[gardeners] Early onset to fall in an L.A. Garden

Ron Hay (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Wed, 11 Oct 2000 08:53:12 -0700

Good morning, friends,

Our weather, locally, has been a virtual roller coaster of late.
September and October are traditionally our hottest months.

Well, September started out in fits and starts, with drizzle and a bit
of rain (almost unheard of at that time of year!), and then the
temperature skyrocketed to the low 100s for the better part of a week,
only to plunge again, during the last week, in a rain shower. Our garden
didn't know quite how to react.

Then, there was light rain last week, and again last night in many areas
of the basin, but not in Van Nuys. The snow level was even down to 6500'
and the Northern Sierra got quite a bit more than a mere dusting; and
last night, here, we had a low of 52.

All this is frustrating many plants for which this is supposed to be
prime time: our pomagranate has 3 lovely ripening fruit, but they are
not getting any larger. Three may not seem like many, but the tree has
been in the ground since April of last year and has tripled in height
and leaf/branch volume, so most of its energy is concentrating on

Our Bearss limes, which are just heavenly sweet/tart and seedless, have
begun to ripen and fall to the ground, but in numbers far smaller than
was the case last year. And the rest of the citrus (especially the nice
crop of Mandarins) is maturing very slowly.

The Fuyu persimmon, on the other hand, has about 50 lovely fruit, more
than three times as many as last year's crop, and are even ripening
early, due, no doubt, to the hot (!) late summer.

Nectarine and apricot are beginning to show traces of yellow in their
leaves, and soon the persimmon will turn color....or only tree to do so
in our yard. Only liquidambers really put on a display in our climate.

But the artichokes! They are coming back for yet another round, either 7
or 8; I have lost track. No buds yet, but the plants are shooting up
again, and will probably fruit by February.

The tomatoes, aside from the Yellow Pear, which are now up to eye level
(just under 6'), continue to churn out fruit. And our surprise
eggplants! When we planted our first garden in '98, we had ordered a
variety of different veggies from
Burpee, among which was the Purple Rain eggplant, which we enjoyed and
then put the scraps and excess seeds into our compost bin...and therein
hangs the tale. During midsummer, we saw newcomers sprouting in among
the tomatoes and basil, which turned out to be about a dozen eggplant
seedlings. Those seedlings have turned into producing beautifully formed
Purple Rains! I can hardly wait to harvest them, grill the slices and
enjoy them with pomegranate molasses, chopped walnuts and garlic!

Among the non-edibles, the Persian fall crocuses are in bloom, very
beautifully, as are the Birds of Paradise, Princess Flower, ivy
geraniums and the Mexican Sage. The Mexican Sage has turned out to be
one of the glories of our yard. The plants are now taller than I am,
with foot-long purple sprays of flowers, and are overtopping our garden
wall, in their thirst for sunlight.

We have had many successes and a couple of failures in the back yard: we
lost a red abutilon and a purple hibiscus, for reasons known only to
God. They were glorious during the spring, then, suddenly, irrevocably,
croaked. What a pity!

In our front yard, Mac (our macadamia) has tripled its leaf/branch
volume and is beginning its fourth growth spurt of the year.

Our bearded irises (irides?) are in full bloom, once again, now that we
have pursuaded our "gardener" not to trim the leaves down as he does
with the neighboring fortnight lillies.

Along the east border of our lawn we hav planted a yellow and a purple
butterfly bush, interspersed with Mexican sage, all of which are in full
bloom right now.

Our callas, both in the back and front yards, are growing mightily and
will probably flower by January. Our amaryllises have grown enormously
and have multiplied.

Oh, and our poor Australian tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia)! The cold
northerly winds which have whipped up snow in our local mountans, have
ripped off the growing tip of one of the major stems. Our little
antipodean buddy had grown so rapidly during the month or so that it has
been in the ground, that most was green wood and had not yet firmed up
into hardwood. But it will recover! I can hardly wait to have our own
source of tea tree oil, nature's fungicide, bactericide, and all around
blessing for the human skin!

On the west side of our front yard, the roses are regrowing, after
having been fried last month. Diana, Princess of Wales, our latest
addition, is growing beautifully, and will be a true joy next year. I
attibute our magnificent roses this  year to our "discovery" of Vigaro
Rose food. Wow! A couple of our roses grew from foot-high stubs in the
rainy season, to 6-footers over the course of the season. Amazing!

And, finally, on the east side of our garage, our Poincianas and
Dianthus are a maze of color, with my cloned Mexican Sage blooming to
beat the band. We are still trying to beat back the Acanthus, which
stubbornly refuses to give up, even though we pulled it up in the
interests of more color. Vincas are a delight, as well, with hundreds of
new seedlings competing for space with the impatiens and alyssum, which
have migrated to that portion of the yard.

Now, before I head in to the office, I will juice out a few cups of
juice from our passion fruit (which I forgot to mention), for use in
jello and in a spice cake. With the crop we will have this year, I
purchased a Passion Fruit cookbook (yes, there actually is such a
creature!), at the last meeting of our Rare Fruit Growers group.

Well, gang, it's onwards and upwards, and will get an escrow closed
tomorrow. I am so glad, for all of our sakes, that the escrow is in the
next county, because today 47,000 L.A. County employees are out on
strike...and no escrows can close until the strike is settled, which
will hang  up thousands of realtors like me....and their client.

Happy gardening to you all, and enjoy the warm fall sunshine on your