It Rained !

– Posted in: Garden Photography, Garden Photography
Raindrops and bubbles in street puddle

Raindrops and bubbles in street puddle

While most of the country has been suffering under a brutally cold winter, we in California have been waiting for winter rains.  It has been brutally dry.  We have not had a soaking rain for 13 months.

So you gardeners can imagine the joy  of our recent rains.  I spent each day this past weekend working in the garden, in the rain, in rapture.   The earth is breathing, sighing, releasing its bonds.  Immediately everything in my garden perked up.

Western Hounds Tongue (Cynoglossum grande) leaves sprouting in spring garden

Western Hounds Tongue (Cynoglossum grande) leaves sprouting in spring garden

The ground is spongy.  Leaves washed clean.  The air’s clean, wet, and rich with whatever ions the earth is giving off.  Frogs are croaking.  Snails have returned. Weeds and wildflowers have sprouted.

California poppy leaves emerging

California poppy leaves emerging in spring garden

Mostly I am just cleaning up, pruning all those shrubs I never got around to working with.  Without rain there has been no energy for the garden.  We are still way behind what we need and I am not planting anything new this year.  We are almost certainly going to be on mandatory water rationing.

Rose branches pruned on the ground

Rose branches pruned on the ground

But these rains have soaked in.  The roots of tree and shrubs are wet again if only for a few days, if only for a few weeks, but certainly for the first time all season.  I am happy for them.  The native shrubs in particular, those that survive with no rain all summer really need winter rain.

California currant, Ribes speciosum flower buds emerging

California currant, Ribes speciosum flower buds emerging

As I walked giddy in the garden this weekend, bouncing from one plant to the next saying hello and how are you, I noticed spring.  As I pruned and groomed my pretties, nipping a branch here, cutting back deadwood there, I saw the early buds, the fresh life, the promise of spring.

Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata'

Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’ (Mock Orange) leaf rosette


Rhamnus alaternus 'Variegata' (Variegated Buckthorn)

Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Buckthorn)

There is still plenty of evidence of the killing frost we had in December.  My Fuchsias may never recover.  My Myer lemon is leafless.  The Melianthus is nothing but sad spires of spent leaves.

Dead leaves on Honey Bush

Dead leaves on Honey Bush ( Melianthus major) from winter frost

But that is the way of all things.  Right next to this sad remnant of the cold, (see them behind the dead leaves ?), the Euphorbia is coming to life.  Just in the past few days.

Chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia rigida in dormant border garden

Chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia rigida in dormant border garden

There is so much positive.  The very first Magnolia soulangeana bud cracked open.

Flower bud opening, Magnolia soulangeana

Flower bud opening, Magnolia soulangeana

The Pink Dawn Viburnum has opened

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

Pink Dawn Viburnum, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ spring flower cluster deciduous shrub

Even the rain drenched Camellias look good in the rain, their petals quickly becoming soggy tissues.

Red Camellia sasanqua flowers and wet spent petals

Red Camellia sasanqua flowers and wet spent petals

The star shrubs of the garden, and independent of the rain actually, are the Manzanitas.  They have been blooming for a couple weeks, seemingly fearless of the drought.

Winter flowering evergreen California native shrub, Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Monica' in shrub border

Winter flowering evergreen California native shrub, Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Monica’ in shrub border

Their waxy white bell blossoms seemingly like snow when they fall, are blooming more profusely than ever; perhaps because of the drought, or perhaps because of last year’s winter pruning when I opened up them up.

They are delicate but tough and a delight to the bees.  I did a PhotoBotanic study of their flowers.  An illustration merging 6 exposures of different focus points, then  extracted the branches from the background in PhotoShop.

Flowering branch of California native shrub, Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Monica'

Prints are for sale on Fine Art America.

I am anticipating doing more PhotoBotanic illustrations.  The rains have assured spring if only for the California natives and I will be sure to do the Ribes, the queen of the native shrubs when it opens fully in a few weeks.  Bring on the rain!


Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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13 Comments… add one

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Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening February 10, 2014, 8:23 pm

So happy for you that you finally got the much needed rain. Your gardens are coming to life and it is wonderful! It is nice to see those Magnolia and Viburnum buds. Ours are over a month away. Enjoy the blooms!

Thanks Lee. It does feel great to see the garden respond so quickly. It was just SO thirsty – Saxon

Susan February 10, 2014, 8:25 pm

I think Saxon what comes to me form your post is that there is hope in waiting for joy. Thank you.

Well the joy was anticipated but it was so, so palpable in the plants – Saxon

Gail Klein February 10, 2014, 11:25 pm

Pretty dedicated photographer if you had to lie down in the puddle to get that first photo!

🙂 That’s the beauty of my G11 camera with the swivel viewfinder that you can hold it at ground level – Saxon

Charles February 11, 2014, 4:10 am

What a difference a continent makes. We have serious flooding in parts of the UK and our wettest winter on record. Everywhere is sodden. In our garden our Yews are suffering badly from water logging. I’ve not taken a pic in the garden this month.

And what a difference in news media. “wettest winter on record”? who knew? Thanks for your comment. – Saxon

Arthur in the Garden! February 11, 2014, 2:37 pm


Jen February 12, 2014, 4:39 pm

Your manzanitas are stunning. Very thankful for the rain – I wasn’t sure how much longer my fall plantings would hang on without some good, drenching winter storms.

At least the fall plantings can get nursed along with bits of hand watering. I was really worried about my mature plants that so needed this real drink to survive. As you know we need much more, but one deep soaking is vital. – Saxon

Pam's English Garden February 13, 2014, 3:19 pm

Such a joyous posting, Saxon: puddles, frogs, buds, the garden coming back to life. I love this posting and I rejoice with you. P. x

Pam/Digging February 13, 2014, 10:15 pm

I was so glad to hear of your rain. I know how much you needed it.

Diana Studer February 15, 2014, 5:12 am

your Melianthus should sprout again from the roots. They are supposed to cope with light frost – and we share the mediterranean climate.

Thanks Diana. Indeed, I just cut everything back this weekend and sprouts are there. – Saxon

Donna February 16, 2014, 4:39 pm

I am happy CA is getting the needed rain. Time will tell what summer brings. It seems extremes are happening many places, all with differing results. I really like your botanic illustration and framing and look forward to more.

Hi Donna _ The rain was a literal drop in the bucket. None since and none in the forecast. Look for more of the framing on Mental Seeds – where you will soon see that same photo explained. – Saxon

Sheryl at Providence Acres February 18, 2014, 11:12 pm

Congrats on the rain! It sure wakes up the garden!

henry February 20, 2014, 12:08 am

wow, i love this it is very beautiful to is nice to read..

M. J. Joachim February 20, 2014, 2:14 pm

Oh I wish it would rain! I heard about California’s dry weather, and I hope you don’t have water shortages there. As a native Californian, I remember a few past droughts rather well. Now I live in AZ and we too are very dry this year. Hopefully that will change soon, or I fear we’ll both be facing water shortages this year.

Thanks for sharing such wonderful photos. My mom grew camellias and they were so lovely.

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