The anguish of spring

Emily Green has a great turn of phrase for her blog post today which I have repeated as mine, since I like it so much apropos of our need for more spring rain. Anticipation of rain could be considered a form of anguish, could it not?  Weather forecasters have been warning of rain for a couple days, so it's not as if this is breaking news, but her post is worth the quick read for a quote by Luis Bunuel and nice link to NOAA.

When you've read her Bunuel quote, come back here and see the rest of it:

I remember one agonizingly dry year when the population of the
neighboring town of Castelceras organized a procession called a rogativa,
led by the priests, to beg the heavens for just one small shower.
When the appointed morning arrived, a mass of clouds appeared
suddenly and hung darkly over the village. The procession seemed
irrelevant; but, true to form, the clouds dispersed before it was over.
When the blistering sun reappeared, a gang of ruffians retaliated.
They snatched the statue of the Virgin from her pedestal at the head
of the procession, and as they ran across the bridge, they threw her
into the Guadalope River.

The bottom line is that we have one last chance of rain next week, so I may have to revise my estimate of how far the storm door has swung closed.

Incidentally, I don't see too many TV news weather forecasters that appear joyous when rain is in the forecast.  Then again, I don't watch much TV.


Garden Tea Party/native plant sale/garden tours at Madrona Marsh Apr 3

I'd like to check this out.

Garden Tea Party/native plant sale/garden tours at Madrona Marsh on Sat. April 3 from noon to 3:00 p.m.   This is a fun event with lots going on.  So plan to come and see what's happening and meet others with a shared passion for native plants.   The plant sale features local native plants at reasonable prices.  Most plants are 1-gal (for $6.00) but there will also be some annuals and grasses in smaller sizes (at $3.00)  To whet your appetite, here are some of the native plants that will be for sale that day:
Native Vines
Island Morning-glory - Calystegia macrostegia
Virgin's Bower - Clematis ligusticifolia
Purple Honeysuckle - Lonicera hispidula
Canyon Pea - Lathyrus vestitus
S. CA Wild Grape - Vitis girdiana
Island Species
Island Morning-glory - Calystegia macrostegia
Catalina Snapdragon - Gambelia speciosa
Southern Island Mallow - Lavatera assurgentiflora


LA County victory garden initiative

There's a new victory garden and a new blog coming to a town near you.

The UC Cooperative Extension is revving up a blog and their first post is to offer gardening classes at 10 places around Los Angeles in an effort to revitalize the victory garden. They note a recent sharp rise in food gardening and the recession as drivers for the classes and it appears that there's plans for regular gardening circles to let people kibbutz and trade produce.

This is the one near me:
 Lawndale Library
  Training will be held March 27, April 10, 17 and 24, from 10 am to 1 pm.
  To register or for more information contact Kris Lauritson, klor5 at aol com, or (310) 890-1460

There's more information here about the victory garden intiative which appears to be state wide, so look for one near you!


The storm door is closed

Or so says chuck b. over at My Back 40 (Feet). I've been thinking the same thing myself this whole last week, and particularly as I watered and weeded in my yard on Sunday. Oops - I think that I expected gloomier weather to give my lettuce a bigger break and it's wilted to the point of being unrecoverable.  The long term forecast agrees with us too - no rain 10 days out, which takes us nearly to the end of March. The chances of further rainfall go down dramatically in April and May.  So, at risk of being wrong (which has never stopped me before) I'll post some "final" rainfall statistics. Of course, it ain't over 'till the fat lady sings - some time in April or May is when we have our last (and low) expectation for rain this season. If we do get more rain, I'll have to post an update.

Contrary to seeming widespread perception, the overall assessment of this rainy season in the Los Angeles area is only "somewhat above average", assuming we have no more rain.  Maybe people are mentally comparing to the last few years, which have been on the lower side of rainfall (see the graph above).  However, this year, total rainfall in my backyard is 13.70" which doesn't qualify as exceptional.

Here's why: In nearby Los Angeles median rainfall is 10.24" and there is a 50% chance of having between 8.21 and 14.94 inches of annual rainfall*. There's a 25% chance of having less than 8.21" or more than 14.94".  These numbers are close to what I expect in my backyard.  Therefore, if we get no more rain this season, we'll end up in the big fat middle of the annual rainfall pack, somewhat above median (which is pleasing), but not enough to go down in any history book as remarkable.

17 Mar update
Bad Mom pointed out via email that there's a high pressure zone blocking incoming storm systems off the coast of northern California which you can visualize using sea level pressure maps located here, showing millibar of pressure.  She notes that 1032 mb (updated link shows 1034 mb) is quite high and comments on the Aleutian low to its west.

*I think I have reported different numbers before, but today I realized that I had a small error in my analysis. The important point is the same - that there's a wide span of typical annual rainfall.


I've got my tickets

See the South Coast chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Saturday, April 17, 2010
9:00 AM or 1:00 PM

16th Annual Spring Garden Tour
Tour Leaders:
Ric Dykzeul and Tony Baker, professional landscape consultants and designers

The tour features two unique estate size gardens in the City of Rolling Hills:

1) The Scharffenberger Garden is an experience you will not forget!

* California Native Plant Garden
* Mediterranean Garden
* Formal perennial garden complet wiht a Bocce Ball court
* Low water plantings ans practices

2) The Johnson Garden is known for its dramatic coastline view and plantings!

* Blend of Mediterranean and native plantings
* Ornamental grasses and succulents used extensively
* Hillside plantings and pathways
* Views of the fire-damaged land conservancy area showing the resilience of native plants

Ric Dykzeul and Tony Baker will lead the tour, discussing the plant material and answering questions. The tour will take approximately two and a half hours. Don't forget your cameras and note pads!

Reservations: 310-629-0500
Donation: $20 members, $25 non-members
Location: Map will be provided with purchase

The number of participants is limited for your enjoyment. Rain will cancel. Tickets are non-refundable.

Peak water in Cyprus

Here's an interesting water-related story from the BBC. Turns out that on certain islands, the concept of peak water (similar to peak oil) is testable. The BBC asserts that Cyprus appears to have reached peak water.


Rain 0.12"; season total13.70"

It was supposed to wetter this weekend. Oh well. I used some extra time on Sunday in the clear weather to hike up George F. Canyon. I've blogged about it before, though at that time I thought F. was a middle initial and Canyon a last name, leading to George F. Canyon Canyon similar to Joe F. Smith Canyon.

I'll post more later about that hike, the main goal of which was to take some photos for What's Invasive.

I wouldn't say I've had the fervor of an evangelist for What's Invasive, but I've posted here and on a native plant newsgroup and there seems to be at least a passing interest in it.



No, I haven't left the caps lock key on.

NBII LIFE is the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Library of Images from the Environment (LIFE), a collaborative effort to make diverse, high-quality images (photographs, illustrations, and graphics) of the environment freely available for research and other nonprofit uses. This is an outreach effort by the Smithsonian Institution who have a more extensive plants database at http://botany.si.edu/PlantImages.

Another (sometimes parallel) source of images is the USDA's PLANTS database. Whereas LIFE includes everything in categories of animals through weather, PLANTS focuses on plants, of course.


Ready to go live with What's Invasive!

I've written about What's Invasive! recently.

Briefly, it is an iDevice application (iPhone and Android are currently supported) that is used for mapping invasive plants. Users send geo-referenced photos to a server that provides community confirmation of identification and a map of confirmed locations. This type of map is useful for wildlands and green space management.

After a brief learning process spread over several days I've managed to get the Palos Verdes Peninsula database up and running. It ought to be live any time now pending some finalization that takes place on the server side by teh site administrator. There are at present only four invasive plants that are being tracked, but that's not a limit that we're stuck with, it's just what I felt was appropriate to start.

The most recent newcomer to on the invasives list is Terracina Spurge (Euphorbia terracina). The other three are Anise (Foeniculum vulgare), Castorbean (Ricinus communis), and Giant Reed (Arundo donax). I don't know that there's any A. donax, but I do know that the others are possibly the most common of any plant in the PV wilds. A chart accompanying the following link cites 60+ acres of a 200 acre fire area dominated solely by F. vulgare. In fact, they are considered the dominant invasive plant by the PV Peninsula Land Conservancy.:

The dominant non-native species within the grassland community of the Reserve are wild oats (Avena fatua), black mustard (Brassica nigra), short pod mustard (Hirschfeldia incana), and sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Non-native tree stands were also present along the main trails and hilltops. Non-native acacia (Acacia cyclops), eucalyptus and pine species are also dominant in the pre-fire vegetation communities of the Reserve.

Eventually the plants list ought to expand to include all the above plants.