California is a Mediterranean climate and all Mediterranean climates experience regular drought cycles – it is very normal. The specific timing of these cycles are unpredictable regarding when they will begin, how severe they will be and when they will end, but the cycles will be with us forever.
The answer of whether we are in a drought or not is always a tricky one. It’s a bit like a roller coaster that never ends, but just goes round and round forever. You may be at the top of the ramp at one moment, or at the bottom of the ramp at another time. You may be on the way up or on the way down or maybe the ride is just beginning or has just about to end. In all cases, you are still always on the ride, you are just at a different part of it.
Think of the drought question the same way. Currently, we are at the end of one of the drought cycles. Our above ground reservoirs throughout the state are almost all full and the snowpack in the Sierra’s is the best in many years.
Orange County has another peculiar wrinkle in the “are we in a drought” question. Orange County receives about half of all its water from a large underground reservoir, called an aquifer. Water agencies pump huge amount of water from the aquifer and deliver it to your home and garden. Aquifers refill much more slowly than reservoirs and lakes and our local aquifer in Orange County is still well below capacity. We will need several more years of above-normal rain to get this water supply back to normal.
With all of this as background, we know that these drought cycles are a regular part of living and gardening in California. Given this, gardeners should plan accordingly. For many gardeners this means that the longer-term plants and the large investments of a landscape should be made with plants that have a high tolerance to drought – and the ensuing water restrictions that come with them. These gardeners understand that the bones of a garden should be planned to persist through these regular and expected drought cycles, even if the flowers, lawns or perennials are lost.
The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville that was nearly dry on Aug. 19, 2014 (top photo). The same view this month. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
So, the conclusion of this story is yes, it is OK to plant some flowers and enjoy the superbloom in your own garden this year, in fact you probably should. There will be plenty of water. But just like the superbloom, don’t be fooled, the it won’t last forever. We garden in a Mediterranean climate.