The weather has been very strange this winter. In November and December it never stopped raining, so I had to pump hundreds of gallons of standing water out of the yard every single weekend. But ever since New Year's Day, it's hardly rained a drop, and I haven't once felt the slightest need to pump out the yard. At this point, there isn't even any water left to pump out! The ditch is not only no longer overflowing into the rest of the yard, but has actually run entirely dry. In fact, believe it or not, I even resorted to watering the yard. In February! Granted, the yard wasn't actually as dry as it gets in the summer - the soil still has some moisture in it even without actual standing water on top of it - so I wouldn't have felt any need to water it except that I had planted a lot of water-loving plants in anticipation of the usual wet winter, and I didn't want to risk losing those plants to a freakish dry spell.
But yes, I watered the yard. And the only reason there's some water in the ditch in the photo below is that I had just then been watering the yard.
As you can see, there's not a lot blooming. There are some strawberry flowers (Fragaria vesca 'Improved Rugen') in the back corner where the rainbowy sunbeam is streaming in, but they're too small to be seen in the picture. The Point Reyes meadowfoam is to the left of the blue elderberry, but those flowers are also too small to be seen here. There's a lingering California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) blooming near the left edge of the photo about halfway up, but it's washed out by the sun. There are some buds on the hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula) a little behind the aster, but you can't see those either. And there's a lingering flower or two on the rosilla (Helianthemum puberulum), but those are both tiny and hidden behind the blue elderberry, way back against the fence. In the front yard there are always some flowers on the scarlet mallow (Sphaeralcea philippiana), and for the past month or so there have been a few flowers on the blue witch (Solanum umbelliferum) as well - but they're all so tiny that they're hard to photograph and so ever-present that I'm bored with trying.
So what can I show you? I can show you other signs of the seasons changing. We'll start with winter. My hoary coffeeberry (Frangula californica ssp. tomentella) is said to be "semi-deciduous." In practice, this seems to mean that if its leaves start actually falling off, it's dead. Or at least that's been my experience. But if its leaves turn half yellow and stay on, then it's just having a normal winter. So far, so good.
Here are fall and spring both at once: the fall color on the last few old leaves on the golden currant (Ribes aureum), along with the new spring buds. I'm actually a bit worried about this plant - not worried about its survival, because it's been around long enough to have established itself very well, but worried that because warm spring weather arrived so unseasonably early, it may not have had enough of a dormant period to produce a good spring bloom. Normally it covers itself with yellow flowers before it produces many leaves at all, but right now every single branch is beginning to leaf out, and it has yet to produce a single flower.
The unseasonably warm weather has coaxed new leaves out of all sorts of deciduous plants, despite not yet having coaxed actual flowers out of anything at all. This is the osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis).
I do have a decent crop of seedlings going. Here, you can see some Gilia seedlings growing in an old, dug-up deergrass rootball, behind the California polypody fern (Polypodium californicum). You can't tell from the photo, but the deergrass rootball is not at all embedded in the ground; it's a completely separate dirt clod that you can lift up and carry around the yard. And it has multiple Gilia seedlings growing out of it. I suppose they get much better drainage on the dirt clod than they would get in the actual ground.
In the front yard, I have an even better crop of seedlings. Here are Chinese pagodas (Collinsia heterophylla), baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and various Clarkia and Gilia seedlings.
This is a slightly longer shot of the same general area in the front yard - a strip of short, meadowy garden alongside the front sidewalk. The more visible plants are Sonoma sage (Salvia sonomensis) in the lower third of the photo, a common tarweed (Madia elegans) in the middle, an arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) and a foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs') to the right of that, Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) in the upper right corner, and California fuchsia (Epilobium californicum 'Calistoga' hybrid) in the upper left corner.
This is a newer and shadier bed in the front yard, between the lawn and the oleanders. The larger plants in it are California lilac (Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter') on the left, pink honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula ssp. vacillans) in the middle, and a temporarily leafless skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) on the right. I scattered tons of seedlings around them, but the only seedlings that seem to have come up are some mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) and thousands of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and/or frying pans (Eschscholzia lobbii) - the poppies are too tiny right now for me to distinguish the species.
In short: spring is on its way! But not quite here yet. Soon, though.