Early March

Spring is starting to appear in Boulder. It’s been warm for the past week, barely even dipping to freezing temps at night. Most of the snow is gone. And the plants are waking up, I’ve noticed, both in the garden of my rental house and around the neighborhood. It’s the end of daylight savings time this weekend. There’s a palpable sense of momentum.

I ate breakfast outside this morning. This fact makes me incredibly happy. I love how living in California, stepping between inside and outside or just having the slider open all the time became second nature. I’ve missed that.

I’ve been pouring energy into finding a place to live after mid-April, when I move out of the place I’m renting. The bigger picture for me is still full of a lot of uncertainty around what this year will bring, but I’m trying to focus on simply attending to the present. I was recently listening to a podcast about Marketing that discussed a Keats quote: “Wisely improve the present: it is thine” followed by something about then going forth to meet the shadowy future. So dramatic, but yet it feels like fitting advice for me right now.

I knew this already, but this place I’ve been in is a rare gem — I won’t find another house like this, sadly. It’s such a cared for little house and garden, and you can feel that. The Boulder area rental market is tough. I’m rapidly revising my priorities. A garage or nice kitchen have fallen to the bottom of the list. I am looking for a place with lots of windows (since I expect to become very into houseplants in lieu of a garden). My dog, Edie, has lived in an apartment before but she loves nosing around outside so I need at least a tiny bit of outdoor space, like a patio. Now, my friends know I do tend toward psychological projection onto my dog, so I’ll just go ahead an own up to the fact that I love nosing around outside even more than she does.

There’s a complex in Boulder, close to my office, my current neighborhood, and the garden plot I rented. But, it’s a middle row house, with limited outdoor patio space and not as much light as I’m hoping for, and feels a little overpriced. I’m also looking at 2 apartment complexes, both a bit of a drive away, but which could work in a pinch depending on the lighting. There’s also a small house that’s quite a drive away that I’ll look at this week. It will be more space than I need, but apartments aren’t much cheaper. I keep telling myself something will work out. Stay tuned — the adventure continues.


A lot of upheaval is afoot in the lower left corner, and has been for some months now. Late last fall I took a new job — a very good move professionally, a great opportunity of the kind you don’t get handed every day, and one that I was and remain excited about, but it came with complications. I’ll be spending most of my time in 2020 in Boulder, Colorado, and likely after that fully relocating there. Now, Boulder is a fantastic place, and there is a lot to be very, very grateful (and excited) for. But this has still been a hard, and often very sad, change to wrap my head around.

The thing is, I really love Southern California. Despite all the insanity and the 8 lane freeways and the crowds, and the dusty, baking hot late summer and fall, I still love it.

I didn’t always feel that way. I can remember my first view of the city of San Diego, landing at the airport. It seemed washed out in too-bright sun, a flat urban expanse in the lower left corner of the lower 48, pressed right up against the pacific, with far fewer trees and vegetation than it seemed to need. I was deeply disturbed by the extreme seasonality of rain. Things need rinsing off, and yet no rain for months. Plants as seemingly elementary as zinnias and echinaceas refused to survive. The way people insisted on planting birch trees and huge expanses of lawn. (The lawn trend at least noticeably reversed itself in the last nine years.)

But then there are all the wonderful and astounding things about Southern California, which I discovered with time. Succulents in all shades imaginable. New plants sprouting from a leaf dropped on the soil. Watching the hills transform to green almost overnight. The way sun feels in January, aloes newly blooming, hummingbirds zipping about, fat and happy, makes a person feel incredibly lucky. So does Palm Springs in February, gardens lush with spring while snow covered peaks loom above. It took a lot of time, a couple of years, for me to understand the seasons. People say Southern California has no seasons. I say there are about 9 of them, and they are more about a changing quality of light and clouds, and a subtle switching on and then off of plant life: things that take time to notice and yes come to love.

This should not be a “goodbye to California” blog post. That would be a whole project in an of itself, and at this point in life I know memory and love shape things you carry forward with you, not things you neatly wrap up and set behind. Nor should this *AT ALL* be a woe-is-me (hell, no). But this is a blog about gardening and I need to write about leaving my garden, and what that feels like, and get this out there. I write this sitting at the kitchen table of a house I am renting in Boulder for these first few months. It is a lovely and peaceful spot, with its own garden, dormant right now. My garden is over a thousand miles away in San Diego, in my husband’s expert care for now, but leaving it makes me sad in its own particular way distinct from all the other things I am sad to leave (friends, colleagues, favorite places) and I am still sorting that out.

(BoCo pics)

Like many gardeners, I have always related to gardening as an act of creation, not a thing to finish and sit back and appreciate, but rather a thing to keep pushing, then babying, then backing off, then perhaps tearing out, or ignoring for a while when it feels hopeless. But leaving a garden is turning out to be a whole new kind of challenge. I’ve left gardens before — during the decade plus that I was an academic, I moved around a lot and lived in rentals. It was during those years that gardening, creating a place, working with plants, started to draw me in. In a new place that feels foreign and uncared for? I’d clean up the house and then turn to the outdoor space. I resurrected overgrown perennial beds and tore out poison ivy in Georgia, carved flower beds out of lawns in North Carolina, grew tithonias and zinnias and sunflowers in Iowa. I was just dipping my toe in with all that. It was San Diego where I really became a gardener.

I’ve been sitting with all these feelings over leaving my house and my garden but I am far from having my head wrapped around even 5 % of it. At times I am panicked with sadness — I’m not sure its all worry about the plants: I thinks its more worry about me, and my own deep attachment and sentimentality. I feel silly and melodramatic to admit all this. I have asked myself, will this garden haunt me for the rest of my life? (See? Melodramatic.) And yet, I think of all the other gardens and places that I love that you could say do haunt me, and then maybe “haunt” doesn’t feel so dark after all. Still hard though.

These last few weeks I’ve become deeply schooled in the fact that change, even good change that brings growth, involves loss. As gardeners we know change, seasons, death, the unexpected. Still, change is humbling, and sometimes hard.

So, this will be a big year of change, and as a gardener and a garden blogger I am uncertain of what that change means exactly. I’m just going to have to dig in see what happens.

Belated Garden Bloggers Bloom day, October

I’ve been struggling to get pics from the new phone (a Google pixel 3) into WordPress. WordPress when used on an iPad seems rigidly loyal to Apple devices, and just won’t let go of its connection with my iPhone/Apple photos stream, no matter how many media resets I do. But, the WordPress app installed on the Pixel takes care of that problem!

Now that its October, my nightly dog walks with Edie are in the dark. That’s introduced me to a whole load of nocturnal neighborhood residents, including a great horned owl that I hear more than see, and web weaving brown garden spiders, both very fitting for Halloween season, right?

But back to the plants. Things are mostly quiet this season, but the California fuchsias are going strong, a staple of the October hummingbird diet.

There’s this one odd California poppy who’s a few months early to the party.

Senecio (fulgens, I think). This is one Senecio I’ll keep. The rest, mostly serpens or mandraliscae, are about to be edited out.

The Bouteloua gracilis is done flowering, but the spent flowers are still lovely.

This little NOID succulent has unexpectly impressive flowers. Btw, I’m pretty enamoured of the portrait mode on this pixel 3 phone camera. You’ve probably noticed.

A gorgeous patty pat squash bloom. The hubster’s been digging in to the seeds from Botanical Interests that came in our swag bag from the Denver Garden Bloggers Fling.

Agave desmatiana. It’s good that its flowering, because we have to replace that fence, and there’s no way I was going to be able to move the agave. I will of course put off replacing the fence until its done flowering. Is that a little weird? Probably, but I’m ok with that.

Like the agave, the tree aloe doesn’t exactly count as flowering yet, but its making impressive progress. Last year it started to show Aloe mites, and I thought it was done for. But I chopped off the affected shoots, treated it with isopropyl alcohol, and hoped for the best. It seems to have worked.

Orchid Encyclia michoacana, from Grigsby Cactus Gardens.

Camissoniopsis (I think), a California native.

Gomphrena, and an unknown Salvia, both highly appreciated.

Rhipsalis getting ready to do something big.

People often say California has no seasons. I think I’ve said this before — I really don’t agree: I think it has more seasons, just very subtle ones. October brings in a particularly distinct mood, with short days, yes, but beautiful mornings and lovely long, cool evenings that I have time to enjoy, before the clocks change in November, and everything will pick up speed heading into the holiday season. For now, I’ll enjoy October.

Garden bloggers bloom day is hosted monthly by May Dreams Gardens. Check it out to see what’s flowering where around the inter webs.

Labor Day garden thoughts

I took the summer off from blogging. It wasn’t planned, and many times I found myself angst-ing over my blogger delinquency, but maybe its ok that this is just how the pacing of things goes sometimes.

My summer was good, full of plenty of gorgeous days, a week long trip to the mountains of Utah, and other lovely moments, but it was also mentally intense and honestly a bit draining. Lots of emotional heavy lifting was required, mostly about work but also about life.

This summer my garden was a place I turned to often to catch my breath, or ground my thoughts. So there was plenty of garden pondering going on, just not a lot of outward things to say about it.

The summer started out with a fantastic trip to the Denver Garden Bloggers Fling , exploring the gardens spaces of Colorado’s front range with a whole crowd of warm, fun and lovely people with whom I felt an immediate connection. Honestly, I don’t have many garden geek friends in my immediate local circles so spending the weekend delving into garden after garden in the company of like minded, plant obsessed folks was wonderful.

What else? The word of the summer was gigantic, as in overgrown. So many things just got out of hand, reaching never before seen proportions due to last winter and spring’s record rains. Plus, the summer heat held off until August so things just kept on growing. It was glorious.

Eventually that phase passed and faded into the current moment, which is Southern California’s version of the dead of winter: the hot, dry, dusty, utterly dormant weeks of late summer and early fall. Right now the light at the end of the day is that perfect, slanted gold on blue. In a few weeks we’ll round the equinox and the declining balance of daylight will start to show, with a few things coming around for another round of subdued blooming like they did last fall. Or so I hope.

I did a little garden assessing and planning this morning over coffee. The north bed in the back, particularly the back edge, is just too shallow and dry for probably anything but succulents or something just tough as nails. This is the area where the cracked and disintegrating koi pond that came with the property is buried. I still regret not finding a way to tear out all that concrete, but then, why send it to a landfill when most of would be under decomposed granite? But even a hesperaloe perished in this part of the bed this year. I think I’ll try Aoenium cyclops underplanted with something like cushion bush (if I can keep it small), or some of those ashy leaf buckwheats I picked up last fall at the CNPS Plant Sale. I think the ashy leaf buckwheat might just be the solution to the problem I’ve been trying to solve with cushion bush. Here it is, behind cushion bush. Similar effect, but with a more airy texture.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the office garden? The tree aloe is looking good. It has probably tripled in size since we planted it maybe 3 or 4 years ago.

But the rest of the bed is a mess. I tried ripping out and replanting the Anigozanthos (treating them like irises). This did not work. Then the 2 new ones I bought and installed actually died, just recently after it got hot. Weirdly, the echinops I’d long given up on as “another thing I just can’t grow here in 10b” actually bloomed.

I think I’ll try again with the Anigozanthos. I like how it invites hummingbirds to take up residence (they do fight over it, but nobody seems to get hurt). That plus some grass-like something as an underplanting. Or artemisia Powis Castle. And maybe I’ll try again with Digiplexis, or some penstemons.

The eyebrow grass Bouteloua gracilis is at its peak right now, as bright little patches of green underneath yellow pannicles — a perfect contrast to the blue hued plants that dominate my garden.

So yes, I think I’m back, although I never really had gone anywhere, had I?

A few public gardens in Copenhagen May 2019

I was lucky that the conference I attended in Copenhagen last week was close to a number of the city’s public gardens and green spaces.

I had Saturday free to explore the city on what became a gorgeous spring afternoon. My explorations of course included the Botanical Garden. The place was full of people enjoying the spring weather. It features extensive glasshouses, but I didn’t go inside them. Too many outdoor spaces to explore with my limited time.

I managed to get up early enough for a run on Friday, before the day’s sessions started, and ran by The lakes.

I also passed through a corner of Østre Anlæg Park. I think this building is a library but I can’t quite identify it right now.

On Saturday afternoon, I visited the Kastellet, which is a fort, several centuries old. Its built in the shape of a giant star, complete with surrounding moat and rampart. My pictures make it look empty, but the place was full of people jogging along the top of the ramparts, along with others just sitting and enjoying the sunshine, or walking their dogs.

The garden I like the best by far was Kongens Have or the King’s Garden.

I first visited Copenhagen 4 years ago — the last time I attended this very conference. I was new in my job, and was on my first work trip in the role, stringing together 2 conferences, a user group meeting, and a visit to the UK office. I think I was gone for a full 2 weeks… might have been more. I landed in Copenhagen first, jet lagged, nervous and exhausted. Arriving early in the day, I couldn’t check in to my hotel room for hours, so I dropped my luggage at the bell desk and wandered out to find some lunch and my bearings (or at least some bearings). A big green square on Google maps was close by — Kongens Have.

This is where I first came to understand how much I love a pleached tree, and the 2 long, intersecting allees in this garden are spectacular. The effect is enchantment: the scale of the impossibly formal yet very much living trees to a human (me) walking through them. The trees in Kongens Have are Lime trees (but not the citrus kind) (Tilia).

And there are lilacs! Like hydrangeas, this is an exotic plant to me, living in Southern California.

I took multiples pictures of the lime tree allees at different times of day — on a morning jog, then again an afternoon walk, and then lingered here for a long time on Saturday afternoon, just soaking it up (along with a large portion of Copenhagen’s populace).

Kongens Have is huge, and full of people even in the early morning (mostly joggers, like me, or people walking their dog, or headed somewhere purposefully, probably their job).

This visit I discovered something new in the park — a perennial garden long border. I had no idea it was here. I found it Friday morning.

And then went back Saturday morning, and then later in the day when the clouds started to thin out.

Kongens Have also features a palace, Rosenborg Castle, completed in 1624, and an extensive and impressive collection of statuary, but I was just focused on the gardens. My documentation of the place is not very thorough. Here’s the rose garden — too early for any blooms. I bet it will be amazing in a few weeks.

I saw only a tiny part of the city of Copenhagen — there are so many museums, restaurants, that famous mermaid stature, other neighboods… Plenty left to explore if I visit again.

Street scenes of Copenhagen late May 2019

I was in Copenhagen for a few days for work, attending a conference. I managed to sneak in a few breaks to stroll around the neighborhood and explore the city, and here are some images. I was in the København K neighborhood — near the harbor.

The photo below is from my hotel room window. The door across the street is the entrance to the building where the conference was held.

This is the Frederiks Kirk or Frederik’s Church, just down the street. 18th century Lutheran church featuring the largest done in Scandinavia.

These 3 just happened to be waking by.

Hydrangeas! A plant I almost never see at home in California.

This wisteria vine covered building was in Nørrebro.

A well made Americano at last (the conference coffee was, well, conference coffee).

Cute houseplants in a restaurant window.

Anyone know what this is? A lewisii?

This little girl was enthralled in taking pictures of flower petals floating in the fountain. I saw her as a kindred spirit.

Copenhagen is a city filled with enchanting little courtyards.

Love the grasses softening up the architecture here.

Parting shot: this dog, patiently waiting for its owner to finish up the grocery shopping.

Garden round up May 2019

I missed Bloom Day again in May, so I figured instead I’d just post a summary of what’s been going on, generally, on Del Diablo Lane.

A key theme has been GREEN. As in, everything is green (and still green) after this crazy El Niño winter. The mesquite tree (this one’s a hybrid cultivar Prosopis grafted onto Argentinian Prosopis rootstock) newly planted last spring, came roaring back with neon green foliage and catkins. I have to confess, I actually thought it was dead: thought I’d have to tear it out and try something else here, and then bam!

The Prosopis is to the right of the path, just past the fox tail agave. It’s still pretty small as you can see, but my hope is that it will take on size and provide some feathery mid-garden shade.

The Matilija poppies started opening up on May 4th.

Here’s a shot of one drenched by Sunday’s rain storm (May 19th). Soggy but still lovely.

Rain has been a recurring theme, believe it or not, even into the second half of May. Here are some shots from another recent rain drenching back on April 30th.

The Itoh Peony came back this spring. I found This peony by random chance last year at a big box store. And here it is again. Short lived but gorgeous.

The blue fescue is blooming like crazy right now. So is yarrow as you can see. Pretty much every clump of fescue (and there are a lot of them) is topped by these feathery panicles.

Over by the north fence, the Salvia apiana is trying to take over the world. This is an angle that exaggerates height, yes, but its not far from the truth.

Albuca spiralis is back. Smells like cake.

Red buckwheat is about to open all over the place. Summer is the door.

The garden as a whole still looks very, vey lush (and overgrown/overcrowded), due to all the rain we’ve had (and are still having).

Here’s a parting shot: Verbena bonariensis, which opened in the last 2 weeks.

Hello, April! Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

It’s April 15th — time for garden bloggers bloom day. I missed last month but there’s been plenty going on. For starters, the aloes have collectively been putting on a good show, as have the Dudleyas (below).

But the name of the game right now in April in my garden is mallow, as in globe mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua. I’ve got it in red (Louis Hamilton, shown below)….


…and orange.

The back yard smells amazing thanks to the Meyer lemon tree blooming.

The freesias are nearly done.

Yarrow is back in the game.

Verbena bonariensis just missed the deadline this month, but will surely be present in May.

Salvia (NOID — I think its salvia chamaedryoides).

And a Mimulus cultivar.

The bush anenome Carpenteria californica is simply stunning.

Here’s a wayward calla lily, planted by a previous owner (but appreciated by this one).

Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) I got from my neighbor, Rosemary, years ago.

Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’ (which I just don’t like as much as bonariensis) rounds out the highlights from the back yard.

In the front, the show belongs entirely to the California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica. This year’s El Niño brought on a front yard sized superbloom of amazing color.

The globe mallows make a statement here, too.

I started with a few of these deep purple flowers years ago, from Annie’s Annuals. They’ve faithfully reseeded ever since. (Cerinthe major purpurascens
“Blue Honeywort”)

The statice flower looks nice but its days are numbered. After witnessing some penstemons at this year’s California Native Plant Society San Diego chapter garden show, I have plans to replace them with natives.

As a parting shot — here are the front window boxes. These succulents are going crazy with flowering this spring. These boxes were already overgrown: now I really know I need to clean them out and replant them. Maybe in May….

Garden bloggers bloom day is hosted monthly on the 15th by May Dreams Gardens.


It was another rainy week in San Diego. It feels so odd to write that sentence. That’s an El Niño winter for you.

A few shots from the front yard this morning…

Look, I’ve got mushrooms.

And the Ray Hartmann Ceanothus is just about to peak.

Have a glorious weekend! I’ll be busy weeding


The atmospheric river of rain arrived in San Diego overnight and made quite a show on Thursday.

We got just shy of 1/3 of a full year’s rainfall in 24 hours. Atmospheric river sounds so… poetic to me. I’d never heard of this phenomenon before I moved to San Diego. I guess atmospheric rivers are just another one of those wild and weird things unique to California. It’s astounding to see it rain this hard here, where any rain at all is pretty infrequent. Living in other places, with 30, 30+ inches of rain a year, you just somehow get used to it and it doesn’t stand out. But today’s storm did.

The rest of my team was out of the office at a conference so I took the opportunity to work from home. I said it was to avoid the messy traffic, but I felt lucky to get to watch the storm blow through.

Then at the end of the day it stopped, and brightened up for while. Enough to see the moon.

I wandered out and marveled at the unfamiliar sogginess. It’s been so wet this year, that’s moss growing on the decomposed granite

Happy Valentine’s Day!