Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let’s play the “what if” game!

If my mother were asked to write a guest post on this blog and the topic was “how did Loree drive you crazy when she was a little girl” she would probably write about my propensity for the question “what if” … I’ve been told I was very good at coming up with a whole litany of “what if’s” on any subject, at any time. So…what do you think? Are you up for a little game of “what if?”

Last week we received over 4” of rain in 2 days, which is a lot of rain! As I was cleaning up a little river running accross our basement floor (nothing like a good drenching to let you know the power washing last summer for your house paint job removed some much needed concrete patch along the driveway and house foundation, thank god that our basement floor is unfinished and slopped toward a drain)...anyway...I got to thinking about all the gardeners out there who would love to have a share of my rain-weath, and how much I would love to share it with them. So I started thinking "what if"...

What if you could magically garden in your version of the perfect climate? What would your average summer highs be? Your winter lows? What USDA climate zone would your perfect garden be in?

How much annual rainfall would you receive, and when would it fall? What would your gardens ratio of full sun/part sun and shade be? And…how big would your garden be?

Fun to think about isn’t it? Yes…this is pure child-like silliness.

My answers…

Summer highs: this is a dream world so I’d like to see summer highs in the 80’s with very low humidity and a lot of sun. There would be approximately 15 days in the summer months (June, July, and August) with highs in the 90’s and half of those would be over 100. As I said there would be low humidity and of course my home would have excellent and efficient air conditioning and it would cool off outdoors at night for perfect sleeping with the windows open. Spring and fall would be long seasons with tons of glorious sunny 75 degree days.

Winter lows: a nighttime low of 25 would be thought of as obscene, but they may occasionally happen, like every few years, just to keep things interesting. A dusting of snow is a pretty sight…but it shouldn’t stick around too long as to wear out its welcome, and we’d have none of that wet heavy snow that breaks branches. Lows in the mid 30’s would be the usual extreme.

What USDA Zone: 9 leaning toward a 10.

Annual rainfall: let’s go with 23”…Portland, OR, typically gets about 37,” Santa Barbara, CA, 15” and Phoenix, AZ, only 8”… San Francisco, CA, 22”

When would it fall: More in the winter, with an occasional summer shower to freshen things up.

What ratio of full sun/part sun and shade: full sun 45%, part sun 35%, shade 20%

How big: Our current lot is 45.38’ x 111.2’…I suppose ideally I would like double that. Then I’d have a lot more room for trees, while still allowing for full sun spots. There would be a great (out of the way) area for composting, a dedicated vegetable garden (rather than just stock tanks in the drive way) and even room for a greenhouse.

Your turn!


  1. I think about this a fair bit actually. I think I'd have to start with temperature... summer highs would be in the upper 80's to low 90's most days with the occasional 100 degree days. I would like there to be rainfall but preferably at night when I'm sleeping to keep things lush. Spring/Fall would stay considerably warm with temperatures cooling off at night to near... lets say 55F but daytime highs consistently around 80F. For winter I would like most days in the low to mid 70's with extremes falling on either end. The odd crisp day and the odd hot day. Nighttime lows in the winder would ideally fall around 50F with 35F being an absolute freak event - but possible. Humidity doesn't really bother me all that much but I would prefer those 100 degree summer days on the drier side of things. As for rainfall, this is contentious to me. I would want enough that watering excessively would not be needed. That being said, I wouldn't want so much that dessert plants wouldn't essentially drown - but like I said preferably much of that rain to fall at night. I would want a rather expansive lagoon style swimming pool with a large tropical oasis type setting... maybe even a hot tub with waterfall flowing warm water into the pool (it would all be run on solar of course because we'd get so much sunshine). I would want a rather expansive property, preferably 5 plus acres with tons of full sun and part sun locations.... BUT I would have to most epic shade garden/quite retreat tucked away along a magical pathway. So I guess what I'm saying is definitely usda zone10a/b.

    oh its wonderful to dream :)

  2. This is SO much fun! Summers should have highs in the upper 70s or low 80s. Upper 80s or 90s NEVER. If I ever see three digits on a thermometer, I'm moving the very next day. High humidity all the time. Regular rain, about once a week a good solid day of a steady, slow drizzle. Occasional thunderstorms. No cloudless days -- either raining, or a mixture of blue skies and white puffy clouds. Fall should start out crisp and cool and clear, but end with those wonderful week-long drizzles that are so restful and soothing. Winter should be very snowy, no seeing the ground from mid-December to mid-February, but not super cold. Maybe teens and twenties, with the occasional warmer, sunny day getting up to 40 or so.
    Basically, here in Michigan IS my dream climate, if you just moderate the winter cold a bit and knock out the occasional hot, dry spell.
    As for the garden site... My dream is 100+ acres of completely blank farm land. Gently rolling hills, but nothing else. I want to be able to plant entire forests, a completely blank slate where I can let my fancy run wild.

  3. I like the respite from gardening that comes with winter, but the milder kind we used to have would be more to my liking. A nice snowfall once every three or four years (the kind that settles gently on the land, insulating the plants to protect from damage) lasting for a week and then melting away quickly. I would like the rain to be evenly spaced throughout the year and to fall mostly at night (a la Camelot). Temperatures would seldom rise above low 80's and only dip below freezing during our snow week. One drawback: it would be like the goldrush, with every gardener clamoring for a little piece of land.

  4. I think I know the answer to this because I have lived there. Southern California. Of course there would be no problem with water shortages and I would have to have it a little warmer at nights than it was where we lived in Irvine. Maybe a little further from the beach but not too far away. i wouldn't need AC because we never did once. Being further inland we would have a much larger garden and I could grow all the wonderful things I know grow there with ease. The occasional Santa Anna won't bother me too much and if I want snow I will go up to Big Bear. ( I won't do it because I once drove the kids up there to cross country ski and we were frozen) The question is could I stand all the crowds there. I do know how wonderful the gardens are in a temperate climate, like England. So maybe I will have something in the Cotswolds instead, with a much warmer climate. Then again, I kind of like Texas.

  5. Hahahaha…it IS fun to imagine, isn't it! I basically like Portland's weather for the most part, the only changes would be to cap the summer temps at the mid 80's (nothing above 90 degrees…ever). This summer was pretty much my ideal summer (until it got hot towards the end). Very low humidity during the warmer part of the year. Also, like Joseph, I'd like clouds during summer…not complete cloud cover, but some nice fluffy relief from the sun. Actually…that slightly overcast, just softly filtered light would be perfect! Rain would be like we usually have during the year, but with a few showers during summer (maybe 2-3 times a month) to keep it from getting so dusty. I would like 1 good thunderstorm each year…preferably early in spring (so there is minimal to no plant damage). Fall should be a tad bit cooler and crisper…a few showers here and here, but mostly clear, bright weather. Also, I'd have a more "winterly" winter, with December and January getting cold enough to have snow 3-4 times during that 2 month period…although the snow would only last a few days. Honestly, it'd be nice to dig into the boxes of sweaters and coats that I haven't worn since I moved out here! I guess I'd probably lose a zone or 2 of hardiness as a result…but I don't have very many tenders, so I'd be ok there. As far as ideal garden…yikes…that depends! If in the city, would LOVE a full city block. Ideally, would love a small acreage (maybe 2-3 acres) just outside the city limits. Just far enough to escape, but close enough that seeing a movie would't be a hassle ;-) Oh…60% sun, 20% shade, 20% part-shade…gently rolling hills (VERY gently rolling!)

  6. Ha Loree, the climate you describe as your ideal is very similar to mine here in the Napa Valley, though the high temps vary dramatically along it's 30mile length, hotter as you go further north-thus the chewy red wine grapes like cabernet and zinfandel grow on the north end of the valley, and the Chardonnays and pinots in the south. I love this climate, but I also love my hometown LA frost free climate in zone 10.If I wished for anything , it would be for summer evenings to be warmer, and I agree with you 100 percent in the desire for a few summer rain events.

  7. Danger G. - you described a perfect cross of Abq & San Diego! Maybe Mexico City, except I don't think they have hit 100F.

    For me -
    USDA zone 9b / AHS heat zone 7

    "Winter" - avg high 65 / low 35...light frost 15x year, hard freezes 1x every 5 years, record low 15F, snow *never*

    Summer - avg high 85 / low 60...15 days over 90F, record high 99F

    Low humidity
    Sun - 90% winter, 75% summer
    Rain - 20" / year (summer max)
    Land - 5 sq miles undisturbed oak savanna and desert (1 acre garden)
    Soil - sandy loam, pH 7.2

    I think I described someplace inland San Diego, too. I moved from San Diego in 1991...

  8. Cooler than here (St. Louis) in the summer, warmer in the winter. So upper 80's max in summer, with low humidity. Mid 20's min in winter.

    Water is never a problem any time of year.

    I'd like to see the sun at least 50% of the time.

    Acres of land -- more is better. Soil that doesn't need anything added to it and is a joy to work with.

    Mountains and forests and rivers nearby. Ideally there would be a stream running through my property.

  9. 25 inches of rain would be heavenly. Zone 8 for proper winter chill with an enormous glasshouse. Or barring that, anywhere in zones 8 through 10 along a coastline. Maybe an acre on the Canary Islands? Good thing you asked, Loree, because we should definitely decide so we can all plan that retirement garden commune right away. ;)

  10. Louis, I love your version of paradise, especially the pool! I can tell you have thought this over.

    Greensparrow, you pretty much describe my worst nightmare...but then you probably already knew that. I am glad there are gardeners like you out there!

    ricki, I only got in on the tail end of those wonder years for gardening here in Portland, but I too would like them back.

    Lancashire Rose, "what if" you could have three gardens! Southern California, the Cotswolds, and Texas?

    Scott, oh yes...a thunderstorm, I do miss those. And wow, I'm surprised at your desire for more wintry-ness. I thought when people escaped something like that they had no desire to go back.

    ks, yes I figured there were a few of you out there that were living my dream!

    DD, wow even soil pH...that's being thorough! I like your average winter high, I didn't even think to mention that but 65 would be sweet! I'm surprised at your aversion to snow...

    Alan, sun only 50% of the time?

    Denise, can you imagine the arguments that could break out at this commune? "No you can't have more space for your silly vegetables...I am not digging up a single agave!"..."who said you could plant roses there?"...

  11. I love my garden weather right now. Sunny but not too hot. I do wish for half the usual number of typhoons, preferably weaker ones, too. I wish for a bit more of a cool breeze. I want it to be partly cloudy but not raining each and every time I go out to work on the garden. I live in the suburbs so for a more realistic what-if, double the size of my current garden would be sufficient (probably until I fill it up and then you can hit me with a what-if again).

    In the province, our family has quite a bit of land (currently used for rice). My wish would be for the land to be nearer the coast (think beachfront) without the land being affected by the salt water or risking tsunamis. Bordered by landslide proof mountains inland. That would be paradise, I think.

  12. After the summer we just endured, with a similar one predicted next year, I can't even play this game, much as I enjoyed reading everyone's fantasy list. Lancashire Rose's comment cheered me about our prospects in Texas though. Even after living in San Diego and England, gardener paradises both, she still likes Texas. I'm so glad to know her.


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