Reading yet another list of gardening chores for this winter (it does provide our best gardening season), I notice that there are a lot of ‘to do lists’ published online and in gardening magazines about how to prepare for the next year in our gardens. Feeling slightly guilty about wanting to stay indoors and relax a bit, I wondered ‘Why not write something about the fun stuff that can help us become better gardeners, enlighten and entertain us, without being a chore?’
Celebrate, entertain and learn
The San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas offers great cultural activities for visitors of all ages, gardener or not. Visit their “West Coast largest interactive Children’s Garden”, enjoy their holiday lighting displays, or participate in their classes, docent or self-guided tours, bird watching events. Not to miss is their annual “Sculpture in the Garden” exhibit.
Come to see their fascinating botanical plant groupings. One of them is designed like an amazing “underwater” garden where succulents and cacti evoke a fantastic world of coral reef marine life.
The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon is a public garden that focuses on a fun, entertaining approach to education where the local homeowner, student or casual visitor can learn about water conservation in the xeriscape landscaping and “the sustainable use of related natural resources”. Classes and events provide landscaping ideas, and their next greatly enjoyable and family-friendly event is the Spring Garden Festival in April. (If you need help with water conservation in your landscape, or with fire prevention, composting techniques or seek your trees, this will be the opportunity for you to put your questions to various experts in their fields.) And don’t miss out on their seminars and classes, tours and events.
If you love Magnolias, Roses, Silk Cotton Trees or exotics that you can’t grow in your garden, see what’s blooming month by month at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.
Combine a visit of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino with a stroll through (and perhaps plant purchase at ) the 12 magnificent garden areas. “The Botanicals Gardens contain more than 14,000 different kind of plants in more than a dozen principal garden areas, including the Rose, Shakespeare, Camellia, Jungle, Palm and Chinese gardens. ” They offer a truly enriching experience, to be repeated at different times of the year to see what’s in bloom.
Floral wonders, and other fascinating things in the desert
At about one hour’s drive in the east county is the Anza Borrego desert that is famous for its spring wildflower bloom. Depending on rainfall and other weather conditions, you can visit the wild flower stands from mid-February through early April.
The Anza Borrego Desert State Park also offers educational events captivating at all ages. Organized hikes accompanied by naturalists, star gazing events, wild flower and bird watches begin as early as January 1. See here their Interpretive Schedule.
For the birds
Did you know that one of the best-known raptor watch sites of the country is located in this county? The Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona draws visitors from all over the world, especially in January when the watch (various hawk species, falcons and Golden Eagles) watch is on.
Learn about California native plants, buy some, and be inspired
One of the finest growers just over the county line is the Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. Not only do they grow a beautiful variety of California native plants, they also publish their availability and plant catalog online, with an outstanding amount of plant profiles, planning tools and ‘how-to’ recommendations.
Harvest your own winter-grown veggies
If you manage to get your winter vegetables (“cool season crops”) in the ground now, such as carrots, broccoli, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips, you’ll be harvesting in due course. Learn more about vegetable gardening at the Vegetable Research and Information Center of UC Davis.
California wildflowers “for the picking”
Now is the time to sow our California native wild flowers; for extra good germination, sow seeds just before a big storm or between storms: California poppies, mountain garland Clarkia unguiculata, purple owl’s clover Castilleja excreta, baby blue eyes Nemophila menziesii, Chinese house Collinsia heterophylla, and farewell to spring Clarkia amoena.
Get ready for more entertainment in your garden
Perhaps it’s time to consider enlarging your entertainment spaces, or to put a roof over your existing patio, so that you can expand your outdoor activities?
Or is it time to add some ‘drama’ to your garden and let it come to life by night? Read here about some basic information about low-volume landscape lights that might help you select and build your system.
Look to these sources for help with your gardening questions or for great plants
Here are some suggestions of drought resistant plants that bring some color punch to your winter garden.
Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall grow a wide range of excellent garden plants for the low water landscape. They offer detailed plant photos and descriptions as well as a newsletter and maintenance tips.
San Marcos Growers grow “the best” in xeriscape plants and are always adding new ones; their plants are as great as their educational website.
Read here the very useful Green Thumb’s Nursery blog and month-to-month gardening guide.
Your garden is waiting – patiently.
There’s time now to plan for a pretty, satisfying garden next year. And while you diligently take care of all the chores in your garden, don’t forget to get inspired by visiting one or the other locales mentioned here, and add your own dream destinations.
In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying these holidays and wish all my friends a wonderful, prosperous new year.