A PERFECT SPRING

After such a sumptuous winter how could it not be – a perfect spring.

I came to Santa Barbara to live in September 2013, the second year of the drought.  The landscape was dry, but as a native Californian, I expected dryness. The winter rains the next two years were scanty.  Not only did the garden lawns die by intent, but landscape and street trees began suffering.  Many of the redwoods, never a good choice for this semi-arid climate, were dying. The conifers were the hardest hit.  The native ponderosa pines on Figueroa Mountain all succumbed, probably weakened by the drought and then attacked by the deadly bark beetle. To try and save street trees, the city attached green plastic reservoirs to young trees which slowly released water to the roots.

Maybe several times during the winter, enough rain would fall to feed the headwaters of various creeks.  Mission Creek with its springs high on mountain sides above the Botanic Garden came briefly to life with muddy torrents of water which rushed down the dry creek bed.  Quickly depleted, the flow stopped and by the second day, the creek became isolated pools.  By the third day, the creek disappeared all together.

poppies
California Poppies

With the return to silent stretches of dry rock, my spirits fell.  I realized again how above all the landscape features – hills, mountains, valleys, and especially the noisy, restless ocean – it is creeks I love the best, for their cheerful sounds and their ability to be a magnet for surrounding life.

 

lupine
Bush lupine

Spring in California is mostly about wildflowers, but in one of the ironies of a wet spring, grass and weeds growing tall often concealed the flowers.  Figueroa Mountain had some nice displays, particularly where lupine grew on perennial shrubs or where poppies grew on serpentine soil which inhibits the rampant growth of grass.

 

 

carizzo
It was in the semi-desert areas like Carizzo Plain, an hour and a half drive inland from San Luis Obispo, where the flowers were amazing, enough so, to gain the title — superbloom. Hills and the desert floors look as if they’d been splashed with paint.

But it is in the exuberance of the commoner plants that I saw the results of a wet winter.  The wild oats, now going to seed are waist high, and must compete for space with wild radishes and Italian thistle.

After four years of drought that tested their endurance, allowing no luxury like new growth, live oaks this spring were transformed with explosions of tender bright green leaves.  The shiny leaves concealed the coarse and somber, dark green foliage, some of which could now be shed.

live oaks
New spring growth on the live oaks

Live oaks are the most abundant native tree of Samarkand, Oak Park and most lowland locations.

 

Best of all was to see Mission Creek behaving like a real stream, not with just the episodic flow of two days that followed a rain during the preceding drought years.  My morning ritual was to look through my binoculars into the small gap between the trees where I could see the overlapping brightness of moving water. The stream had a rhythm, sometimes squeezing around rocks making music and then released, spreading out in quiet pools, before being narrowed again.  I think I could write a score with the proper notations.

 

pollen
The male flowers are heavy with pollen which will be released by the wind to fertilize some of the female flowers growing on the same tree. From the fertilized female flower comes the familiar acorn.

I imagine my father, who grew up near Oak Park, capturing tadpoles with a net, or creating a new flow by rearranging rocks. When the flow was strongest, he and his buddies, no doubt, fashioned boats and then ran along the creek edge to see how they fared.

Two weeks after the last rain in March, the flow began to shrink, imperceptivity at first.  But now in mid-April the creek has disappeared. Or, perhaps it flows beneath the surface still accessible to the roots of trees.

oxalis
Oxalis, considered a hard-to-get-rid-of weed by most gardeners, crowded roadsides after this year’s heavy rains

Speculation has already begun about next winter.  Through summer and early fall, conditions appear to be “neutral” with early signs of building El Nino conditions beginning later in the fall.  In most years, a strong El Nino brings generous rains, but not always.  Speculation, especially about future weather, is irresistible especially for weather buffs like myself.

nasturtiums
In this most luxuriant of springs no slope is unclaimed. Here, nasturtiums have naturalized a hillside.
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8 thoughts on “ A PERFECT SPRING

  1. Thanks, Phila. I like the nasturtiums best for their colors and surprisingly big leaves. Yes, Oak Park is not great for the creek – better up-stream. Rose.

  2. Thanks for both Winter and Spring, Phila!
    Your “parting shot” looked to me like the hillside where steps climb from Oak Park, as I did this afternoon.
    I wonder if photos of the rushing waters of Snake Creek were taken from a drone??!
    – Janet

  3. Once again, you have painted.an illustrative narrative. Thank you Phila for bringing this natural world to us.

  4. Just read your blog. It really gave me a picture of the wildflowers in your area.

    Thanks for your poetic descriptions!!

    Love , Dottie

    ________________________________

  5. Phila, Your. Log was especially wonderful. I loved your descriptions, especially the music of Mission Creek. And your photos were stunning. Thanks for bringing such puro joy to my life. Barbara

  6. Thank you for posting such beautiful pictures of California wild flowers. I can’t travel to see them but it warms my heart to see the pictures.

  7. Dear Phila, Yes, it has been a perfect Spring. I appreciate your photos and the opportunity to stroll over the landscape to observe the photos of it’s beauty. Thank you for posting it. Every day I usually walk around our neighborhood looking at the gardens and listening to the birds. What a beautiful season we are experiencing. I am grateful to be here. and I am grateful for your friendship. Mary Alice

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