Nature vs. Nurture: A Garden in Flux

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea (Water just once a week)

I’m gradually turning our garden into a more sustainable oasis. Instead of nurturing the English garden of my dreams, I’m letting nature do the talking. I’ve learned a lot from four years of drought.

We’re no longer watering our lawn, allowing nature to takes its course. I met with a landscape designer a few weeks ago and he’s putting together a design for native perennials. I’m envisioning a small meadow that attracts native birds and insects.

Last week I submitted an application to the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Water Conservation Unit. It will take five to seven weeks to process a one page request, but so it goes with many government agencies. That in turn will generate a lengthy packet of materials to complete, and only then can we proceed (if we want to receive a rebate). As the drought drags on, the rebates increased. Original rebates offered seventy-five cents per square foot. They’ve now increased to $2 per square foot for:

converting high water using landscape (i.e. irrigated turf or functional swimming pool) to low water using landscape. These increases are temporary, through December 31, 2015, and certain restrictions apply

Our back lawn is 370 square feet. If approved we’ll receive a $740 rebate. The front lawn is a bit larger so all told, getting this approval will put a nice dent in the conversion costs. With or without the rebate, we’re going forward with the plans.

In addition to converting the lawn into native landscaping, I’m no longer filling pots with annuals. We have three large pots on the deck that receive irrigation from a drip line. Everything that was hand-watered is gone or replaced with succulents that get by on virtually no water at all.

red succulent

Potted Succulents

Welcome to the Garden

Late yesterday, just before sitting down to write my fairy garden post, I received an out-of-the-blue package from my friend Kristi. Along with her lovely note she sent these charming fairy garden treasures.  I wasted no time adding them to the garden. I adore that little sign!

fairy garden welcome to the garden sign

New Welcome to the Garden Sign

I tucked the new hammock among the soft greenery. It’s the perfect napping place and makes me wish I was Thumbelina. Thank you, Kristi!

fairy garden hammock

The napping place

fairy garden sign and hammock

Fairy Garden Vignette

All or Nothing: Rain in San Jose

rain on the street

Over worked storm drains send rain water down the street (that’s our curb garden on the left)

San Jose received about six inches of rain last year, marking year three of our drought. A more typical rainfall averages 12 – 18 inches annually. With that in mind, you can appreciate how welcome our recent storms have been. Unfortunately, the past 24 hours brought rain in the other extreme. Here’s what Accuweather had to say:

A Flash Flood Watch and a High Wind Warning are in effect for the San Francisco – Coastal North Bay including San José. Moderate to heavy rainfall and high winds are expected with flash flooding possible across northern California.

mid day rainfall

Mid-day rainfall

The public should closely monitor weather forecasts and take precautions. Driving conditions may be very poor at times during this severe storm.

stranded car

Stranded car. Police on the scene, help on the way

Several area schools closed for the day and we were all encouraged to stay home if we could. My husband worked from home and to my relief they cancelled a business dinner in the city due to power failures and flooded streets. I’m glad he is close to home on a night like this.

A few of the storm drains on our street backed up for a few hours, but otherwise it’s been okay. The North Bay, about two hours from here, took the brunt of the storm which continues till early Friday morning. It’s been an interesting day.

Downed trees and power lines are the biggest safety risk in storms like this. I learned something new today as well. After several years of drought, large trees shrink their roots in an effort to conserve water. When heavy rains hit all at once, trees are at greater risk of falling. I never knew.

This beautiful pine tree shades our garden year round and provides shelter and exercise for the squirrels. The tree grows in our neighbor’s yard at the corner of our shared fence. An arborist thinned the tree canopy just three weeks ago. At the same time they declared the tree healthy and in sound condition. What a relief.

pine tree pruning

Neighboring Pine Tree Gets a Trim

Californian’s enjoy moderate weather year round, so this is a big deal for us. Other parts of the country experience heavy snowfall, tornadoes, hurricanes and bitter cold. We simply suffer the occasional heat wave and of late, this confounding drought.

My hope is that the rest of the Bay Area weathers the storm as well as we have, and that we can appreciate this gift of moisture for our rain-parched state.

Wherever your are, I hope you’re safe, warm and dry. Cheers to you.

Drizzle, Fizzle

Our ‘chance of rain’ was a tiny drizzle in the middle of the night. San Jose saw 0.01″ in the past 24 hours.  No puddle splashing for me today.

On the bright side, the garden looks refreshed.  The fog, mist and drizzle freshened up the foliage so that’s something.

Here’s what I saw on my morning rounds.

I mentioned a random bulb growing out of the bottom of the vegetable bed last week.  The lovely Narcissus made her debut yesterday.

narcissus

Narcissus

I need to prune this four-in-one fruit tree but I’ve been putting it off. It’s grown tall so I need a ladder. Two years ago I fell off the ladder trying to cover the tree with netting, and I’ve been nervous about it ever since.

fruit tree buds

Raindrops on tree buds

I see little blueberry buds. Sweet!

Blueberry buds

Blueberry buds

Succulents need very little water. I haven’t watered these plants in months.

Flowering succulent

Flowering succulent

Silver drops

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass [as if], it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Vivian Greene