October fully loaded

Click on the ten for a full October calendar of plant sales, classes, lectures and hikes.

The week that was, 9/19-25/2010

Dust-covered snow in the San Juan Mountains of the Upper Colorado River basin, May 2009. Source: NASA/JPL-Snow Optics Laboratory. Click on the image to be taken to the report summary.

In the semi-arid regions of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin, winds blow desert dust east, triggering dust-on-snow events. When dark dust particles fall on snow, they reduce its ability to reflect sunlight. The snow also absorbs more of the sun’s energy. This darker snow cover melts earlier, with some water evaporating into the atmosphere. — NASA study shows desert dust cuts Colorado River flow, NASA press release, September 20, 2010

… the “first-in first-served” system of allocating water rights has not worked in areas of high demand and must be overhauled. — Reference to a New Zealand study by the Land and Water Forum of proposed water management overhauls, Tougher controls on water likely, Dominion Post, September

The Dry Garden: Wild in Westwood

Katarina Eriksson, former manager of the herb garden at the Huntington and now manager of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's new Grow Native Nursery in Westwood. She stands on a site that last week was about to be leveled to make way for 10,000 plants. In a partnership with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, returned servicemen and women will be working with Eriksson in the nursery, which opens this weekend. Click on the image for more information. Photo: Emily Green

For many Southern Californians, switching from a conventional landscape to a native plant garden starts on the freeways.

The best nurseries can be a long drive away. Only in recent years have some native plant outposts crept into relatively central parts of Los Angeles. The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers & Native Plants runs the most fragrant stall at the Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market, and in January Rancho

An effective teacher

With apologies to its followers, “The week that was” is postponed and will return next Sunday. I am cleaning up after a party, and not any party, but a farewell party for Michelle Ereckson, who after more than a decade teaching at 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles has transferred to a campus closer to her new home.

Those who believe in the test score rankings of teacher effectiveness compiled by the Los Angeles Times will be neither impressed nor horrified by Michelle. The Times, in its statistical beneficence, rates her as “average.”

The Dry Garden: “a strong La Niña”

The blue purple band in the center is a building La Niña in the equatorial Pacific. Source: Jason satellite/JPL. Click on the image to be taken to JPL's El Niño/La Niña compendium of Jason images.

Autumn and early winter are traditionally considered planting season in Southern California because nature can be expected to cooperate. As days shorten and rains come, seeds germinate, newly transplanted saplings deepen their roots and established plants awaken from dormancy.

Yet not all years are created equal, and this coming planting season has all the hallmarks of a tricky one.

National Weather Service predictions for a La Niña cycle are becoming less tentative and more ominous. That means ocean temperature trends in the equatorial Pacific have shifted to the opposite of last winter —  a way that augurs drought.

How dry our rainy season might be is unknowable; this brooding La Niña might even produce a

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