Monday, December 3, 2012


In Southern California, winter is the time of rebirth. Autumn's sere Santa Ana winds are over, and spring's heat waves are yet to come. The rain has begun to fall, and when I go out in the mornings for my walk, I can see the new life burgeoning on the hillsides and in the oak woods around me.

For a brief few days in spring, the west-facing hill on our street is a sight of astonishing beauty, a brilliant mass of bright yellow flowers of the wild mustard, or brassica rapa. Its beauty is brief. It grows rampantly, goes quickly to seed, and soon the property owner's hired crew will have brush-cleared the hill bald.

But that's in the coming year. Now, in December, you can see the seedlings sprout everywhere on the hillside.

If you've ever grown radishes in your garden, you'll recognize these wee, kidney-shaped leaves, sprouting in pairs and frosted with a slight grey-blue bloom. Brassicas have a clear family resemblance, as obvious as a persistent family nose or chin.

Even now, the moment is fleeting - here some mustard seedlings have graduated to the next stage, with the jagged, toothy young leaves furling out. These will become tall, gangly jagged-edged monsters, like the other members of the Brassica family..

Once I noticed this new life springing out, it was easy to see it everywhere I looked.

Here, in the front yard, my narcissus bulbs are poking their shoots out of the soil. They are well on their way to blooming in January.

Elsewhere, there are other new leaves coming up amid the old. These are the shoots of Amaryllis belladonna, the magnificent Naked Lady flowers. These shoots will become huge, rank strap-like leaves that swamp and choke out everything around them in spring, then suddenly disappear as the plant goes dormant. The huge, crystalline pink flowers will appear suddenly in the dry days of autumn as if by magic.

And then the rains will come again, coaxing the new shoots out of the ground again.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Very pretty!

I'm in W.V. now, and we've yet to hit the really harsh days of winter.

smalltownme said...

I was amazed how quickly the green started sprouting after the first rain.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

It is so interesting to me that what I consider to be springtime activity happens for you in mid-winter!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Ah bulbs, how I miss them. I can grow the occasional day lily down here and also agapanthus or African lilies but none of the real spring show stoppers. Those green sprouts just give you hope to see them coming out of the ground.