Spring in San Diego

March 5, 2009 @ 7:43 am | Filed under: ,

The signs are subtler here than on the East Coast; we’re still, after two and a half years here, learning to see. I never loved the snow except as a pretty picture outside my window, and the slush and bone-chill of a long Virginia February used to make me crazy. But oh how I loved that first glimpse of spring: the soft tips of crocuses pushing through soggy mulch, the yellow haze over a bare forsythia bush the day before it bursts into golden bloom. The return of robins. A feeling in the air, it was, that always quickened my pulse, gave me a soaring feeling. And then suddenly the grape hyacinths and daffodils would be blooming intermingled along my friend Sarah’s front steps, and my perennial bed would wake up, and the bluebirds would get busy cleaning house in the nesting box below our deck, right outside my office window where I’d be writing Martha and wishing I could push the deadline back and take a month off for spring.

It’s so different here. I don’t miss the frigid weather—haven’t worn my big red coat since we moved—but I do miss March, April, May, the gorgeous reawakening. San Diego is sharpening our senses, though. We do have seasons here, a blue one, a gray one, a gold one, a brown one, all of them bright with gorgeous bloom.

Last week we noticed the hillside along our route to piano lessons was covered, once more, with riotous orange and yellow wildflowers. I don’t know their names and last year I didn’t take note of how long they lasted. (We’re going to drive back with a camera, maybe this morning even, and pull into the Park-and-Ride parking lot to snap a few pictures so you, the Internet, can help us identify them.) Yesterday, just one week later, we saw that the grape soda lupine has joined them in bloom. That one I remember from last year. I told the girls, this year I’m going to pull over and sniff some to see if it really does smell like grape soda, and they said, Mom, you did that last year, don’t you remember?

The orange and lemon trees in our neighbors’ yards have been fruit-heavy for weeks. Yesterday I passed a table loaded with lemons in someone’s driveway, with a hopeful sign offering them five for a dollar. The orange poppies in our back yard are big clumps of feathery leaves, no buds yet. Nearby, I have an amaryllis whose shiny leaves had grown tall, promising a fat flower stalk not far behind, but Rilla and Wonderboy picked them all and turned them into leaf soup, spiced with sidewalk chalk.

There is a yard in town that looks weedchoked nine months of the year, and then for three months it’s a stunning tapestry of wildflowers. I saw the orange-and-yellow blooms there, too, yesterday. The sunflowers are tall in the schoolyard behind us. We’ve got a smaller crop coming up beneath our birdfeeder. Nobody but sparrows and house finches visit the feeder, and mourning doves picking fallen seeds out of the mulch below. Crows drop in to steal the peanuts we put out for the scrub jays. A phoebe perches on the back fence, bright-eyed, observant. I haven’t heard the noisy parrots in a while nor seen their green flutter above the neighbors’ treetops.

Our pole beans and peas are beginning to grope for their stakes; the grape tomatoes are green and Rilla is under strict orders to let them turn red this time before she picks them as presents for me. The lettuce is tender and ragged because the girls pinch bits of it all day long to nibble on. My Uncle Ray sent butterbean and White Acre pea seeds from Georgia and we are very excited about this.

I still need to find a milkweed source so we can lure some monarchs to the neighborhood. And it’s been too long since we visited the nature center; I wonder what spring is doing over there.

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13 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Penny in VT says:

    ahhhh, how lovely 🙂

    I have a spare milkweed pod from last fall… would that meager offering help? Let me know…

    (and as an aside, I’ll see you in 2 weeks, the girls and I are headed out to visit my folks)


  2. Beth says:

    This is beautifully written, Lissa.

  3. Kathy says:

    What a beautiful description.

    After living in Canada for 33 years, and having a very definite change in seasons, springs here in NC have taken me a while to get used to. Strangely enough this past weekend we had an unusual late snow day(our third this year) and yesterday I commented to my daughter as we drove along, that it really felt like spring!!

    Seeing the scattered remnants of snow peeking out among the yards, and the warm sunshine made me feel vibrant.

    Enjoy your beautiful spring.

  4. MelanieB says:

    I have no idea what’s going to come up in our yard this spring. But your description of Spring in Virginia looks like a shopping list to me of what I’d like to plant in the yard. I think you hit all my favorites. Oh especially the golden haze of forsythia and the daffodils.

    I’m jealous of all your flowers and greenery. Bella ducked outside to tramp a line of footprints out to the slide and back before she decided it was too cold and her pants too wet because I was too lazy to put her into her snowsuit. She’s piling icicles into her beach bucket and using her toy shovel to attack the snow banks. I long for spring.

  5. Karen Edmisten says:

    What a lush post! I love it — bursting with the life that’s breaking through around you.

  6. Kristen says:

    Oh Lissa, do you not know about the mustard flower?? My favorite part of March!! http://mysmalltreasures.blogspot.com/2008/03/golden-ribbons.html

    Beautiful post!

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    I remember that post! Was thinking of it yesterday in the car, in fact, as we drove past a patch!

    The little orange and yellow flowers I’m seeing on this one hill are something different–a low-growing groundcover of some kind. Possible succulent leaves like ice plant but I haven’t investigated closely enough to be sure.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Someone may have been looking to send you some milkweed and someone may have encountered problems with some companies not shipping to California.
    And OH! My husband was eyeing what he called ice plants when we were there. He says he is 99% sure that is what it is (but didn’t get a close look either). They are annuals here but he mentioned them serving as ground cover in your neck of the woods.

  9. Melissa Wiley says:

    SOMEONE is totally sweet for even thinking of it!!!

    I think I have some ice plants in the backyard. Mine have magenta flowers but I’ve seen them in orange and yellow at the nurseries. Haven’t gotten close enough to that flower-carpeted hillside to see if they are ice plants too. The colors are intermingled, as if growing on the same plant.

    When you were here I was so tempted to have your hubby give me garden advice, but I was too shy to pester him with work questions on his vacation. 🙂

  10. regan says:

    i am really enjoying all of the beautiful garden talk, even though i feel like i am eavesdropping in on a conversation between friends! thanks for your very vivid post. i can see with my minds’ eye everything you are saying perfectly! i guess that’s what make you such a good writer!
    we are quite enjoying our signs of spring here in so Cal too.
    God bless and happy saturday.

  11. Lisa says:

    Oh, guess what? My first daffodil bloomed just today! And the robins are quite full of themselves. I’ll soak it up for the both of us but it’s not the same as having you here in Virginia to share my spring fever.

  12. Karli says:

    My husband and I might be looking at taking a job offer in the San Diego area, so this post was inspiring to me as a gardener. We currently live in Portland. Which neighborhood do you prefer? Are the schools okay down there? My little guy is still in preschool. This will be a big change for us, but I can’t help but feel excited.

  13. Jessica Snell says:

    Oh, thank you for writing this! I just posted last week about noticing all of the flowers (in the beginning of Lent, it looks like Easter – so weird!), but your description of what you see out here in SoCal is even prettier.

    And, btw, thank you for posting about The Uncommon Reader. I just finished it and enjoyed it thoroughly.