summer is overrated

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Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’

I know those are fighting words, especially depending on where you live and your opinion of winter in general, and I’m not trying to pick a fight. We all miss those long days that stretch luxuriously into a warm twilight then blur into a sultry evening, when all of a sudden it’s 9 p.m. and you haven’t had dinner yet — but if you’re a bunch of plants living in a Los Angeles garden tended by one woman, November is indisputably on your side.

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And then there’s this intoxicatingly slanted light that makes my garden look like I’m walking into a Terrence Malick movie every morning.

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I’m embarrassed to admit just how much time I’m spending staring at the light this time of year. Usually the first pot of coffee is consumed in this sole pursuit, and sometimes the second pot too.

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And all because of this orbital business of the earth tilting on its axis, light once again becomes a friend and not a bully. And you can splurge on salvias as winter annuals, because unlike in summer the flowers open slow and last and last. (Salvia chamaedryoides x ‘Marine Blue’)

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The plants and I can finally relax.

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Okay, so Thanksgiving was over 90 degrees, but we know that’s a short-term anomaly that won’t stretch on interminably for months and months. We can deal.

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We can deal because we are closer than ever to the rainy season, however meager it may be.

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Sure, the days are shorter, but when the sun isn’t making you cry uncle anymore you find yourself immersed in those timeless moments like staring into and pondering the heart of natural mysteries.

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And then there are the winter-blooming aloes stirring, like Aloe cameronii.

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Counting aloe buds is a favorite pursuit this time of year. ‘Moonglow’ has two trusses budding up.

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Shriveled-up Aeonium balsamiferum relaxes again into plump rosettes.

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Succulents are so much happier in the cooler weather, giving positive reinforcement for experimentation and new mashups.

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I’m basically inventing stuff to do just to be outside — repot this, move that. Agave ocahui ‘Wavy Gravy’ was beyond ready for a bigger container.

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Neglected projects are pursued with a vigor not seen since spring. Rescue the hechtia being swallowed whole by the agaves in the gravel garden? Done.

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The long-delayed bird bath project? Done.

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And there’s the undeniable appeal of digging and moving heavy stuff around without breaking a sweat.

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Young potted plants love this gentle autumn light, as opposed to the scalding glare of summer.

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After a season of winter sun, Agave cerulata just might be ready for full sun next summer.

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Pelargonium echinatum is done with summer dormancy, brought back to life with a big drink of water.

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Agave xylonacantha finally gets a bigger pot.

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And because it’s such a joy to be outside, you try all kinds of crazy things with stuff on hand, like inventing new supports for tillandsias, birdbaths, etc.

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Just giving props to autumn, because it’s the most fun I’ve had in the garden since spring.

This entry was posted in agaves, woody lilies, climate, Occasional Daily Weather Report, pots and containers, succulents and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to summer is overrated

  1. Nell says:

    I could definitely gaze at that agave with the toothy leaf imprints for at least two cups of coffee…

  2. Renee Pasman says:

    Beautiful! Autumn certainly is wonderful, but it has a gorgeous canvas to play with in your garden!

  3. Alison says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that summer is over-rated, and I don’t even live where it gets all that hot. We do have a very long, dry summer though, and I get so sick of lugging hoses around.

  4. Denise says:

    @Nell, I love that agave too. It’s ‘Dragon Toes,’ Agave pygmaea, who grows to about the perfect size for my garden, about 2-1/2 X 3.
    @Renee, I love all the seasons, Los Angeles-style seasons, but summer just seems to be taking more than its share of the year lately.
    @Alison, me too, and I still need to keep up with that, but it’s a lot easier on the garden without the constant stress of sun and heat.

  5. ks says:

    This year fall clean-up has proceeded at a leisurely pace , with pleasant days and rain that has tended to be non-intrusive i.e. rains when I am at the office, no rain when I’m home. I can’t help but wonder through what happened to the October first-frost date , which seems to have moved well into late November and even December. At least I have time to ready all my frost protection devices. I’m very taken with your bird bath !

  6. Autumn certainly looks good through your eyes…

  7. linda says:

    That is a gorgeous bird bath ! Mine or the one that came with the house , finally fell to bits when I tried to move it !

  8. I totally agree, here in Southern California it is our nicest time of the year, especially for gardeners…and their plants. And you are totally correct about the light – even the weeds look better!

  9. Kris P says:

    Beautiful photos! Summer’s short return visit was unpleasant but made me all the more appreciative of the cooler temperatures the past 2 days. I’ve also spent hours and hours outside, even taking on projects I’ve previously put off with a degree of dread. I love the new bird bath and the Tillandsias look like they’re enjoying fall in your back garden as much as you are.

  10. holly says:

    Your photos are simply beautiful. Autumn in your garden looks like a perfect place to be!

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Your garden dances beautifully in the autumn light through your lens. It’s easy to see why this season is so special in your neck of the woods.

  12. Max says:

    Yes, the soft light does wonders for the garden this time of year. It’s a bit rough coming home to dark though. I’ve started doing certain small tasks by flashlight, but that only works on dry days. I either need to take a more leisurely morning (and come home later) or start finding things to do indoors (the horror!). Drooling over your Agave xylonacantha. That is one toothsome fella.

  13. hb says:

    A well-deserved tribute to Not-Summer!

  14. catmint says:

    I agree, autumn and spring are the best seasons usually for light and nature. Love your photos, Denise – and the accompanying words.

  15. Pam/Digging says:

    I am SO with you — even as I’m staring at the possibility of our first freeze of the season here in Austin. I always take delight in bidding the Death Star of summer goodbye and welcoming the mellow light and mellow(ish) temps of fall. And gosh your pics are all so beautiful!

  16. Gerhard Bock says:

    Your photos positively glow. I want to be a plant in your garden!

    I love fall but am not a fan of winter. At least gardening doesn’t quite stop altogether and spring is only a few months away.

  17. Well….your love of winter is completely understandable. It’s that magic angled light…I know it well and you are not the only one observing it for *ahem* a while…ok, a long while for me. It’s all about that perfect comfort zone to garden in, especially when you are doing laborious chores. It’s no fun in 90 degree hot sun, for sure.

    Your garden looks amazing. Just stunning.

  18. Though your falls can hit summer-like levels and your summers cause me not to think of ours’, I can see your need for relief where seasons are so blurred! Just don’t complain too much on your summer, or I’ll send you mine via Phoenix:-)

  19. David Feix says:

    Beautiful photos as always, and I can understand your preference if you don’t like heat and your garden lacks for shade. I love year round summer myself, having found while living in the tropics that it really suits me better than return of winter chill. I always find it irksome to have to wear more layers and start heating the house again. Plus summers here in Berkeley are naturally air conditioned by frequent fog. Plus, the lower sun angles mean my garden is mostly shade all day this time of year, and I miss the warming sun!

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