First Frost 2011

We still haven't felt our first frost in downtown Santa Rosa, despite a few warnings... the crickets are finally silent, but the roses haven't entirely given up. Sonoma County is a bit unpredictable in this respect; and in fact it is a patchwork of microclimates that tremble on the frost-line each year. A few sheltered Avocados , Bananas and Gardenias persist year after year even as most perish eventually by the winter suns nadir in late December. Right now I sit in the watery sunshine with our fat tabby cat and yet have the fond hope that our nasturtiums, pelargonia and tender succulents might make it undiminished to February. Like many expatriate southern californians, I've quite a few of these follies in my garden. It's not impossible--we've had a year or two in the last 30 here that it's happened. But we've also seen a 15' Eureka Lemon frozen dead to it's roots and the fronds killed on our mexican fan palms. Wiser to omit these subtropicals entirely, but we've been unwilling or unable. The best compromise has been to move some of these next to our flourishing Meyer Lemon hardup against our leaky old house on it's south side. In this way, energy inefficiency can be seen a virtue of sorts.

I cleve to Jack London's view that we've a two-season climate: with spring emerging when the dry summer gives away to the first rains. For most north americans this conceit works quite well. While we've cool or even cold days, there's nothing of the ironbound winter know over most of the U.S. Grasses emerge with the first rains, and grow steadily through the first dry heat coming sometime between april and july. I believe the agricultural folks put our growing season after tax-day, but hopeful people often try for St. Patrick's-- and of course the crooked nurserymen are happy to sell you tomatoes any time after february. While others huddle in their oil-heated airtight domiciles pouring over the Burpee Catalogue, Sonomans can brouse actual starts at the farmers market. Even seasoned natives are tempted when it's warm in these early months; hope trumping experience as I suppose it should. What is really lost in these brave efforts?

Gradually we've adapted; and feature a winter garden full of onions garlic, chard and snow-peas. A towering mound of leaves and tender clippings smolders in the slow-fire of the compost heap. And the cat will soon relocate from under the salvia to and old sweater in my bureau for a month or two... not such a long time to wait.

Posted by icosahedron icosahedron, December 07, 2011 19:40


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