It has been a wet El Niño winter in Northern California this year, which is a good thing after three years of draught. The reservoirs are full, and we will have more rain between now and the middle of June when our summer actually begins. Right now we are in our annual mid-March warm spell. The rains stopped last weekend, and our weather changed from wet and windy low 50s to clear blue skies and days in the mid-70s. With the warming, flowers and predators have both appeared.
Crawling predators like ladybugs have been out and about for several weeks, as the aphids and thrips they feed on will hatch while nights are still cool. But flying killers such as the Darning Needle above (actually a kind of damsel fly, 2″ long) only transform from their nymph stage and start to hunt when flying prey species are available and those in turn don’t show up until warmer nights mark the true start of spring. Seeing these aerial assassins is as good a sign as any that the danger of frost is past, and it is time to put in the vegetable garden.
Warmer days and nights have also given a jump start to flowering plants such as these Cyclamen, that nattered along through our winter but are now suddenly in their full glory.
Come summer, heat will drive them dormant and they’ll get shuffled to the back of the display until cooler weather returns. The Alyssum bulbs at lower right are showing leaves, as they recover from their winter spent dark, dry and dormant in the garage, and hopefully they will start to bloom in another couple of weeks.
In the porch planter box winter Primula (on sale, 99 cents each) that greeted visitors alone since New Years have been joined by resurgent spearmint, recovering from its own dormancy with tender new and fragrant leaves. With warmer weather the Primula will fade and likely die, but the mint will grow steady and strong until Thanksgiving.
While my variegated Camellia bloomed early this year, the solid pink variety held on and just now has broken out. These blooms are five inches across, and will last for another three or four weeks.
I’ll be getting my veggies in this week or next before the rains return, and I’ll post on that along with my backyard native plants renovation project. Stay tuned; the excitement here never ends.