Let’s talk about the rain

The current California drought is the one for the record books. In December 2014, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution declared it the worst drought in 1,200 year—and that was over a year ago. 2015, year four of the drought, did little to change the situation. Water Deeply has an interactive timeline that shows 1011 consecutive days of severe drought as of today (March 11, 2016).

Everybody’s hopes have been on El Niño, the unusually warm weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean that typically brings us warmer and wetter winters than usual. But Mother Nature has not been playing by the book (when does she ever?). December did bring some rain, as did January, but nowhere near enough to even get us to normal. February, usually our wettest month of the year, was much drier (and warmer) than expected. Only 0.42” of rain here in Davis. Thing did not look good. Year five of the drought seemed inevitable.

But then came March and what I’m sure the weather folks on TV will soon start calling the “March Miracle,” at least here in Northern California. We’re only 11 days into March, but in Davis we’ve already had six days of precipitation (2.84” so far). That may not seem like much, and other areas in Northern California have certainly gotten much more than we did (up to 6” in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada), but it does bring us close to 100% of normal.

The fact of the matter is that it’s been raining on and off all week—something we haven’t had in a long, long time. I will admit that I’m a bit concerned about my succulents, especially in the newly planted succulent mounds in the front yard, but they should be fine, considering the soil is very well draining.

Photographing rain is hard, but here are some photos I took recently. I finally was able to put my water-resistant Olympus Tough TG-4 point & shoot to good use. The image quality isn’t the same as what I get from my Canon DSLR, but it’s fun walking around in the pouring rain with a camera that is impervious to the elements.





Oops, we have a problem. French drain not draining so well.


Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often


Overflow from the downspout above flowing around the succulent mounds in the front yard


Corten vegetable bed in the front yard. The veggies are loving the rain!


Water flowing down the gutter into the storm drain down the street


Another downspout at the edge of the garage


The × Mangave I got from Greg Starr a few years ago is already flowering. Will it live like a Manfreda or die like an Agave? Stay tuned!


Alphonse Karr bamboo overhanging the walkway to the front door. This drives my wife crazy. I think it looks jungle-y, but I will admit that getting your face slapped by wet bamboo leaves isn’t for everybody.


Aloe × spinossisima is happy enough in the rain—at least for now. The orangey-yellow leaves in the foreground belong to Sedum nussbaumerianum.


Agave cupreata and Aloe ‘Fire Ranch’ looking slick in the rain


Dymondia margaretae in the backyard growing by leaps and bounds in the rain


  1. Let's look at it this way, Gerhard. You showed us recently your new garden with mounds (shed water) and paths and those pavers (dry feet)... you got everything in just before the rain came for a week. How fortunate (or well planned). You won't have to worry about being sure their roots stay moist until the new growth starts. You can now with this rain sit back and enjoy with a big smile on your face. Well done!

    My sedum n. has great big full flowerheads on it this year, big as tennis balls, I bet yours will, too, with a bit more heat.

    1. You're right, my recently planted succulents should be alright. And next week looks sunny and dry.

      My Sedum nussbaumerianum has never bloomed. Flowers the size of tennis balls! That must be a sight to see.

  2. The succulents, as long as they have good drainage as you say, will surely be fine...I mean if we can grow them here with good drainage, no problem :)

    Also - have you ever considered a cistern or something to catch all that wonderful liquid for the hot dry drought months? We're talking about it even here in Portland as we are also having extraordinary weather events regularly. That is to say hotter and drier than normal in the spring and summer. Nothing like what you have but it's still a problem.

    1. We have a 55-gallon rain barrel. It's not much, but it's all we have room for. I'm dreaming of an underground tank that holds several thousand gallons, but that ain't gonna happen on this small lot. Someday when we move to a place with more land...

  3. It is strange seeing your garden all wet -- glad you're getting it though!

    Have you considered an arbor over the walkway? Always decorative but will also keep drooping bamboo out of the way when needed.

    1. An arbor would look nice, but getting smacked by wet bamboo leaves is the price of admission, as far as I'm concerned.

      Actually, what it's really telling me is that I need to cut off the offending branches.

  4. Wow...so happy to see this! Of course I'd be happier if I wasn't seeing the same thing here...

    1. When are you going to Arizona? Probably not soon enough, LOL!

  5. Your garden appears to be weathering current conditions well (pun intended). We haven't received as much rain as you have but at least March is a vast improvement over February. My rain total for the past week was 1.17 inches and my rain collection tanks are, once again, full. Could you capture any of your excess rain using a barrel or tank? They're admittedly not especially attractive but you may be able to find a space that's out of the line of sight - I've got one behind our garage and 2 tucked in corners at the back of the house.

    1. Kris, we have one 55-gallon rain barrel (see my comment to Tamara above). I need to do some more research. If I can find a tall but slim tank that hugs the side of the house, we might be able to fit one in next to the house.

  6. The sight of all that rain is so lovely. Your timing was excellent on getting a lot planted right before a fairly big storm.

    We got a little more yesterday so we're at almost an inch combined from the two storms of last weekend plus yesterday. I need to get some downspout diverters and capture more rainwater. Got over 100 gallons, but that won't last long. I got your Aloe megalacantha pulled from the slope, now I just need to find a shipping box...slowly, it will get there.

    1. Another rainy today (Sunday, March 13) but it's supposed to be dry and warmer the rest of the week. As nice as the rain is, we do need a bit of a break for the soil to dry out a little.

      Thank you again for the Aloe megalacantha. I'll find a good spot for it!


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