In the final days of January, the buds were swelling on the purple plum trees that grace San Francisco streets. The tiny new moon heralded the Chinese New Year, marking the beginning of another growing season. By the time this newsletter reaches its readers, the plum trees will be in full bloom, as clouds of pink blossoms assert Mother Nature’s confidence, despite a dry winter in the watershed and in the economy.
December brought the blessing of rain, and a few cold nights; just enough to let the plants know that it is wintertime. In our microclimate, the year is like the proverbial snake eating its tail. Fall’s colorful leaves still persist as the first spring blossoms make a tentative trial. In just a few short weeks, we’ll see our first plum blossoms, and then the year will unfurl again, as it has so many times before.
There can be a special beauty in the winter garden. Cleared of last year’s growth, well-pruned, mulched and weeded, the garden in winter can still surprise and delight the eye. When a garden looks wonderful in midwinter, gardeners everywhere nod and say “that garden has good bones.”
For gardeners, this is a time for action. The ideal planting time for trees, shrubs, and perennials is now, with 5-7 cool, rainy months ahead. Plants set out as the rainy season begins can establish deep root systems before the stress of the first hot dry days, usually in May.
The blooming nectar plants, the bushy cover of California natives, the seed and berry-bearing shrubs in our borders attract birds, pollinators, spiders, and predatory insects to create a busy, diverse, dynamic growing zone in which our fruit-trees, vegetables, and tender flowering plants can thrive without harmful infestations of insects getting out of balance.