‘Tis the Season

There are a lot of silly, ill-informed things said about Los Angeles, mostly in the form of lazy clichés. Sometimes said by people who are otherwise quite sensible, but the power and groove of a truism is hard to resist, even when it is an untrue one. One of them is that there are “no seasons” here. This is just a silly thing that people say in place of saying that they are used to seasons from a different climate and they have not taken the time to listen and watch for the march of the seasons that is evident here. (I think also that we have it amplified by popular culture that the standard symbols of the Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter cycle involving snow and red and gold leaf colours and bare trees and jack frost nipping at your nose and so forth are “the way things are supposed to be”.) A friend of mine has in her email signature the slogan “I have a life. It is just different from yours”, and so I will retool it here: “We have seasons. They are just different from yours.”

jasmine_in_bloomJust like anywhere else, the seasons wink or call (sometimes even shout) at you through certain combinations of colours, smells, temperatures, and so on. I think people miss a lot of cues in Los Angeles because they don’t get out of their cars and walk the streets very much. Even a few gardens or hedgerows passed along the way can show a lot about the mood of the season the city is in. For me, colours and smells are very big cues in Los Angeles, and there are times when large parts of the city seem to be dominated by a single plant’s smell or colour or sometimes both. For me, it is the Jasmine time of year now. This is when the night-blooming jasmine bushes (cestrum nocturnum, apparently) of the city all seem to work in concert and fill the air with a great scent, and lovely clumps of creamy pink-white blooms seem to greet you around every corner.

To the right is a part of a clump of jasmine from my garden. In past years this clump has been many feet in the air up a tall palm tree, forming a sort of frozen waterfall of white when in full bloom. It fell down during the Summer (the old leaf or branch stump it was perched on eventually dislodged), and now lives at the base of the tree, while other parts of the plant are spread all over a nearby hedge plant, a sight that is common in many parts of the city. this arrangement has filled the garden and the house with the strong sweet scent.

Now, I know that the jasmine blooms are not particular to this time of year, but somehow it seems that they are most powerful at this time. I think this is maybe to do with the taste and temperature of the air that carries the scent. While the days are warm overall, there’s still a cool touch to the air at times, in the shade, and sometimes there’s a bit of rain at night, making everything fresh in the day that follows. So the air is very different at this early time of the year from the later, hotter (and somehow in my mind, flatter) times. Also, later on, there are more scents and colours competing for attention.

At this time of year, Jasmine seems to be the queen of her domain.


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5 Responses to ‘Tis the Season

  1. Rhiannon says:

    I think the climate in California might be similar to that in Johannesburg (not the one in CA) where I grew up. I associate the smell of Jasmine blossoms with september, i.e. spring. The blossoms and fragrance are very noticeable on the campus of my undergrad university and were very welcome after the dryness of winter.

    Jacarandas bloom a little later, in November and December, which is exam season. Entire roads turn purple, it’s glorious…

  2. Clifford says:

    Hi Rhiannon!

    Yes, I think it is indeed (climate…). And yes… the Jacarandas will be here in a bit… lots of purple streets. See the post in the “related posts” list entitled “Jacaranda Time!”



  3. Ele Munjeli says:

    While I lived in Hawaii and worked as a gardener I often longed for the distinct seasons of California and the abundance of produce that can be grown with seasonal variation. It seemed as though every fruit I wanted needed just a bit more chill…

    It’s a happy medium here for a gardener I think. You can garden all year round, but you have to think of what to plant.

  4. Amy says:

    As a young girl, I would eagerly await my mother’s first annual exclamation of “Come out here and SMELL THE JASMINE!”, which would instantly lighten my little-kid-load, because it meant that the days would start getting longer, then school would end, then I wouldn’t have to wear shoes for a few months.

    And every summer I stayed on in Boston to take extra college courses, she would be sure to send me a manila envelope stuffed full with the purple jacaranda branches I was missing.

    I even got a postcard from her, that one autumn I lived in New York, that just read, “The Santa Anas are coming. Love, Mom.”

    So as a Los Angeles native, I would argue that the seasons aren’t subtle at all. But maybe I was just lucky. 🙂

  5. John says:

    I’ve heard people say that LA is ‘plastic’, compared to say SF. Not really sure what that means..