Sharing Secrets  

Sharing Secrets is a great way to tap into the incredible wealth of knowledge our members possess!  We publish Sharing Secrets responses in the monthly Let's Talk Plants newsletter and also pose the following month question for members. We invite our members to email suggestions for the monthly question as well as answers and suggestions for this month's question.

In this forum, we invite members to continue the discussion by adding new posts. 

If you are a non-member, you may read the posts but may not comment.

  • Sun, April 01, 2012 5:55 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    Louise Anderson wrote, “I'm fitting succulents in wherever I'm trying to get rid of what used to be lawn on side yards. My favorite one is the one that lives without my attention. I'm especially enamored with the blooms - always a surprise - and with those that get red.”

    Sheryl Bennett
    replied, “How can succulents not be the hottest ornamentals in San Diego? We have the ideal growing conditions and they are so gorgeous! Weaving the vast variety of succulents into the garden color scheme is a lot of fun. I have a multitude of specimens worked into my garden. I like the big and bold ones as backdrop plants (Jade, Aloe arborescens, Agave attenuata) and then use small echeverias and trailing succulents close to a path for premium viewing!”

    Nants Gordon & Barb Potts emailed to say, “We have them all in pots, mostly all handmade. They line our walkways and veggie beds. We love many, but our favorites are kalanchoes (for the blooms), the tiny toes, and the hen and chicks.”

    Karen Hoffman said, “One of the lawns we removed about eight years ago is now a cactus garden with an antique railroad wagon. The area around the wagon is planted with two Madagascar Palms, Pachycerus, totem pole cactus, and an old cluster of five ponytail palms, set on a mound of dirt. The area is held together with many golden barrel cactus. This is also a great area for displaying some great variety old cactus plants. My favorite, is of course, the clustered ponytail palm, Peruvian stove top cactus and the golden barrel cactus.”

    Kay McGrath told us, “They are through the garden – anywhere there was a empty spot not getting much water. I just choose height and color of succulent that will blend with adjacent plants. Also put extra cuttings in landscape to grow for future cutting for new planters and to give to friends.”

    Gerald D. Stewart
    writes that, “most succulents are put on a slope made from dumping thousands of pots of Tom Jesch cactus and succulent soil mix from Propagation Concepts Nursery, back in the 1970s. They really like that double well-drained location, and besides, the slope created the name of the area: Succulent Slope. Two favorites (at the moment) are Sticks-on-Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks-on-Fire’), purchased in a 6” pot from the Buckners fifteen years ago and now 12' across and over 10' tall, and Hummel's Sunset Jade (Crassula ovata ‘Hummel's Sunset’) that has been in a large container since the 1980s, and now is about 7’ tall, container included. Those two provide huge splashes of orange, and yellow. Finally, at the opposite end of the height spectrum, with no common name ever found, is what he calls Chartreuse Spreader (X Sedadia amecamecana). It has chartreuse leaves and if not contained, stays about 6” tall. It is used to trail over retaining walls in Dahlia Dell, which is full of black-leaf dahlias, creating a dramatic contrast. Chartreuse Spreader is covered with yellow blooms in the cooler times of the year when the dahlias are dormant, and responds well to the irrigation necessary to keep the small area of dahlias happy.”

    Ava Torre-Bueno uses succulents for security: “I took out my lawn about 11 years ago and trucked in 28 cubic yards of cactus mix and planted a low water garden. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I find that my favorites now are the aloes because they attract hummingbirds. I’m also very fond of Oscularia deltoides because it’s a great ground cover and can be seen here: www.projectnoah.org/spottings/7695979. And finally, I love my Durango Prickly Pear and my other prickly pears planted under windows to burglar-proof my house.”

    Susi Torre-Bueno
    is using, “many succulents, especially in my front garden, and giving them very little water. I’ve been surprised with how quickly they grow and enjoy taking cuttings from one area and using them to start a new succulent area. I’ve grown succulents for only six years or so, and I’m learning that I prefer the look of fewer large succulents instead of more very small plants of lots of different kinds. For me it’s all about the foliage color and texture, and I often remove the flowers when they appear. We have a courtyard in our house and it is planted with about 90% aloes (my husband’s favorite plant), with some other succulents and blue fescue grass. My three favorites (this week) are a very large-leafed aeonium (possibly Aeonium undulatum), Crassula marginalis rubra 'Variegata', and Aloe speciosa.

    Katrin Utt has a favorite, “My favorite cactus is the Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns). It is always in bloom in our courtyard, which is our cactus garden. We excavated the soil two feet down when we moved here and filled it in with sand. We seldom water. Several of our other cacti are now over 20 ft tall. Most of the plants are cuttings I picked up over the years.”


  • Sun, April 01, 2012 5:54 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    Louise Anderson wrote, “I'm fitting succulents in wherever I'm trying to get rid of what used to be lawn on side yards. My favorite one is the one that lives without my attention. I'm especially enamored with the blooms - always a surprise - and with those that get red.”

    Sheryl Bennett
    replied, “How can succulents not be the hottest ornamentals in San Diego? We have the ideal growing conditions and they are so gorgeous! Weaving the vast variety of succulents into the garden color scheme is a lot of fun. I have a multitude of specimens worked into my garden. I like the big and bold ones as backdrop plants (Jade, Aloe arborescens, Agave attenuata) and then use small echeverias and trailing succulents close to a path for premium viewing!”

    Nants Gordon & Barb Potts emailed to say, “We have them all in pots, mostly all handmade. They line our walkways and veggie beds. We love many, but our favorites are kalanchoes (for the blooms), the tiny toes, and the hen and chicks.”

    Karen Hoffman said, “One of the lawns we removed about eight years ago is now a cactus garden with an antique railroad wagon. The area around the wagon is planted with two Madagascar Palms, Pachycerus, totem pole cactus, and an old cluster of five ponytail palms, set on a mound of dirt. The area is held together with many golden barrel cactus. This is also a great area for displaying some great variety old cactus plants. My favorite, is of course, the clustered ponytail palm, Peruvian stove top cactus and the golden barrel cactus.”

    Kay McGrath told us, “They are through the garden – anywhere there was a empty spot not getting much water. I just choose height and color of succulent that will blend with adjacent plants. Also put extra cuttings in landscape to grow for future cutting for new planters and to give to friends.”

    Gerald D. Stewart
    writes that, “most succulents are put on a slope made from dumping thousands of pots of Tom Jesch cactus and succulent soil mix from Propagation Concepts Nursery, back in the 1970s. They really like that double well-drained location, and besides, the slope created the name of the area: Succulent Slope. Two favorites (at the moment) are Sticks-on-Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks-on-Fire’), purchased in a 6” pot from the Buckners fifteen years ago and now 12' across and over 10' tall, and Hummel's Sunset Jade (Crassula ovata ‘Hummel's Sunset’) that has been in a large container since the 1980s, and now is about 7’ tall, container included. Those two provide huge splashes of orange, and yellow. Finally, at the opposite end of the height spectrum, with no common name ever found, is what he calls Chartreuse Spreader (X Sedadia amecamecana). It has chartreuse leaves and if not contained, stays about 6” tall. It is used to trail over retaining walls in Dahlia Dell, which is full of black-leaf dahlias, creating a dramatic contrast. Chartreuse Spreader is covered with yellow blooms in the cooler times of the year when the dahlias are dormant, and responds well to the irrigation necessary to keep the small area of dahlias happy.”

    Ava Torre-Bueno uses succulents for security: “I took out my lawn about 11 years ago and trucked in 28 cubic yards of cactus mix and planted a low water garden. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I find that my favorites now are the aloes because they attract hummingbirds. I’m also very fond of Oscularia deltoides because it’s a great ground cover and can be seen here: www.projectnoah.org/spottings/7695979. And finally, I love my Durango Prickly Pear and my other prickly pears planted under windows to burglar-proof my house.”

    Susi Torre-Bueno
    is using, “many succulents, especially in my front garden, and giving them very little water. I’ve been surprised with how quickly they grow and enjoy taking cuttings from one area and using them to start a new succulent area. I’ve grown succulents for only six years or so, and I’m learning that I prefer the look of fewer large succulents instead of more very small plants of lots of different kinds. For me it’s all about the foliage color and texture, and I often remove the flowers when they appear. We have a courtyard in our house and it is planted with about 90% aloes (my husband’s favorite plant), with some other succulents and blue fescue grass. My three favorites (this week) are a very large-leafed aeonium (possibly Aeonium undulatum), Crassula marginalis rubra 'Variegata', and Aloe speciosa.

    Katrin Utt has a favorite, “My favorite cactus is the Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns). It is always in bloom in our courtyard, which is our cactus garden. We excavated the soil two feet down when we moved here and filled it in with sand. We seldom water. Several of our other cacti are now over 20 ft tall. Most of the plants are cuttings I picked up over the years.”


  • Thu, March 01, 2012 5:51 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Louise Anderson said: “GLOVES are a MUST. Every time I try without them I ‘sorely’ regret it. Plants win – my hands lose.

    Sheila Busch employs this trio: “Gloves, always, hat sometimes, and Ibuprofen afterwards.

    Connie Forest shared this: “My favorite protective device is a pair of leather arm protectors. They are sort of chaps for arms and fit right over your gloves fastening with Velcro. I used to get all sorts of bruises on my forearms as I was pruning shrubs. These prevent that. I purchased them from the Duluth Trading Company, a catalog for folks who do physical labor. I haven't seen them anywhere else.” [www.duluthtrading.com – look for Pigskin Pruning Sleeve under “Garden Gear”]

    Jennifer Harris has a unique suggestion: “If it is getting close to evening and I have to work in one area for awhile, I light a small enclosed citronella candle (the kind with liquid/wick and wind protective shield) and set it close by. This is a nice time for gardening, but the gnats tend to move in.

    Amelia Lima uses “40 SPF sunblock cream on my face, and a 50 SPF large hat! I know I should also wear a long sleeve shirt, but I do not care to feel hot!

    Janet Milliken said, “Since I have a continuous appointment with the dermatologist who cuts out and freezes sun damaged places on my skin (results of growing up in Southern California before sunscreen was invented), I use everything possible: garden in the mornings in the shade, use sunscreen, wear a big floppy hat, gloves, etc. When finished, I usually shower, use lavender bath gel and lotion which are healing, put antibiotic salve on any scratches and thorn pricks, apply moisture serum and oxygen cream and any other skin improvement thing I can find and re-apply sunscreen.

    Krista Mills has a brilliant solution: “I always seem to forget to put sunscreen on and even sunglasses, so I keep extras in my potting shed so that they are super handy... then no excuses!”

    Elf Mitton has a problem banana: “I have a red ornamental banana (Musa) which partially blocks the path to my side yard where the hummingbird feeders are. I have ruined a lot of clothes brushing past so now I have sacrificed one jacket and put it on each time I go there so it gets the black non-removable stains. I really like the plant in my tropical garden so it’s a small sacrifice to make. I did ruin some of the wonderful Annual Plant Sale T-shirts I had from former Quail Botanical Gardens.”

    Susan Morse had an unusual story: “A couple of years ago, in Spring, I found two crow nestlings that had fallen out of their nest that was very high in the Canary Island Pine tree in our back yard. I checked the Project Wildlife website for information on what to do. Since replacing them in the nest was out of the question, I created a cozy nest from a wire planting basket, lined with coir. During the day, the nestlings would get out of my nest and wander about the immediate area. In the late afternoon, I would place the babies back in the makeshift nest which was securely resting on the 4-foot high crassula bush. The parents took care of feeding the nestlings and I was successful in training the dogs not to molest the babies. This process carried on for days until the young birds reached actual fledgling age. From the beginning, I knew one of the two had probably sustained a traumatic landing on the ground when it fell out of the nest. It now became obvious that one could fly and one could only go around in circles. At this point, I felt that I should take the injured fledgling to Project Wildlife for their expert care. Here's were the protective gear comes in. I put on my bicycle helmet and BBQ mitts when I went to pick up the injured bird to place him into a dog carrier, suitable for transporting him. I knew how very ridiculous I looked, but I had visions of the parents dive bombing and injuring me as I carried off their baby. Each year our front yard is used as a training ground for a pair of crows teaching survival skills to their fledglings. I love watching them from the house and feel they are friends of the garden, just like me.

    Marilyn Nelson replied: “I use sun block face cream (Neutrogena), hand cream, and gloves. A visor on rare occasions; I should use it more. Afterwards, hand cream, to be sure.”

    Lisa Rini told us: “I am addicted to lavender oil after I garden. I have a ton of bromeliads and manage to get scratched every time I do any kind of clean up – then my arms are full of bumps and scratches and red marks. After I shower, I just rub on organic lavender and in less than 24 hours the irritations are mostly gone (although scabs remain for a few days).”

    Anne Saxe has a lot of help: “It IS a rough world out there, especially on hands, nails, forearms! Cactus and succulents are especially tough... so I have a complete wardrobe of gloves. Heavy leather and canvas for carrying abrasive rocks, bricks, stones. Lighter gloves for raking leaves, debris and picking up same. Waterproof for messy stuff: wet leaves, soggy dirt, clean-up of unmentionables. Long sleeves and cardboard or newspaper for moving and transplanting cactus and other plants that attack"! And, of course, hand lotion before and after for getting back to normal!”

    Sue Ann Scheck wrote: “I just love to be in nature! Dirty gloves, a straw hat, sunscreen.... and the birds and critters to keep me company! That's It!!”

    Susi Torre-Bueno takes these precautions: “I just about always wear gloves, and I’m planning to get those leather arm protectors that Connie Forest described above. And I almost always wear closed-toe shoes. I’ve learned the hard way to stop pruning by dusk (although I do go snail hunting very late at night with a flashlight).”

    Kimberly von Atzigen
    has plans to protect herself: “I've got to wear a wide brim hat like the lifeguards used to wear.”  

    Roy Wilburn shared his secrets: “After pruning over 40 rose bushes here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes in Poway, I am a big fan of glove protection all the way up to the elbows. When I completed pruning the first few with just thick leather gloves on my hands, I noticed my forearms looked like machaca. I immediately added to my garb the sleeves that the avocado and citrus harvesters use to protect from wrist to elbow. Where was my head at before? The Protector brand of Rose Gauntlet Gloves will save you money on stitches, band-aids and Neosporin when working with roses, cacti and other scratchy and spiny plants.

    Melissa Worton said: “I take a break at the hottest part of the day, around 11:45 through 1:30, and stay hydrated.”

    Joel Zhou uses 3 types of garden protection: “For me, gloves and sunscreen, sometimes knee pads to help the lower back.”


  • Wed, February 01, 2012 5:50 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Louise Anderson said: “I've used white plastic knives for labeling plants. They're cheaper than a lot of others available.

    Kathleen & John Andersonlike to use “ice cream sticks for short-term plant or seed markers.

    Jim Bishop uses wine bottles: “We use 100s if not 1000s of glass bottles to create low retaining walls. I was inspired by a jug wine bottle wall I saw at Deetjens Big Sur Inn in 1990. Ten years later I did try a small wall with bottles from a New Year’s Eve celebration. Later, after carrying pallet after pallet of blocks into the canyon to create retaining walls, I realized that a single bottle weighs almost nothing and can be easily carried into the canyon. I wanted to create a firebreak between the garden and the chaparral below, but needed a path to access the area and needed a low retaining wall, so I started saving bottles. Soon everyone was bringing me bottles. The biggest contributor was my Aunt who gave me a monthly truck full saved from the Happy Hours at her senior living home. For a while, I was using Blue Italy water bottles from Trader Joe’s, but they switched to plastic bottles several years ago. Today, I use mostly San Pellegrino water bottles to create green walls. I often get asked what are the rules for creating a bottle wall… whatever looks good.

    Carol Costarakis told us: “I use a chopstick when planting sometimes – helps to wedge things in. Especially good with succulents.

    Connie Forest shared this: “I use the plastic woven berry boxes to cover young transplants. They protect the plants from rabbits and squirrels, at least until they outgrow the boxes. I have also used old rusted metal hanging baskets for the same purpose. I pour used kitty litter down gopher holes. I don't know if it harms the gophers but I bet it pisses them off. This only works in an area you aren't using for planting.”

    Barb Huntington has three tips: “I covered my veggie garden with a tent made of PVC pipe and bird netting (see her Facebook page for a photo). I am putting newspaper and potting soil bags under the rock in my labyrinth. I usually use panty hose in pots.

    Mary McBride said: “If you want to hang pots or other things  from a tree cut a piece of old garden hose to slip over hanger to protect tree bark from damage. A tip from the late garden designer Sinjin: Instead of staking tomatoes upright grow them over a fence as the vine they actually are. He maintained that it produced sweeter fruit.”

    Nita McColloch uses “rose prunings placed on the soil in my veggie garden to keep cats out. It works like a charm!”

    Rachele Melious had several tips: “I spritz seeds with a hand sprayer every few days with a 1:20 dilution of hydrogen peroxide when starting small amounts (on coffee filters or paper towels) to prevent mold, mildew and damping off.  I also spray it on the seedlings when I move them to soil. For storage, wrap sprayer in tin foil to exclude light or make fresh each time. For starting small cuttings, I use clear plastic containers that baked goods come in... no holes, sandy mix, very little water. Open once in a while to air and water sparingly. The one with the attached folding top is nice because it usually closes itself if I forget!”

    Lisa Rini has lots of uses for one common item: “Skewers are inexpensive, biodegradable, and can be tossed out without guilt! I use skewers to:

    ·  stake small plants

    ·  hold cactus in place as I transplant (to minimize getting poked)

    ·  hold together tillandsias (in lieu of glue) by using them similar to a woman's hair pick (have the plants overlap and then skewer to hold in place)

    ·  clean out top dressing (small pebbles or gravel, or crushed glass) that land on leaves or in plant crevices, especially when working with succulents

    ·  hold a smaller top pot in position (so it doesn't topple over) on top of a larger pot (using the hole at the bottom of the pot as the pass thru) allowing me to have more plants in my tiny garden without increasing the footprint

    ·  weed or remove dead leaves on prickly cactus

    ·  stir mixes of top dressings  (especially crushed glass)

    ·  hold tillandsias in place while gluing them to bark - I remove them as soon as the glue has set

    ·  create lines in potting soil for seed placement

    ·  pierce seed packets that can be pushed into the soil to remind you what you planted!”

    Sue Ann Scheck says: “I love using broken pieces of slate in my landscape design. I also love adding rusted elements! A super way to recycle cans: let them rust, then fill them with a potted succulent.”

    Nick Stavros suggested this topic with the following things he does: “I have all my old campaign sign wires that we use all the time. I also use bits of Romex (the white electrical wires that usually have three wires inside) that I have spray painted green and brown. These are great because they are stiff enough for support, but not so stiff that you can't form them. I use old sponges just below the soil surface to help hold water in some pots. I have an old bucket with a small hole in the bottom that I fill next to plants that need a good soaking but don't need irrigation. I use ice to slowly wet plants; ice melts relatively slowly, giving the plants a good soaking. I also use ice in the winter on the soil where I have tulips – I get them to bloom the next year. The most McGyver of them all… I sometimes use duct tape to split a broken or weak branch.

    Katrin Utt replied: “We used to have trouble with our friendly neighborhood raccoons digging for grubs in my pots and in the rose beds. I use a product called Milky Spore Grub Control Powder, which I order online. It does away with the grubs but does not affect the plants and lasts for several years. Another excellent way to keep the raccoons from digging is to spread chicken wire on the ground were they dig. They won't step there. I cut it in circular sections with an opening and place it on the ground around my roses. The raccoons will stop coming and I store the sections till needed again.”

    Marilyn Wilson sais that “besides the usual twisties from a package of hamburger buns, I have used long-handled ‘pickle jar tweezers’ to groom prickly plants like agave. A senior-citizen long-handled grabber device to bag pruning bits without bending over. A broom handle to poke holes and plant sunflower seeds (after back surgery). I like coffee filters at the bottom of the pot when potting up plants. I use kitty litter trays for mixing soil amendments and potting soil and bottomless 1-gal plastic bottles or 2 liter soda bottles to shelter delicate transplants. I have a mailbox on a post at the far ends of the garden to have tools and gloves at hand. Use epsom salts for roses, a serrated bread knife for dividing perennials, and pipe cleaners (or larger crafting bendable fuzz-coated wires) for staking lanky plants or vines. I put coat hanger near hummingbird feeders so the little guys can rest and guard their food. Red yarn is useful to mark things the garden helper should NOT prune. I put cut PVC pipes when planting bulbs (so I can come back later and stick in a stake and not worry about hurting the bulb), and I dust foot powder on bulbs to avoid fungus. Tiny dental flosser brushes clean hummingbird feeder stations, and cayenne pepper flakes annoy the ground squirrels.”


  • Sun, January 01, 2012 5:45 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    John Bagnasco has an unusual tree & huge succulent: “I have a Kauri Tree, Agathis robusta, that I planted from a seed that I got from New Zealand about 30 years ago. It now stands about 40' tall. The show-stopper at the moment is my Furcraea macdougalli that I bought in a 4" pot from Grigsby's Cactus in Vista about 25 years ago. It stands about 15' tall, but within the last two weeks has just put out a spectacular 20' bloom stalk! The flowers (of which there are thousands) remind me a little of cymbidium orchids.

    Vivian Blackstone replied: “All my fruit trees: Anna Apple, Mutsu Apple, Black Arkansas Apple; Strawberry Fig, White King Fig, Kadota Fig, Brown Turkey Fig; Chinese Donut Peach, Southern Sweet Peach, Freestone Peach; Tangelo, Orange: Lemons, Meyer, Eureka, Bearss Lime; 2 types of Asian Pears; Australian Finger Lime; 5 kinds of grapes; blackberries, boysenberries, strawberries; and  all my tomatoes (still growing in early December).”

    Sue Fouquette said:  I don't know if it's the best thing I ever purchased, but it's the biggest: a Ginkgo biloba, Maidenhair Tree. I don't know what year I purchased it for 25 cents in a 2-inch pot at a florist shop on El Cajon Boulevard, but it was long before I met Charley 34 years ago. It thrived in containers at my apartment in Mission Hills. It's been in our front yard ground in Fletcher Hills for 24 years and is approximately 65 feet tall and beautiful.

    Phil Hunter has a fast-growing tree: ” Back in 2002 when we moved into our new home, we planted a bunch of one gallon Proteas, Leucodendrons, Leucospermiums and Banksias.  One of those was a 1-gallon Leucodendron argentum (Silver Tree) that was barely a foot tall. Today it is a magnificent tree standing 25' tall and has beautiful silver gray foliage.”

    Patti Keyes has an exuberant shrub: “A couple of years ago, I bought a 1-gallon White Rockrose and planted it among others in a garden strip along a path outside of our west-facing bedroom windows. Expecting a 3'-4’ bush, it has grown into a hardy 10’ tree! The spring blooms are few, delicate, pretty - a refreshing snow white, but its sheer determination to thrive and shoot upwards makes it a favorite of mine (I believe it turns out to be a C. laurifolius). Tiny bush-tits made a fascinating long pouch nest in the upper branches last spring, which I have left there as a reminder of Nature's ingenuity and willingness to co-exist with humans living, loving and sleeping just a few feet away.”

    Janet Milliken told us her large plant is “an hydrangea that started as a mini gift in a very little pot.  It's now thriving as a 2 1/2 foot mophead.”

    Bryan Morse wrote about “The Malvaviscus arboreus var. mexicanus - Turk’s Cap. I planted it as a small 1-gallon plant, it is now over 20’ across. I love to add this plant into my jobs because it is so unique and so prolific, but is also very rare in the nursery industry. When I last visited the San Diego Zoo, there was one that had climbed the posts of that ramp that rises to the restaurant with the view of the center of the zoo. This Malvaviscus had climbed at least 40’ vertically. What an amazing plant”

    Anita Noone has an outstanding native oak: “The first California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa) that I planted from a one gallon can is now the tallest thing in my yard - it towers over every building in sight. More impressive and sustainable, though not yet certifiably huge, are the volunteer Catalina Cherry (Prunus lyonii) trees in my yard. I have moved sprouts that are 6" high to areas where they will work as screens and they are rapidly shooting up toward a mature height of (I hope!) 40 feet.”

    Dale Rekus has a thriving cutting: “I got a small piece of Plectranthus barbatus and it grew to over six feet tall in a year. Even better is the fact that it is really easy to grow, somewhat drought tolerant and has just started putting out gorgeous blue flower spikes for the next several months.”

    Diana Scott said her big surprise is “Ficus benjamina!”

    Nathan Smith’s really fast-growing tree is: “Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea', the purple hopseed bush. I planted them from 5-gallon pots (18" tall) in March of 2010; they're now 12' tall!”

    Pat Welsh replied: “In 1979 I attended a Garden Writer's convention in San Francisco. We were all given tiny Afghan pines (Pinus elderica) to ‘try out.’ How do you try out a tree? I stuck it in the ground on the north side of my property next to the road. It is now 45 feet tall and has a bougainvillea climbing into it. It would be taller but when it was about 15 feet tall I noticed the tendency of Afghan pines to become too rangy with somewhat floppy side branches going out too far. I wanted to strengthen those side branches, so I asked my gardener to use our tall pruning hook to cut a foot or two off the tips of all the side branches but NOT TO TOUCH the central leader. Quick as a wink and before I could stop him he whacked off the top of the tree.”

    Roy Wilburn has “started Durantas as cuttings. Growing fast and need continual pruning and thinning to stay under control.”

    Anne Wolfe has happy outdoor indoor plants: “ When Denny and I moved into our home 35 years ago we had a few house plants that we brought with us. We never did dig them, set them in a corner, and our dieffenbachia and fiddle leaf fig are giant now. The dieffenbachia towers at about 24 feet tall.  The fiddle leaf guards our outside shower and is about 15 feet.  They are happy and we enjoy them.  ”

    Stephen Zolezzi wrote: “If you have had the opportunity to start a tree from seed you expect it to grow into a towering landmark in the garden! Succulents continue to amaze me in their diversity of shape, size and dramatic flowering, so when I was given several 2” starts of Octopus Agave some time ago, not having seen an adult plant I was pleased to see them grow into tentacle beauties with 3-4’ arms reaching in every direction. As if that wasn’t enough, several years ago they started to bloom, producing 15’ spikes of rotating blooms resembling a Barbers Pole that attracted bazillions of Bees. For an encore I received hundreds of new starts that have been planted in my garden, but best of all given to other gardeners and an enthusiastic group of school children for a new community garden.”


  • Thu, December 01, 2011 5:40 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Louise Anderson replied that she got a free alstroemeria: “Peruvian lily was the first free plant I got when I moved down here from Orange County. It's been a constant bloomer and requires minimum care. I especially like that it stays a long time after being brought inside. I'm in the market for more right now.”

    Debra Lee Baldwin found an agave: “I was fluffing the garden for a party and had a gap where no irrigation reached. I saw a small (basketball-sized) Agave americana on the curb with a neighbor's trash. It had no roots, so I figured it would be just a temporary garden enhancement, and I tossed it in the trunk. (Yes, it was fanged and pointy, but I keep garden gloves in the car. One never knows.) I placed the agave in the gap, and it looked great. If someone had accidentally kicked it, it would have rolled down the slope. That was spring. By summer, as expected, the agave's leaves were beginning to shrivel at the tips. By fall it looked pretty bad. Winter rains revived it. A landscaper friend advised, ‘Debra, you'd better remove it, because in a few years it'll be so big it'll encroach on a pathway.’ But the agave had become a sculptural focal point in the garden, and had earned my admiration and respect. I replied, "’When that happens, I'll move the pathway.’

    Steve Brigham said, “When someone gives me a plant, it always seems to grow successfully (unlike some purchases I've made). And over the years, it's amazing how many plant gifts went on to become majorly popular plants that we all enjoy today. But this year, my favorite plants in my garden were not only free –I didn't even have to plant them! It was the Blue Jays that planted my Sunflowers, from seed that they got from their feeders. And the amazing thing was that their sense of placement was near-perfect (I only had to edit out a couple of seedlings), which made the sunflowers work into the garden as a whole so well! Now, the ripe seedheads are mounted on the fence, and everyone is enjoying this convenient buffet. It was the least I could do for the Blue Jays, since this year, they've proven that they're better planters than I am!”

    Linda Chisari has two favorite discards: “I actually have two plants which originally came from someone else's trash cans, on different occasions, and that I love for the same reasons: Epidendrum and Calandrinia. Both have gorgeous flowers that attract hummingbirds; both are drought-tolerant; both have withstood the attempts by my golden retriever puppy to destroy them!

    Susan D’Vincent got a plant from another member: “Many years ago I was the lucky recipient of a Canary Island Sage from Susi Torre-Bueno. It has been such a tough, yet beautiful plant. I have planted its progeny throughout the yard. It's relatively fast growing and makes a great screen with little to no additional water.

    Irina Gronborg loves spider plants: “Among the hundreds of free plants and cuttings we have collected from friends and trash cans, I most love common variegated spider plants. They are always sleek, clean, and robust; they glow, lighting up our increasingly shady back yard. They grow vigorously, they cascade, they multiply, they throw out streams of little tiny rooted babies with abandon and exuberance. I can't remember watering them or babying them in any way. Although Erik complains about what they do below, taking over the underground with their giant fleshy tubers, I haven't noticed that to be a problem, and my chickens love them, but more as salad than design.

    Marilyn Guidroz saved some cuttings: “We moved into a rental house in Valley Center to find that it had the original landscaping from the 50's. Silk Oaks, Arborvitae, old Camellias, Orange Trees, Cape Honeysuckle as big as a house, Oleanders, Pomegranate, Geraniums, Aloes and Jade. During the course of the year I had trimmed back some of the Jade and threw the branches in a pile off to the side.  As we were packing up to move I saw those same cuttings just sitting there so in a moment of garden compassion (which we have for all living plants) I took them along. I just stuck them in the ground along a fence line. I looked at them back in Sept. and they looked dried up and dead. I thought, ‘Oh well, they were free.’ After this recent amazing Fall rain I looked again and 80% of them are all puffed out and green again. Now that is a survivor!”

    Candace Kohl is another succulent lover: “My first answer would have to be succulents. They are so easy to grow, share and save when someone is tearing them out. I also have some wonderful plants that people have given me over the years from rose bushes that grow too big for their yards, to curly leaf Encephalartous ferox, to wild collected Bursera. Plant people are the best and most generous bunch.”

    Cheryl Leedom has a favorite gift plant and a rescue: “Several years ago my neighbor cut back his poinsettia plant growing in his garden after it finished blooming and was headed for the trash with the cuttings. I rescued them from the trash and stuck them in the ground to see what would happen. Apparently they’re happy in the new spot because every year the plant grows to about 8 to 10 feet tall and is covered in blooms from November to January. I cut it back to the ground every February and it starts going again. Another favorite is an Echeveria from a cutting a friend gave me in 1973 to plant in my first garden. The friend is long gone, but this hearty succulent lives on. It’s a favorite and it’s hard to say who enjoys it more – the scores of hummingbirds it attracts or me. Over the years, each time I’ve moved I’ve taken some offsprings with me and planted them at the new garden. I’ve also given cuttings to friends, along with this story, so this lovely plant is my friend’s legacy.

    Susan Morse got a great bulb: “Due a random act of kindness I provided to a plantsman, he graciously reciprocated by giving me one of his Urginea maritima bulbs (Giant White Squill,) a $25 value for this 10 pound bulb. I was stunned to receive this gift. This year I lifted the bulb, divided it and now I have three of these big guys. It is the gift that keeps on giving.”

    Susan Oddo got plants that really did fall off the truck, “When Frank and I moved in to our new home there was nothing but native brown grass on the whole three acres. There was still a landfill in Elfin Forest and one day we followed a landscape truck toward the landfill. It was piled high with cut sections of Yucca gloriosa, many of which kept falling off throughout the valley. We stopped and picked each one up with a final count of 10-15 starts. The wonderful gloriosas on our property all trace back to those free cuttings. Since then, though, so many people have shared from their gardens – billbergias from Susi, bromeliads from Joann, tillandsias from Jim, agaves from Lisa, pachypodium from Wanda, and Carol's cactus . . . How can we pick one over another? They are all THE BEST!” [To see some of Susan and Frank’s swell garden, visit their website: http://birdsongbotanicgarden.com.]

    Una Marie Pierce credits two other members with some of her free plants: “I have some rally neat Sansevieria under the stairs in the back yard that LOVE it there. I picked them up alley walking/trash picking on my way home from the library a few years back. I also have some sweet Tilandsias I got from James Wright and lots of succulents from my friend Krista Mills. The Bulbine frutescens that she gave me are growing like weeds and look beautiful. If anyone wants to come dig some out, be my guest!”

    Barbara Raub got her roses from her mother: “My favorite recent free plant is the cutting(s) I got from Susi’s famed fuchsia-colored geranium plant that was a gift to HER from a special person to her who had passed on. Only 2 of them made it (my thumb is not looking very green…) but I can’t wait for the friendship blooms to follow! My favorite free plants from the past are my roses that have been here 32 years which my Mom started from cuttings from HER roses... some dating all the way back to the home I grew up in. Every time we/she made a move she took some with her... she had the GREENEST thumb, and saliva.... she could literally spit out an apricot pit and a tree would sprout. Must have been her Saroyan blood... her brothers were all fruit growers in the Fresno area.

    Diana Scharar shared this story: “One memorable plant I rescued from a yard being redone was a 50-pound Agave victoria-reginae. It is growing in my yard right where I dropped it because it was too heavy to carry any further. It had many off shoots that are living all over San Diego.”

    Ruth Sewell has a scented treasure: “A Gardenia thunbergia given to me by a neighbor. It took a long time to mature, but oh my, what a heavenly fragrance!” 

    Cindy Sparks rescued an orchid: “My best pass-along plant was a cymbidium, and it taught me two things as a very novice gardener. First, any plant that can stand to have kitty litter dumped on it must be tougher than I thought. I can understand there is good nitrogen there, but... yuck! The last owner routinely did that with her plants. Second, it's fun to get a plant and nurse it back to health. I guess I like a challenge. That plant put out new growth and eventually bloomed regularly, and it started me on a love affair with orchids. They are so pretty! The moral is: don't turn down a frog who might just become a prince.

    Gerald D. Stewart writes “that there are two free plants that are ‘best’ because they are souvenirs of the past. While at Cal Poly/San Luis Obispo he admired a pink-flowered plant of a neighbor. They dug some dirt and split their plant. Every time Zephyranthes grandiflora (Pink Rain Lily) blooms it reminds him of Charles and Jo Holden. Mr. Holden taught him how to read critically (especially the Berkeley Barb and LA Free Press he read to balance Time and Newsweek magazines in the days of the Vietnam War), and to appreciate wines. Mr. Holden was the last winemaker employed by Safeway. The second is Pelargonium x hortorum ‘Irma’. In about 1964 Mrs. FitzGerald down the street gave him a slip. A descendent of that plant now blooms in the front entry shrub bed at New Leaf. When the Pink Rain Lily blooms on the back porch it brings back memories of the Holdens, and when Irma blooms in the frontyard it brings back memories of growing-up when the entire street was a safe playground for a child. 

    Susi Torre-Bueno cherishes her Nana Lola Geranium: “Almost 4 years ago, a few months before our son got married, we went to visit his fiancée’s grandmother when she was quite ill in the hospital. Nana Lola spoke almost no English, and our Spanish is pretty negligible, but she was a charming and gracious woman and clearly very fond of our son. Nana was the loving and very much beloved matriarch of  Nathaly’s family, and in the short time we spent with her, and despite the language barrier, it was easy to see why everyone was crazy about her. Sadly, Nana died the next day, but I took a couple of cuttings of her favorite magenta-flowered Martha Washington Geranium and it is a thrill in full bloom in the spring. Each year I give away numerous cuttings of Nana’s geranium, and I always tell people about how special she was. I have a great many more unusual plants, but this remains one of my very favorites because of who it reminds me of.”

    Cathy Tylka has gotten "many plants for free. Right now my favorite one is a bright red geranium that can be used in hanging baskets. I'm not sure where I got it, but know it was free. I add it to other containers with succulents and it is happy to blend in and put on a show of color, and ever so easy to care for...or not care for."

    Katrin Utt got a free rose: “In 1990 I visited Poway Nursery and fell in love with their gigantic red climbing rose "Dortmund." Lawrence Smith, the then owner, gave me a cutting which has grown to be an eye stopper in my garden. It started me in my quest for roses, but no other rose puts on a more spectacular display in my garden.

    Marilyn Wilson had a mom who rescued plants: “I have rescued quite a few plants in my time. It's a family tradition. My Mom used to dumpster dive (before it was called that) in back of the Ben Franklin ‘five and dime’ in Prairie Village, Kansas when I was still in high school. My two best rescues were a huge old Brunfelsia (“Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow") from the next door neighbor of a gardening buddy. The woman wanted a shrub and didn't know how to prune it. I was happy to get a small tree. Alas, it lives still in Rancho Bernardo but I live now in Vista. The second best rescue was an Agave victoria-reginae the size of a soccer ball from the magnificent backyard succulent garden of a recently sold house. The new owner had small dogs and didn't want anything with sharp edges – he wanted GRASS.

    Sandy Yayanos said, “That is an easy one: Agave attenuata. Why? Carefree, fire break, easy to root, pest free, no massive rhizomes, looks tidy, and has a beautiful florescence. Then there are the pups to give away.

  • Tue, November 01, 2011 5:35 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Cindi Allen said, “I hesitate to mention this because the place where I buy this is in Lake Forest which is a long drive for people in San Diego County, but there is a place called Serrano Creek where horses are boarded. The smart owner of this establishment decided to take the waste from the horses and create compost. He charges $2.00/bag for this dark brown, odorless, rich compost. For $25.00, I can get 12 bags of this magnificent organic food for my garden. Maybe someone down that way who boards horses has figured this out, too. If you want more information about Serrano Creek, I'll be happy to send it your way.

    Emma Almendarez got a great thing for FREE: “Mulch is the best thing I purchased for $25 or less for my garden. Free to me as a resident of Oceanside if I load it myself at El Corazon green waste facility

    Walter Andersen had several fine suggestions: “Planting veggies can be a great investment that will pay dividends in a short time. Lots of cool weather veggies are available now; they grow fast and can be very rewarding in the tummy and the wallet. Planting from seed you can get even more!!! Most people still plant the small starts in six-packs; it is kind of instant gratification and they are ready to harvest a few weeks sooner. To brighten areas around your home it is difficult to beat annual color, and six-packs of bedding plants can work magic.” 

    Lisa Bellora wrote: “I mulched this year with Agri Service perennial mulch. I had absolutely NO WEEDS where I mulched. I think it was about $12 a yard and I got 1 1/2-2 yards. I love that stuff!!!! So I got to spend time pruning and such instead of weeding.” 

    David Bittar didn’t purchase his best thing: “The sun! It was FREE!“

    Vivian Blackstone got a bargain: “I bought a 25' coil hose for the garden with a spray nozzle at a sale for $5. It's terrific.”

    Linda Bresler also got a great bargain: “Over the summer I purchased some opportunity drawing tickets at a SDHS meeting, and was lucky enough to win several plants which were worth much more than the cost of the tickets.

    Denise Carriere likes a handy product: “Nitrile gloves – they are soft, flexible and durable. It is the next best thing to feeling the dirt.”

    Aenne Carver put a great bargain outdoors: “I bought a vintage chandelier on ebay for $25, including shipping. The low price had me worried about its overall condition, but it worked perfectly. The only issue was a few crystals were missing and that was a simple fix. My husband put a plastic plate/thing-a ma-jig over the top to seal and protect it from water and then we hung the fixture under the wooden pergola. By the way, my husband rents out cheaply for such projects, if you let his band practice in your garage weekly. The chandelier has two oblong, textured globes, dangling from chains at different levels. This is a cheap way to add charm and elegance to outdoor dining. An unexpected bonus, the globes are visible from my kitchen window, so I turn them on low and watch the goldfish in the fountain as I do the dishes. Now, if I could just get my husband’s band to play quietly...”

    Ralph Evans purchased a water-saving device: “A Gilmore 9200 automatic shutoff meter (purchased at Grangetto’s for under $20) – this is a manual dial garden hose timer. No batteries, and I always forget to turn off the water, for those spot waterings.” [Grangetto’s offers members a discount – see page 21.]

    Linda Fiske beautified and fed her garden: “My best buy was a BIG scoop of Certified Organic Compost from the dump for $12. This allowed me to dress all of my garden beds. Plus I had enough to increase my own compost.

    Barb French-Lee is making her own great garden food: “The best thing I've recently purchased for my garden is two plastic containers, a block of coir and worms donated to me to start a worm bin ($13). Oh what wonderful worm tea and compost to give my plants a nutritional boost.

    Devonna Hall recommended two books: “I love garden books and I just purchased Garden Up: Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces, by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet. It has great pictures that inspire and wonderful ideas to resolve some of the challenges of vertical gardening.  I also love Nancy Goslee Power's book, Power of Gardens – heaven!

    Jennifer Harris wrote that she got “a set of various size tweezers..... very large to smallish, purchased at the San Diego Cactus & Succulent Society convention earlier this year for less than $15. I purchased them to enable me to clean between cactus stickers and succulent leaves, but also find them extremely helpful when it comes to reaching into a webby area, bending down to clean Geraniums, or reaching up into a Star Pine to pull out dry needles. 

    Susan Hirsch appreciates “Succulents! They are bulletproof, look good with other types of plants, reproduce themselves and can be traded for other succulents!”

    Sylvia Keating told us, “The very best thing I've EVER bought for my garden is a mattock tool. Cost is about $20, when you can find them. They are hard to find. Mia at Cedros Gardens nursery has them now and I got one as a gift for my sister. I noticed one of the gardeners at Balboa Park using one, too, this past spring, and I stopped to chat with him about the huge number of delphiniums that were in the park and the tool he was using. Found out that there were so many delphiniums at Balboa Park this spring because they were over-ordered by mistake and the park had lots of them, so they were putting them in everywhere. The point, however, is that he agreed the mattock tool is now just about the only tool he uses, too. He loves it.” 

    John Keeler likes a tiny organism: “Of course my reply is biased… one pound of Symbivit Mycorrhiza ($20.00).” [John’s company, California Mycorrhiza, is one of our sponsors: http://www.californiamycorrhiza.com/.]

    Amelia Lima is crazy about: “Tillandsias!!!! They are fabulous plants, easy, decorative, and very architectural.

    Carol McCollum had a “green” reply: “I love solar powered lights... they light up at night in my patio!! One of my favorites is the spotlight on my fountain.”

    Jim Mumford suggested something you can get for free: “Mulch and compost from the dump!”

    Anita Noone likes something you can make on your own: “Mulch, mulch, and more mulch. I ask tree-trimmers, horse owners, and people who use hay bales for display. I'd love to know how many tons of mulch I've gotten for free over the years. It's amazing what people will give you if you ask. 

    Tamma Nugent wrote, “Seeds, of course!”

    Stella Ramos just hit the jackpot: “Yesterday, while browsing in a thrift store in Laguna Beach, I found a package of 20 plant identifier stakes for $2.99!  Now when I plant some bulbs I won't forget where I put them!

    Kay Rideout emailed to say: "I love the product Sluggo for controlling slugs and snails. Easy to use and safe around animals."

    Reg Ryan said, “For fall, the very best thing to own is a leaf shovel. It is lightweight, and you can scoop up a lot of leaves (or other debris) quickly. Mine went missing for a while, and I was lost without it.

    Anne Saxe got “a couple of late bargains...first, at my local home improvement store early on a Sunday morning after a busy Saturday, I found broken bags of top of the line name brand soils and soil conditioners grouped together in a shopping cart offered for under $10 for the whole cart! Of course there may be things you don't want/can't use but you can save them or share with a neighbor. My best bargain though... a neighbor recently replaced her concrete driveway and walkways and had her old surfaces jack-hammered ready for pickup and disposal... 5 or 6 wheelbarrows full of random-sized 4-5-inch thick pieces provided me with a neat, short stretch of 2-3 foot high retaining wall... total cost: $0! So... keep your eyes open in your neighborhood and at your local stores for things you can use in your own garden.”

    Tammy Schwab repurposed an interesting item: “I was thrift store shopping with some friends when I spotted an old metal card rack that swivels which I purchased for $15.00. I had a vision and turned it into a succulent tower, it stands about 6' tall.  The whole thing is planted and it looks marvelous!”

    Sue Ann Scheck got a great bargain: “My best deal was a marvelous Talavara pot from Homegoods!

    Stephanie Shigematsu is another lover of: “Seeds! It can be rewarding and dirt cheap to grow plants from seeds It's also a great way to inspire young gardeners. Save seeds for next spring from your last crop of favorite tomatoes or try some new lettuce seeds soon for fresh at hand winter salad. And you can't beat get-it-yourself free mulch or compost from the Miramar landfill. The strong odor may be off-putting to some, but it dissipates in a couple of days. They thoroughly compost all the city curbside green waste and occasionally food waste from local restaurants to help enrich our native soils.”

    Jim Strelluti shared this tip: “I shop for garden tools at garage sales and swap meets. Older tools are of very good quality compared to today’s tools, especially tools with blades. Prices vary. The bottom line is: the tools are inexpensive and gently used. A high quality sawing blade is hard to come by today.”

    Barbara Strona replied: “Joining Mission Hills Garden Club in April, 1999!”

    Sharon Swildens got some new plants: “The best thing I have purchased recently are two gigantic yellow mum plants for $10.00 each at Home Depot.  I put them in my large pots by the pool and they give lots of color during this rather dull fall time.  They have been in full bloom for two weeks and I should be able to have them for the rest of the month now that the weather has turned cooler.”

    Katrin Utt told us: “The best thing I do for my plants is buying alfalfa hay  cubes at the local feed store. It comes in 50-pound bags and is less than  $25, and each one lasts me about a year. I soak a small amount in water  and apply the hay soup to my roses. It works wonders and is long-lasting.  You can also let it ferment for a couple of weeks if you want to bypass the  cow and create a more potent but smelly mixture that needs to be diluted.”

    Janet Voinov found a favorite plant: “I had seen a Pittosporum ‘Silver Sheen’ tree up in Long Beach and fell in love with it. Nursery visiting in Leucadia I found one for $49 but didn't purchase it because it was just a little too much. Several days later, passing a nursery off of Hwy. 8 that I had never been to but heard a lot about, I decided to stop and look. Happily, they had lots of Silver Sheens and they were $24. Of course, I bought one and plan on going back and buying several more, one at a time.”

    Kimberly von Atzigen appreciates her “Dramm watering wand.

    Melissa Worton also likes “mulch. Bags of mulch. Keeps the weeds down, makes the garden look neat, smells good and is very easy on the wallet.”

    Tynan Wyatt got a great tool: “The best item for under $25 I purchased (besides seeds) this year was the well-built adjustable hose nozzle. The cheapo ones always break and leak but spending $14-$16 to get a quality product that fits tight, sprays, bubbles, mists, etc. and can withstand a 4 foot drop onto concrete was well worth it. One tip is to minimize the amount of plastic in the nozzle. Metal and rubber are better. The one I have is a Gilmour 8-Pattern Cushion Pistol Grip Nozzle with Dial; sells for $10.70 plus tax at Lowe's”

    Joanzy Zeltingerrepurposed a kitchen item: ”A flour sifter. This summer, again, I had aphids on my dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree. I sprayed it good with water. Then I spritzed the affected areas with Jungle Juice; Jungle Juice alone does not work to rid the tree of pests. Then I put my worm castings into the flour sifter and sifted the casting powder on the affected areas. The moisture helps retain the casting dust. The ants and aphids broke up: no more synergistic relationship! Leave the dust on the tree for a few weeks, then host it off. Retreat if necessary. You can also use water and sifted castings on new seedlings to keep the bugs from devouring the leaves! So, now my flour sifter sits in the garden cabinet along with all my other garden tools. Each time I see it I think of my childhood, making mud-pies in grandmas back yard next to the rain barrel.”

    Joel Zhou is pleased with his “45-gallon wheeled can for green recycling.”

  • Sat, October 01, 2011 5:33 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Irina Gronborg wrote: “As pacifists we have learned to rely on Garden Protection by Design. We planted a queen palm to hide our view of the neighbor’s antenna, a grove of giant timber bamboo and giant bird of paradise to hide their bathroom window, and a dense planting of acacia and flax to keep their pickups out of sight. We like our improved and leafy views.

    Lorie Johansen emailed to say: “Yep, I have a few DNNs (do nothing neighbors). When they weren't home, I planted a few succulent cuttings, salvias, and pelargoniums that survived on no water other than what Mother Nature gave them. When they finally noticed, they thanked me. I mentioned that I had extra and I just couldn't stand to throw them away. After five years the large areas are filling in nicely and I have something nice to look at.

    Sandra Knowles told us that, “years ago at places where we would meet and chat with neighbors over the fence, we installed gates complete with arbors. This has allowed a path to share garden tools, weed eaters, sprayers and me (since I enjoy pulling weeds). We also share plants and exchange travel/garden care. We have been fortunate to have long time neighbors who love their gardens also.”

    Brenda Martin admitted that, “Sometimes I am that neighbor, and right now, I have that neighbor. In my experience, mulch covers a multitude of sins in the neglected garden! [I have mulched a neighbor’s] parkway, while they were on vacation. Luckily, they were cool with it and we all had beers and laughed! I would caution – don't try this unless you have a really good relationship with your neighbors!

    Rachele Melious had some great solutions: “Luckily only a small sliver of my neighbor's property abuts ours. We've been neighbors 10 years. Their lawn is usually not overgrown because they don't water. To combat a dead, dusty lawn I have given them free drought-tolerant plants. The Crassulas (Jade Plants) are green and lovely most of the year. They planted a lone sago palm, which shrank and yellowed from lack of water and exposure to full sun. I could not keep my grass alive along the property line, so I planted a large shade tree, which shaded the little sago and now also shades my driveway! What little water the sago takes from the tree has made it grow beautifully. We have planted some succulents around the jade and the rest is natural; weeds only grow when it rains. I manage the weeds myself and must remove their rogue Tecoma capensis from between the fence boards or they break. In other words...we do it all...or it wouldn't be done, but it is small and the cost is nominal. Would be a whole different story if the property was large or if they watered. I recall other neighbors who mowed on different days, we would simply mow the sections that were ‘attached’ to ours so that it looked right, and we would fix the fence(s) because we have dogs. My neighbor on the other side, which abuts much more of their property, has to deal with dead plants in homemade pots (coffee cans, milk containers, and black nursery pots). She has erected a decorative lattice fence in her front yard to hide the worst parts!”

    Diane Scharar said, “An 8-foot high cinder block wall covered with a nice green vine has helped us stay friendly with the neighbors.”

    Ruth Sewell said she told her neighbors that she “would put up new fence if they paid for lumber. They did. We did. Everybody happy.”

    Gerald D. Stewart has “had six different neighbors to the north in the 34 years he’s lived at New Leaf. None of them have been gardeners. The second one planted hedges of yucca along a shared driveway and a vigorous opuntia along the street, both found as prunings left on someone’s curb for the trash collector. When the yucca grew and leaned 15’ over a shared driveway and the opuntia blocked the view of oncoming traffic, none of the later inhabitants would let him prune them back. Then the real estate bubble burst, and the fifth set of neighbors moved due to foreclosure. While the bank went through their processes Jerry filled 8 cans a week with yucca, and whatever space was left in the landfill trash can with opuntia (the yard trash collector said cactus couldn’t be put in the yard trash cans). Three months later the problem was gone. (And the new neighbors welcome the help with pruning.) All it took was 15 years of patience.”

    Cathy Tylka wrote, “A neighbor was running a fence about 10 feet from ours, but on the same route. My husband wanted to push out our fence and join in with them. The neighbor was concerned as the fence was actually in side their property line. We signed a statement, and had it notarized, that we were aware of this, in other words, that our fence was connected to their fence inside their property line. This made them happy.

    Katrin Utt has a friendly approach: “I help my elderly neighbor by pulling weeds and fertilizing and I monitor her sprinkler system. We both win!

    Marilyn Wilson replied, “I used to live next door to a woman who removed half of her front lawn and let weeds grow on the bare earth. My solution was to write to the homeowners’ association and THEY worked out the ‘congenial’ solution. The neighbor didn't speak to me for the remaining 12 years that I lived there, but that was OK with me.  I recently moved and I DID pick my neighbors – there aren't any, and that is OK too.

  • Thu, September 01, 2011 5:30 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Vivian Blackstone had a good harvest this summer: “I started very early, like in March, with 8 healthy plants from Lowe's of cherry tomatoes, planted them in 15 gallons containers, so if I needed to I could move them – most problems are with rabbits or rats. It turned out spectacular: all 8 made it and I've been overflowing with cherry tomatoes for 2 months now and it will continue in August. This fall I will pick Jerusalem artichokes and replant them for next year, one of my favorite veggies.

    David Clarke replied that he had, “great red and yellow peppers this year and the corn wasn't too bad. Eggplants were also fairly productive. For fall I am looking forward to putting in broccoli, chard, carrots, potatoes, and probably short day onions. My garden is an herbicide- and insecticide-free zone and I had a good turnout of beneficials. Sadly, not too many garden spiders this past year… bit of a mystery!”

    Linda Chisari said, “Our tomatoes have done exceedingly well this summer. I think I've finally figured out (after 35 years!) which varieties do the best in our coastal climate. Galia and Ambrosia melons have also ripened beautifully over the last few weeks, as have our pumpkins. We have many hundreds of 'Beverly Hills' apples on our dwarf tree that is, at 35, still only 4' deep but almost 20' wide. In late September I'll plant broccoli, fennel, carrots, beets, and many salad greens. Arugula and mache have naturalized and will be up when the time is right. I plant short day onions in early November.”

    Susan D’Vincent shared the following: “My favorite summer vegetable is the green bean Spanish Musica. It's the most delicious bean I've ever eaten and has very productive 6’ to 8’ vines. Unfortunately, in my yard it's prone to get some fungal problem that dries up the leaves from the outside in. (Spraying diluted earthworm effluent on it has helped.) I planted very few veggies this summer for one reason and another, but I had several volunteers from last year; a Lebanese Clarinette squash, Chilaca peppers, and red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Beets and carrots volunteered last winter and are still in the ground to eat now. Broccoli and lettuce are my must-have vegetables for fall. If they don't volunteer I'll have to plant them. I will be planting Renee's Garden Oriental Giant spinach, which I love because it has huge leaves, grows fast and is delicious. [www.ReneesGarden.com has great seeds, recipes, more!] I like New Kuroda carrot, which is fat, sweet and easy to grow. I'll probably plant them from seeds that have come from the carrots which bloomed this summer.”

    Kathy Gatlin had some good crops: “Everyone who cooks should try chives. One plant has been in the ground two years and has been good for clipping year round. Its nice mild onion taste is a fresh addition to many recipes and looks great minced on top of deviled eggs. My favorite cherry tomato for two years running (not the same plant:) is Sungold. Its bright orange color is a nice contrast in any salad IF they make it into the house. They are as sweet as any fruit and I have been known to just stand there and eat them right off the plant! We're also enjoying Black Pearl Hybrid cherry tomato from Burpee. It is full of tomatoes right now and they are not "purple" as noted on the tag, but more like a greenish orange with a nice full tomato taste. I never plant fall veggies as we are spoiled by our membership in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Twelve to fifteen different veggies (and fruits) arrive every other week. That seems to be enough to keep two people busy cooking and eating until the next delivery!

    Bobbi Hirschkoff told us she has: “tomatoes, artichoke and butternut squash planted from seeds harvested from grocery store squash. These seeds germinated and were up 3 days after planting!!! I’m putting artichokes everywhere.... veggie garden, flowerbeds and fruit tree orchard. I love the way they look and they taste even better!”

    Suzie Ince had one good yield so far: “This summer purslane was by far my best crop. Yummy in salads. Corn and tomatoes are apparently in no hurry this summer. I plan to plant garlic, onion, celery, carrots, beets, fennel, kohlrabi, peas, endive, and I'll probably squeeze in a few more.”

    Sue Marchetti did very well this summer with: “Asian eggplant! Planting this fall: Chard (Bright Lights or similar)”

    Una Marie Pierce is “having an amazing crop of tomatoes. I need to pick the small ones usually twice a day and keep my eye on the large ones, too. I'm giving the small ones away by the basketful and freezing most of the larger excess. I'm still getting kale from the winter plants. This fall I plan to let everything die out for the first time in several years and redo the irrigation, which is quite old, and probably not the best system. Then I'll plant broccoli and beans and peas as appropriate.”

    Meg Ryan said: “I love growing the Rainbow Swiss Chard. It makes it through our intense summer heat, so I can harvest from the same plants for two years (before they get a little scraggly looking). Plus, the different stem colors make it quite interesting, visually. I grow it in my front yard!”

    Laura Starr sent in this report: “My heirloom tomato plants have not done well, but the hybrids have. Specifically, a new tomato called “Health Kick” has done extremely well. Crookneck squash is abundant. “Blue Lake” beans did very poorly. Herbs: dill, fennel, thyme, parsley - all great. “Sequoia” strawberry - a few fruits but fabulous. “Sultan” cucumber - vigorous grower and producer. In the fall, I’ll do French Breakfast Radishes, carrots and arugula as well as chard and some lettuces.”

    Barbara Strona had modest success: “I get one or two not yummy tomatoes a year, so I decided it's cheaper to buy fancy farmers market tomatoes  instead. I do get nice tarragon and dill but not a whole lot. My gardens don't  get adequate sunlight. Or care.” Mary Jane Tanquary wrote that: “we are growing lots of different heirloom tomatoes; green, purple, red, Anaheim & jalepeno peppers; French and scallion onions; eggplant; zucchini; watermelon; cantaloupe; several kinds of pumpkins and tomatillos.”

    Patti Vickery said, “My basil has been growing wild. We can't eat enough pesto! Also, my tomato plants that are in the self-watering container my spouse built from a design on the internet. This fall I will plant snap peas and lettuce.”

    Pat Welsh (who writes extensively about veggies in her newest book, Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening) told us: “My most successful summer vegetable this year is an heirloom Carbon tomato plant that arrived at my house in a one gallon can; a gift from a young man from Russia who lives in Del Mar, grew too many tomato plants from seeds and offered some to our garden club. This is the most disease-resistant heirloom I have ever raised. The stalk is thick, woody, and sturdy with no rot. It bears double flowers followed by large, slightly deformed fruits of very dark color and good meaty quality like a beefsteak. They do not rot like many other heirlooms and do not get soft in the middle but are good all the way through. The fruit needs a little salt to bring out its delicate flavor. I planted this huge indeterminate vine in a large raised bed in late February and it basically took over the whole thing and this one plant crowded out the others and has born more than enough tomatoes for me to eat and give away for the last four months and is still going strong. It only bears two or three fruits in a cluster, and not a huge number of clusters but the vine is so enormous the yield is good. Due to early planting and a warm spot, I got my first fruit in late May. Anaheim peppers have been good also and are good for chili relleno.

    In September I will plant a fresh edging of parsley and cole crops, especially broccoli and cauliflower, which taste so good when home-grown. Fava beans are very productive also. (After the first flowers show, pinch off the tips of the plant and steam as veggie or stir-fry. Pinching the growing tips off makes the beans begin bearing in about a week.) It's fun to grow one or two potatoes, a red one and a white one, if space permits, for a supply of new potatoes as soon as flowers show. I don't have a great deal of space, but may plant sweet onions (Granex) from seeds during the first 10 days of November and also garlic. Onions have to be transplanted in January at right spacing. They must not be crowded.”

    Tynan Wyatt said: “My best veggies this year were by far Moon and Stars watermelon and Mammoth sunflowers. This watermelon variety came up strong and grew quickly, producing several very large melons that are almost ready for harvest, while the sunflowers survived grasshopper assaults and wicked temperatures to become a garden landmark that can be seen from the nearby main road. A pleasant surprise was the great flavor of Physalis peruviana, the groundcherry. I had my doubts about the reported sweetness of this tomato relative, but lo and behold it was as delightful 


  • Mon, August 01, 2011 5:27 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Lisa Bellora likes, “Nan Sterman’s website: plantsoup.com.”

    Patty Berg shared this info: “Love them all but especially our own SDHS site, the GardenLife weekly news and Weidners’ once a month newsletter. The SDHS site has great links to useful sites like the Master Gardeners – it’s easy to start at SDHS and find yourself many cyber-miles away and wonder where that last half-hour went. GardenLife gives a nice perspective of gardening around California and the rest of the US. Weidners’ offers a great local point of view for coastal North County along with Evelyn’s charming and down-to-earth approach.

    Marsha Bode wrote: “My favorite bog spot is that of Sheila Peterson, a master gardener and owner of two houses near the coast in Orange County. She is unique in that she takes the time to post almost every day so there is a good record of what grows and blooms in our area at different times of the year. The address is http://gardensofpetersonville.blogspot.com. Another favorite came to me from my sister who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is called Larripin Gardens and is notable for its excellent photography of plants and animals in her garden. She grows vegetables mostly but also discusses bees and chickens. The address is http://ozarksalive.org/larripin. Finally, a favorite blog that is not really a garden blog but is very interesting: Mendy Knott is a poet and the partner of Leigh, the author of Larripin. She has had a very interesting life and her poems are wonderful and not at all the usual thing. Check her out at http://ozarkhillpoet.blogspot.com.”

    Alyson Breathed recommended “Dirt du jour - Dirtdujour.com – it is brief, bright and shiny.”

    Sheila Dowe said, “My favorite gardening blog is The Gardens of Petersonville (gardensofpetersonville.blogspot.com). I think this is my favorite because the author is a Master Gardener, has two gardens, and speaks with authority (and humor!) about gardening. Another draw is that there are lots of great pictures, especially of beautiful roses and other water-loving plants I don't have in my dry garden. Years ago when water was much less of an issue, I had a small garden crammed with over 100 roses. Now I love succulents and lucky for me they fit into my water wise plans. So it's a bit of a fantasy, seeing such lush flowers in colorful and packed perennial beds. It's like taking an armchair trip to see English gardens!"

    Devonna Hall told us: “I love Rosalind Creasy's blog at rosalindcreasy.com about edible landscaping. I also like Rebecca Sweet's blog at gossipinthegarden.com.

    Kay Harry wrote: “I am not into blogging as yet.  I don't do a lot of web searching, but my favorite web site right now is Weidners’ Gardens.  I enjoy the photos of the current plants, all the new events what are happening there and the author's fine sense of humor.”

    Anne Murphy sent info about five blogs: Garden Rant…. www.gardenrant.com Studio G…. www.studiogblog.com Emily Green for L A Times…. chanceofrain.com Zone 10 Garden…. zone10newbiegardener.blogspot.com My California Garden in Zone 23…. earlysnowdrop.blogspot.com

    Ryan Prange suggested two blogs: landscapeandurbanism.blogspot.com and thisisadesignblog.com

    Meg Ryan likes: “Dave's Garden. There's a ton of information there. It's a wonderful resource. I tend to search for a plant, and then see if there is an entry from someone in a similar climate as my own about that plant. Even just knowing where the plant has been successful is great information and can make or break my decision to try a new plant in my garden. Those entries can also put my mind at ease if someone else has experienced the same thing as me with a specific plant. I use that website constantly. Visit davesgarden.com.”

    Enid Sherman appreciates “Debra Lee Baldwin’s website: debraleebaldwin.com.”

    Robin Rivet told us, “Of course I have to promote this one! http://ucanr.org/sites/gardenweb. Although this University of California site is not specific to San Diego, the relevance of the material transcends region.  Plus, most of the information is scientific peer-reviewed research, something that many gardening websites lack.   There are many detailed links to informative pages, with topics as varied as fruit and nut tree care, understanding microclimates, practicing IPM or help planning landscapes for wildfire. Being an arborist, I can’t help but also give honorable mention to www.ufei.org. This website can help you choose a better species of tree, resisting the temptation to ‘go with what you already know.’  San Diego County is blessed with a climate that can support many diverse species, and it is prudent to expand our tree choices with more unusual species.  This website can help you pick appropriate trees with the attributes you are seeking.”

    Susi Torre-Bueno wrote that: “I start every day with www.dirtdujour.com. This free daily newsletter has fun and fascinating snippets about two garden-related things and shows up in my e-mail each morning (you can request this option). It’s short enough to read in just a minute, and you can follow the links if you are interested. Topics range from the newest perennials to neighborhood feuds with weed whackers as weapons!” There are several websites I go to for great advice about plants, including excellent photos. One is DavesGarden.com, which is written by passionate gardeners (you can be one of them!) and has too many valuable features to list here. Another is the website for the wholesale nursery San Marcos Growers (SanMarcosGrowers.com). A number of SDHS members and sponsors have swell websites worth visiting and/or periodic newsletters. If you’re interested in veggies, our sponsor Renee’s Seeds has a fine website which includes recipes and more (ReneesGarden.com). Check out www.theMulch.com (see ad on page 14); many of their experts are SDHS members. Anderson’s La Costa Nursery sends out a monthly newsletter – visit AndersonsLacostaNursery.com to sign up. Our Horticulturist of the Year for 2003, Pat Welsh, has a website loaded with great articles and advice (www.PatWelsh.com), plus a swell blog.

    Cindy Witt has a special reason to recommend one blog: “My favorite garden blog is Plant A Garden - It'll Grow On You at http://plantagarden-itllgrowonyou.blogspot.com. I'm the gardener; my partner is the blogger. She's also a researcher, photographer and writer who sees garden veggies, ornamentals, insect pests, beneficial insects and canyon critters through eyes different from mine. She's written about Sex in the Garden (zucchini blossoms, 7/7/11), Squirrel Wars (7/1/11), Did Dr. Seuss Design This Plant? (Leeks in bloom, 6/11), Monarch Butterflies (following Mona from caterpillar (Co-Dependent to Caterpillars 12/10), to chrysalis (Mr. Up-Side-Down - 1/11), to hatching and her first flight (Houston, We Have Lift Off - 1/11), and even about a smiley-face sunburn I once got while working on irrigation! She doesn't miss much.” 

    Tynan Wyatt suggested three fine websites: “My favorite gardening website for most topics is GardenWeb.com. There are so many topics that the site covers, plus ongoing and archived discussions, and it is all laid out in an easily navigable format. Honorable mention websites are DavesGarden.com and CloudForestCafe.com.”


 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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