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.

  • Sat, November 01, 2014 10:38 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Inexpensive Traps
    By Ava Torre-Bueno

    I mix ½ cup of diatomaceous earth (pool filter powder) with a bit of corn syrup and a little water to make a thick but somewhat runny paste, which I keep covered in the fridge. When I get an ant invasion, I track it to its origin and, re-mixing my paste, I pour it in a semi-circle around where the ants are coming in so they have to cross it. Most stop and eat it right there and take it back to the colony. The paste slices up their little feet and they dehydrate. The paste they take back to the colony kills off the rest of the ants there, as well as making the eggs die. Mean, but effective. It takes a week of replenishing the paste, or at least putting a little water on it every day to keep it edible, for the nest to die off completely. The major benefit of this method is that it is not toxic to you, your children, or your pets.


    Boy, did you ask the right person
    By Jackie Seidman

    I maintain 2 vegetable gardens in North County, ORGANICALLY. Both have huge problems with ants. Well, let’s see, what did I do first? Second? Third? Terro Ant Bait Stations: no luck. Amdro Ant Bait stations: no luck.

    Research, research… this looks promising. Ordered 5 pounds of boric acid. Wow, that is a lot of that white powder. Ant Bait #1: Boric Acid, water and sugar boiled into a syrup, put into small rectangular baby food containers with a small square cut out of the top to let the ants in. Set in ground so lip of container is just at ground level. NO GO! Ant Bait #2: Peanut butter, boric acid and sugar made into a paste, put inside small rectangular baby food containers with a small square cut out of the top to let the ants in. Set like the liquid one. NO Luck. Ant Bait #3: Peanut Butter Balls: Tried making small balls out of the PB paste and setting out on the ground in and around the ant parades. That did not work either.

    AntPro Bait Dispenser and Ant Pro bait. This is the first product I tried that even remotely interested the ants. This has had some amount of success. The bait stations get empty, so I assume the ants are consuming it. I move the bait stations to different parts of the garden as I see large conga lines of ants. It might take years at this rate.

    Diatomaceous Earth. New white powder. Good thing I am not trying to bring this stuff on an airplane. I have had some success with this product as well. I use it in conjunction with the Ant Pro Bait stations.

    At the time of my writing this, the ants still rule! If anyone has something new to add I’d love to talk to them.


    By J.B. Riekstins

    I live on a rather large hill that is so infested and attractive to ants that it is hard to believe that it is not actually an anthill masquerading as a foothill. There are coyote trails that one can see from the vantage point of many of our windows, and if you look hard enough you can also see ant trails. On either side of our drive are little 10-12, even 15-lane ant freeways that automatically go into overdrive with the beginning of each ant season. I have only found two products that have worked for ant control. I say control because we live between two empty lots, one on each side of us, at the end of a canyon, and this gives about five acres of ants access to our property, and they adore our compost pile, which is appropriately huge.

    One product is TERRO ANT DUST, which I use sparingly because I believe it is toxic to bees; bees die with even the slightest whiff of it. So it is used to draw a ring around the pets' food dishes. Ants love even empty food dishes, and I try to use it for emergency "ants are in the house" situations. Spiders that breach the house are also subject to getting TERROed. There are little white blobs of the powdery stuff in the rough-sawn cedar beams that the ants love to enter on, and it is ever so difficult to vacuum that clean at the end of ant season, so it looks like someone has had one heck of a party with the white powdery stuff.

    What I use mostly is a homemade concoction of 1 cup of cane sugar, 1 tablespoon of borax, and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stir occasionally, and after the mix is well blended, totally dissolved, and the liquid is clear, it has boiled enough. Do not boil so hard as to run it over-that would really foul up the burner. When it is clear, and while it is still very hot, add 1-2 tablespoons of grape jelly, or 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter (Jif works well). Whisk in well. I have little chicken feeder type dispensers that animals cannot get into, along with being safe for small children, but you can use a jar with lots of holes punched in the lid(s) and place these near the ant trails. I find that the holes should be large, the containers do better in at least partial shade, and it helps if a little of the ant concoction is dribbled over the lid, or if on a solid surface, on that.

    Some ant nests get totally eradicated within 5-10 days with only one application, but others need several refills. I move the applicators (I have four) around from time to time. In the last 4-5 years this has kept ant invasions in the house down to maybe once a year, usually when I am out of town and my husband is doing (not) the sink, stove and counter clean ups.

    There are areas where the ants never seem to get totally eradicated, but these are coming over the wall from the canyon or from neighbors’ homes, and I tend to think that these are not all coming from one nest. YouTube has many of these recipes; this is one that worked best for my situation, and when one can eliminate an 8- to 15-lane freeway of ants coming onto ones' property, even in just one direction, I will call that a success.

    Jim Bishop: The most difficult part of living in a house full of ants, is trying to think of names for them all. (Sorry, but I’ve been waiting for years to use this bad joke.)

    Nancy Gordon: The ants were successful, mostly. I used orange guard.

    Lorie Johansen: Terro works every time!

    Marilyn Wilson: Once I killed the ones in the house, I sprayed Deet on the window sills and threshold of the front door, where they had been coming in. I used the same stuff I spray on my legs each day I'm in the garden. No more ants came in after that. Blowtorch was minimally effective. Flame thrower did the trick (for now).

    Linda Leuker: We back up to a Canyon in Scripps Ranch and have had many issues with ants invading our home. The best defense we have found is a product called Andro. We only use it when we see the ant trails. We then sprinkle a small amount of granules on the trail (or area by the trail) and they take the little morsels back to their homes. In a couple of days we are rid of the ants trying to come in the house for more goodies or up to the second level into our Master bedroom for what? I think they come up through the drain, possibly looking for water, food? Again, I put Andro outside where the ants are, usually the perimeter of the house, and that will deter them. Hope it works for you.

    Joan Braunstein: I am still at war in my Old Town cottage. The first skirmish was over the hummingbird feeder. The birds would hover, but not land when the ants were there. I tried a number of natural suggestions; they simply hid under the recommended cinnamon sticks and anything else that had an odor that was supposedly repellant placed at the bottom of the post they were using for access. On the dozenth try, I mixed cayenne with petroleum jelly and smeared it on the wire from which the feeder hangs. Success!  When I can follow an ant line, I smear the same formula at their place of entry. Most recently, I'm finding no lines of ants, but rather single ants scattered here and there. I've found that wiping them up with a half a lemon kills them on contact. A friend suggested pouring regular dishwashing detergent down the drains lest they are coming up there. That is my next experiment.

    Laird Plumleigh: Boric acid is a great aid in attacking ants. Gentle enough that it can be used as an eye wash its is strong enough to dissolve the exoskeletons of ants. I get mine from Laguna Clay Company, as I am a ceramist, but it is a common chemical available from several sources. You can sprinkle the crystals in the ants paths or mix with water and paint it behind your kitchen sink, for example. Watching ants, I am inclined to believe they are embodied with the equivalent of cell phones and GPS. They are there when we sleep, loyal to a theology that we need to combat.

    Stephen Zolezzi: It’s an organized invasion from the garden into the house that cannot be ignored… and they bite! This year I have contracted with a local Pest Control company to service my yard every 3 months. It has been of great help and worth the cost, but into the third month they are back in force, calculating battle plans. Now if I could only get my savings account to multiply like ants!

    Deborah Young: What worked? We’re organic so the sad answer is not much worked except patience. They’ll leave in their own good time. I try to remind myself that they’re only on prowl looking for water for their babies. I did try putting granules of EcoSmart around the house. It made everything smell like oil of thyme and cloves, but didn’t do much to deter the ants.

    Al Myrick: First, we put up signs that said "ANTS: No Trespassing!" That didn't work. Then, we washed ant congregations and ant freeways that were indoors (seeking water and coolness) with Kaboom. That did a lot to diminish the numbers (and it helped clean surfaces and our lungs), because its effects and scent lingers. We also baited a lot along freeways outdoors with store-bought boric acid/sugar solutions (after washing down the ant freeways for a few yards). So, now we have a lot of disoriented, single, clean ant scouts trying to find a good place to live. But we think that there are somewhat fewer. In a few cooler months the colonies and individuals should be less numerous because they tend to become more dormant toward winter. HURRY WINTER!

    Sharon Ward: I use diatomaceous earth on the ants in my garden. It is non-toxic and the ants hate it; they stop mid step and run the other way. It scratches their shell and dehydrates them if I get a direct hit. I have it in a puffer applicator that I direct into their entry and blast them. It washes away with water, and leaves a little residue, so I am careful where I puff it. In the house I put it in electrical outlets and anywhere else they might gain entry.

    Mary Friestedt: I try to hold off as long as possible before I call a pest control company to get rid of my ants. This is because ants attack termites and in the 16 years I have lived in my house, I have never had to tent. This summer was a challenging year for ants, however, and this is what I do: First, I keep a bottle of Windex handy and spray them whenever they appear on my kitchen or bathroom counter. Then, this year I learned another trick: Ants hate ground cinnamon, and when it is sprinkled on a counter, they die. If I absolutely must call a pest control company, I NEVER let them spray anything. Instead, they use a gel around the outside of the house and give me some bait traps for the ants to take back to their nests. I only have to do this once a year, if that. Good luck, everyone! 

    Vivian Blackstone: I really didn't have a bad time, just a few days of an ant stream in my add-on office room that possibly is not sealed well at the bottom, so we sealed the edges and they went away.

    Marilyn Guidroz: Well, one good thing about the ant invasion is that our house was kept really, really clean. It helped a lot to keep every bit of anything that you wouldn't even think was edible put away. Almost everything was stuffed into the refrigerator. Somehow, the ants couldn't get in there. We used a lot of window cleaner spray with ammonia to help combat the ants when they were coming in droves. We sprinkled corn meal all around the outside of our house, especially doors and windows. We found the natural ant repellents with rosemary, mint and orange oils to really help a lot. I swept my patios every day and moved all of my pots away from the house. Thankfully, they have stopped the invasion with the cooler weather.

    Louise Anderson: I don't bother them when they're outside. HOWEVER, it's another matter when they're inside or have infested a tree that they have their workers eating. Unfortunately, I did once have to spray a tree this year. I qould like to hear about some natural ways to herd them away from my places. Maybe a border collie?

    Barbara Brink: I have a specialty gardener who comes to my house once a month, and he said that most of his clients have experienced the same thing this year. He didn't have an answer as to why, but I have had an infestation both in and out of the house this year that tops my eight years in Rancho Penasquitos. Combat brand roach control containers have made some difference, but the infestation is so bad I had thought about getting a professional pest control company out to help, but wanted to wait until the fall. Would love to hear about others' experience.

    Debra Lee Baldwin: I did what an etymologist who specializes in ants told me that he does: I simply admired them. 

    Carol Kumlin: Windex, Windex, Windex.

    Barbara Huntington: Since I eat organic and have a veggie garden, it is tough. Joshua’s Pest Control uses a rosemary oil spray, which seems to work if they just spray around the house (haven’t had ants in the house for years). I don’t let them get anywhere near my milkweed plants with the gazillion Monarch caterpillars.

    Katrin Utt: I use those little Terro Outdoor Liquid Ant Bait ant traps that you can buy from Amazon. You have to follow the instructions to make the poison, a syrup, available to the ants. Very easy to use, and it works every time. Just follow the directions, activate the traps, then place the traps where the ants are. You might have to repeat it every few months, but it sure is worth it! Good-bye ants!

    Susan Oddo: Here, at least, it’s all about finding out how they get into the house. They are such clever little devils. Invariably, I find a bush or tree that is touching the roofline on the most inaccessible side of the house. If I can't trim the offending limbs away from contact, I've had to resort to Home Defense, liberally applied around the base of their handy bridge. I don't allow the spray to contact soil, but do give the woody trunk surface a thorough soaking twice a week for two weeks. It’s done the job this year, most probably because I finally found all those contact points. I also allow for almost touches, because I watched ants use their own bodies to create a bridge across a gap that looked to be half an inch across. As if that isn't clever enough, I also watched ants wait as a breeze blew leaves back and forth, briefly touching the roofline. Each time leaves touched, a bunch of ants rushed across the temporary bridge. In the past, natural means have been sufficient. This year, probably due to the dryness making the ants thirstier, and housing structures drier and thus opening up wider entrances, Home Defense proved the only effective solution. 

    Sue Lasbury: We seem to live on an enormous anthill. We refuse to have the Orkin Man spray at our house, so what do we do in the garden? We have found a wonderful device and if you use it correctly it will remove the ants in a specific problem area of your garden: Terro Liquid Ant Baits. We use their small household baits in the garden and the house with complete success. The active ingredient is Borax, but the key to its success is the yummy sweet stuff mixed in with the Borax. We learned about the Borax/sweetener concoction when I was training to be a Master Gardener. However, my recipe never worked as well as the one produced by Terro. The key is to identify the ant nests causing the most havoc, e.g. ants working with scale and aphids. Put the bait close to the nest, but remove it after about a week. By this time the yummy stuff has reached the queen and her nest is history. Just so you know, I have no stock in or affiliation with the Terro folks. Let me know how it works for you. 

    Linda Johnson: Using Terro Liquid Ant Baits as soon as ants appeared worked fairly well for the initial invasion (ants disappeared in a day or two). However, they would reappear in other parts of house later, so I just used the bait again. At this time they are gone. However, I am staying cautiously optimistic!

    Suzanne Sorger: I look to see where their coming into the house and sprinkle baby powder across their path or trail. It stops them in their tracks.

    Sue Fouquette: I don’t notice that granular ant killer lessens the great number of ants that come out of potted plants, climb in our banana trees, crawl up my jeans, to my head, and bite me. They are so irritating, it causes me to swear a lot while watering. Sure hope a member has the cure.

    Susan Morse: I have heard that Vista is the Ant Capital of San Diego County. If it isn't, I do not want to live where ants are worse than Vista. I got the following recipe from Loren Nancarrow about 15 years ago. It has been successful for me, but it often takes 48-72 hours to stop the invasion in the house. Use 1 tablespoon of boric acid powder, with 1 tablespoon of white granulated sugar, mixed in with 1/3 cup boiling water and stir until all crystals are dissolved. I put about 1 tablespoon of the dissolved liquid in plastic lids saved from containers, such as cottage cheese, etc. I place several of these in the area where the ants are accumulating or transiting. I will occasionally spray diluted Orange TKO on the ants directly. (Windex on kitchen counters would work, too, but the Orange TKO does not harm the wooden floors, it smells pleasant and the ants die.)  The spray is only a temporary measure. Supposedly, the ants take the boric acid solution back to the nest and that stops the invasion. My vet said the dogs could walk through boric acid powder, then lick their paws and NOT be harmed. I've not had a pet emergency related to anything to do with the boric acid/sugar/boiling water mixture, despite the CAUTION warnings on the label of the Boric Acid. At the first sighting of scouting ants, I attack with my remedies. If the scout trails are eliminated, it often thwarts any further insurgence.

    Sheila Busch: After using baits unsuccessfully for a number of years, I resorted to using Termidor. I spray it around the foundation of my house. For my plants, I control sucking insects with horticultural oil; that controls the ants in trees and plants. 

    Sharon Swildens: A friend of mind who has grape vines said he puts a teaspoon of granular borax around his vines to prevent the ants from eating his grapes. I did this last year and it worked, so I sometimes run it in the wood chips along my walkway to eliminate the ants there. I hope it doesn't kill anything else.

    Susi Torre-Bueno: This was the worst and longest-lasting ant invasion we’ve had in years. Terro Liquid Ant Bait worked pretty well, although it took a few days. We also used my sister-in-law’s diatomaceous earth, corn syrup and water concoction, and that was a help, too, but slowly. I used lots of Windex as well. 

  • Wed, October 01, 2014 10:37 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Louise Anderson: Listening to Tom Piergrossi and Steve Brigham discussing the horticultural display table and telling us about all of the plants we just have to have in our gardens.

    Ken Blackford:Sixteen years ago, in 1998, I was planning my move from the Bay Area to San Diego. I was a docent at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, and Richard Turner, our director (and then editor of Pacific Horticulture magazine), suggested when I got settled to "check out the San Diego Hort Society… they are a really good bunch of people!" Well, it took me a couple years to get settled, along with the new job, but I did finally join SDHS after a couple years, and am very happy I did so. Later, receiving Lets Talk Plants! via email while I took another job recently on the East Coast, reminded me of all the horticultural fun I was missing in San Diego and played a part in my decision to return! Much thanks to SDHort and to Dick Turner for pointing me in your direction!

    Jeanne Meadow:I will never forget my very first hort meeting. I drove from Fallbrook alone and attended the meeting to hear Debra Lee Baldwin speak. I had no idea that hundreds of people would be there, especially on a Monday night! I did not know anyone… yet! I was amazed that so many others were in love with these plants, and made fast friends that remain good friends to this day! I bought Debra’s book and waited in line to have her sign it. I was thrilled! Realizing that it was quite ok to be crazy about these plants, the obsession grew!

    Al Myrick:We had purchased a garden panel (made by Sitting Duck Studio) when it was on display at the SDHS garden exhibit at the County Fair. We were Horticulturists of the Day on opening day that year. Bill Teague (who had designed the exhibit), told us that we had to wait until the Fair was over to take it home. When Bill Teague came over with a bunch of gift plants for the "honor" of placing our garden panel out in the garden. What a treat! What a great day! We were the ones who received the honor, of course.

    Anne Murphy: I do not have one memory; I have so many. I met new friends. I learned so much about gardening, first from the meetings and then from my new friends, and then the symposia led by Susi Torre-Bueno, and then by going on garden tours, and then from workshops, and then from becoming a Master Gardener, which happened with the support of my SDHS friends. Wow! Thank you San Diego Horticultural Society.

    Joan Braunstein: I've only been a member a few months, but I remember the day I joined. I discovered SD Hort at a booth during last spring's Master Gardeners seminar. I was ecstatic!

    Pat Greer Venolia: I wasn’t a member in November 2001, when I attended my first SDHS meeting to hear Jan Smithen talk about Mediterranean gardening (from her book, Sun-Drenched Gardens: The Mediterranean Style). Jan is a longtime friend and family member from the Pomona area. For years I’ve used “Auntie K’s Dressing,” a turkey-stuffing recipe from her family’s elderly neighbor. At the meeting, I sat beside a young woman who turned out to be Auntie Kay’s granddaughter! She was so surprised and told me that she didn’t have that recipe, which I sent to her later. I continued to attend the wonderful Hort meetings for a while (free in those days), but out of guilt I finally joined in 2002, and have been very happy to be part of this remarkable organization from then on.

    Connie Forest: I have many memories since I have been a member since the first meetings in Encinitas. I would have to say that one of my best memories that is largely responsible for my becoming an enthusiastic member from the beginning, is of Tom Piergrossi picking up from a long plant-laden table yet another plant and telling us not only its name, but usually many facts about it as well. I was always impressed, and the plant display table was my favorite part of the meeting.

    Sue Ann Scheck: My most awesome experience at the Hort was last November’s Show and Sale of Plants! Meeting with all the radiant folks who make up our Hort family, sharing and buying exquisite treasures; absolutely awesome! Also I remember Susi Torre-Bueno and sitting at the Fairgrounds a couple of years ago when she was called up and honored (her beautiful family seated in the first row). Hearing her story, her commitment to plants, adorning San Diego with her knowledge, and bringing us together as a community bent on beautifying our environment. She is an amazing living force that keeps on giving!

    Vivian Blackstone:I love meeting my friends and new people at the monthly meetings.

    Steve Brigham: There are a million wonderful memories, of course. But the very best one for me was getting the 2009 SDHS Horticulturist of the Year Award at what was then still called Quail Botanical Gardens (it's now the San Diego Botanic Garden). I grew up at Quail, I planted my babies (who grew up with me) at Quail, and the whole garden that evening was alive with voices of plants and volunteers from my past and present. My hero, Julian Duval, gave a talk that absolutely thrilled me, and brought all these voices to a crescendo. "This guy really gets it!," was all I could think. Everyone felt the energy, and we all "got it" all at once. Suddenly, all those years of scheming, sitting in booths, working plant sales, giving talks, and cranking out newsletters cashed out into a feeling of pure happiness for all of us. Because we all – plants and people – had done it together!

    Dale Rekus: One of my best memories was in July of 2002. Susi Torre-Bueno asked me to pick up some SDHS printed material from Samia Rose Topiary (now closed) in Encinitas. Bill Teague spotted me loading the boxes into my trunk. He asked if I had the next ten minutes free, and I replied that, yes, I did. He advised me to hurry next door to Quail Botanical Gardens (so named at that time) before they closed in the next ten minutes. He explained that a corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) was at its peak bloom and would collapse by morning. I knew this very rare plant, but I did not know there was one at Quail, and I most certainly did not know it was in bloom! I dashed on over to the garden and there it was, in all its stinky glory. Best ten botanical minutes for me, at the least, in that decade!

    Marilyn Guidroz: I was a member of SDHS long before I ever attended a meeting. I wanted the newsletter because it was well done, informative, and kept me up to date in San Diego. As a professional landscape designer, I worked with my clients and contractors, and that was it. I was lonely. I didn't really have anyone to share my passion and my thirst for gardens. So, I said to myself one night while reading my SDHS newsletter, "Marilyn, why don't you actually go to these meetings?" So, I went. I loved it so much that I just kept going. I got to know Susi Torre-Bueno and her mother-in-law and started making other friends like Jim Bishop. It opened a whole new world to me and then I VOLUNTEERED for a symposium that we were hosting in San Diego. My husband and I had the assigned duty to help out at Buena Creek Gardens, where we met and relieved Bill Teague from his shift, who introduced us to Steve Brigham. Need I say more? You never know where you will find inspiration when you volunteer at SDHS!

    Walter Andersen: My memories would include being able to meet interesting folks who had a great interest in plants of all sorts. Also, becoming friends with a few (like Susi Torre-Bueno) I would probably not have come to know if it wasn’t for the Hort Society. I have also been able to find a few treasures from some vendors at the meetings; unusual plants that caught my eye because they were different. Also, I have enjoyed interesting speakers who had wonderful presentations of their plants and projects.

    Linda Bresler: I love to attend the SDHS meetings because of all the positive energy that I feel when I go there. Everyone is so excited to learn something new about plants. Our collective love of plants is evident in all of our meetings.

  • Mon, September 01, 2014 10:30 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    Deborah Young: We spent the spring tearing out most of the garden and putting in more drought tolerant plants. That said, I love iris, poking up wherever they want.

    Lisa Newberg: SDHS sponsor in Oceanside is where my successful bulbs have come from, and some at Rogers Gardens, Newport Beach. I’ve grown ‘Amethyst’ calla lilies, daffodil mix, and paperwhites (easy).

    Julie Rone: I grew some miniature daffodils (thought I had bought full size!) and grape hyacinths ordered from American Meadows. They were pretty planted together randomly. American Meadows called me and warned me they might not grow in Southern California. I appreciated their concern, but they were reduced in price, so I thought I would take a chance. I had seen daffodils growing here previously, in my daughters very neglected garden.Christine Harrison: Freesias, anemones, and narcissus were planted many years ago, and while they all came back for a few years, the anemones failed to show after about 5 years. They were all purchased at Armstrong Nursery. Al Benner: I have had little success this year except in saving water. I planted four solar lights with LED bulbs in my garden. Does that count? I couldn't even get tomatoes to grow and they were the free ones from a hort. garden walk. I'm converting my front yard into a rock garden, provided I can get rocks hearty enough to stand my abuse. The succulents that others are trimming because they are overwhelming their garden gasp and die with me in charge. I'm planning a service where I will come to your garden and care for your weeds. They don't stand a chance. Stay tuned!

    Susan Krzywicki: I love California native bulbs! Great choices: Leopard Lily and Allium unifolium (Wild Onion family); they are both from Northern California, so here in Southern California, they make a good transition plant between the highly irrigated parts of a garden (near vegetables, for example) and the water-thrifty native plants. Leopard Lily can also take shade! Both can also grow in pots. The best place for native bulbs is Telos Rare Bulbs, online:

    Louise Anderson: I've got paperwhites in my front "meadow." Not only have they done well, but they've increased their population. So very nice seeing the early spring flowers.

    Vivian Blackstone: Iris (which I had and subdivided), daffodils from a Costco bag of bulbs, and dahlias from a Costco bag of bulbs.

    Katrin Utt: I did not buy any new bulbs this year. While cleaning out my workbench I discovered a whole box full of bulbs that I forgot to plant last year. They will be planted soon! I am soaking them in water to give them a head start. 

    Joan Braunstein: I haven't planted any bulbs since moving to San Diego, but I loved them back east. In Pennsylvania the daffodils covered many a lawn, and the tulips offered a smorgasbord of color and variety, but my favorites were the hyacinths, whose scent still takes me back. In San Diego I have planted a lilac bush like I knew from colder climes and am hoping somehow I can coax a bloom out of it.

    Myrna Hines: Ranunculus and anemone from 99 cent store. I love to see what 99 cents can bring, particularly in this "non-inflationary " time.

    Diane Bailey: Some spring bulbs that I have in my garden are different irises. I didn’t buy them. I traded some with friends, and got some from my brother in Julian. Also I have some Naked Ladies that my sister had in Australia (but they do not bloom in springtime!).

    Hilda King: The last bulbs I bought were tuberous begonias from Costco.

    Susi Torre-Bueno: Some of the fall-planted bulbs that have grown the best for me have been: Dutch iris (from, watsonia (mostly swapped with friends), bi-colored daffodils and paperwhites for forcing indoors (from Green Thumb nursery in San Marcos), and Cyrtanthus brachyscyphus (Dobo Lily, from Plant Play nursery). About 5 years ago I planted 700 (yep, 700!) Dutch iris (from in my labyrinth garden. For the first year they were fabulous, but in the 2nd year after planting there seemed to be a few less. By this year only about 200 were still flowering in the labyrinth. A couple of years ago I noticed them springing up in other parts of the garden. My theory is that the @#$%^& squirrels dig them up and plant them where the squirrels think they’d look better (or, more prosaically, they dig them up and bury them elsewhere to eat at a later date and then forget to eat them).

    Gerald D. Stewart: Can't contribute directly on this one. I sat and thought for a minute or two, and now realize in over 50 years of gardening I've likely never planted spring blooming bulbs bought anywhere. When I was in high school I planted paper whites in the family yard, but they weren't purchased. I collected old bottles back then. An elderly neighbor, who had collected for decades, taught me that a great place to find old bottles was on old homesteads, and that there were a number just south of town up in the hills. The trick was to look for trees that were planted – not the native oaks that dotted the golden hills – then in spring walk the area, looking for where the grass grew taller. That would likely be where the outhouse was: people often dumped stuff there. On the crest of a particular hill there were Lombardy Poplars, a clear sign of a long-gone old homestead. The following spring I walked the area, and sure enough grass grew taller in one spot. I dug, and found some old prescription and drug bottles. Up there was also a clump of paper whites. I dug some and planted them in our yard. Fifty years later and that clump still blooms where I planted it. I think I need to split the clump in the family home's yard and start one here in Vista.

  • Fri, August 01, 2014 10:23 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Sue Fouquette: Produce: I am pulling up a whole plant of arugula lettuce for almost every dinner. It has become a weed in our back yard. The salsify are also going to seed, but I haven’t yet pulled up any roots to eat. Anyone have a good cooking method or recipe? Plants are as tall as me. I’ve found the purple flowers do not last in a bouquet. Another weed that has come up in our yard for the first time is chicory, which has cute small pale blue flowers. I expect Charley to try adding it to our coffee. Flowers: I make bouquets for us, neighbors, meetings, and the assisted living home where my cousin lives. Spring flowers were especially spectacular, but there are other blooms any season. Seeds, divisions, cuttings, etc.: Because of time, I can’t propagate everything I collect, dig up, or prune to give away, but it is hard for me to not want to. I’m recycling the plant material, but I’m spending $$ on soil and water. I’d never throw all in the trash, though. It becomes mulch on our ground or goes in green waste bin. Like Julian Duval, I’ve always been a nature nut. I don’t like being on this computer when I could be outside on this beautiful sunny, breezy day.

    Evey Torre-Bueno:I’m making pesto with basil from the garden. I put it in zip-lock baggies, press it flat, and freeze it. It’s so easy to break off a small piece of frozen pesto to use for pasta, salads, etc, and it keeps for a very long time once frozen. It makes a great hostess gift, too.

    Enid Sherman: We make lemonade. Waiting for our tangerines, but in the meantime a friend gave us tangerines, blood oranges, kumquats and oranges. My husband loves to make jam and marmalade with all the above. Also candied kumquats. I squeezed some yummy OJ today!

    Nancy Gordon: Last night I made zucchini frittata with a fire roasted tomato sauce, roasted green beans, huge garden salad; only the egg whites and rice flour were from the store. I don't know about chickens in downtown Cardiff, and have no room for rice on our tiny lot.

    Linda Chisari:Well, the tomatoes have ripened earlier than ever before. I picked the first two, one ‘Juliet’ and one ‘Carmello’, on June 9th. I think the awful heat wave in May must have provided a boost. These tomatoes were planted on March 19th (from seedlings purchased from The Natural Gardening Company in Petaluma). Now I’m making and freezing tomato sauce daily in quart snap-baggies. This should assure an ample supply of tomato sauce/soup for the year to come! I also harvested 18 heads of elephant garlic a week ago and braided them. I have them hanging in the garage where it’s very warm and dry.

    Alan Benner:Having a hard time growing tomatoes and cukes. We enjoy feeding the birds and watching them in our garden, particularly drinking out of the water feature.

    Candace Kohl:I don’t grow anything edible, but do have flowers and greens I share. I have provided centerpieces for a number of dinners and lunches for non-profits I am involved with (mostly for scholarships for science or study abroad). I have lots of Protea family plants: leucodendrons and pincushions etc. These provide flowers and filler in large amounts and are materials that last a long time. The filler material is much in demand, and friends will call me up and ask for it. This is a very satisfying way to prune the bushes.

    Dale Rekus:As a member of the Point Loma Garden Club, I volunteer to create a floral arrangement for the local library branch several times a year. The plant material that goes into those arrangements usually comes from what I grow. I also propagate plants from my garden to be donated to my garden club's annual spring plant sale.

    Jim Stelluti: My friends Helen and Arthur grow lots of fruits and vegetables in their La Jolla garden. I am lucky enough to be the recipient of: zucchini, green peppers, broccoli, lemons, green beans, garlic and scallions. I make a frittata: I cook all the ingredients half way and then add 6 eggs. I use Mrs. Dash (no salt seasoning) and crushed red pepper flakes. I heat until eggs are cooked. Thank you, Helen and Arthur Dawson.   

    Susan Pituch: I make the most delicious lemon verbena ice cream with leaves from my lemon verbena bush! Use the leaves to infuse the cream and/or the sugar before making the ice cream. Adds a wonderful dimension of lemon flavor. The Lemon verbena ice cream recipe is easy and no ice cream maker needed.

    Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

    Finely grated rind of 1 large lemon

    3 Tbsp. lemon juice

    1 cup sugar

    1-1/2 cup half & half

    1/2 cup heavy cream

    1/8 tsp. salt

    Combine first 3 ingredients and stir to mix. Stir in half & half, cream and salt, mixing well. Pour mixture into glass dish (8” x 8” or smaller), cover with plastic wrap, and put in freezer. Freeze until solid around the outside and mushy in the middle, about 4 hours. Stir well with wooden spoon to break up lumps, cover and return to freezer until firm. To add lemon verbena flavor add a few lemon verbena leaves to the dry sugar overnight and/or put leaves in cream overnight before making mixture.  

    Una Marie Pierce:I’ve been making fig/strawberry jam, steaming and eating Brussels sprouts, and making bouquets to give to my Meals on Wheels clients with the abundance of feverfew flowers. I also dry the feverfew for tea. Just starting to get tomatoes and I’m guarding every one for my lunch salad. What a lot of work organic gardening is.  

    Marilyn Wilson: I made a floral arrangement using only flowers and foliage from my garden, and won a blue ribbon at the Vista Garden Club standard flower show.

    Connie Forest: Discovered a new way to use up yellow squash. Grated and drained they make wonderful pancakes, like potato pancakes only better. With a little sour cream, Yum!

    William Skimina: I made three blackberry pies since the beginning of this month (June). We hope to make some jelly, too. The two Navaho plants here are loaded with hundreds of berries, and we pick almost every other day.

    Annie Urquhart: I pick the squash flower in the morning and rinse and dry them. Then I use egg, rice flower, and panko crumbs to coat the flowers and then fry them up. Yummmm, good!

    Susan Krzywicki:I am making “short-trajectory-supply-chain food packets.” In other words, I am just popping the berries off the bushes and into my mouth.  

    Jane CooganBeer: Ratatouille.

    Al Myrick:Guardian angels, owls, other birds, fish, and murals, and old men faces and brooms, all carved from palm fronds and palm fruit sheaths.

    Ruth Sewell: Took a picture of my "blooming" Dragon Tree and entering it in the senior photo contest.

    Lynn Paine: I have a wonderful vegetable garden from which I can peas, tomatoes and green beans. I make and can a zucchini squash and tomato salsa, which is my favorite. I also can enough for my friends and myself. I make and can applesauce from my Granny Smith apple trees, and juice from my citrus trees. Lastly, I grow flowers in with my vegetables for my flower arrangements. By canning when I have plenty, I have fruit and vegetables all year around.

    Mel Conomikes: I'm helping set up a community garden on a private property in Rancho Santa Fe. We'll have a shared kitchen area where we can make juices and smoothies with fruits and veggies straight from the garden.

    Melody Huelsebusch: I make blessings with the things in my garden, particularly the overabundance of fruit from my citrus and avocado trees. They bear more fruit than I possibly can consume or juice. My neighbors always get more than their fill, and I still have more than the trees and I can bear. My solution is to call Harvest CROPS (619/318-3423) or visit to arrange for volunteers to come and pick my fruit, which they then deliver to food banks or rescue mission. I am happy to share God's bounty.

    Tandy Pfost: I freeze extra for soups in the winter, tomato jam, lemon marmalade, preserved lemons; teas from lemon grass, lemon verbena, feverfew and other herbs; basil pesto to freeze; grilled eggplants and peppers, chili rellenos and dilly beans; lemon and passion fruit curd to freeze; cold salads with cucumbers and all the other stuff growing along with balsamic; berry crisp. I think that is most of it.

    Barb Huntington:Most of my dinners!

    Paula Suttle: I once made a heart wreath out of the California pepper tree berries. Since then, I try to remember (sometimes I can't help it and other times I'm too exhausted or hot) to pick a beautiful bouquet from a plant that is at its best. When our children come for a visit I pick a small bouquet for their bedside.  The raccoon ate my four tomato plants right down to the ground this summer, and as that is the only vegetable I grew this year, I gave up. Maybe it was a possum, and I think the wild animals are thirsty.

    Barbara Patterson: I have a multi-graft peach tree that's producing enough to share, eat and preserve. The June Pride peaches are especially delicious this year, so I'm experimenting with variations on peach jam. First on the list? Jalapeno-Peach Jam with Siracha for my son and daughter-in-law, who love anything hot.

    Megan Boone: I made this succulent container arrangement using cuttings and rooted plants from my landscape.

    Mike & Carol Brewer: We are growing a number of different kinds of Native American winter squash (Seminole, Ute, Acoma, Hidatsa, Chimayo, and Yoeme Segualca). We plan to use them for decoration and, of course, we will cook them to determine which are worth growing again next year. We are also growing three kinds of gourds (Small Dipper, Tennesee Dancing, and Hopi Rattle), which we will try to decorate using the ancient Hawaiian method called Pawehe. [Here’s a fascinating YouTube video:]

  • Mon, June 30, 2014 9:48 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Katie Pelisek: My Aunt Norma gave me a book (Indoor and Outdoor Gardening for Young People) for my 9th birthday, along with a small trowel. I have been fascinated by gardening (and gardening books!) ever since. 

    Sue Getyina: When I was in grade school, we sold seed packets for five cents a pack.  I was six, and my first garden had radishes and portulaca flowers. I've been growing things for over sixty years.

    Patti Vickery: I got started gardening when I was about nine or ten years old during World War II. My father and I each had our own Victory Garden of vegetables in our backyard. I remember growing corn, beans, peas, cucumbers, summer squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon. I only remember eating the pitty-pan squash.

    Patricia Leon: I’m probably a late bloomer (ha-ha) and didn't get started until adolescence. At 17, I started a garden.

    Al Benner: I was about 7 or 8 and my dad had a large garden. They called it a Victory Garden because it was war time and everyone was asked to conserve by growing your own vegetables to have more produce for food for our troops in Europe and the Pacific. We had several relatives serving, and were very aware of the war. My father's garden was well ordered and mixed with flowers. He said that they helped the food to grow, and gardens should be a nice place to walk. My grandfather would water the garden in the morning and come back at evening to get some worms to fish in the lake. I was with him while he dug for worms in the flower garden, where he uncovered a coin. It was a very rare coin from the 1760s and quite a find. I always thought I would find a rare coin, too. So far, no luck.

    Ann Hoeppner: My mother got me started when I was 4 or 5 years old. My brother and I grew radishes for my father. I did not like them, but he did, and he extravagantly enjoyed the vegetables of our labors. My next garden memory is as a young teenager, 12 or 13. My mother decided to build our character one summer vacation by having us take over the weeding chores for the landscaping at our Florida home. My brother and I did an hour of weeding early every weekday morning, and by the time we had completed a full circuit around the property, the first areas needed weeding again. We both learned the desirably of a white collar job.

    Tammy Schwab: I grew up in New York City, with a summer house on the North Shore of Long Island, and from an early age I was inspired by my mother who passed on the creed "leave it better than you found it". My mother always loved her roses, rhododendrons, day lilies, and dogwoods. We always had a beautiful yard that was constantly being edited. In my early teens we had an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Berglund, who had the most amazing flower and vegetable garden. She taught me all about the plants she grew, how to press flowers, and how to collect seed. These are fond memories, and the ladies that I can point a shovel at for my plant obsession!

    Ari Tenenbaum: My dad got me started – I was about 5 years old.

    Dale Rekus: It was a pincer movement by my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother (from Lithuania) lived less than a block from the Garfield Park Conservatory ( and she would take me there whenever we went to her house for Sunday dinner. I was probably under five years old when that routine began. She also went mushroom hunting, and canned dozens of jars of them every year. As to my maternal grandmother (American born Polish), as one example of her gardening fervor, at one time she had over a thousand African violet plants in the house! They were on tables under lights in the basement, on shelves in all the windows in the house, and even covered the dining room table. She also grew all the vegetables she ate, canning everything needed for the winter. Guess who was drafted for weeding duty when he went for a vacation at her house? She even canned young spring chickens in glass jars and stored root vegetables in a dirt floor room in the basement. And this apple did not fall far from those two trees.

    Catherine Morley: My grandmother had a beautiful yard full of flowers, vegetables, roses, berries, citrus trees, and even some chickens in the back. She had a green thumb, as everything was always thriving. I have fond memories of picking fresh berries for my breakfast. Nana would also can and preserve many of her fruits, berries and tomatoes. I just started making preserves last year. She is my inspiration.

    Gayle Olson: My mother got me into gardening when I was still in elementary school on Long Island. She was trying to teach me responsibility and put me in charge of the iris bed.

    Linda A. Espino: I was a kid in Chicago when I started gardening pretty young. We had a double lot, and the second lot was all mostly garden. I remember we had lilac trees (not like the ones that hardly have any smell in the Julian area), which would send out their perfume in summer through our open windows. We would have the cut lilacs on the tables in vases. My Grandmother would make rhubarb and strawberry pies with the rhubarb from the garden. I was mostly the weed puller. I liked being out there. Playing in the dirt in the yard/garden was enjoyable. Getting wet with the hoses and watering in the hot summer was fun. I remember how upset my Grandmother was when the relatives on my father's side went out to "weed" while we were on a short vacation and dug up the rhubarb and threw it out in the trash, as they thought it was a weed! No more rhubarb fresh from the garden for the pies! I learned to make the pies and then eat the slice of pie with my hands as my Grandmother said it tasted better that way. Our dog, Dolly, would be out there helping us. We had corn growing. I remember picking that to cook. Might have been six years old. Some guests for dinner were in awe that we grew it in our yard in back of the house. I remember sitting out in the shade of a large tree and my Grandmother, Mother and I were cleaning fish that the men caught. The heads and fish guts were used as fertilizer for the lilacs, as that was what my parents were told to do to feed them. We had morning glories, hollyhocks, and cosmos in the front, and I learned that they came up every year from self seeding.

    Linda Bresler: I had a 4-H annual flower garden when I was about 8 years old, and entered the prettiest flowers for the end of summer display at the annual grange fair. My son was an infant in a stroller when he first kept me company while gardening. At 2 years old, he announced that when he grew up, he was going to teach people how to pick grass. Now, at 32 years old, he enjoys gardening.

    Wayne Froboese: It was a natural interest for me.

    J.B. Riekstins: I am sure it was my mother who got me started in gardening. She had a large organic garden and she grew everything. Very large: I did not eat a commercially prepared canned food item until I was about 10-11. She allowed the children who wanted to use some portion for their own projects to have a corner here or there. I remember growing Hubbard squash, huge warty monsters, and green bean when I was about 5 years old. I was already helping her plant and weed, and it was something I was good at and enjoyed. I also planted any flower seed I could get my hands on, then and now.

    Vivian Blackstone: I was raised in New York City, the city of cement and monumental buildings. In1989, when I was 45 years old, I moved into my first house and became interested in a garden. I had a lot of ideas and wanted to try them out, and became friendly with many Rudolf Steiner people, like Peter Dukich, master compost maker, and Jack McAndrew, Peter's disciple. So, I started making soil. Then I made four 17'x3' raised beds with biodynamic soil, growing large quantities of vegetables. In 1994, I made a trip to Vladivostok, Russia, where I was a filmmaker on a James Hubbell park structure; the motto was “Beauty can save the World,” by Tolstoy. I came home and looked at my backyard, my raised beds and said, 'I can do better than this; this is not beautiful.” I gave away three of my raised beds and saved one, and redesigned my entire home garden area. That's when I designed the home that I have now, with 37 fruit trees and 15-gallon pots with vegetable and flowers. It is bird friendly and biodynamicly fruitful.

    Nancy Woodard: As far back as I can remember, my Father always had a large vegetable garden and I loved to sit on the grass in the summer and eat warm tomatoes. My Grandmother on my Mother’s side lived next door and also had a large garden, which she tended by herself and kept her vegetables for herself. She canned all of the extras. She also canned the peaches from my Father’s peach tree. And in the winter, it was my Grandmother who taught me how to propagate violets, ivy, and pothos from a cutting when I was about ten years old. Now, I can’t seem to be able to get the violets to successfully start.

    Bobbi Hirschkoff: As a child I spent many hours with my Sicilian grandmother, who baked bread, made wine from her own grapes, and grew fruit trees and vegetables, but no flowers. I was maybe 5 years when this all got started. Don't see any chance of it going away soon!

    Dave Ericson: My dad got me started when I was 10 years old. He gave me the rose garden to care for and I observed how astoundingly a tiny bud turns into a beautiful flower with amazing colors, fragrance, feel and even taste.

    Candace Kohl: I have always liked plants and gardens from my childhood. I remember helping my mother in the garden in St Louis, planting tulip bulbs and staking the peonies from the time I was 9 years old or so. My mother's mother had a large garden (with full time gardener!) and greenhouses where she grew the cattleya orchids that she always wore as a trademark. There was a night blooming cereus in one of these that I would be allowed to stay up late and watch bloom. The sight and fragrance is something I will always remember. That plant now sits in one of my cousin's houses, and cuttings from it are growing in my garden in Del Mar.

    Yves Brancheau: My kids, Bella (5) & Beau (3) got me started. I became a stay at home Dad just over 1-1/2 years ago, and at the beginning the fear of keeping them educated, entertained and healthy kept me up late nights. One night (or early morning), around 3 a.m., I was on the computer searching for some educational things we might be able to do together, when I came across The Children's Garden at Sunshine Care with Farmer Roy Wilburn ( He has an extensive history as a horticulturist, practices organic farming, and is dedicated to spreading his wealth of knowledge. Everything really clicked for me when I saw my son snap off a stem of broccoli and my daughter harvest some strawberries, then chow down straight from the garden. I feel such a sense of empowerment and confidence as we propagate, plant, and harvest together, it's so natural. I have been a fan and grower since, which has led me to the SDHS to help develop my newly acquired skills.

    Tena Navarrete:I started when I was in the second grade and I grew my first pinto bean plant. I loved the excitement of watching this tiny bean sprout, and a springing green shoot pushing through into the light! Simply amazing!

    Kathleen S. Closson:I was so lucky to have a grandmother and mother that were way ahead of their time as far as nutrition, raising vegetables and kids simultaneously, and growing beautiful flowers. I started learning from these two incredible ladies at about age four, from wandering through my grandmother’s garden of beauty and edibles in Oklahoma, where no meal was complete without at least ten homegrown vegetables. My mother designated me as the #1 garden weeder and deadheader at age five, and she guided my learning of the value of composting, how to collect Japanese beetles, and how to make super pickles from zucchini, cucumbers, and okra. As we grew older, my sister and I would plan our visits home as to the progress of her asparagus patch, which was larger than my current home! Hats off to my dad, who bought me my treasured horse, Cleo, with a truckload of home-grown hay, and who subsequently supplied us with top quality manure (along with the 75 head of cattle). I paid my dad back in full by being his #1 grass cutter of 16 acres on a riding mower every week in Clifton, Virginia, where I was well recognized by our neighbors as driving the mower way too fast, in my orange Virginia Tech sweatshirt, with my blonde hair flying. Oh, how I loved those corners! Those 8 hours would literally fly by! My earliest memories are all about gardening, farming, animal husbandry, and the sheer joy of growing up on a farm with animals, plus enjoying apple orchards for their cider and fruit. I can think of no better way to spend one’s childhood. I was truly blessed!

    Barb Huntington:My late mother, Ruth Looney Weeks Jackson, grew roses, and we had an orange tree, avocado tree, and lots of other plants in Altadena, so I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to garden. After my pet ducks were killed by raccoons, I planted a vegetable garden where their wading pool had been and the extra nutrients made the vegetables grow beautifully. When I became a teacher in the Miller Elementary School in Escondido, our secretary, Pat, was a member of the American Rose Society, (ARS) and brought in beautiful roses. She got me involved with the ARS. I later convinced my mother and then her husband to become judges and consulting rosarians, and they went on to grow a thousand roses in Ramona. When the national ARS convention was in San Diego they offered a bus trip to see her garden, and it was pictured in a national annual. I became particularly enamored of heritage roses, and grew them in my backyard, where it wasn’t an avocado orchard. I went on to be a rose judge and president of the North County Rose Society, and then a consulting rosarian, until I became too concerned about pesticides and tendered my resignation.  (The ARS has since become more favorable to organic growing.) I am now concerned about water usage and am gradually moving away from roses to succulents and California natives, but still need to convert the front lawn. (My hands can attest to my converting every backyard sprinkler to drip.) I now have a rock and succulent labyrinth, raised vegetable beds, bird and butterfly plants, am certified with National Wildlife Fund, and hope to build a venue for folk music concerts in my backyard.

    Marilyn Guidroz:When I was in 6th grade we moved to Tucson, AZ, and bought a house with a front and back yard.  Up until that time, we moved a lot and lived in Base Housing, as we were in the military. My mother planted African daisy seeds in a tree well in our front yard. These daisies were a blend of colors and came up every year after that, gradually reverting back to the original yellow. They were so inspiring; I never forgot them. When I was in college I got a summer job working in a green house disbudding chrysanthemums for Mother's Day. My fingers turned green, as you must do this carefully without gloves on. You remove all the side buds so the top bloom gets large. It was such fun. I learned all about the forcing of Christmas Poinsettias and Easter Lilies at the same place. They supplied the local vendors seasonally. It was fascinating and I never forgot these experiences.

    Claude Gigoux:I started in France at six years old, with my mother's guidance.

    Jackie Blank:My grandfather got me started when I was four or five years old. I helped him in his Victory Garden. But, I also had an additional incentive: the fact that his life's work was photographing roses and other plants for many annual floral catalogues of the period, which were published by his employer, J. Horace McFarland and Co.

    Gerald D. Stewart:When I was three my babysitter took me on a walk. We went into a nursery. I can still see the flowers on a porch of the sales cottage at Diablo View Gardens. Humpey (her last name was Humphrey, and that was as close as I could get; she died a couple of years ago and the family called her Humpey to the very end) bought me a black-flowered Martha Washington Geranium (now I’d call it a black-flowered regal pelargonium). I planted in the back yard. A couple of years ago I found a snapshot of the backyard that included the plant. It was likely ‘Brown’s Butterfly’, which had been introduced a couple of years before by the Brown family, whose nursery was nearby in San Leandro. Other snapshots of about the same time show me with a watering can, watering plants. While New Leaf was started as a houseplant nursery, it makes sense with this history that it became a geranium specialty nursery.

    Sue Ann Scheck:Bill and I joined SDHS in our mid sixties and a new life adventure began. We replaced our lawn with succulents and began a never-ending love affair with plants! New adventures abound. Our greatest joy happens when we are working in nature. Watching the ever changing landscape and imbuing our sweet darlings with love has enhanced our lifespace! Neighbors come by and we give them cuttings, and they, too, are finding new resources to replace hothouse plants with a variety of succulents and natives. Together, we are recreating our community, saving precious natural resources, and beautifying our community. Thank you SDHS for changing our lives.

    Sandy Parish:I started myself in gardening at age 55 because I admired the yards and gardens of a few of my friends and wanted to know how they did it. I am still on the learning curve, but I have planted my first vegetable garden with my 11-year old granddaughter in hopes that her interest in gardening will have lots of years to grow and expand.

    Steve Brigham:That's an easy question for me! I grew up on a 1-acre semi-rural suburban homestead that my Mom had planted as both an arboretum and garden. Mom never met a plant she didn't like, and if she saw a plant in a nursery that she didn't have already, she bought it and planted it. When I was first consciously alive yet not yet even born, she spent that summer (like every summer) watering and caring for her many plants. And so I got used to gardening (and watering) before I ever saw the light of day, at a very impressionable age! That was sixty years ago, but it still seems like yesterday to me. Thanks, Mom!

    Chuck Ades:My parents divorced when I was one. My brother and I lived with guardians in Covina, CA for four years. When I was five or six years old, their son, Bobbie, and I were sitting on the front steps of the house. There were some geraniums growing on either side of the steps. Bobbie asked if I knew that if you broke off a stem of the geranium and stuck it in the ground that it would grow. I showed an interest, so he dug up a small plot of ground in the shade and told me to break off some stems of the geranium plants by the front steps. I did, and stuck them and promptly forgot them. Some time later, he asked me if I had looked at the geraniums lately. I hadn't, so I quickly ran to see them. To my surprise, they were twice as big as when I planted them (I'm sure that he had watered them for me). I asked what other plants I could "stick" into the ground. They had several Aeonium plants in a flower bed. They gave me a small plot of land and I started planting Aeoniums. I was hooked. Interestingly, my brother had also mentioned that he wanted to be in the military.  The father of the family suggested that they look in the Encyclopedia.  They then concluded that he should go to Annapolis or West Point.  He graduated from West Point and had a lifetime as an officer in the Army. If our parents hadn't divorced and we hadn't lived for four years with guardians, our lives probably would been completely different. I had found my future occupation at the age of five or six, and my brother found his at the age of nine or ten. I thought this was normal. When my children were ready to go to college, I was surprised that they didn't know what they wanted to do. When I mentioned this to a friend, he pointed out to me that they were normal. My brother and I were not normal!

    Joan Braunstein:When I think of my grandmother, I think of roses. Memories of my mother include her transforming our small patch of grass in front of our Philadelphia row house into a rock garden. My parents rented a small plot of land at the end of the street, where we tried our hands at vegetable gardening. We didn't have much to show in the way of vegetables, but I grew my first zinnias there.

    Tandy Pfost:While in college in Tucson AZ, my husband and I had the idea of growing corn and zucchini. We thought it was really cool to grow a zucchini the size of a log and be able to eat it. That was my first real interest. Growing food and plants became a life-long passion. I also remember visiting my grandparents’ farm in Iowa, where they had a huge garden. I remember the rhubarb and the multitude of jars in the basement of preserved foods from that garden.

    Hilda King:  I grew up in an apartment in New York City, and the only live plant in our home was a croton in the living room that my mother regularly killed. When I met my first husband, his mother was an avid gardener and the vice president of the Garden Clubs of America. She had a beautiful home in the countryside, with a greenhouse, and in my early twenties I developed an interest in gardening from her. She always said her introduction to gardening was when she was a very little girl and her neighbor gave her some seeds to plant. I've tried to do the same with my youngest granddaughter, and we planted some lettuce seeds last week for her to take home and tend.

    Carol Donald:When I was widowed at 27 years old, overwhelmed and dazed with a newborn, an acquaintance who owned a nursery took me under his wing. He and my husband's best friend had decided that a garden would be a lifesaver. Luckily for me, my Santa Barbara yard had rich, loamy soil and everything grew beautifully no matter what mistakes I made. Later, I taught many students in an urban school how to grow things in whatever space they had. 

    Stella Ramos:My love of gardening must have come from my grandmother. As I recall, she had her garden surrounded by a picket fence, and it was the only planted area within a largely cemented space. I remember the beautiful gladiolas and herbs. She used yerba buena to make tea. I was grammar school age.

    Susi Torre-Bueno:In third grade our class had a vegetable plot and I planted radishes. I recall pulling those tiny plants up each day to check their progress and tucking them back in the soil again. Finally, when the first radish was the size of a cherry tomato I ran to the water fountain to wash it off and took a big bite. Ugh! I spat it out, and I still don’t care for radishes, but I was hooked on gardening and started growing flowers from seed at our house, purchasing marigold and zinnia seeds at school for two cents a seed pack (this was around 1955). My family had lived in apartments in New York City for several generations (my parents were the first home owners in at least a hundred years), and so there were no helpful relatives to guide me. I’ll always be grateful to my teacher for getting me started!

  • Thu, May 01, 2014 9:46 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    Gerald D. Stewart says he’s not making any changes in how he gardens or chooses plants due to the current drought and higher temperatures. He will continue to plant what catches his eye, and if it doesn’t like his frugal and serendipitous approach to watering, let it die to make room for something else. He will, however, keep in mind what past experience has taught him–for example, to avoid all the great colorful coprosmas and kohuhus in sunny locations because they have consistently, during one of the inevitable high heat episodes of August to October, had their leaves turn brown and their stems become dry and dead all the way down to the ground. That still leaves open the possibility of trying coprosmas in an afternoon shade spot in case they retain their delicious colors in lower light. Some likely will: the tiny-leaved Cappuchino is now 6’ tall in bright shade and has retained its near-brown color, but others turned green in those conditions (Roy’s Red, Tom Thumb, County Park Red, Cutie, and Karo Red).

    Lisa Rini: I am slowly reducing my plants that are my "groundhuggers.” These are the low growing plants that offer some different textures and colors to my potted plant garden, but which can be easily overlooked when I am watering or grooming plants. What I have been doing as the plants die is to find alternative decorative items that can be used for visual interest, but do not require any water: small boulders, driftwood, large shells, large pinecones, grapewood, pots filled with small colorful baubles, birdhouses, colorful heavy duty glass bottles, etc. All work to provide color/interest/texture, last for years, and require little or no maintenance.

    Jo Tipton: I have lived in Carlsbad for one year. During that time I have removed some grass, and I plan to remove all of it in the future. I also have switched over my garden pots from annuals to succulents. My yard is small, so making these transitions is not very difficult. Due to the water shortage, I definitely want to be respectful to our community. Luckily for me, I love the look of water-wise plants.

    Bobbi Hirschkoff: Gardens are never done, at least ours. About 2 or3 years ago I started going more and more towards succulents for less water and care. We have reduced our water consumption by about 20%. The only problem is the water utility company has increased their rates by 20%!

    Enid & Mark Sherman: Succulents and natives for us.

    Marilyn Wilson: I have already made all the changes I am willing to make. "Global warming will have little effect on my garden in my lifetime. Regarding our insufficient rain, I have it on Good Authority that next winter will bring El Nino."

    Sue Getyina: I will be removing my lawn and will be making small gardens with drought tolerant plants.

    Vivian Blackstone: I have put in three water tanks. Two are 250 gallon that got filled in the last rain, and one is 75 gallon that got filled in the first rain. I am not making any other changes, except I am planting my flowers inside the water spray for the fruit trees.

    Alan Benner: My garden has been revised to include more succulents and more water wise plants. No turf and lots of ground mulch. I hope to add some coastal plants with a small herb garden.

    Katrin Utt: I have about 80 roses. To water more efficiently, I water only after sunset, use drip lines and last but not least, I mulch, mulch and mulch again!

    Stephen Zolezzi: Climate change is just one (a big one) of the constant variables gardeners have to consider for a successful garden. Any gardener in San Diego County who has not made adjustments due to climate change is out to lunch, or is willing to pay through the nose for enough water to garden as if in New England. I continue to make radical changes to my large garden focusing on natives (salvias), succulents and cactus. For the most part they do not need improved soil, much water and little, if any, fertilizer. I have the advantage of having a green house to propagate plants from cuttings, seed and division. I still am not willing to give up the lush look for the single plant surrounded by gravel and rock, so I mix plants up and plant close together for a full look I enjoy with less than half the water from six years ago.

    Linda Bresler: I will try to add only succulents to my garden during the dry summer months. They are the most forgiving plants if they don't get enough water for a few months until the winter rains (hopefully) begin.

    Christine Harrison: I'll grow fewer tomatoes this year. We have installed enough rainwater collection devices to store 280 gallons. The backyard lawn is no more, and the ground is instead covered with a combination of fallen leaves, hay, and whatever bits of Bermuda grass are willing to take care of themselves.

    Susi Torre-Bueno: My current plan is to add a lot more succulents than I had originally planned to my still very young garden.  Also, whenever something dies I try to replace it with a succulent. Seeing some of the fabulous gardens on our April garden tour has encouraged me to be even bolder in doing this. I’m also looking for more very low water and drought-tolerant shrubs and trees.

    Amelia Lima: For sure I will be adding ways to keep the rain water on the properties that I work on for as long as I can!

    Al Myrick: MORE mulch, encourage our canopy on our north-facing canyon lot, leave more areas fallow. Depending more on the rain-water captured reservoir. Don't water until they cry out.

    Candace Kohl: I have not been making many changes directly in regard to the water/climate issue (bad me), except for allocating more money to water in my budget. The small changes I have made seem to work well as far as the plants themselves go. I have put an underground drip system in one area that was always a problem, and I am grouping plants more than ever by water needs. Also, I am checking the system more often to maximize the water usage. I know there are some people who have marvelous gardens with little water, and certainly some of my areas don't require much.  But I still love my roses and a cottage garden of color, and those need water. Succulents are lower water, but the reality here is that if I don't have the irrigation working when I plant, I might as well throw the plants in the trash. My BIG water use is for the grass. The garden was designed with fairly large lawn areas and to redo them in a nice way for low water would cost more than many years of my current water bill. This might not be a politically correct answer, but for me it is where I stand at present. 

    Barb Bolton: I am not making any changes to what I grow, but am planning to work on my automatic watering system to optimize water usage.

    Wayne Julien: I'm planting more native plants that require little or no water at all. There is a myth that native plants do not produce flowers, which is truly untrue, since I have many which are in bloom at the present time and they sustain flowers much longer than non-native plants. I have noticed more bird, bee and butterfly life since planting native plants, which adds a great deal of pleasure in my life.

    Barb Huntington: At some point I will get rid of grass in the front yard. I’m collecting pictures and ideas for now.

    Joan Braumstein: In answer to whether I will modify my gardening plans following this past dry rainy season, the answer is yes. After attending a recent Master Gardener seminar, my interest was piqued by the abundance of native plants available, many of which are drought resistant. I'd like to offer another take on global warming: While we are seeing temperatures rise, we have also witnessed this past year more intense winter weather; indeed, more extreme global weather in many respects. I share the opinion of others that this disruption in normal weather patterns is being caused by cutting down the rain forests. I believe it will eventually become apparent just how important trees are in regulating water cycles and moderating the weather.

    Chuck Ades: I am adding succulents. I removed my front lawn and replaced it with a walk-through succulent garden. I added a succulent garden in the back yard and in a few other spots. However, I can't seem to resist the wonderful new blooming bedding plants that are now available. The lawn that I have in the back is a hybrid Bermuda and gets watered every 2 weeks. It's about 28 years old and still is the envy of the neighborhood. We have many happenings in our yard every year, and it endures these parties quite well. My tropical garden is filled with very mature trees and plants. so is able to survive with less water if needed.

    Stephen Rubin: I only plant natives, but I may put more emphasis on Southern California natives over Northern California ones. For edibles, I will likely continue with the ones I already do: citrus, tomatoes, berries.

    Susan Clark: Our front is landscaped with succulents. Rose garden in small court yard with drip. The back and sides have potted succulents. 

    Paul Strauss: I am adding more succulents and drought tolerant plants, using more drip systems.

  • Tue, April 01, 2014 9:45 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Susan Oddo: Last year I experimented with restricting the veggie garden to tomatoes, chives, Italian parsley and basil. After looking at the cost of water, it made sense to only plant the one veggie that will never taste good unless it is just picked from the garden – the tomato. The herbs were planted in the basins of the tomato plants, efficiently sharing the water supply. Since tomatoes must be pruned up at least 12"-14" from the base, there is plenty of room for the herbs without crowding the tomato. Everything was heavily mulched, further ensuring water retention. It was such a success that I plan to do the same thing this year. Of course, all other veggies can be gotten from the organic sellers at our wonderful farmers' markets, ensuring quality produce is on the table and supporting the “locally grown” initiative.

    Vivian Blackstone: Snap peas, tomatoes (Early Girl went in early February), mizuma lettuce, carrots, green onions, basil, lettuce, fennel, New Zealand spinach. Will possibly add more as more space unfolds.

    Sharon Ward: This year I have planted shallots and garlic. I am looking forward to harvesting garlic scapes for the first time. And I have some cherry tomato volunteers from last year’s garden.

    Ron Hurov: Pumpkins.

    Bobbi Hirschkoff: My response isn't so much a variety as is a general concept. A few years ago I bought a pony pack of artichokes at Green Thumb Nursery in San Marcos. I was pleased to see I could get six plants for $3. Most nurseries pot these up to 1-gallon and sell them for $8-9 each. With so many artichoke plants to plant, I started planting them in flower beds and everywhere. Artichoke plants are beautiful, and a wonderful addition to any flower bed, as is rainbow Swiss chard. We had artichokes every night during the season! Also, last year I planted tomatoes really early: late February to early March. I continued to plant a pony pack each month for 3 months. We had tomatoes to eat from April to Dec! I'm doing it again.

    Katrin Utt: I am planting tomatoes because that is the only thing the rabbits don't eat. I hate those furry devils! I also have planted some red potatoes, which seem to do very well in my garden. Last but not least I am growing lots of Kitty Grass for my cat, Stanley. 

    Stephen Zolezzi: I’m looking forward to the spring growing season, if it’s spring not freezing temps… spring is winter/winter was spring? I will be trying out grafted tomatoes for the first time. I ordered 8 varieties, and prepared new planting locations in January to give them the best chance for success. Also, in raised beds I started a variety of greens including chards, kales and cabbages. Am able to protect from sun in case it gets hot to lengthen the growing season. I laid in a supply of organic fertilizers (liquid and granule); all that’s left to do is battle with bugs, rabbits, birds for a harvest. Please tell me again why we do this?

    Tena Navarrete and Ed Erickson: Planted many varieties of chiles, heirloom tomatoes, mixed lettuces. I found out from last year that if you plant marigolds around the tomato plants, you have less tomato worms. I had not one worm!

    Gabrielle Ivany: This is my first year of growing vegetables in a garden box, 4’x6’x1’, filled with a mixture of garden soil and my own homegrown compost. I don't have any tips yet. But I am amazed and grateful for the wonderful bib lettuce, broccoli, sweet peas, and Swiss chard that I am getting. (The strawberries are not producing yet.) It seems that for the past 2 months I did not have to buy any fresh vegetables in the store. Especially the lettuce; it's growing all the time, while I harvest only as much as I need. 

    Susi Torre-Bueno: I finally stopped deluding myself that the snow pea seeds would somehow leap from the packet that has been sitting on my desk for months, and went out in early March and just purchased a couple of 6-packs of snow peas. They were planted along with a couple of varieties of lettuce, basil and chard. As soon as it warms up a bit more we’re adding tomatoes… lots of tomatoes. I think I’ll follow Susan Oddo’s advice (above) and put more herbs at the base of the tomatoes. Our 4 large raised beds also have fall-planted lemon thyme, rainbow chard, and lots of onions. The onions mostly develop into large leeks or scallions, hardly ever forming a true onion bulb (Pat Welsh’s excellent book explains why), but we just eat them as they are and I haven’t purchased onions for over a year. In early March we started eating the first of our home-grown artichokes, from one plant which has been bearing for the last 3 years.

    Paula Suttle: I find that if I only have energy for one plant (to water, fertilize, etc.) it's the tomato. I have tried many special varieties in the past, but Better Boy and Early Girl are my favorites. In the olden times we used to grow all kinds of vegetables; my favorites were beans and peas, plus tomatoes.

    Una Marie Pierce: I have so much lettuce, I can't give it away. Next time I'll be careful how much I plant! I also have great beets, with lovely greens that I wouldn't think of giving away. My strawberries are going well again, but the broccoli bolted for some reason. I use worm tea about every week. We planted the tomato on its side according to an article I found in old AG book and it's taking off.

    Barb Thuro: I am using non-GMO seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I also use Walls 'o Water (available from Amazon) to surround the veggies with warm air, enabling them to produce earlier. I also use these around plants in the fall to enable plants to produce longer.

  • Sat, March 01, 2014 9:43 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Wanda Mallen: I had to laugh when I read this question. I have so many plants that fit this description, and the weirder the better as far as I’m concerned. Of course, weird is in the eye of the beholder, and not really the word I would use, but I’m sure others would. In this category I would put anything with long spines or thorns, twisted shape, variegation, cresting, and any plant that puts out tons of babies, mainly cactus. I have a twisted hazel that everyone comments on (Harry Lauder’s walking stick), and another plant with leaves like cardboard (Hakea petiolaris). I have several cactus in the Tephrocactus genus that have articulating stems, and one that looks like green ping pong balls stacked on top of each other. A favorite tree is Caesalpinia cacalaco, which has thorns all over the trunk and stems. Come see for yourself at the May Featured Garden at my home in Fallbrook.

    Sylvia L Keating:  I love maidenhair fern. I try to plant only succulents and avoid water usage, but the beauty of the maidenhair fern just makes my heart sing. Some gardeners are able to put it in a certain spot where it grows like weeds without much care. Not I. But I've established a fairly good spot for it. When it gets too hot, it dies down, but then springs back again. Calming, soothing, beautiful quality of leaf and color green with gorgeous contrasting black stems. I still recall an aunt of mine many many years ago who had a huge gorgeous pot on her tiny wooden porch in the south. We all marveled at it as children. And so we still love it. What a plant! Zip is 92064.

    Torrey Neel: The weird and fun plant that we grow and just got more of is, the Native California ground cover, Artemisia californica ‘Montara’. We love the way it creeps around with its great smell and nice gray/green color. We call it "Sigmund" after the sea monster. My zip code is 91963.

    Louise Anderson: A couple of years ago I grew a milkweed sometimes called Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa). The name alone is worth having the plant. Every time I mention the common name I smile... I'll have to do that again.

    Chris Harrison: I grow Mexican Sour Gherkin, sometimes referred to as Mouse Melon, a cucumber that looks like a watermelon for the garden fairies, stripes and all. It's a pretty little plant that vines freely, and if you pick the fruit at about 1" long, they aren't sour at all, but have a lovely lemony flavor. They're a fun novelty to serve at parties, give to neighbors when pawning off your zucchini, and eat while working in the garden.

    Ellie Knight: I LOVE weird plants. Of course, my family all think I’M weird. Fortunately, our climate is great for lots of very strange succulents and cacti, notably the “crests” (cristata). Many of the euphorbia group lend themselves to these mutations, like Euphorbia lactea – I’ve got a variegated one about two feet tall. A small favorite is Euphorbia polygona, which looks like a very obese snowflake. And then there’s Euphorbia obesa – shaped like a smooth ball. Don’t get me started! My zip is 92028.

    Devonna Hall: This year I planted my favorite cottage garden flower, Agrostemma githago. It’s so easy to grow, comes in white and pink flowers, and sways in the slightest breeze. It also makes great cut flowers and self-sows.

    Gabe Mitchell: I've grown a species of mimosa, Mimosa pudica or the Sensitive Plant, for a few years now. The feathery leaves and leaf stalks fold up to the touch of your finger, which I remember vividly from my father bringing one home when I was young. Now I grow them from seed and give them out to those of my friends with young kids of their own. My zip is 91942.

    Marilyn Wilson: I have a Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant). It's fun to play with. You touch a leaf or stem and immediately the leaves fold up and the stem collapses. Half an hour later it's back to normal. My zipcode doesn't matter – the plant is in my kitchen.

    Linda Bresler: I enjoy growing Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) for its summer blooms in my garden. Its yellow flowers with the red stamens can look lovely and unusual. It is also drought tolerant and attracts hummingbirds.

    Chuck Ades: The special plant I always try to have in my garden is the Sensitive Plant, Mimosa pudica. We have a lot of people visiting our garden every year and this is a plant that always fascinates those who have never seen it before. Home Depot has had these plants in 4" pots near the check out stand in the garden section for the last couple of years. I transplant it to a 6" pot and place it in a sunny and obvious place. The plant will lose it leaves and possibly die if it dries out. A word of CAUTION: watch out for the thorns. My zip is 92024.

    Bea Ericksen: I love Tiger's Tail (AKA Lion’s Tail, Leonotis leonurus), that has darling little orange flowers grown on top of each other; it is just too cute. The humming birds love it and so do the bees. My other most favorite are my Aloes, with their striking flowers that appear in the winter. These and many more in my garden truly entertain me. My zip is 91902.

    Vivian Blackstone: I like Butchers Broom (Ruscus aculeatus), sometimes called Witches Broom; I have divided and subdivided it a few times. I like Australian finger limes, altho one has to be careful: they have thorns. I love the citron tree, and everyone thinks that's weird, but I don't and I make marmalade with them. I'm constantly downsizing my thornless blackberries that are quite invasive and sprout up very easily. My zip code is 92128

    Angela Vasconcellos: I enjoy unusual plants and count my many tilandsias, staghorn ferns, succulents, and epiphylums among those. But the ones I get the most comments on are my two pitcher plants in the kitchen. They thrive on the bright light and enjoy the occasional bugs that I give them. Everyone who sees them comments! I live in South Park at 92102. What else do I get to grow on my typical 5000’ square foot lot? Two mangos, longan, lime, bananas, tangerine, persimmon, apricot, avocado, blue berries, plum, peach, hibiscus, six varieties of plumeria, various gingers, orchids, roses, iris, passion vines, plus a veggie garden and vertical herb wall. And oh yeah, I still (in early February) have a full crop of tomatoes producing from last spring's planting! Yahoo for San Diego gardening

    Candace Kohl: The weirder the better. Do you want to know about the ones I have killed or the ones still alive? I love cycads and especially the blue ones; the fact that they are such ancient and uncommon plants is part of their attraction for me. The blue ones do not do too well in my garden near the coast, and many have succumbed to being in the wrong climate. However, many of the other cycads do quite well, as do many of my protea family plants. I am especially fond of my Banksia lemannian, with its upside-down flowers, and my Mimetes sp., because even my expert landscape advisor couldn't keep his alive and mine is thriving. I have a row of succulent pots on my patio where I can admire their weirdness and keep them in good shape because I see them all the time. I am partial to Stapelias, Lithops, Haworthias and anything that non-plant people will look at and say, "You don't mean to tell me that thing is really alive?" I also have two Saguaros that I bought as 1” diameter things in Tucson about 20 years ago. They are now about 8” tall and seem to be doing quite well. I was in Tucson last week and passed up a chance to buy a Welwitschia; decided I would probably kill it.

    Susi Torre-Bueno: My current favorite weird plant is the African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata), because you can pinch off the tips of the flower buds and squeeze them to make effective water pistols. Great way to get kids excited about plants!

    Andy & Tina Rathbone:While visiting San Francisco about a decade ago, we found Paxton Gate, which dubs itself as an “eccentric gardening store.” There, we found varieties of carnivorous plants we’d never seen before. Even better, we found a Wardian case – a sealed protective container that traps in humidity – so they’d flourish in the San Diego weather. We chose a glass steeple-top Wardian case, a few varieties of carnivorous plants, and we hoped they’d survive a trip home in the back of our car. Ten years later, the pitcher plants still thrive in the Wardian case on the table by our front door. When visitors show any interest, we show them our stack of the International Carnivorous Plant Society newsletter, which details the latest carnivorous plant field studies carried out in the bogs from North Carolina to Peru. It’s always fun to toss a fly or two into the case and see which plant has a meal that day.

  • Sat, February 01, 2014 9:41 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Linda Chisari: Wouldn’t want to be without Sun Camellias: Camellia hiemalis 'Shishi Gashira', Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka', Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide', and Camellia sasanqua 'Bonanza".  All are very drought-tolerant in my garden, having been planted 20-25 years ago; they enjoy east or southern exposures (under shade trees) in my coastal garden. I love their informal spreading shapes and the multitude of lovely single or double flowers. They began blooming in late September; it's January 5th today and all are still in full glorious bloom. (The 'Setsugekka's stopped blooming on Jan. 9th!) I mulch all of my beds yearly with 2-3" of well-rotted compost, and I fertilize with a balanced time-release fertilizer around February 1st each year. Other than that, the only other care I give them is a light pruning to keep them in shape.

    Marilyn Wilson: FILLERS! I'm a cut flower girl, taking bouquets wherever I go. Every day of the year there is something blooming in my garden. But unless it is a particularly spectacular bloom which can stand alone in a bud vase, I will use a variety of colors, common blooms or exotic specimens together in a bunch. And for that I need filler flowers: feverfew, Australian waxflowers, tiny gomphrena, etc. And, of course, some leatherleaf and maidenhair ferns, and a few boring privets for greenery.

    Tammy Schwab: Ohhh, that is a tough question and way too broad! I am going to cheat and start with all succulents for their low water, easy care, and structure. For a particular shrub I really like Cuphea, both bat faced (Cuphea llaeva) and cigar plant (C. ignea); they provide big bang for my buck, attract hummingbirds, and continually bloom. Going larger, in terms of trees I am very fond of flowering trees and always have an Arbutus unedo.

    Susan D’Vincent: Having just brought in another basketful of sweet satsuma mandarins, I can't think of another plant that would top my list of favorite plants. The beauty of satsumas is that their season is winter, when other homegrown fruit is scarce. Our little tree stands up to the frost and doesn't ask for much. Give it some fertilizer, some water, occasionally spray for scale, and it will give you back a lot! It is amazingly prolific, producing loads of tangerines regularly every year. We start eating satsumas in November and keep on going until the end of February. They are delicious little packages that you can grab and eat anytime or just fill that dessert spot after dinner. They've been a great way to loose weight after the holiday excesses.

    Meredith French: At first I thought of what native I could give up, but then I thought of my Eureka lemon tree. I have fruit the year around and never have to pay supermarket prices. And then there are the herbs. It kills me when I have to buy a little package for 2-3 bucks. I may let other plants go, but not those.

    Cathy Tylka: I love my passionflower ‘Donna Brigham’ hybrid. It is home for monarch butterflies, requires very little water for a vine, can cover an arch, and has beautiful, bright pink flowers. What's not to love?

    Vivian Blackstone: 1) feverfew (make tea for migraines); 2) comfrey (upset stomach or poultice); 3) spearmint (for tea to settle the stomach); 4) basil (add to soups and salads); 5) tomatoes (fresh salad, grow them all year round); 6) lettuce, mizumi and head lettuce; 7) blueberries, blackberries, alpine strawberries, Chandler strawberries.

    Robert Foster: Roses, because they smell so good!

    Wanda Mallen: Of course, this is an impossible question to answer! The category of plants I wouldn’t want to be without is trees. They give structure, grounding, and create a framework to highlight all the other plants. They make a garden look more established, and, of course, create beautiful light shade.

    Katrin Utt: My roses! I have about 100, half of them in big pots. I get so much joy growing these beautiful plants.

    Gloria Alexanderson: Succulents… easy to grow, easy to propagate, little water, they show color and texture all year round. What’s not to like??????

    Tandy Pfost: I always grow gardenias wherever I live. They have become a tradition, and my one water-needy indulgence. They take no effort, are disease and bug resistant, and give wonderful flowers throughout the year. They are perfect for the one spot we all have that is partly shady, cool and moist.

    Ruth Sewell: My sweet one million cherry tomato vine. Very tasty and reliable, just like Old Faithful.

    Paula Suttle: The plant I would not do without is probably the geranium, because it blooms year round in all sorts of flower and leaf variety (form and color) and doesn't die if you forget it a little. Also, if you fertilize it, it just really performs! I know it's not native, which is my favorite group of plants just now. Another is the milkweed, or Asclepias, because of the beautiful plant plus seedpods, and you get caterpillars and butterflies.

    Una Marie Pierce: Funny you should ask – it is feverfew. While I have to stay on top of them all the time to weed out the excess, I always let 3 or 4 grow to full size. I just got through rinsing and spinning a batch. I will then hang them up to dry and make a cup of tea with them every morning. I even took a supply of them to India and made the tea every morning. I found feverfew in an herbal book after my cleaning lady told me they were good for arthritis. Who knows if they really help, but it helps me to think they do! I originally bought one in a 4” pot because of the sweet, small, white flowers. They quickly tried to take over my yard. I use the flowers to make small vases to give out to my Meals on Wheels clients. If anyone wants a start or some leaves to try, just let me know.

    Don Starr: Italian Flat Leaf Leaf Parsley. Good source of vitamins, especially C. Gives good flavor to food. Gives good visual appeal to foods and bouquets. Monarchs like this plant. I love the fresh smell.  

    Scott Jones: Ornithostaphylos (Palo Blanco), and the rest of the "San Diego-lowlands-madronesque-quatro-deluxe-group": Comarostaphylis (Summer Holly), Xylococcus (Mission Manzanita), and Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. crassifolia (Del Mar Manzanita, though occurs south, east, and north of Del Mar). Preferred uses are in idealized habitat recreations, as they can be suitable for residential yards, if the architecture and space of the place is stylistically fitting for these plants – or not – it's your choice.

    Louise Anderson: I sorely missed my second cherry tree since it was not established enough to pollinate yet. (Royal Lee and Minnie Royal-come as a set.) I'm hoping for a bumper crop this year, since I missed one last year due to death of one tree. Excellent low chill cherries.

    Candace Kohl: This is a VERY hard question and my answer would probably depend on what time of year it is. The only kind of plants I don't care for much are those that produce food: fruits and vegetables. My favorite plant is not a plant but a family: the Proteaceae. They are so unique and varied, in or out of flower. I feel very special to have a garden where they are mostly happy. In particular, I enjoy the late winter/spring display of the Pincushions (Leucospermums) and I have a number of other special ones, some Banksias, some Proteas, some Leucadendrons, some Grevillias and one Mimetes.  

    Sue Lasbury: Leucodendron 'Jester' (Variegated Coneflower Hybrid) is my favorite plant in the garden. They are lush and just the right mix of red, yellow and green. My wonderful landscape architect, Chris Drayer, planted one on each side of the walkway leading up to my front door. When I' m working in the front garden I see lots of my neighbors walking by and many of them comment on the Jester. It's such a perfect plant and can easily be used in floral arrangements with other plants, or even alone.

    Lisa Rini: It has to be Gomphrena ‘Itsy-Bitsy’; it has tiny magenta flowers most of the year, changes color with the seasons, can take dry or damp conditions, is loved by bees, has a nice sprawling look yet can be cut back and rebounds within the week, loves pots, but is also happy in the ground... you cannot kill it! Great plant!

    Ron Hurov: Pittosporum resiniferum. It produces short-chain alkanes, which are a potential plant-based substitute for gasoline.

    Bobbi Hirschkoff: My veggie garden. Last year we planted tomatoes in March and had tomatoes until the end of December. We also have acorn and butternut squash in the panty as I write (early January). We love growing our own: not only does it taste better, but we feel like we're doing something right.

    Amelia Lima: Could never do without Agaves! Because of the architectural element and their diversity, they are essential in any Mediterranean Garden.

    Sharon Ward: I have two pots of orange mint on each end of my deck garden that I love. Without even touching it, it perfumes the air with the most delicious fragrance, especially in summer when the sun really warms it up. I cut it and muddle it in a pitcher and cover it with filtered water for a refreshing, aromatic beverage.  I cut it and cut it and it keeps coming, and I cut it to keep it from reaching over into the pot next to it. I am limited in space, but my orange mint makes up for it.

    Nancy Kohrs: Succulents are the best plants to have in California.

    Marilyn Guidroz: One plant I would recommend to all gardens and which brings me great joy everyday is the succulent Aeonium canariense 'Salad Bowl'. It is compact not leggy like the other Aeoniums, and looks delicious enough to eat! It compliments a rounded ceramic pot in blue or red, and looks great all year long. If it is planted in the ground it commands a dramatic center stage, and can get much larger than in a pot. 

    Al Myrick: There are so many that I could not do without: bromeliads, staghorn ferns, native trees, plumerias, cycads, tree aloes, epiphylums… But ok, ok... if they said, “It's your plants or your life!," then I would fall on my trowel before I would let them take my epidendrum orchids. They bloom and thrive all year round with gross neglect. That means no soil (just a ball of coarse palm or leaf mulch), not much water (just soak them and let them drain quickly), and hardly any food (a spray of fish emulsion once or twice a year). They grow anywhere there is light and air circulation Put them in a tree-branch, in a hanging pot, in a ground pot, in the middle of a staghorn fern or a birds’ nest fern. If there is no light, they climb into it. They readily produce offsets (“keikis”) after the main bloom finishes; just wind or tie a little sphagnum or Spanish moss around a keiki and soon it will infuse the moss-ball with roots.  After they look ready enough, they can be pulled off the stem to begin a new plant. So, they are well worth falling on your trowel over (but don't).

    William Skimina: This is a hard one. I thought of our compact Butia capitata selection, Clivia, Ensete 'Maurelii', but I think the choice is Acca sellowiana (Feijoa), because it has nice foliage, showy flowers in the spring, and large quantities of fall fruit with a unique taste. I like the fruit more than any others that you can grow here. Additionally, I never need to spray the plants for any problem, and they tolerate some drought and clay soil. It is a reliable plant.

    Susan Krzywicki: Tecate Cypress; it smells heavenly: resinous and fresh. And it is easy to grow! It is native to a very small area from north San Diego County to just below Tecate, Mexico, so growing it in your garden helps to preserve it for future generations. It looks like a fat Italian Cypress. Try some today!

    Kay McGrath: I couldn't live without my pomegranate tree! It just looks great when it turns color in the fall, then it comes out so green for spring. You can prune and shape it anyway you want. Of course, the fruit is wonderful, since my variety is 'Wonderful'. When I have enough fruit I make jelly. This year I could not get around to making jelly, so the birds had a party eating the fruit for a couple of weeks. Of course it is waterwise, too!

    Stephen Zolezzi: Tomatoes: they are like blood flowing through my Italian body. Today’s problem is do I use grafted tomatoes, buy plants, or start from seed? Then, what types to grow: the selection is never ending, so I look at what I want to do with them: fresh, cooked or preserved. I put in enough variety and number needed to succeed. Then the real work starts to prepare the dirt, cultivate, pest control, pick and process. The best reward is to see my 4-year old granddaughter pluck cherry tomatoes like grapes and smile while the juice runs down her cheeks.

    Barbara Clark: My favorite is the Heliotrope plant. It is perennial here and blooms nearly all year, with deep purple clusters of tiny flowers with a sweet delicate fragrance. It can be planted in the ground, or will flourish for years in a mid-sized container in full sun or part shade in warmer areas. Heliotrope on my patio reminds me of the local Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra playing 1920’s music. I love the plant and the music!

    Ida Rigby: The plant I could not want to be without depends on the season. At this very moment, it is a very tall, red emu flower because a hummingbird stands guard over it every day, loves it, and makes quite a scene chasing away intruders… Life in the winter garden.

    Bill Knowles: Camellias: they are life's joy, especially this time of year. Everyone should visit The Huntington Gardens and Nuccio's Nursery in the Pasadena area and see a glorious display.  

    Lisa Bellora: A plant that I am in love with currently is the Leucadendron, pretty much all of them. I am growing Safari Sunset, Discolor, Pom Pom, Safari Goldstrike, Ebony, and another smaller one. I am also using Winter Red, Summer Red, Jester, and Blush in my designs. They have such beautiful colors, interesting shape and texture, and if planted properly, are maintenance free. Who could ask for more than that?

    Steve Brigham: There are thousands of kinds of plants, of course, that I would never want to be without! I chose, however, to move away from San Diego, so I've just had to get used to not being able to grow all those subtropicals anymore. But now, 500 miles farther north on the cool, windblown, salty coast, I've still got hundreds of my favorite plants in my garden. Good thing I like a wide variety of plants! You want me to choose one plant? It's pretty hard for me to imagine a garden of only one plant! But if I had to, it would be Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). 'Tuscan Blue' is the most common variety, but there are lots more, and they're all a little different. They're all quite handsome and serviceable evergreen shrubs that need little to no watering once established, and have pretty blue flowers to boot. I always include rosemary branches in bouquets for their fragrance, which is for "remembrance," according to Shakespeare. And if you like to cook chicken or turkey, well, there's no sense in even trying to cook your bird without using fresh rosemary stems!

    Jeanne Meadow: I can't imagine my garden without Golden Barrel cacti. This would surprise Steve McDearmon, the designer, as I was adamant about wanting NO cacti in my garden. Now it is a love affair. I have them in every area, including the driveway. While planting my steep driveway with them, one slipped out of the burlap and bounced to the bottom of the hill. It was in perfect condition, so we rolled it back in the burlap and into the position where it is today. These plants are hardy, and add a pop of bright yellow all year; it seems nothing bothers them, from frost to insects. Slow growers, they stay put and don't need grooming.

    Steve Harbour: This is a tough call because there are so many plants I would not live without. But I’d choose cacti and succulents. In my early 20’s I moved my small cactus collection (about 20 – 25 pieces) to Lake Tahoe, where they survived a cold and snowy winter set beside a wood-burning stove. Then I went back to Southern California for a while before moving again, this time to Sebastopol, in Sonoma County. This was when I began working in nurseries, so my collection expanded. Then back to San Diego, where many went into the ground for the first time. Five years later we moved to Alpine, so I dug up all the cacti and succulents and moved them to where I currently live. I have somewhere between 500 – 700 cacti and succulent plants now, a few still surviving from my early collection.

  • Wed, January 01, 2014 9:40 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Bill Homyak, a board member and also the Program Coordinator of the Landscape and Nursery Technology at Southwestern College, had provided this detailed reply:

    Underground sprinkler control wires can be a pain, especially when they were not installed in the ground correctly. These wires only carry 24 volts, so they can legally and safely be directly buried in the ground without protective conduit. However, when they come out of the ground to join up with the controller, they should always be encased in a conduit pipe.

    Most professional installers will bury the wire directly under the main line pipes that supply the valves. If they install the main line pipe at the proper depth of 18”, then accidentally hitting the wires should never or very rarely occur. Sometimes they have to put them under a lateral pipe (a pipe that is downstream of a control valve), but even here the wires will be buried at 12” deep if the installer installed the lateral pipes at the proper depth.

    However, there are times when these wires are in a trench all by themselves. Hopefully they were installed at least 12”, deep but I have seen some lazy installations where they were only buried a few inches down. In this case, wire accidents are bound to happen.

    Your best bet when discovering a poorly installed wiring system would be to remove the shallow wires and replace them into a deeper trench. Of course, this is a lot of work. I had one situation where I could not replace the entire wire system, but took out the shallow wires in the part of the landscape that the client wanted to frequently dig in. We had to cut the wires in two places and then re-route and re-dig them into a new deeper trench. This brings up a very important point:

    Whenever you cut or break wires out in the landscape, make sure you do two things. First, encase all your new wire connections in water-proof splice connectors that you get from your local irrigation supply dealer. A simple wire nut and electrical tape will not do the job, and wire nuts that have gel in them also don’t work well. Second, wherever you have to make any splices or repairs, cover those areas with a small round valve box. You never want to bury any splices with just soil, as you want to be able to find all splices that have been made out in the landscape should future wire problems occur.

    One final idea would be to encase wires that might be frequently hit in conduit. Use grey schedule 80 PVC conduit pipe for this so that the pipe is not confused with an irrigation pipe.

    Barbara Patterson: Sadly, I haven't marked anything, so I'm really, really, really looking forward to these answers. Not marking the location of bulbs, etc. does, however, provide some wonderful surprises!

    Cheryl Leedom: I take photos of the underground wiring and irrigation lines as they’re being installed. It shows me where they are for future planting and also for maintenance on the systems. I’ve found this to be invaluable and a real time saver. Not so lucky with the bulbs. Looking forward to seeing others’ ideas for this one.

    Marilyn Wilson: Alas, those little colored flags you buy at Home Depot don't hold up to the weather. I take cut flowers with me for visiting friends, the doctor, and the library. My garden is virtually inaccessible to visitors, so it doesn't have to look presentable. Most of irrigation and wiring is above ground; the fountain and all lights are solar anyway. For patches of bulbs, I outline with rocks. I will be interested to see how others solve the problem. I would really like colored flags to mark areas that need attention for another day, since my short-term memory was stolen by the government when they issued my Medicare card.

    Sue Fouquette: I have accidently sliced bulbs a number of times. When we moved here 26 years ago, Charley was using our rototiller, and white PVC and gopher fur were flying. I was dying laughing. We haven’t had a gopher since.

    Gerald D. Stewart: Thirty years ago, irrigation time clock direct burial wire was placed under the PVC pipes when the system was installed. Later, wires were covered with 8’ lengths of extruded aluminum that were part of a system for holding double poly covers on the greenhouse roofs, back when the greenhouses were heated. Both have been successful in preventing wire damage. A more easily obtained solution would be to put the wire in PVC conduit. For marking bulbs I use PawPaw Label Company’s zinc labels to mark the spot. 

    Gary Raub: Our low voltage garden wiring follows under and along the brick mow strip and/or along and under the edge of walkway hardscape. This took some planning early on when the yard was designed, but it makes the wiring location easy to remember.

    Dale Serafin: I use zinc labels purchased at the Green Thumb Nursery and write in them with an oil based, thin point, black Sharpie.

    Tena Navarrete: My partner suggested making a map of your yard. He is a contractor and does this for his projects.

    Vivian Blackstone: I try to leave a telltale sign. For example, with iris, I trim them back but leave three little spikes sticking up until they grow another season. For several others I draw a sketch of the placement in the garden, and check back to see what's there.

    Katrin Utt: I just use ordinary metal plant signs labeled "Bulbs here." I dig up some of the bulbs every two years to thin them out. 

    Dan Petersen: From long experience I've learned to put valve wiring in 1/2" electrical PVC. If I don't accidentally slice it, my garden assistants do, even after warning. When I install wire I also install multi-strand wire, because I inevitably need it. Virtually all of my low-voltage lines get compromised within two years. I believe in lots of mulch, so beds are not static.

    Susi Torre-Bueno: I mark my bulbs (actually, I do this for all my plants) with what is sold as a “Rose Label” from Paw Paw Everlast Label Company ( I’ve been using these for at least 20 years, and they’re amazingly rugged. The part you write upon, called a zinc nameplate, is 1-1/4” tall x 3-1/2” wide. This is enough room for me to write the Latin name and the date it was planted. I write this information twice. On the front of the label I write it first in a #2 pencil (which lasts virtually forever) and then go on top of this with a Deco Color opaque paint marker (I like a black fine line size). Then, I repeat the plant info on the reverse side in pencil only.  The marker fades after 4-5 years, but the pencil should remain legible forever, so the info is always on the back even if it disappears from the front. I have found that Sharpie-type markers fade very quickly and using just the #2 pencil is sometimes hard to see.

 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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