Now is the winter of our Santa Ana event

I know the weather people like to call our episodes of high wind a “Santa Ana event,” but that always sounds to me as though it should be a giant sale:   “Come on down for our Santa Ana Event!  Stock up now on our huge inventory of uprooted trees, broken tree limbs, flattened shrubbery!  Don’t miss our special purchase of fallen palm fronds—downed power lines at selected locations.”

Calling it a “Santa Ana event” makes it sound like a lot more fun than it actually is.


A familiar sight in our neighborhood in Santa Ana season.

If you’re a gardener, a Santa Ana event can be vexing, because there’s not much you can do outdoors besides duck, cover and hold.  You can’t even clean up the piles of debris shaken down from the trees, because more is headed your way in the next gust.  With a relative humidity of under ten percent, planting’s out of the question; in fact, you’re running around aiming your hose on plants which are wilting while you watch.  Of course, watering in the Santa Ana winds is its own peculiar challenge, since the water is as likely to spray back on the gardener as it is to ever reach the plant.


This basil was well watered, but the Sana Anas still zapped it.

So what’s a gardener to do?  Take a cue from gardeners in colder areas, who are forced inside by snow, ice, and other inclement weather—this is a good time to stay inside and plan.  Our 365-day growing season can make us feel like we should be constantly outside, and as a result, we can miss our seasonal chance to rest, reflect, and develop a strategy.

Consider staying indoors to ponder your next move; put “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on your iPod, laugh ironically and flip through your seed catalog.  Mull over the notes or pictures you’ve taken on walks around the neighborhood; visit nurseries; talk to knowledgeable people.  Identify your first small “sustainability and joy do-over” spot, and take a minute to write down your words.  We don’t often get forced inside by weather; when we do, let’s call it “winter” and make the most of it.

I know it’s not actually winter right now.  But when it says winter on the calendar, you’ll be busy as all get-out, getting your plant selections into the ground to take advantage of whatever rains may come (and surely, after last year’s total rainfall of 5.85 inches we are due for some precipitation).  The calendar winter is planting season in southern California.  So for gardening purposes, let’s call these hot, dry, windy days our winter break, and take advantage of the Santa Ana event to make some plans.


My euphorbia “Sticks on Fire” responds to the Santa Ana event by lying down (red tips are supposed to face skyward). It’s not broken, so maybe it knows something I don’t. Time for a break!

This blog’s Santa Ana event, now through the end of October, will be highlighting some considerations for planning and executing your next move–and we’ll talk about how to add fall color for those of you who are homesick for the autumn foliage display.   So please stay tuned, chime in with your own experience–and pray for rain!

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