Grace Under Pressure


This is about as basic as it gets, squirting water out of a garden hose. Very inefficient and ineffective, yet I grab a hose practically every day, however briefly, to at least water the pots and new plantings. And as a quick spritzer sometimes to humidify the air. And sometimes just for the sheer goofy pleasure of it. Hummingbirds have been known to compound the delight by flying into the spray for dazzling aerial baths. The photo was taken sometime last spring, in that interval after the smoke tree ‘Grace’ leafs out but before the tropical Euphorbia cotinifolia, whose bare twigs are in the mid right foreground, that array of antlers over my head. Probably sometime in late March/April. (Possibly we were lubing the weather vane cockerel and the camera was brought along for the ride.)


Back to me in the bathrobe. The goldeny blur under Grace is a duranta. To its left is/was my beloved Euphorbia ceratocarpa (RIP) which succumbed in fall, though I may have found a seedling. It’s too soon to tell, but there are three cuttings in sand, yet to root. It is that rarest of euphorbs, one that does not throw its progeny into every nook and cranny. One of the few references I’ve found to it was from the Brit Sarah Raven of Perch Hill, that her father, John Raven, brought it home from Sicily. A very willowy euphorb with airy, sparklerish blooms. (I have no provenance for that green wool robe either, a gift from my son off Ebay, but it looks like a robe straight out of Bessie Glass’ closet.)

No hose required today, and rain is forecast off and on for the rest of the week. What does the coming of the rain mean to a gardener in a Mediterranean climate?

Alhambra GrandPaBruce

As a start, check out the Moorish gardens of the Alhambra in Spain for its celebration of water: Constant moving of plants and sitting areas precludes a built-in irrigation system, though I do lay drip hose sometimes when the mood strikes, like last spring. But drip hose just seems less useful in complicated plantings. Why underground cisterns are not built into, at the very least, every new house here in So. Calif., to store precious rainwater, is a mystery. Sixty gallons of rain saved in trash cans is a luxury for potted plants but really doesn’t go very far when faced with a minimum of six months of drought.

Our personal water usage consistently stays at below average for a household of four, though it could be even lower. Grey water systems, ironically, still seem problematic, since grey water can’t be stored for lengthy periods of time. There hasn’t been a lawn here since moving in over 20 years ago. It’s always interesting to read the fiery exchanges on Garden Rant whenever lawns are discussed, and you can plug “lawn” into their search engine for more threads. It’d be helpful if zones, length of growing season, and average rainfall were given as a prelude to discussion, but it’s a subject that’s been polarizing people for decades. Delivery (some might say theft) of water from Northern California to Southern California through one of the biggest waterworks projects in human history, the California aqueduct, is straining under population growth demands and drought.

For an intro into the back-stabbing politics over water rights, one need go no further than Roman Polanski and Robert Towne’s Chinatown.


Water use, public and private, is an enduring obsession.

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