it’s raining when it isn’t…like trying to breath underwater or, at the very least, through a wet washcloth. So happy for your “angel’s tears.” Enjoy!

  11. Yay! so happy for all you Los Angelenos.
    Not only do all the living things in your area need the water but I’ve noticed on my recent visits that the whole city could use a good rinse. Can you imagine how long it’s been since everything had the dust and grimy stuff washed off of it? It’s a shame that most of it goes right into the gutter and out to sea…but one thing at a time. And today it’s a cause for celebration.

  12. Is that Kalanchoe beharensis in the first picture? So big, so fine! Was it that big when you got it? I’ve always admired that plant but when I saw the Very Large container specimens around the pool at the Chateau Marmont I knew I needed to possess some for myself. But alas I bought very small specimens and they grow slowly. Maybe I should fertilize them or something.

    So interesting about the regular, light watering vs. the infrequent deep soaking and the drip vs. sprinkler. Your humidity idea sounds reasonable. But then people say humidity breeds fungal problems, so whatever. Everyone has an opinion (I do not). We are told to drip only here, never sprinkle, but sprinkling happens and sprinkled gardens often look very good.

    People don’t realize drip lines get clogged or go off in some other way, or need to have the emitter lines moved around from time to time as the feeder roots grow…

    I hand water in my tiny garden, a little bit every few days, a can here and a can there. Vegetables get watered every day or every other day. But if I ever get something bigger, I’ll need a different system.

  13. I’m not surprised to hear that something likes little frequent waterings. Infrequent deep waterings may be the conventional wisdom, but there’s got to be somewhere in the world that it doesn’t work that way, right? I guess you just have to know your plants and experiment.

    Re: rain is better water – we have a lot of theories about why that is; my mom will water year round but after a rain, her desert garden just leaps to life. My grandfather, a farmer, used to insist that lightning helps fix nitrogen. Mom thinks the water is polluted in her area, but we in Houston have polluted air, too, and the rain *still* seems to perk up everything better than the sprinklers. My own theory is that ground water contains more salts and minerals and stuff. Something’s building up in frequently irrigated soil that doesn’t do the plants any good.

  14. Oh, Expat, I now know all about the kind of humidity you’re talking about! In Merida, breathing is like drinking soup! Here it is dry, dry, dry – and on our few humid days everyone complains about their hair. A little humidity is a good thing – maybe not for anything that gets blackspot or is prone to mildew … but a little moisture in the air is freshening! Right? It’s funny, now it’s hot again, and things look FAB – Angel’s Tears are MAGIC!!!

    Chuck B!!! Hi! You are right – that beautiful fuzzy plant in the first pic is Kalanchoe beharensis, and it is one of my most beloved plants! I have 3 of them, and they are all getting pretty big – but I have a friend who has a HUGE multi-branched one! The most beautiful one I’ve ever seen, and I covet it like nobody’s business. The ones at The Chateau are amazing, right? They DO grow fairly slowly, but fertilizing does help – although the bronze color along the edge tends to get lost when the soil is rich. But you can always make it grow, and then starve it a little to get it all colorful! Is that some form of torture?
    I was a die hard drip irrigator for years, but it was so problematic for me and for many clients. Also, the fact that the surface of the soil never gets wet impedes the formation of roots on groundcover plants, and the self-seeding of volunteers (which I love) – so I became disillusioned. I love my sprinkler system. No flushing the lines, no chewed up tubing (critters love the easy access to water) and volunteers galore! But Drip does have it’s place – when you are irrigating an area that shouldn’t have overspray, like near a big window on a very modern house, or to establish shrubbery along a perimeter planting. I’m not a TOTAL anti- drip fanatic!
    I enjoyed hand watering … it made me a better plantsperson. You develop a very close relationship when you are directly responsible for their lifeblood! It’s a wonderful way to spend time; very meditative. I’ll bet you love it!

    Hi Summer ! I understand why deep waterings are the standard, but the more I gardened I saw that two ore three shorter waterings seemed to benefit my garden more than one very long one. I should do more research to really understand why this may be, but I’ve been encouraging clients to water the same way, and things are smashing!
    I wonder if the shallow rooted drought tolerant perennials have a limit of the amount of water they can take up at any one time? Trees and shrubs are supposed to be encouraged to develop a deeper, stronger root system by having the deep infrequent waterings – but there are so many other plants in the modern garden. Maybe the prevailing water wisdom has to change a little?
    I like your theory about our water vs rain water – maybe chlorine is the culprit! Or flouride!

  15. such a beautiful spider web further enhanced by droplets of water. Nature at its best… ~bangchik

  16. regular small amounts of irrigation? OH GAWD. maybe that’s what’s wrong with my garden. I’m the only waterer and i am fickle. my ignorance abounds, yet, i learn so much from you, oh wise germinatrix.