coyotebrushRalph Waldo Emerson said, “Earth laughs in flowers”. Well, as I told you yesterday, it’s going to be a long mirthless stretch until we get a winter season with normal rainfall. There is always a chance we could get a few more rain showers later this month — but given how fast the temperatures have spiked this week and the fact that we, in California, are experiencing what may be the worst drought in 500 years — it feels as if what little winter we had is definitively over. Joshua Tree National Park and Anza-Borrego Park officials are already telling tourists not to expect flowers. Riverside’s local paper quotes wildflower experts as calling this the worst wildflower season in anyone’s memory and warning us we won’t be seeing our usual carpets of Spring wildflowers. One of my favorite bloggers, Maybelline, who keeps an eye on all things vegetable and flower down in Bakersfield, confirms that, from the Sierras to the Tehachapis, Kern County is nearly flowerless.

So that’s Southern California, which has gotten even less of the few storms we had last month. How are things doing in Sonoma — specifically in that little patch of heaven we call Two Terrier Vineyards? Much the same. Compared to past years, our Spring display is pitiful. But some of our favorites are giving it the old college try. But other favorites, usually well represented, are nowhere to be seen, including: Indian Warriors, Milkmaids, Chinese Houses, Diogenes’ Lanterns.

henderson's shooting star

Henderson’s Shooting Star. My flower book calls these “perky little charmers”. We usually have loads. This year there are only a few isolated clumps.

Zigadenus, or the Death Camas, is one of my favorites. Very few in evidence this year.

Zigadenus, or the Death Camas (don’t eat this one!), is one of my favorites. Very few in evidence this year.

Actually, we would have had a record poppy bloom thanks to all the seed sowing my Ranch Manager and the guys have been doing. But the deer ate them all to the ground before they could bloom. Here's one that escaped.

Actually, we would have had a record poppy bloom thanks to all the seed sowing the guys have been doing. But the deer ate them all to the ground before they could bloom. Here’s one of the few that escaped what Ranch Manager Louis calls “the asshole deer”.

What are doing better are the flowers on established plants and bushes around the property, especially in the bee and insect garden we call the Insectarium. Since most are on shrubs — like the coyote brush at the top of the post — I guess they don’t really count as “wildflowers”. But we, and the bees, will take anything we can get at this point.

Good old Ceanothus. You can always count on this guy. And we have a lot of them that are full of flowers.

Good old Ceanothus. You can always count on this guy. And we have a lot of them that are full of flowers.

We have large areas of this Salvia -- Butterfly Sage -- established. And it seems to be putting out a lot of flowers. Luckily, this is a long-lasting bloom which may last through most of the summer.

We have large areas of this Salvia — Butterfly Sage — established. And it seems to be putting out a lot of flowers. Luckily, this is a long-lasting bloom which may carry on through most of the summer.

And thank you Penstemon. The hummingbirds love you.

And thank you Penstemon. The hummingbirds love you.

I don't even know what these are, but they look great next to a terrier bum.

I don’t even know what these are, but they look great next to a terrier bum.

I should note that most of these flowers have been sown, guarded, nurtured and protected and coddled by Ranch Manager Louis and his crews — which may account for what bloom we are having. The guys have only stopped short of watering them out of season. Because we want them to be able to handle the harsh hot world they are going to live in. However, be forwarned. As landscapers, DJ and Louis have developed a “Signature Look” that involves planting succulents and cactus in every rocky corner and nook.

Seriously. Anything that sits still too long gets a succulent planted on it.

Seriously. Anything that sits still too long gets a succulent planted on it!

I want to emphasize that very few of these plants are irrigated. We do have some drip irrigation to our Insectarium, because it’s so important to our natural integrated pest management. But we’ve turned it off and hope to keep it off as long as possible. Our current plan is to water these plants only if they look like they are truly languishing.

Our goal is to conserve every drop of our precious water.

Our goal is to conserve every drop of our precious water.

An exception: we didn’t conserve the water in this wine barrel. After Oscar jumped around in it for half an hour, we found a dead wood rat floating in it. That would be a rat that had been in there awhile. We dumped it out. Needless to say, we certainly don’t have enough wildflowers to cover that smell.

So here’s where we are. Very few flowers. But we have hopes that the seeds that didn’t germinate will hold on until we get a rainier winter — and California native flowers are very good at doing that. In the meantime, we are relying on our established bushes which are doing a heroic job of giving us color and scent in the interim. And we are pinning all our hopes on the possibility of an upcoming El Niño. Scientists are saying there is a 50% chance that certain ocean conditions now appearing off South America could be a forming El Niño.

At Two Terrier Vineyards, all paws are crossed. Our mantra for now is “Well, this winter when we get our El Niño…”

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