Leaving California with an Aching in My Heart

The trip to Rancho la Puerta begins and ends at the San Diego airport. This was my first time to Southern California, and since it turned out to be cheaper (due to the New Year travel rush) to stay a few days in San Diego than fly home straight away, we took advantage to enjoy a bonus day and a half in the city.

Having now had a chance to see first hand what gardening is like in Southern California, I can say with authority that I would move there in a heartbeat to enjoy that luscious, long-season growing. I spent the last few minutes before we had to head to the airport running from one neglected front yard citrus tree to the next screaming (mostly on the inside), “Dear god, look at all of these oranges!”

If it were not for the state of traffic and poor public transportation options, I would be cranking up the Zeppelin and packing my bags right now. I can’t live in a car dependent city, never mind the fact that my stomach was in my throat every time we got on the road. Since I’m being honest, the earthquakes freak me out a bit, too.

This garden was the first I saw when we arrived at our hotel. You’ll recognize the large clumps of blooming bird of paradise (Strelitzia). It seems to grow like a weed here and I noticed that it was a public garden planting favourite. But the real show-stopper, the plant that I could almost leave my bike-riding, public transportation utopia for is the giant Dr. Suess-like Fox Tail Agave (Agave attenuata).

My god, that is the most phenomenal agave I have ever seen in my life! Alas, I try my best to keep my little collection of potted agaves healthy, but what I wouldn’t give to grow a massive cluster like this.

There are several benefits to living and gardening in a southern climate, but it’s the promise of a killer agave garden that gets to me most.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

13 thoughts on “Leaving California with an Aching in My Heart

  1. I live just a few hundred miles from where you where and it’s like a different world, gardening-wise! The mild weather and gardening opportunities are practically endless, and part of why I love California so much. The traffic is far worse and scary than earthquakes, trust me.

    • But don’t they still believe that a big quake is gonna suck the coast into the ocean eventually? I’d have to shut that out of my mind in order to live there…. and I’d have to be on the coast. I love the ocean too much.

    • Everyone has an invisible expiration date on their forehead. If I the earth is going to swallow me up one day as California slides into the sea so be it. At least I am going to live in a paradise where I can grow amazing plants before it happens.

      There are scary natural disasters all over North America. Blizzards in the north and midwest, hurricanes in the southeast, tornadoes in the midwest. All of those things happen with far greater regularity than massive earthquakes. I lived in California for two years before I even felt my first (tiny) earthquake and as I said before it has been over a year since I have even felt one.

  2. I’ve lived in California since 2006 and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. But SoCal is a big no for me precisely because of that traffic you mentioned. Luckily there are hundreds of miles of California Coast and many of them have no traffic to speak of (though they are a bit cooler than San Diego that is for sure. We can still grow great Agaves though). The earthquakes aren’t a common enough occurrence to keep me away. I haven’t even felt one for over a year and I’ve only been in one that freaked me out in any way shape or form.

    • We’ve been to Northern California and have always loved it there, so I know what you mean. Of the places I have been, California is the only place I’ve seriously considered leaving Canada for.

  3. That doesn’t even look real! How astonishing. Thank you for sharing.

    I was born in southern California, and we moved to the midwest when I was little. I do remember the huge (to me) hibiscus in the backyard, my dad’s little side garden, stealing strawberries from the neighbor (I didn’t know it was stealing when I took them — I learned right after, though). It would be nice to live in that sort of climate for gardening alone. Ahhhh. . .

  4. I felt the same way when I visited SoCal for the first time (my husband grew up there), but after many, many visits I found that the cons outweighed the pros. Traffic (show no fear!), the high-cost of housing, the strip malls…and I learned over time that I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth (and with great public transportation and mild winters, hint, hint).

  5. I spent a summer in southern Cali and coming from the Midwest US I missed- rain, thunderstorms, cloud variety and color diversity (seasons in general?) The grass is always greener. Sometimes I wonder if spring would be as grand if winter hadn’t taught me to appreciate it. Beautiful agave of course! Oh well, they can ooze over my gorgeous fall maples! cheerio.

  6. I got over missing thunderstorms and we get enough rain in winter to last me the year. I definitely don’t miss “seasons” since the only ones I like are spring and summer and we get year round spring and summer (and true spring is just as grand when all our wildflowers burst into bloom but I do love those first spring bulbs popping up back in the northeast).

  7. Ah, tell me about it. I grew up in SD and though I only live a few hundred miles north of there now… that climate, those succulents, the mexican food, a REAL summer — I will always miss them. Never gonna move back (traffic, politics, strip malls etc), but So Cal has a magic about it.

    Ironically, I’ve been dreaming about Toronto lately :) I could seriously go for some snow, some seasons.

  8. San Diego… otherwise known as the land of milk and honey. Such a beautiful climate! I would miss the rain, food, hipsters and wackiness of Portland too much. Love to visit at this time of year though and smuggle citrus back up north with me for preserving!

  9. Received Easy Growing as a late Christmas present and I love it!! Once again you have provided an excellent book with down to earth information. I have all three of your books and they far surpass other gardening material.

Comments are closed.