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SHARING SECRETS: Rain Revelations

Puya Alpestris.  Photo Attribution: Stickpen.San Diego Botanic Garden

Edited by Tina Ivany.

Have there been any surprises in your garden after all the rains this year? For example, are there plants in your garden that you thought were dead, but have sprung back to life?

Charlotte Getz (92024): My sweet peas are still blooming and looked better than ever this year because of the periodic rains, which kept the vines moist. Now that it is warming up, the vines are starting to dwindle. My grevilleas and leucadendrons have never looked better. They are all blooming and quite prolific.

Susan Starr: My garden looks so healthy after the rain. I did lose some succulents to bad drainage, but everything else is thriving. The biggest surprise was my camellias. They must be 30 years old by now, but have grown very slowly. This year I fertilized them as usual in May. Now, OMG, there is so much new growth. Probably as much in one season as I've seen in the last five. Amazing what rainwater will do.

Deborah Young: I think the biggest surprise (or maybe simply sadness?) is that my sandy soil just doesn’t hold water no matter how much mulch gets added. A week after rain, it’s dry, dry, dry.

Red Bottlebrush

Linda Canada (University City, 92122): I have a pretty drought-tolerant back yard and for the last 2-3 years, I did not get any "blossoms" on my red bottle bush. This year - WOW! I forgot how pretty they can be. I had lots of hairy red decorations on my tree, which is about 8 feet tall, and has been in place for about 25 years.

Cheri and Chuck Pryatel: I was surprised how well our aloe and agave plants actually did with all the rain. I thought they might die from too much water, but instead they thrived, pupped, and bloomed. They are very resilient... wet or dry 😊

Verbena Bonariensis.  Photo attribution: Frank Wouters. [Flickr, CC BY 2.0]

Sharon Lee (Solana Beach): Verbena bonariensis, a tall, elegant beauty that had disappeared for several years, is back abundantly. Wonderful!

Mollie Allan: Yes! I thought I had entirely eradicated a bank of Pride of Madeira but it is now back in several clumps. 😐

Stephen Zolezzi: Two things:

One---should be no surprise but I seem to be growing a large selection of WEEDS---things I have never seen before with roots that speak Chinese---now if I could get the plants I plant to grow the same we would have to move out.

Two---though the rains are a gift to be appreciated, a number of really nice plants that I thought would be OK drowned due to poor drainage. Even with all the organic amendments over the years, I must remember to keep replenishing the soil or all that’s left will be concrete----a gardener’s work is never done!

<name in italics> Paulownia Tomentosa.

Chris Drayer: I have a Paulownia (AKA Empress) tree that barely clung to life all through last year's drought, clearly missing its native China’s temperate climate. It looked so sad that last fall I decided to cut it down to 4’ of trunk, in hopes that it might re-sprout and produce the beautiful 1’ wide leaves again. I scratched the bark several times over the winter and there was no sign of life. Meanwhile other plants grew over and obscured the trunk from view. Suddenly, about April, a dozen vigorous sprouts popped through the vegetation, and they are now 8’ tall with giant leaves, some measuring 14” across. Thank you rain gods!

Susi Torre-Bueno: Some of my flowering trees are producing more blooms than ever before, and I credit the 18+ inches of rain we got here in Vista. Also, my Puya alpestris (see photo at top) is blooming for the first time since I planted it 11 years ago, but that might be more an in-the-ground-long-enough thing than an extra rain thing. My apricot tree has fruit for the first time in 11 years, but maybe that's because the hawks and coyotes ate enough rats that they're not getting at the fruit. No matter - I'm happy!

Charles Fouquette: So many plants have surprised us with what rain can do. For example, our Sapphire Tower, Puya alpestris (called Puya berteroana in our Sunset Western book, photo at top), has the most spikes ever—15. I have been inviting anyone walking by to come down our front path to look at the spectacular flowers. Sunset’s photo does not do it justice. We bought it years ago in a 1 gallon pot for $8.00 at Quail Gardens (now San Diego Botanic Garden).

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