In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February, 2012
Regional Report

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No winter gloom with hardenbergia's tiny, bright purple, sweet-pea-type blooms!

Blooming In My Garden Now

I had hoped, with last November's early and significant rain, that we'd have a moister and cooler winter, giving the garden a good rest and replenishment. But our continued warmth and dryness has meant that trees and flowers are blooming sooner than I ever remember, and cool-season crops are surging ahead. We're now four inches short of our average rainfall amount, with none promised for two weeks ahead.

I love having plentiful salads, including those silly sweet peppers that always bear more plentifully for me during winter months. However, I do really appreciate their color and sweet freshness more now than I would have during summer with all those tomatoes!

Our easy-peel, sweet Satsuma mandarins still bear heavily -- though in alternate years, as is their pattern since I was a child. I understand from the researchers at the University of California Riverside Citrus Collection that alternate bearing is normal. Although we as home orchardists can try to dissuade this propensity by removing at least half of the fruits at the beginning of their heavy-set years, I'm so "starved" for their goodness that I can't bear to do so beyond what the tree naturally drops. Same with my persimmons. Maybe I can train my newly-planted Gold Nugget mandarin to be alternate to the Satsuma!

I can't believe that I actually just planted two new citrus trees -- the 'Gold Nugget' mandarin and a 'Midnight Seedless Valencia'. Generally, we shouldn't plant citrus until late April or May. But with the extended warmth, finding two beautiful five-gallon size trees, the prospect of no cooling for several weeks, and the corroboration of a citrus-expert friend, I did plant them. That probably mean we'll now get a chill and rain -- just like when you wait to wash your car, and then right after you do, it rains!

During past gloomy winter days, I've looked forward to several January and February bloomers in my garden to brighten the dreariness, notably hardenbergia, with its string of delicate mini-sweet-pea shaped blossoms with their striking lime green spot in the center.

But this year, there's even more color now, including some early starters due to the warmth, including alstroemeria, calendula, California poppies, crinum, nasturtium, sweet peas, veronica, and sweet-smelling violets.

Bulbs just finishing include galanthus, nerine, and paperwhites. Starting are chasmanthe, with the taller, 3-branch yellow variety coming first, followed by the shorter, single-stalk red-orange variety.

Bulbine's bright lemon-yellow color intriguingly creeps up its flower stalk over almost nine-months' time, elongating its way from six inches at first bloom now to 30 inches by the time it quits in late December.

My several color variations of shrimp plants (Justicia brandegeeana) are finally looking pretty ratty, so I'll trim them back. But my Brazilian plume flower (Jacobinia carnea) is just starting its yellow volcanic "eruptions."

And the euphorbia in pots are going crazy in various pinks, reds, yellows, and speckles. To say nothing of all those succulents whose brilliant coloration and bloomstalks are due to the winter's cooler weather and low-angle sun. Glorious!

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