Maintenance Information

If you are searching for particular maintenance information, please see the blogs for the months that correspond to the time frame that you are searching. Also check the labels of the blogs (at the base of the blog page) for blog subjects that might be helpful.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Taking a tour of UCDavis Water Wise Demonstration Gardens

I had a very inspiring visit to the UCDavis Arboretum and Teaching Nursery the other day. The fall weather has just begun and the gardens had gorgeous blooms on the Salvias, Asters, Roses, Epilobium, Erigeron and Scabiosa, to name a few.
I had not visited the Arboretum before and so this was a wonderful discovery filled with water wise plantings, a vast assortment of foliages and canopies of beautiful mature trees. The Arboretum stretches over several miles along a waterway for hours of walking enjoyment.
For this visit I limited my exploration to the Teaching Nursery, which was at its best due to the large plant sale to take place over several weekends in October and the first of November, and the Valley Wise Demonstration Garden. These areas are adjacent to the Vet. Medical buildings and corrals along Garrod Drive. (I have included a pic of the sign for reference).

The hummingbirds and bees were active in the gardens giving a gentle hum and vibrancy to the area.
Davis, California is very close to Sacramento and is quite hot in summer and gets cold temperatures in the winter so all the plantings need to be both adapted to heat and cold extremes. 
You can see from these photos that there is no lack of lush foliage or blooms due to these factors and the plantings only require watering every 1 to 2 weeks to stay in good condition.

The Teaching Nursery also has lovely beds of native and drought tolerant shrubs, trees and perennials.
These areas have some labeling as well as the plants in in the nursery. The sales are held in fall and spring on several weekends for purchase of mostly quart and 1 gallon plants.
I spent several hours looking over the selection of plant materials and was happy to learn many new varieties and see some of my old friends on the tables.

This is a great place to stop and have a plant tour, stretch your legs and relax among the leaves and flowers. I also really enjoyed the tribute to Oak trees and woodlands depicted in ceramic mosaics covering seat walls and restroom adjacent to the valley wise garden. What a super project!








Nice Demonstration planting at the nursery with low water requiring shrubs and perennials


Teaching Nursery at UCDavis

Entrance Sign for the Valley Wise Garden in the Arboretum



Great looking seat wall with the life cycle of the Oaks done in
ceramic mosaics

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Roses of Winter

It may not seem like it but we are still in winter, here in Northern California. The plants are very confused and are already in Full spring bloom!
 Normally we would have colder temps and in the harshest days of winter our Camellia japonicas are there to cheer us up with their lovely blooms, perfect for bringing into the house to float in flat bowls of water or arrange in bases.
I like to call them the "roses of winter". Big full blossoms typically in red,pink and white colors or blends of these colors. Camellia japonica is a large shrub measuring up to 10-15' high but easily kept at 6-8' or less. They are very hardy to cold and moderate water but should be in a location with some shade especially from the harsh afternoon sun. Use an acidic soil conditioner when planting as they prefer forest conditions with lots of rich humus (organic matter) for their roots. Fertilize with Camellia-Azalea food in the fall and water in well.
Once established these shrubs are extremely long lasting and sturdy. Pick up the flower heads as they fall to avoid spots on the petals called petal blight.
Water your mature shrubs once a week deeply in the warm months. New shrubs should be watered twice a week or more depending on the temperature.

There are are other species of Camellias which are smaller and bloom in fall but for a great winter bloom check out the japonicas. This is a great time to see them in botanical, residential or public gardens. 

Pictured below are just a few examples of the vast array available.





Saturday, February 21, 2015

Want a hardy Hibiscus?

Although it is tempting to plant a Tropical Hibiscus in our area (Northern and upper Central California) it is not advisable, due to winter cold i.e. freeze and cold snaps. Even the mildest freeze will damage Tropical Hibiscus. Certainly, there are exceptions but for the most part these plants are often better treated as annual potted plants rather than set out into the garden. We will see if global warming changes these comments but for now you may want to try a hardier Hibiscus called "Rose of Sharon" or Hibiscus syriacus.
The difference being that Hibiscus syriacus is a deciduous shrub so it can live through the winter as a dormant plant rather than suffering through winter with an abundance of tender leaves.
There are some beautiful hybrids of this plant with varied sized flowers and colors. It is also fairly low water once it is established. Rose of Sharon is a large plant usually 6-8' tall and can be purchased as a single trunked  small tree or as a multi trunked large shrub.
They have a bit of yellow fall color and lovely small leaves.
Plant in full sun and in a spot with good air circulation. Water well at first to avoid wilting then taper off water to once or twice a week. Trim only for shape and do not shear, instead selectively prune away foliage that is diseased, dead or in need of clipping.

Pictured below ar Hibiscus syriacus 'Minerva', 'Diana', and 'Red Heart' (in order shown)






Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Real Geranium

 It can be quite confusing learning about plants. The same plant can have multiple common names plus a botanical name which can change as plants are reclassified.
Case in point is the Geranium. Most often when folks hear the name Geranium they think of Grandma's old raggedy plants with bright colored flowers on a leggy plant. Actually those plants are Pelargoniums also called Martha Washington pelargoniums.
The real, honest to god Geraniums are low growing border perennials with lovely pastel flowers, finely divided leaves and delicate texture.


 Known as Hardy Geraniums these tough perennials are great as low care, moderate water edging plants.  They bloom heavily in the spring and early summer.  Trim back flowers and some of the foliage after the bloom cycle to encourage new growth and flowers. In late winter prune back close to the base of the plant to allow spring growth. Fertilize twice per year with slow release fertilizer or organic fertilizer in February and July.
Divide every 3-5 years as the plants get thin, don't bloom as much and get dead sections.
Pretty hybrid of Geranium incanum. Check local nurseries for hybrids in spring.
There are some good mail order sources for Geraniums as well as specialty nurseries.
Check the web for options. 


Hardy geraniums have the common name- Cranesbill. The seed pods have the look of a birds beak.
The native species of geranium can be weedy.
Hybrids, large flowered forms are hardy to heat and cold. They can tolerate sun and light shade.
Good drainage is a plus but not a must.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Water Conservation in the Garden

A Dry Winter on the San Francisco Peninsula


I went out to a job the other day to consult. The job was installed last year.  It was obvious that the irrigation was turned off and that the plants were stressed and some were even on the verge of dying.
Kind of an unusual problem to have in the middle of winter!

Well folks turn back on the irrigation because it hasn't rained in 2 months.  Especially at risk are plants under overhangs and on the south and west sides of the home.

Looks like we are going into a drought cycle so here are a few tips for saving water in the landscape.

- Use a thick mulch layer around plants to retain moisture. Be sure and pull mulch away from the plant crowns.

- Established shrubs don't need much water. Soak deeply twice a week in the warm weather.

- Lawns are shallowly rooted. Water 3 times a week for 10-12 minutes.
Longer times aren't usually needed.

- Water in the early mornings to avoid evaporation and for the water to soak in.

- Pots need to be watered very often. Consider skipping using potted plants in the drought or planting existing potted plants in the garden. (without the pot)

- Replace lawns with mulch and low water requiring plants like those
shown here. Even replacing a percentage of the lawn will help with water conservation and
will be healthier for the environment. Lawn uses tons of water,
needs a lot of care and is not very interactive with the environment.

- Avoid annuals and moisture loving, shallowly rooted plants during the
drought. Use scarce water resources to maintain the trees and shrubs in your garden.
Be sure and aid trees by giving deep watering twice per month in
the warm seasons. Percolate the water out through a slow running hose in 5-6 locations
below the drip line (edge of the foliage) of the trees.
Even the native trees are looking stressed the last few years. 
This type of stress can lead to disease and pest problems and the decline
of the trees.

- Check irrigation for leaks, over spray and excessive run times.
Change spray heads to low gallonage type. Be aware of weather patterns and use irrigation for the most needed periods.

I will continue to post tips and suggestions on water saving, low water requiring plants and drought issues as things progress.

Pictures here  show the succulent version of senecio, penstemon and a nice mix of low water plants- lavender, zauchneria, sedums, euphorbia and chocolate cosmos.




Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year Wishes 2014

 Happy New Year to you all!

I hope 2014 will be a wonderful, healthy and prosperous year for you and your family.
I am glad to say that 2013 was a much better business year for me and that we had lots of memorable family moments......................
 I got to zoom around with Izzy, my grand-daughter, who is almost 3 years old now
 Help Carolyn, my youngest daughter, prepare for her wedding- lots of silk flowers!

She is a zookeeper and I was able to go out and visit her at the Little Rock Zoo and see the many animals she cared for there. She is back in the bay area working at the SF Zoo- yay! Now I can see her more often!
 She picked some lovely wedding colors!
  I attended the wedding of a family friend in a gorgeous Rose Garden in Walnut Creek- the day after my daughters wedding! Wow.
Spent time camping and flew kites in Big Sur and Carmel with Christine, my older daughter and her family. Most especially Izzy!

 And of course I spent many, many, many hours designing beautiful gardens, helping homeowners and contractors plus driving 20,000 miles total for work.
It will take many years to repair the ravages of the recession but I am still at the drafting board creating lovely environments to draw people outdoors and enhance their lives.

 Beautiful, logical, useful and designed to fit the family my gardens have blossomed over the last 29 years making my life and the lives of my clients interactive with the outdoor world. Its a wonderful legacy and lovely to see the gardens mature and carry on over many decades.
 It is a joy to see the world becoming more thoughtful to the environmental impact of our dwellings, habits and actions. This is a picture of a living roof at the LA zoo- pretty isn't it?
The girls got me an Ipad air for Christmas so now I am being launched into warp drive. I am creating fabulous new albums of pictures to show clients materials and plants. I am so excited and my old body appreciates the lightweight version of my previous rolling library of 20 pound books (4 of them) in a giant suitcase.

So we rocket into 2014- maybe on this giant grasshopper! Make merry and stay well and don't forget to smell the flowers, herbs and aromas of the garden.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Avoiding Freeze Damage to Plantings

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr its cold out there

Kind of brutal on skin and the tender leaves of sub-tropical and tropical plants. Although it hasn't dropped down below 20 degrees, which is when I really start to worry, we have had some seriously cold nights.

Things to cover when it gets down into those cold temps are small Citrus, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, Orchids,  tropical pond plants and landscape plants, Pelargoniums (Geraniums), Cuphea, Mandevilla, Tree Ferns, Brugmansia, succulents and tender new plantings. Many flowering vines are subtropicals i.e. Trumpet vines, Bower vine, Hardenbergia- anti-desiccant sprays (see below) would be good for these.

Use cloth not plastic sheets to cover the plants and if you can, support the sheets off the foliage to avoid frost burn. Remove the sheeting in the day if it is sunny out. For further warmth you can use a light or single bulb below the sheets- this actually works believe it or not. Avoid contact of sheet to bulb!

There are sprays that can also help such as "Wilt-pruf" and "Cloud Cover" which are anti-desiccants
that help to keep leaves from "freeze drying". Follow manufacturers specs. for application and re-spray after rains.

Keep plants well watered between sporadic rains as this helps the leaves of all plants from becoming to wilted in the frosty weather.

Many plants will have frost burned foliage and go dormant in the cold weather but will recover in the late spring or summer growing from the roots or base. Leave any damaged plants well into the warm weather to make sure that they are really lost before replacing them.

The best advice is to avoid the use of plants not suited to your climate zone. We are having a significant climate change so have had good luck with sub-tropical here but hard freezes are cyclical so they are bound to hit gardens at some point.

Enjoy the frost and snow in the mountains- a pretty sight for Christmas time.