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  • Wed, July 15, 2015 11:23 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    By Cindy sparks

    The Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair was held in March in Balboa Park, and we sent a team to determine winners of our two annual awards. Our judges were Dayle Cheever, Kate Engler, Dale Rekus, Hanna Richardson, Al Myrick (our beloved Judge Emeritus, who kindly helped us out when some of the regular judging staff was unable to attend), and  Cindy Witt, with the administration taken care of by Cindy Sparks.

    This year the Senior High School field was quite sparse, but the Junior field was rich with candidates. Our two winners are Asdil Rehan, an 8th grader from Rhoades School, with his study of “Avocado Root Rot, a Novel Approach,” and Samuel Kahn, a 7th grader from Classical Conversations School, with his entry titled “Plant Growth in Coastal Sage Scrub Burned vs. Unburned Areas.”

    They each get $100 cash award plus a year membership in the San Diego Horticultural Society. You may well see more of these two, as they both intend to continue work on their respective topics. And I’m sure you will enjoy their projects as they have worked toward results both expected and extraordinary. 

  • Thu, March 26, 2015 10:41 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    We are proud to be part of the Centennial Celebration. 

    Design Plan by Marilyn Guidroz 
           On March 22, 2015, our volunteers completed the planting of the formal garden at the Marston House in Balboa Park. Landscape designer, and SDHS sponsor, Marilyn Guidroz created the planting plan. We planted 18 Iceberg roses, 9 Pink Cadillac roses, and 9 Old Gay Hill Red China Roses. The 3 beds surrounding the roses were planted with the coral colored 'Balboa Park" geranium developed by Jim Zemcik.

    There were enough volunteers that we were able to help plant the garden nearby as well. It all went very well and looks fabulous! There will be many weddings and other events here over the next few months and so glad we could help make the garden look its best.

    Special thanks to the San Diego Floral Association for partnering with us on this Adopt a Plot project.
    Hats off to the volunteers: 

    Jim Bishop, Nancy Carol Carter, Marilyn Guidroz, Sam Seat, Jorge Robles, Jose Cruz, Donna Tierney, Pat Tierney, Chuck Carroll, Recina Han, Linda Johnson, Kim Petersen, Joseph Petersen, Madison Petersen, Jonathan Petersen, Linda Shaw, Bill Shaw, Julie Rone, Stanley Rone, Ed Thielicke, and Arlene Watters

    Click Here to find out more about the Marston House. George Marston served as chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee for the 1915 Panama–California Exposition in Balboa Park. 

    Be sure and check out the plantings the next time you visit the park. Also, check out our earlier project at the Timken and Casa del Prado building.

    You can still play an important role by donating towards this project. We've started looking for other gardens in the Park that can use some restoration.

  • Sun, October 26, 2014 8:25 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    We are proud to be part of the Centennial Celebration.  In September,  our volunteers completed the planting of the gardens adjacent to the Lily Pond around the Timken Museum.  We returned on October 28th to plant the north and west sides of Casa del Prado landscape Architect Chris Drayer created the planting plan. Landscape Architect Cindy Benoit assisted Chris and also helped acquire the plants and schedule the planting.  Society Treasurer Sam Seat arranged for the plant deliveries to the park nursery.   29 volunteers showed up to help with the planting.  While Chris worked to help place the plants, volunteers weeded and cleaned up the planting we had done the previous month around the Timken Museum. The Borden Family arranged for a contractor to provide power tools, workers and assistance in digging the planting holes. Much of the area was heavily compacted and full of palm tree roots that required a special jack-hammer shovel to dig through.  We were able to complete all of the planting in one day, as well as get the plants watered in and we even installed a layer of mulch.
    Hats off and a round of applause to our hard working volunteers: Kathy Ascher, Cindy Benoit, Jeff Biletnikoff, Jim Bishop, Scott Borden, Joan Braunstein, Bruce Cobbledick, Carolyn Dossett, Joann Dossett. Chris Drayer, Alice Dukelow, Dave Ehrlinger, Coni Fiss, Ann Heck, John Kramer, Linda Lawley, James Lucatore, David Lubs, Donna Mallen, Rachele Melious, Catherine Morley, Jaime Ramirez, Jorge Robles, Sam Seat, Marcy Singer, Else Karin Sjostrand Ottesen, Susan Starr, and Ed Thielicke.
    Be sure and check out the plantings the next time you visit the park.  They will take a few months to fill in, but we could already tell a difference in one month.  Look for some weeding parties to help maintain the area in future months.

    You can still play an important role by donating towards this project. We've started looking for other gardens in the Park that can use some restoration.

  • Thu, October 02, 2014 5:39 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    Celebrating our 20th Anniversary 
      The San Diego Horticultural Society was founded in September 1994. Our original logo was the leaf design shown here.

    To commemorate our anniversary, the website header has been updated with a fresh version of the design.  Do you recognize the leaf used for the background?  Hint:  It is a native San Diego plant in the cashew family that grows throughout the county except desert areas. The site has a cleaner look with more information on the home page.

    September 2014 marks the start of the 21st year of the San Diego Horticultural Society. It's been a wonderful adventure. This is a good time to look back and renew our commitment to the organization. We will continue to provide a friendly forum where professional, dedicated horticulturalists, both skilled and amateur, can learn, meet and exchange ideas. Our primary areas of focus continue to be a professional monthly newsletter, monthly meetings featuring the best speakers, an annual tour of local gardens, participation in the San Diego County Fair Garden Show, recognition of a local horticulturist of the year, student scholarships and --most of all-- promoting climate appropriate plants and gardening practices. 

    We continue to be a volunteer driven organization and could not be successful without our many volunteers. Everyone you interface with, from the president to the greeter at our meetings, is a volunteer and has given up their time, energy and resources to assist the society for free. Thanks to all our volunteer support, in 20 years we've only increased our basic membership dues five dollars in spite of continued increasing costs. Technology has also let us maximize our volunteer hours but also extend our outreach in new ways and automated many volunteer tasks.

     We look forward to your continued support and participation for the next 20 years!

  • Tue, September 09, 2014 8:30 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    The project to restore and landscape the gardens surrounding the lily pond in Balboa Park, which we’ve been working on all year, has completed the first phase of planting of the beds around the Timken Museum. At the request of the Friends of Balboa Park, we took on the pilot project to celebrate the 2015 centennial celebration of the Panama-California exposition by restoring these important gardens. To accomplish this ambitious goal, we greatly appreciate the help we’ve gotten from the project leaders, two very talented landscape architect member volunteers, who donated significant time and expertise: Cindy Benoit and Chris Drayer. Read more about them in the February, March and April editions of the newsletter.

    This project has also benefited greatly from the cheerful assistance of our treasurer, Sam Seat. He had been paying the bills and meeting the plant delivery trucks with checks in hand at  the Park nursery. He also joins Jim at the meetings of the “Adopt a Plant” group sponsored by Friends of Balboa Park.

    Part of the Planting Team

    From left to right: Ed Thielke. Cindy Benoit, Don Taylor, Linda Shaw, Chris Drayer, Jim Bishop, Patty Berg, Donna Mallen, Kathy Ascher  and Jeff Biletnikoff Not Shown: Scott Borden, Paula Hildebrandt,  Dan Petersen, Sam Seat 

    Planting time finally arrived, and under the supervision of Cindy and Chris, enthusiastic and hard-working members volunteered for this task. On Sept. 9th, starting at 8am and working throughout the long, very hot day, our members dug holes for 1-gallon and 5-gallon plants. And then carefully planted hundreds of plants, as the garden began its final step towards completion. Three cheers to Scott Borden for buying lunch for all these hard-working folks. The volunteers were: Kathy Ascher, Jeff Biletnikoff, Patty Berg, Jim Bishop, Scott Borden, Paula Hildebrandt, Donna Mallen, Dan Petersen, Linda Shaw, Sam Seat, Don Taylor, and Ed Thielke, Our heartfelt thanks to all of them!

    You can still play an important role by donating towards this project. We need funds to pay for all those plants we purchased! If there is sufficient money left, we’re considering restoring another garden in the Park, and will keep you posted about that.

  • Fri, August 22, 2014 2:53 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    By Susi Torre-Bueno

    September, 2014

    Twenty years ago this month, plans were being finalized to found a new horticultural group which started with an important vision: of a friendly group, sharing information and the joy of gardening with gardeners of all skill levels and interests, from beginners to highly trained professionals. This vision very quickly became a reality, and the San Diego Horticultural Society now has over 1300 members, about ten times as many as most garden groups. We’re one of the largest and most active garden groups in the United States. We owe a big THANK YOU to our founders, who had the foresight to sow the seeds of our Society: Don & Dorothy Walker, Steve Brigham, Diana Goforth, Laurie Bussis, Linda and Bill Teague, Adele Snyder and Kathy Musial.

    I wasn’t involved with the founding of the Society, but I saw an invitation to the first meeting of a new garden group in September 1994, and it really spoke to me. I was living near San Diego State at the time, and driving up to Encinitas seemed like a trip to Canada, but I’m so glad I went! Some of the people I met that night are still good friends.

    Don Walker, a Los Angeles native, had been very involved with the Southern California Horticultural Society for 20 years. He and his wife, Dorothy, had moved from Torrance to Vista in 1989, and he spent 3 years designing and building his garden.  He said that he realized he needed to get out in the plant community and meet other gardeners, so he volunteered as a design gardener at the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe in Vista and also at Quail Botanical Gardens (Quail) as curator of the stream and waterfall area.  He served on the board of the Quail Foundation for one year, and stepped down to form the Hort. Society. He and some friends met at Bill and Linda Teague’s house, modifying the by-laws from the Southern Cal. Hort. to meet our needs.  To announce the first meeting, they did a mailing from the Buena Creek Gardens customer list, thereby reaching dedicated horticulturists and enthusiastic gardeners. 

    Don held the meeting at the Ecke Building at Quail. (Actually, any time Don did anything, Dorothy was also on hand, helping, often in the background, to ensure things went smoothly, and she served ably as our treasurer for many years. They're both in the photo at left, taken in 2006.) The building was being renovated, and he had to run an extension cord from the gift shop to bring power for the projector, etc. There were no doors on the bathrooms (making for some interesting logistics), and the lighting was a little dodgy, but the room buzzed with the enthusiastic camaraderie that still is one of the best things about our meetings.

    There were tables loaded with interesting plants (mostly from the gardens of Don Walker and Steve Brigham). There were about 100 people there, none of whom I had met before, and all of them were loving talking to each other about plants. I’m sure that Don made warm opening remarks, but what I remember most was how many people were using the Latin names of plants, none of which I knew. I recall rolling my eyes at that, as did the gal sitting next to me, Bobbi Hirschkoff, whose extraordinary Encinitas garden has been on many tours over the years. Little did I imagine that 2 years later Bobbi and I would have new houses (and new gardens) about ½ mile apart and become plant shopping buddies.

    Our speaker that night was Steve Brigham (who later would write our tree book), and his topic was New Plant Introductions for Southern California. I don’t remember his talk, but I do remember his enthusiasm and his friendliness. He owned Buena Creek Gardens, so he was a nursery professional, but he seemed so approachable, as did the other folks I met that night. About 3 years later I started working for Steve at Buena Creek, the best job I ever had, and I stayed there about 4 years and it was like total botanical immersion ‘cause I learned so much.  Plus, at my request he paid me in plants – which was where all my salary was going anyway!

    I learned years later that Don worried there wouldn’t be much of a turnout at that first meeting.  In fact, 44 people joined that night (including me and Jim Bishop). Within one month the Society had 100 members, and we outgrew the Quail meeting room in 3 months. In January 1995, we started meeting at the Fairgrounds.

    One of the features of our early meetings, which I miss a lot, was our Plant Forum, where an expert – Steve Brigham, at first, and then very ably followed by Tom Piergrossi – would talk about plants that people brought in from home.  Some months there were nearly 100 plants on display! As I was a transplant here from the East Coast, the vast majority of these plants were new to me, and it was invaluable learning about them.  I remember that for many years, Steve and/or Don brought in the 18” long x 12” wide flowers of the Aristolochia gigantea, when it was in bloom, which Steve would sometimes wear as a jaunty cap while he told stories about the plants.  When Tom was doing the plant forum, I recall he once said, to general hilarity, “Oh yes, I am familiar with this plant that so-and-so has brought in – I’ve already killed it twice.”

    A few months after our founding, in Spring of 1995, we had the first local tour, visiting the amazing Escondido research greenhouses that plant hunter and hybridizer, Fred Meyer, used for his breeding program. We saw thousands of amaryllis of every imaginable color – but were so disappointed we couldn’t buy anything because they were either still being tested or were contracted for sale in Europe only for the cut flower trade. Fred was an amazing guy – both a hybridizer of all kinds of plants and also a plant hunter who frequently went to South America (especially Peru and Chile, I believe) in search of new species. Sadly, he died just a few years later, while only in his early 40s, and we honored his memory in 1999 by naming our first college scholarship the Fred Meyer Memorial Scholarship; it is given to a student at MiraCosta College. [In the photo above, we see (left to right) Kathy Musial, Fred Meyer, Steve Brigham, and Don Walker. All except Fred are founding board members.]

    That same spring we also had our first local garden tour, visiting North County gardens. Local tours have continued ever since, and in 2011 we started our Featured Garden visits so we could get our garden voyeurism fix each month. We’ve visited gardens in almost every area of San Diego County, seeing every kind of plant imaginable, plus garden railroads, Japanese landscapes, succulent meadows, native plant paradises, subtropical oases, herb and veggie gardens, grape vineyards, koi ponds, and colorful foliage extravaganzas. To me, this fabulous access to inspired gardens is worth the annual dues many times over.

    Our first out-of-town garden tour (in Spring, 1997) was a very ambitious day-long bus trip to Santa Barbara. We met at the Quail parking lot at 5AM so that we could make the 4-hour drive north (having breakfast on the bus) and have plenty of time to see gardens. We visited the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Lotusland, AND two exceptional nurseries. We got back after 9PM, pleasantly exhausted.

    On our 1999 San Francisco tour – the first one held as a 5-day trip away from home – we had a wine & cheese party at the home & garden of Roger Raiche and David McCrory – two plant-crazy guys from the Bay Area group that calls itself the Hortisexuals – and their garden included some exceedingly phallic ceramic faux-bamboo poles made by Marcia Donahue, whose own garden featured a twisty pathway paved with cemetery headstone rejects. We stopped at the Berkeley Botanic Garden and they were having a plant sale. Our tour guide, a plant fanatic and nursery owner, leapt off the bus ahead of all of us and when we called after him to ask what time we needed to be back at the bus he gleefully shouted, “Who the hell cares, it’s a plant sale!” as he ran off. I especially loved visiting and meeting garden designers I had been reading about for years and seeing their personal gardens.

    Each year since 1996 we’ve honored a Horticulturist of the Year for their many years of work serving the horticultural community in San Diego County. Our first honoree was Chuck Kline, who created the marvelous gardens at Sea World. Our members put together a fabulous Mediterranean feast and we ate it at the gazebo lawn area at Quail, laughing with delight as Pat Welsh (standing in the photo at the left) put on a one-woman “roast” of her dear friend Chuck (seated in the photo at the left), complete with a bag full of props! A few years later Pat was the one getting lightly roasted,.

    In 1995 we began participating in the San Diego County Fair, starting with an information booth set up by Don & Dorothy Walker. I got my favorite question when a young couple asked me how often they should fertilize their marijuana plants and what was the best fertilizer to use. I declined to reply, but it sure beat the more common question I was getting, which was “Where’s the nearest restroom?” [Founding member Bill Teague is shown at the right, next to his award-winning Fair garden in 2005.]

    For our tree book, Ornamental Trees for Mediterranean Climates, Don Walker started photographing trees all around San Diego in 1999. Steve Brigham wrote the text, and the first edition was published in 2003. It sold out in a few years, and was expanded and reprinted in 2005. Don was justly proud of this book, which has been used in college courses as a text and is in frequent use in many nurseries and by members and other home gardeners.

    Over the years, and especially as I became more involved with the Hort. Society, I’ve come to know a great many members who have poured their hearts and energies into expanding and enriching the scope of what we do. It’s been a great joy to meet so many passionate gardeners, to visit their gardens and swap plants and cautionary tales about gardening. So many of our members are leading horticultural professionals, but they remain enthusiastic gardeners at heart, happy to answer questions and provide guidance.

    At the end of the day, just about everyone I’ve met through SDHS is a plant nut, and these monthly meetings have been one of the highlights of my life for the last 20 years. I plan vacations around our meeting dates, eagerly anticipate the annual garden tours, and my library is filled with books by our speakers. I’ve been privileged to have visited hundreds of gardens, and have learned something from each of them, and from the generous gardeners who shared them with all of us.

    I’m looking forward to the next 20 years of the Hort Society, and hope you’ll all be there to share them with me.


  • Sun, June 01, 2014 6:11 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    By Bill Homyak 

    The San Diego Horticultural Society is proud to announce its 2014 Community College Scholarship Awardees. SDHS provides scholarship funds for deserving students in local community colleges who are pursuing a degree in the horticultural trades. With the ever-increasing costs of tuition, books, and living expenses, our society hopes these scholarships will enhance the students’ ability to complete their educational goals.

    Scholarships are provided to the Landscape and Nursery Technology Program at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, the Horticulture Program at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, and the Ornamental Horticulture Program at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. This year’s recipients are:

    Lucretia Trapero-Fabrega is a current student in the Landscape Architecture Program at Southwestern College. Once she completes her Associate Degree, she plans on transferring to Cal Poly to complete her four-year degree. Originally from South Africa and now a new citizen of the United States, she has the goal of becoming a Sustainable Landscape Architect. She enjoys larger scale design and especially admires the park design in this country. Lucretia volunteers at local elementary schools, is a member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the American Society of Landscape Architects.  She will be receiving the Bill Teague Memorial Scholarship. We wish her a successful career in her chosen field.

    Chad Morris is currently a student at Mira Costa College and is majoring in Nursery Production and Management. He plans to complete his Associate of Science degree there and then transfer to Cal Poly Pomona. Chad feels that more young people need to get involved in agriculture, and he plans to enter a farming career in San Diego County after his graduation. As a recent member of the US Navy and participant in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Chad is very appreciative of the life we all enjoy in the United States, and wants to contribute with his career path in farming. Chad has participated heavily with the Horticulture program at Mira Costa College by volunteering, growing vegetables hydroponically, working with dragon fruit, and helping out with plant propagation. The SDHS has awarded Chad the Fred B. Meyer Memorial Scholarship, and we wish to congratulate him on his achievement.

    Amanda Tarantino has just recently received her Associate of Science degree in Ornamental Horticulture with an emphasis in Arboriculture from Cuyamaca College. She plans to eventually transfer to a four-year university once she takes a few more courses at her current college. Amanda is also currently employed in an internship position as an Arborist with the OH program. Amanda is a single mother of two children and actively participates in her children’s PTA and schooling. She wants to combine her love of plants and trees with her interest in animals and the San Diego Zoo. Her “ideal” job would be one where she designs attractive and more livable enclosures for zoo animals. Amanda has received the Don and Dorothy Walker Scholarship and the SDHS wishes her success in her future endeavors.


  • Thu, May 01, 2014 6:24 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    By Cindy Sparks

    In keeping with our educational mission, SDHS sends a judging team to the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair held each spring in Balboa Park. The student winners each receive $100 and a 1-year family membership. Eight members volunteered for our team this year, and judged the Fair entries on March 26. They evaluated all of the Plant Sciences entries from both Junior and Senior student categories. I was humbled by the combined experience base of the team: Jeff Biletnikoff, Dayle Cheever, Julie Hasl, Dale Rekus, Hanna Richardson, Phil Tacktill, Janet Wanerka, and yours truly. The winners this year were standouts among their peers.


    Eighth grader Gregory Martin, our Junior category winner, presented his extensive work on “Increasing lipid yields in Chlorella vulgaris through natural nitrogen depletion”, a biofuels study. Our Senior category winner, Eleventh grader Soo Rim Choi, provided a study of “The Effect of Global Warming on the Changing Circadian Rhythm of Nyctinastic Plants”.  


    Two things struck us as we studied the various competitors. First, the number of entries was half the size of last year’s field of competitors. We could not assess the reasons, other than to suspect the same underlying causes that now prompt city-wide STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) promotional efforts. I would have thought that in our county, where agriculture is perennially among the top four money-making industries, agricultural interest would be high. This might be a wake-up call for us, a reminder to help promote interest in all things related to horticulture.


    In addition, we questioned our own performance criteria as possibly not adequately recognizing the goals of the San Diego Horticultural Society. Very briefly, we evaluated entries based on clarity, originality of the problem, sound use of the scientific method, and what might be termed extra credit (for skill, thoroughness, etc.). But raising the question “Which competitor’s efforts are most likely to help the San Diego horticultural scene in the long run?” caused us to reexamine our evaluations. I have made a mental note to augment our formal criteria for next year.


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 Our Mission  To inspire and educate the people of San Diego County to grow and enjoy plants, and to create beautiful, environmentally responsible gardens and landscapes.

Our Vision  To champion regionally appropriate horticulture in San Diego County.


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