Sharing Secrets  

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

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

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

  • Sun, December 01, 2013 9:37 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Gerald D. Stewart says: Priorities can change in an instant, but at this moment the absolute top thing to do for the garden in 2014 is to continue putting the automated irrigation systems in order. Most were done 30 years ago when I assumed I’d forever remember what I did, so nothing was documented. Now there are time clocks that won’t function (control wires that aren’t labeled is a big issue among the 14 time clocks that control irrigation for the garden and nursery, another is the location of master valves). The second most important project is to continue to prepare a place for a plant before it is purchased: too often impulse purchases don’t get planted and die in the pot. The third intention for next year is to occasionally make time to wander the acre with only a mug of tea in hand – not a clipboard to make a list of work to be done – and simply enjoy the various gardens.

    Candace Kohl is giving top priority to roses: I heard a talk by Tom Carruth on the Rose Garden at the Huntington and how they water with overhead spray sprinklers and find it helps with pests. I am thinking of converting my base-of-the-rose bubblers to that kind of irrigation and will see if it helps in my garden. I have spent a lot of sweat, time, and money on my garden over the past year and have things in pretty good order right now. I would like to stay more on top of maintenance next year especially with regard to fertilizer. My main to-do item is the same as last year's – to enjoy the garden more, spend more time just hanging out in it, and to do a better job of seeing the flowers instead of just the weeds.

    Katrin Utt shared “Things I am planning to do and not do in my garden”:  1) Clean up and get rid of plants that were disappointing. 2) Revamp flowerbeds and add lots of supplements like alfalfa, cottonseed meal, and mulch. 3) Make a firm resolve NOT to impulse buy new plants that I have no room for. 4) Rehab all the pots. 5) Pray for rain! 6) Make friends with the rabbits. They love carrots. If you can't beat them, feed them!

    Vivian Blackstone sent us her plans: 1) Build a terrace in front of the house, because I had a water leak and had to remove a 4' wide x 20' long x 4' high stone planter.  I have an enormous amount of soil left and a terrace seemed like a good idea; some plants will go in pots near the terrace, the plants that need shade will go in pots for the shade area. 2. Grow more tomatoes and veggies in 15-gallon containers. 3. Give away a lot of flowers and other plants, no room left for them.

    Terrie Butler shared her top 3 things to do in 2014: 1) Remove ornamentals with high water needs and replace with California natives. 2) Replace all overhead sprinklers with water efficient rotators. 3) Attract more pollinators by adding native plants and bee nesting sites. 

    Annie Urquhart will be busy in 2014: I would replace the rotten post on my pergola and create a new space for another vegetable garden. Also, create new cuttings.

    Jo Lynn Campbell has some ambitions plans: 1) Take out all 40 of my rose bushes and reinvigorate, replace, and add soil to the area. The last time this was done was 24 years ago. 2) Pull all the ground cover, such as red apple, out of the native growth like the lemonade berry bushes and jojobo bushes. 3) Last but not least, check my watering systems as I now have a lot of succulents and don't need the water but the systems still go on.

    Sharon Corrigan wrote that she is: getting rid of a raised flowerbed and most concrete in the patio. I think the bed was actually a pond and gets moldy and I hate it. There are areas of bad drainage that need to be fixed, and repairs on the irrigation system.

    Tony Foster also is going to watch his water bill: 1) Redo the irrigation. 2) Install flagstone. 3) Take out the lawn & install low water landscape.

    Cathy Tylka says she hopes to use some of #3 on #1: 1. Plant a slope that is empty with plants that can take full sun, low water and will grow on slope (I’m thinking aloes, fire sticks, jade, sedum...). 2. Cut back many items that should have been trimmed a year ago. 3. Tear out anything that is overgrowing on the ground and taking over other plants.

    Marilyn Wilson has these 3 top goals: 1) Spray fruit trees: I missed doing it the last two winters and my trees are buggy. This year I WILL spray. 2) Spread mulch: I have a huge pile of chipped trees and plenty of places that need it (and I want to use THAT space to plant pretty flowers). 3) Water the drought-tolerant plants once a month in the summer: "drought-tolerant" does NOT mean "never thirsty."

    Al Myrick wrote: Our place is a jungle. Everything that survives THRIVES! Our top three things to do in our garden jungle are: #1 PRUNE. #2 PRUNE, and #3 PRUNE. The "whys" are: more light to the plants, more invigorating for the plants, and it will keep the fire hazard people off our backs.

    Gayle Olson’s top 3 are: 1. Get control of the citrus minor. 2. Replace several diseased beyond repair fruit trees. 3. Spend more time in the hot house with the orchids and platyceriums.

    Sue Ann Scheck is another gardener with a slope: 1) I want to complete our slope landscape. We just installed Arctotis 'Wine' (silvery leaves and wine colored flowers with a contrasting dark central eye). I have great expectations for this hybrid African Daisy. Also installed Westringia ‘Wynyabbie Gem’, a medium size shrub with fine green foliage and lilac flowers. (Here's hoping they make it!) 2) We want more grasses of varied colors and habits (height a max of 12”: silvery gray, green, curling grasses and wine grasses).  3) We need to plant out our back area, clean up the succulents that  have expired, and, as always, add new and varied succulents to our garden!

    Lorie Johansen plans to: Reduce maintenance, reduce maintenance and reduce maintenance. Gone with the water loving roses, gone with many cacti that inflict much pain, gone with fussy plants that require too much attention. In with low maintenance plants: phormiums, bromeliads, and salvias. In with time to spend with our new Turkish Van kittens, Zoomer and Boomer.

    Julia Erikson is researching plants: We've just finished our fire rebuild. We are putting in a natural pool that uses plants to keep the water clean instead of salt or chlorine. Then we will be ready to landscape. We want a very Zen style Japanese landscape, so right now we are researching what plants will be perfect for the space.

    Susi Torre-Bueno also wants to reduce maintenance: My plans for 2014 include replacing more moderate-water plants with low-water succulents. I hope to plant more succulent groundcovers to reduce weeding chores. Also, there is a trellis to be built for some Mexican vines and simple edging (of used Mexican-style roof tiles) to go around many garden beds.

    Anne Murphy has big plans: 1) Make the raised beds for my blueberries deeper because I need to be able to retain more moisture in the beds. 2) Get steps to go up one side of the steep bank behind my house and improve the switchback at the other end, because my ankles are getting grouchy at dealing with the steep slope. 3) Finish off several of the pathways that have been started in my garden because I am not happy looking at unfinished projects.

    Susan D’Vincent shared this with us: I'd say the top 3 are to get rid of the Bermuda grass, get rid of the gophers and then revamp the landscaping in the back yard.  (Now that it's actually written down and out in print, I hope that's enough incentive for me to stick to it.)

    Susan Krzywicki may be more of a realist than some of us: My top priority for 2014: don't put any new items on my list till I clear off at least half of what is there!

    Annie Morgan wrote: My garden is in transition once again.  Over the last five years it's gone from 1500 sq. ft. of lawn to 300 sq. ft. (had to appease my hubby), and was replanted with succulents, colorful foliage and drought tolerant plants. During the last two years it's been modified as some plants got too large, and I've added lots more succulents. This summer I got into butterfly, bird, and bee gardening and we successfully raised over 100 Monarch butterflies! The To Do List includes: 1 - Continue adding host and nectar plants for the butterflies, and lots of year round flowering plants for the hummers and bees. 2 - Finish an inventory of my succulents by family, genus, and species, with notes about winter/summer growers, water and sun needs and limits, and hopefully a photo of each. I have been to the Dave's Garden website, but find it cumbersome, so would love to know of any apps to do this if anyone has found one! 3 - Repot succulents still in plastic nursery pots and then display them in groups around the yard by genus so care is easier.  4 - Finish organizing my potting bench and garden storage areas. This will also include cleaning and sharpening tools. Whew! I'm already tired just thinking about all there is to do. Luckily we can work year round in San Diego County!

    Steve Brigham is getting his friends into gardening: Well, I did all the right things 4 and 3 years ago, and now my garden pretty much takes care of itself. Even the vegetables and flower pots are easy, since I've developed efficient techniques which make even their care low-maintenance. And so that means that it's time for me to focus even more on my friends and neighbors. Next year's garden is all about them, and their specific needs. Who knows what trouble I'll get into? So the three things I'll do in the garden next year are 1) show my friends my garden, 2) find some plants they really like, and they can grow, and 3) make it happen for them! There are lots of folks you know that love the flowers and fresh vegetables that you give them, and you know they'd just love to try and grow some of these plants themselves. The secret here is that you have to think small: most times, these folks aren't thinking about a whole yard, they're only thinking about a few plants! Help them to succeed fully with that modest initial aim, and that success may just inspire them to do more! Be prepared to do much of the initial work, and make sure that regular watering happens the first year, even if you have to do it yourself sometimes. Make it a friendship project, never miss a house call, and aim for perfection! It's the success you're after, the type of gardening success that can eventually make a new gardener. And if you can trade them for something they can do for you, so much the better! Isn't that what we all used to envision in college? Isn't that what everyone did before the "modern age"?

    Kate Engler will be busy: 1) Replace/Update my drip system to ensure water usage is appropriate.  2) Amend my soil to encourage plant vigor.  3)Look for non-chemical means to eradicate grasshoppers and caterpillars. 

    Katie Pelisek is another member replacing a lawn: 1) Take the lawn out of my front yard because I'm wasting too much water and all that space to plant. 2) Keep up with killing the Bermuda grass in the dog's small lawn in the back because it is insidious. 3) Follow Pat Welsh's instructions for fertilizing my citrus because they are so neglected!

    Tom Biggart shared his plans: 1) Mulch, mulch, mulch. I have a huge pile of mulch that just needs to be spread around. Is there anyone out there who wants to help? 2) Think of some way to stop the dog from digging nests all around the garden beneath low overhanging shrubs. The only thing I can think of is clumps of chicken wire! 3) Plant, plant, plant. This is the best time of the year to do that. Just today I planted a bunch of Senecios in the front garden that the dog had dug up in the back while making a nest! Isn't life a joy?

    Ken Selzer mentioned one goal: Get better at growing herbs/vegetables from seeds.

    Ron Hurov said: My top priorities are: 1) Plant and propagate more Pittosporum resiniferum (the gasoline tree), which I introduced to the US in 1977, and the sweet Mexican sweet plant (Lippia dulcis), which I obtained from Susi Torre-Bueno last meeting. 2) Plant winter crops in my TJ community garden plot. 3) Plant more Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea).

    Nancy Ryantold us of four projects in her garden: 1) Lay a layer of mushroom compost over all garden beds and around all fruit trees. 2) Lay a layer of mulch (ground tree trimmings, branches and leaves). 3) Trim back the fruit trees. Raise their skirts and seriously prune back to a smaller size; less fruit, more water for the new size. 4) Start a worm farm so I can make worm tea! Okay, I wrote four. There is always something to do to make the garden/ yard better!

    Keith Rowley listed two priorities: Plant drought tolerant plants in front yard, and control pest problems with Bougainvillea and other plants.

    Sue Lasbury said: Wish there were only three things to do, but the top three would include: 1) Checking each zone of my drip irrigation system making sure they are still functioning and away from the base of the plant.  At the moment the system is off and will probably stay that way into the new year if we get rain. 2) Replace plants that continue to do poorly. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to nurse plants that really don't want to be in my garden. 3. Make sure all my Asclepias (milkweed) are healthy and add more to attract even more Monarch butterflies in 2014. My garden was filled with them this year.  

    Jeanne Meadow is going to remove, some, add some, and enjoy!: 1) I am on a mission to reduce the amount of ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) on our hillsides. It takes plenty of water and triple 15 fertilizer to keep it looking great, so out it comes! I am using various size rocks and mulch as the new ground cover, and adding lots of hearty agave pups from other places in my garden.  2) I am also planning to boost my herb garden. Fresh herbs are expensive to buy and they never are as good as the ones from your own garden, which make everything taste better. This is important, as I need all the help I can get in the kitchen! I have limited space in my raised beds, so I will skip carrots and artichokes to make room for some new additions, like capers and ginger. 3) And, finally, enjoy my garden even more. I love being in my garden and sharing it with others. I need to plan get-togethers centered in and around the garden and take a daily stroll through it… with some wine of course!

    Mary Yan-Lee shared her plans: 1) Get bigger pots because plants are growing big! 2) Start a bonsai pot; I’ve got a bonsai pot and have been thinking about it for a long time! 3) Start planning /designing for the slope in the back, because it's there and I need fruit trees!

    Jane Boler is also thinking about potted plants: 1) Add a lemon tree. 2) Combine some of my pot plant materials to cut water consumption. 3) Discover more color in my succulent selection

    Susan & Frank Oddo wrote about their garden (where we held the Volunteer Appreciation Party this year). Birdsong's 2014 To Do list: 1) Reduce water usage even more. The upper and middle creek sections in the lower succulent garden will be allowed to dry out, leaving boulders and smooth river rock in dry creek beds. The lower pond, where the bronze crane sculptures fish for mosquito fish and water lilies abound, will be converted to a self-sustaining pond with a balanced ecosystem that will allow the fish, plants, snails and frogs to thrive naturally. 2) Remove plants prone to diseases or pests and needing lots of care to keep them healthy. With three acres to maintain (and we are not getting any younger) this is an increasing imperative. 3) The amount of time devoted to cleaning up Torrey pine needle drop DAILY, from August to November, has reached the tipping point of frustration. Those of you who generously volunteer your time to SDHS and were at this year's VAP saw first-hand what we contend with annually. The big debate is by how much we will reduce the branching structure. Frank says 30% and Susan says 50%.

    Sharon May will be eating purple from her garden: 1) Plant more of Southern Seed Exchange's "All Purple" sweet potato ( Easy to grow and, with the color of a purple crayon both inside and out, they are gorgeous on the plate! A tad less sweet than the orange variety and with a nuance of bacon flavor, they are delicious. The lush green vines do take space, however. 2) This year, I experimented with a "no till" method in my raised veggie bed by not turning over the soil and just adding organics to just the top rather than working it in. The results were not impressive. The soil developed a striation that stopped the water from flowing through. I'm back to the old method of working compost into the soil. 3) Adding more low voltage night lighting so we can enjoy the cheery garden view even during long winter nights.  

    Cielo Foth has big plans: 1) Zero waste in the garden. I’m buying a heavy wood chipper/shredder (up to 3"); it will be very useful in minimizing (if not eliminating) any greenery recyclables from leaving my garden. The mulch it makes will be used to keep weeds down and retain moisture around the plants. Anything that comes out of my garden has to be carried all the way up the hill, so this will save time going up and down the steps. I would like to mulch all bare soil in the garden or plant drought tolerant, low growing and walkable ground covers. 2) Organize all garden tools in the Tuffshed in the backyard so they're safe from inclement weather, should last longer, and be easier to find when needed.  The Tuffshed has a window and a skylight that can be used to keep young and fragile potted plants from the cold. It's already making gardening simpler. 3) Remove and/or replace underperforming fruit trees. With all the work we put in the garden, there are expectations of a good tasting fruit from every fruit tree. If we don't like its fruit, then that tree will be removed and given away. 

    Wanda Bass wrote: In the fall I like to prepare my flower/rose gardens by: 1) adding composted manure; 2) adding leaves and bark clippings; 3) controlling weeds.

    Mollie Allan said: My top 3 things are: 1) to replace some dead California natives, 2) cut back my overgrown Pride of Madeira and, 3) cut back two beautiful bougainvilleas.

    Una Marie Pierce is improving several things: 1) Upgrade soil in vegetable garden and replant retaining at least half the strawberry plants. 2) Check and fix any problems with the irrigation. Maybe get a new controller, since mine is over six years old. 3) Thin out plants that are overgrowing each other.

  • Fri, November 01, 2013 9:36 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Lorie Johansen swapped plants for solar power: We removed part of our garden. As you can see by the before photos, there were many succulents to remove to prepare for the photovoltaic installation. Naturally, these plants had the most ferocious spines and glocids. Two months later, I am still removing them! The plants went to a new home in the neighborhood, creating a fire-resistant landscape that was previously an acre of fire hazard.

    Candace Kohl’s garden was happy: My garden did just fine without any extra care this summer. That is a good thing, since I was traveling most of the time and couldn't monitor things myself. Sometimes less care is best.  

    Katrin Utt did some amending: I mulched, mulched and mulched and then I mulched again! My plants loved it and did fine.

    Ellen McGrath-Thorpe planned in advance: Before I had surgery on 8/1, I really got the garden in great condition. Since then, the garden has been growing by leaps and bounds with benign neglect and no extra water, in fact less water than usual! All I can think is the Great God of Gardens is watching out for me and my garden!

    Tandy Pfost is a tough-love gardener: I only spot watered a little extra. The irrigation only runs two times a week. I have decided that if a plant is water needy it just might have to go away. It was also time to add another thick layer of mulch.

    Christy Woodbridge has a helper and upgrader: I didn't do anything. Had total knee replacement in early summer, so my husband was on watering duty. He is currently re-working/upgrading the entire landscaping to drip (drip and micro-sprinklers). We have an 18-station irrigation controller for our 2/3-acre property.

    Carol Bain Wilson has a reminder for future hot spells: At the Mission Hills Garden Club meeting last week, Tiger Palafox suggested that we NOT water during the day when plants look stressed from the Santa Ana winds. Early morning watering can be taken up by the plants, but they are too stressed in midday to absorb water and they droop more.

    Carol Costarakis’ garden fared quite well: We hand watered for the most part. We have just entered into a new watering mode: an operational automated watering  system and irrigation people on board for 3 days.

    Al Myrick also has a happy garden: We call our place the Darwinian Wilderness! I am the Drip System (nothing automatic). Only when a few of the very vulnerable plants cry out do I give extra water. We are north-facing, on a canyon, with heavy canopy cover, including a small conifer forest, a dozen native trees, and a number of giant blue gum eucalyptus. Mostly everything did well.

    Marilyn Wilson provided extra shade: One new camellia apparently didn't need as much sun as it was getting. So I positioned a large trashcan to shade it until it's better established. Problem solved.

    Louise Anderson nurtured her veggies: I actually got a few nice tomatoes. To help? Weed, weed, weed. 

    Gerald D. Stewart notes that: The garden fared well, with the exception of a Pittosporum tenuifolium cultivar – ‘Jessica’s Gold’ – that croaked overnight during the one and only heat wave. He looks at losses like this as ongoing tuition at the University of Gardening, learning what will and won’t live in the various microclimates on the property. Other Pittosporum tenuifoliumcultivars (‘Elizabeth’, ‘Black Lace’, ‘Harley Botanica’, ‘LImelight’, and ‘Tandara Gold’) have done the same in the past, never to be repurchased. ‘Gold Sheen’, ‘Gold Star’, ‘Irene Patterson’, ‘Majorie Channon’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Silver Sheen’, and ‘Wrinkled Blue’ have proven to be sturdier. Some plants, like Lantana ‘Greg Grant’, are covered with shade cloth in the heat to prevent death. They are in a spot that will eventually be shaded by another plant, so eventually the extra effort will not be needed. While not limiting new plants to known drought-tolerant natives, plants that don’t meet expectations are removed. (Vitex trifolia f. purpurea ‘Fascination’ is drought tolerant but grows too vigorously, for example.) There are more desired plants than room on the acre to house them, so if something doesn’t like the conditions here, it should die quickly and make room for something that will thrive.

    Annie Urquhart had mixed results: My tomatoes were not that productive even through I bought the more expensive Mighty ‘Mato’ Tomato at $15.99. While I was away for two weeks, I just used the dripper on everything else and we had enough humidity, thank goodness.

    Mia McCarville had enough food to preserve: My summer was spent canning surplus fruits starting in late May with Eva's Pride peaches, Mid Pride peaches, Royal apricot, and Dapple Dandy pluots to name a few. Also, I tried a few varieties of dried beans like Cherokee Trail of Tears, Yellow Eyes, and White Navy. They were the easiest, least time consuming crop in my veggie garden.

    Dale Serafin created some shade: Since it is a raised garden bed, I placed a large piece of dark screening over the box. This provided shade during the hot part of the day. I stapled a long piece of wood on each end of the screening, thus allowing easy access to removing and replacing the screening.

    Sandra Knowles hand-watered: Mostly been attentive to watering, since we do not have automation here, it really is attention to the plants’ needs. The water bill was a little higher this summer compared to last year, but we have had a drier year. Also, I did minimal fertilizing and pruning, saving the majority of these activities until a few months from now.

    Judy Keller didn’t have the worst heat: I live in the coolest area of the county (Point Loma, between ocean and bay), so I was very lucky. It still was very hot here, but nothing like everyone else had. However, I must add, it's not always lucky here, because if the cloud cover is around it hits us here first and often stays all day. More often than not, I am envious of you all who have the SUN! 

    Charlotte Getz is pleased with her drip irrigation: We installed Netafim drip irrigation for all our trees and they are on a separate station, which works very well. For the other shrubs, I mulched everything well to keep the roots cool. For the succulents, I use a cactus/succulent mix as a mulch for both potted and in-ground plants. They get watered by drip irrigation. Everything has done well. My roses are ready to go to sleep; very few are blooming now.

    Cindy Sparks had mixed success: In Point Loma it was finally nice and warm, so my tomato was a success. Nothing extra needed, just the heat lovers did better. Squash and melons died, however, and I think I need to check their watering depth more carefully.

    Alex Lee changed locations: I moved some potted plants to the shade of the patio!

    Ron Hurov’s plants are happy: My garden did very well this hot summer. I’m a wild gardener and allow my plants to survive on their own without the help of man. No water, fertilizer, pruning, etc. I usually plant drought tolerant tropical-looking plants that have vasicentric tracheids for their water piping system. (Vasicentric tracheids are the water conducting tissue in the wood near the cambium and have thicker walls and fewer pits than normal tracheids, and are thus a drought survival mechanism in plants of dry areas. For an article about this see I prefer plants that are our ancestral natives and come from North Pacific Asia and Pacific Central America. I also like South African plants. I believe we over-pamper and overwater our plants.

    Vivian Blackstone coped with the heat in several ways: I dug up and moved sensitive plants into pots in the shade. I sometimes watered again in the evening and watered with water I saved several times a day from the kitchen sink. I also saved shower water in buckets.  I gathered the dropped leaves under the trees to make a thicker pile of mulch. If the pile gets to high, I rake leaves and put them in the composter.

    Diane Scharar watered more than she meant to: My garden did well because I accidentally programmed the water to come on twice, once on schedule A and again on schedule B, which showed me that water does wonders for dry plants. 
  • Tue, October 01, 2013 9:32 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    We had a LOT of people who listed the Sunset Western Garden Book among their favorites:

    Lisa Dumolt: My long time favorite is still the Sunset Western Garden Book, copyright 1954, in particular the 7th printing in 1957. The detail of information, drawings and wide range of plant material covered in this book make it a reliable primer for any gardener. I picked it up at a garage sale years ago and still find myself going back and looking things up several times a year. I would not give this book up for any of the others I've seen.

    Chuck Ades (our 2008 Horticulturist of the Year): I only have one favorite gardening book: the Sunset Western Garden Book. I have used it for almost 50 years. I use it when I am looking at plants that I like, but don't know if they will be good in my garden. When I first moved to this area, it helped me decide what fruit trees I wanted to try and it taught me to check for chilling requirements of different fruit trees and also such plants as lilacs, peonies, etc. I am always looking for new plants. They update their book and add more information every few years. The book keeps getting larger every printing. I even use it when I plan on visiting a new area in the Western states, to know what to expect to find in their botanical gardens. Any gardener will always find it helpful when moving to a new area. It would be a great welcome gift to give a new gardener or a gardener that has just moved to a new area.

    Steve Brigham (our 2009 Horticulturist of the Year): Well that's easy ... The Sunset Western Garden Book is by far the best plant book ever for us, and if you only have one gardening book, that's all you need. I'm extremely partial to the 2001 "millennial" edition, which was as close to perfection as we may ever see (their next edition had poor graphic design and fell way short of the 2001 edition, except that it had a big photo of my old Buena Creek Gardens Bird and Butterfly Garden, which is why I guess you should have that one too!) The Sunset Western Garden Book is an excellent reference for most all of our ornamental plants and at least our most common edible plants. But what if you want to know about some new or weird vegetable, or all of the major apple varieties, or every type of broccoli, or all of the culinary herbs? That's where Cornucopia II comes in, for it describes nearly every edible plant variety on Earth. Written by Vista's own Stephen Facciola, and first published in 1998 by Kampong Publications, Vista, this very reasonably priced 700+ page reference lists just about every variety of edible plant that you're ever likely to encounter, and I often use it for identification of "mystery plants" as well as for help in ordering seeds. If you grow plants for use other than just ornamental, you really ought to have this book!

    Linda Bresler: My favorite gardening book (even though I have found errors in it) is the Sunset Western Garden Book. It doesn't have every plant that grows in Southern California, but it has a lot of them. It is concise and provides all of the necessary information such as climate zones, water needs, plant sizes, and special notes such as if the plant is poisonous. It also has useful lists of plants for different situations in the front of the book. My second choice is Debra Lee Baldwin's trio of books on succulents. They provide a lot of useful information about succulents, as well as having beautiful photos of the succulents by themselves and in the landscape. If I am allowed a third choice, it would be Bob Perry's Landscape Plants for California Gardens. This book weighs a ton, but has the best photos of plants for our area.

    Una Marie Pierce: Having so many garden books - large and small - that I love, it's hard to pick my favorites. I would say I most often consult The Complete Book of Cacti & Succulents and the Sunset Western Garden book. I use the Sunset Western Garden Book to look up plants I've got and/or seen and want to find out what they need to thrive. Also, my father used to write for Sunset, so I feel very close to it. I use both books to identify plants.

    Kathleen Slayton: The Sunset Western Garden Book, The American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening, Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening.

    Tammy Schwab: My first go to garden book is the Sunset Western Garden Book... lives up to it's claim as the Ultimate Gardening Guide. Why? It is applicable to our area with tons of info and great pictures! My second favorite is the A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, an amazing reference tool and pictures, but too huge to cart around.

    Joe Boldt: While not as in-depth about specific varieties of plants such as salvias, the Sunset Western Garden Book is still the first place I go to find plant information. For sheer, useful information, The Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medical Use is at the top of my list. While it lacks a bit on hydroponic technique, it is super informative. It also doesn't ramble on as many texts about the subject do, as if their authors were writing while stoned.

    Barbara Clark: Number 1 favorite is The New Sunset Western Garden Book, published in 2012, because it was given to me as a gift by my youngest son, Douglas, because he recognizes my love of plants and gardening. Also, it’s a great reference book. Number 2 favorite is The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, revised edition 2004. I can look at any page in this book and be amazed by something I read there such as “Eucalyptus: Myrtaceae, Genus of over 500 species of evergreen trees and shrubs…” If I could have only one garden book, this would be it. Don’t plan on reading it in bed. It is huge!

    Connie Forest: It's got to be the Sunset Western Garden Book and Pat Welch's original book (Pat Welsh’s Southern California Gardening). They are both targeted to this area and contain the most useful information for this region. I have owned and read many, many garden books but these are the ones I consult first and when I was having to rid myself of too many garden books, these are the ones I couldn't part with.

    Another very popular book was written by Pat Welsh, the SDHS Horticulturist of the Year for 2003:

    Paula Eoff: I've been using Pat Welsh's Southern California Organic Gardening for the most part. It has so much info that I can readily use. And for pest control, I like Deardorff & Wadsworth, What's Wrong With My Plant?

    Dale Rekus: The top two are Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening and Sunset's Western Gardening Book. The first one is because it is one of the few books written specifically for San Diego conditions and not written generically for Southern California (Los Angeles) conditions. The second one because it is great for plant identification as well as cultural practices. Also, the San Diego County Master Gardeners use it as their primary reference.

    Gerald D. Stewart says the first of his two favorites is Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening because, after a life of being a nurseryman, he needs a lot of help gardening out in the yard. Pat’s done it for decades and carefully provides the details with the whys and how-tos. The second is David Fairchild’s The World Was My Garden, because after a couple of decades of reading it the impact remains. Things like smuggling date palms and stumbling across the Meyer Lemon are two memories from the first read. It is a fascinating tale of how a lot of the plants we now have in the United States got here, told by a USDA plant explorer from a hundred years ago.

    Katrin Utt: I have two book shelves full of garden books. My favorites are Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening and the Sunset Western Garden Book. There is always something or some plant I want to know about. I also save all my Let's Talk Plants and enjoy reading them again. They contain a treasure trove of helpful information. You're never too old to learn something new!

    These folks mentioned some other fascinating titles:

    Lisa Bellora: My two favorite "go to" books for plant ideas are Nan Sterman's California Gardener's Guide, Vol. II and Bob Perry's Landscape Plants for California Gardens.

    Ida Rigby: My two favorite gardening books are Carol Olwell's Gardening from the Heart:  Why Gardeners Garden, and Vita Sackville-West's Some Flowers. Olwell's book is the voice of 21 gardeners; we recognize ourselves everywhere in that book. The four sections are: The Garden as Paradise, The Garden as Provider, The Garden as Teacher, and The Garden as Healer.  Sackville-West's book is also from a gardener's heart, a poetic gardener's heart, celebrating the garden, flower by flower.

    Sandy Parish: The first of my two favorite books is California Gardener's Guide, Volume II, by Nan Sterman. I like this book because it is specific to California and explains everything one would need to know about the plant as well as companion planting. The second favorite is Designing with Succulents, by Debra Lee Baldwin. This is a great book for one just starting to learn about and plant succulents, and it has beautiful photos for identification purposes.

  • Sun, September 01, 2013 9:30 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Bruce Hubbard’s surprise was reptiles: I have had an outbreak of California Tree Frogs. They are everywhere. I have to look constantly to avoid stepping on them. These are the first ones that I have seen since the fires of 2007, after which they virtually disappeared. I imagine that this is the sign of a healthy garden that is pesticide free. Another surprise was the sighting to two Western Blind Snakes; they live underground, surface at night, eat ants, and can burrow down over sixty feet. They are harmless and can easily be mistaken for earthworms.

    Linda Estrin had an edible surprise: The biggest surprise in my garden this summer was the abundance of grapes on the vines that I did not have the courage to prune after searching on Youtube for lessons. So I just let them go do what they did grow huge and they have given me so many grapes! (The original scions were gotten at the rare fruit society. I had no idea how to grow them. I stuck then in a large pot & left them. I thought they were dead but did not get around to removing them. Seemed like a year later they had leaves. Two years later I put them in the ground. This year I have a huge harvest to share. Truly amazing to me ,who did not know what I was doing.) The second surprise that pleased me was/is the blooming of beautiful huge flowers (8” x 10”) inches on my dragon fruit vine. One of the flowers seemed to have the female and male parts separated and side by side. Is that normal? Third surprise: Last year I put some straw bales a neighbor salvaged and brought over for me in a square and filled the middle with cardboard, newspaper, leaves, things to compost and layered it up with some already composed soil on top of that. This year I planted squash and I am enjoying that. Squash is easy to grow you say; well, the gophers did not bother it in the straw bale garden on top of bricks.

    Tandy Pfost’s surprise has thorns: My “thornless” blackberries (at least I thought they were thornless when they were planted) naturalized into thorny ones and took over. They are huge and really good, but they are choking out the other berries I have. Now I have the prickly job of pulling them out… but lots of blackberry crisp in the freezer.

    Cynthia Stojeba had a volunteer plant: My biggest surprise this year is a very prolific volunteer jalapeno pepper plant, which is growing in the same container as my blueberry bush.

    Al Myrick did great with cuttings:  This year, all (ALL!) of my plumeria cuttings lived and many are already blooming. And so did most of my cycad pups, and so did most of my calandrinia pieces.

    Gayle Olson foiled the rabbits this year by: growing tomatoes after three years of being ticked off at the rabbits and not growing them.

    Jeannine Romero’s biggest surprise: is that I am addicted to succulents now! I became addicted since I attended Debra Lee Baldwin's talk at SDHS and read her book!

    Marilyn Wilson loves a low-water plant: I started a new garden in the Fall of 2011, and each plant got its own drip water. (Trees and shrubs got more than one, but that's another story.) Plants I brought from my old garden included three Ruellia brittoniana (Mexican petunia); this plant is a widespread invasive in Florida. Ground squirrels got two of them. The third flourished and blooms almost constantly (and provided just one offset for me to pot up for a friend). My surprise THIS YEAR was when I discovered we never gave it any drip water – all this time it survived quite nicely with only rainwater! Who knew?

    Carol Donald has great tomatoes: This year's tomato crop of Celebrity and Ace tomatoes yielded hundreds of mega size fruit and still going strong. One tomato weighed 13.8 ounces. After last year's crop of about 35 tomatoes on 5 plants, this has been an overwhelming surprise.

    Deanna McHose has excellent results from worm tea: A big and wonderful surprise came from using "worm tea" on all of the flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, cacti, and plants in general. All of the plants reacted by becoming so much healthier. Even the hibiscus bushes got nutty and produced huge vibrant blossoms, which we haven't seen in the past. The cause and effect was amazing. I highly recommend it to all gardeners. We get our worm tea from the San Diego Hydroponics store in San Marcos on Twin Oaks Valley Road.

    Judi Miller has happy vines: My three mandevilla plants (all in pots) have been blooming incredibly. They are all 3 or 4 years old and never did much, but this year they are amazing. I’ve done nothing new in the way of caring for them.

    Cheryl Hedgpeth Nichols had a fascinating comment: The biggest surprise is what one will do for love! Since our small beach house doesn't have room for my new husband's treasures, we are building a man-cave on top the garage. This entails digging up some valuable old tropical plants surrounding the garage. The city codes demand we add two unwanted feet to the sides of the garage and side by side parking for two cars right in the middle of a patio.

    Doris Payne-Camp had a lovely surprise: We knew that our Baja community was experiencing a water outage due to the political wrangling of two water companies that allegedly are supposed to be providing our water supply. When I returned after a month’s absence that included some of the summer’s hottest days, almost all of it without water in that community, I expected to find most of the garden and pots to be fried. The surprise was that the rose garden was more beautiful than it has been in recent years and the petunias were spilling over their pots. Everything else was done, although some has since recovered.

    Sue Lasbury enjoyed good growth: The biggest surprise I had this year is just how fast my garden has grown in the past several months. We installed the garden just over two years ago. At first things seemed to be moving along quite slowly. It's a beautiful native/drought tolerant garden designed by Chris Drayer. We water very little and only once the rainy season ends. Most plants have gotten so large. Makes me think I should water even less than I do.

    Heather Hazen had a flowery surprise: I love Moonflowers, and over the years have had trouble germinating the seeds. This summer, using Happy Frog Potting Soil, I have had every seed germinate. I have a flower ready to open and can't wait to go out in the evening and enjoy the scent.

    Tony Foster had an aquatic success: The water hyacinth in my pond usually die each winter. They didn't this year, and have been blooming like crazy!

    Cathy McCaw got free plants: I love this question, because I never know what is going to spring up from my compost, since it usually doesn't get hot enough to kill the seeds. A month ago I harvested 7 early pumpkins and 55 beautiful decorative gourds. Now I'm just waiting for Fall!

    Linda Jones had animal surprises: Blue birds nesting in my garden, and seeing two monarch butterfly chrysalises hanging on my window ledge above the milkweed plants.

    Nancy Kohrs has critter issues: The biggest surprise has been the increase in gopher activity in my backyard, even though we have been consistent about shoring up the main holes with sand and paving over much of our backyard. We have tried everything. We live in Sorrento Valley surrounded by the Penasquitos Preserve. I understand that olive oil is a good deterrent, too. Is this true? Our next move is to take out the existing grass (with gopher mounds) replace it with a layer of sand, ten inches deep, and then galvanized chicken wire, then add sod. We even have a barn owl box in our back yard (with babies) to cut down on the gopher activities, yet they still persist. We have changed most of our front yard into xeriscape, with succulents and rock because of rabbits. They are now in our neighbors’ yards. 

    Ron Hurov is getting ready for Halloween: Pumpkins have been the most pleasant surprise in my vegetable garden this year. I planted six 3-year old seeds in late May and I now have 30’ vines all over my back yard with ten large, 20-pound pumpkins. Maybe SDHS should consider a pumpkin growing contest each year. Also, my fourteen newly planted gasoline trees (Pittosporum resiniferum) are doing quite well. In November 2012, my son Andrew organized the removal of my no-water jungle. We hauled away two 20’ containers of debris. Nature, of course, abhors a bare space, and in no time a new jungle started emerging, with weeds, tomatoes, passion fruit, palms, feverfew, daisies, and other unidentified plants, some of which came from seeds long dormant or brought in by wind or birds.

    Sandra Knowles also succeeded with tomatoes: Loads of tomatoes are our greatest treasure this year, and a nice crop of peaches and apples on our 3-year old trees. Last year the tomatoes were a disappointment, but not this one. Bill (my hubby) dug in lots of compost from AgriService into a 4-foot square raised bed, and put in a package from Costco (one Early Girl and one heirloom (the basil didn't live). Then, with water only once a week, the tomatoes did us proud… we've been dining on them for four weeks. Yum.

    Mary Poteet was surprised by: how well the purple scaevola in my window boxes are doing – from a small plant to 2’ wide by 4’ long very quickly.

    Cassidy Rowland had a fine grafted tomato: This year we tried a green zebra heirloom tomato grafted onto root stock – all I can say is WOW! Very vigorous and prolific with happily delicious tomatoes that are yummy both freshly sliced into a salad or preserved – green zebra jam anyone?

    Stevie Hall has insect woes: The garden is full of whitefly – first time ever.

    Ann Hoeppner got a free plant: I thought it was a volunteer butternut squash, but it was a Jamaican pumpkin.

    Barbara Clark said: My biggest pleasant surprise this summer has been how cool the weather has been. My saddest surprise is that I can't grow roses in containers.

    Cindy Sparks had one winning tomato: My biggest surprise was the only tomato I planted. Living in the fog belt, I don't do many 'maters because I tend to get a puny yield. This time I chose a virgin piece of veg garden, laid in bunny manure 6 months ago, covered with mulch and let it cook. In April I got one heirloom tomato at the local garden club sale. It was a Russian, supposedly with high yield even at the coast. I almost had to jump back when the thing got started. The beast is about 10’ wide and 4’ tall, and I have been giving tomatoes away (that is a first). Makes me wish I had put a full stucco wire cage around it, but I never dreamed it would do so well. Was it the virgin land? The bunny manure? The heirloom variety? Probably all contributed, but it will be remembered as my best tomato ever. It's name: Azoychka I. Big, beefy, almost seedless, yellow with good tomato flavor.

  • Thu, August 01, 2013 9:28 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Dale Rekus makes his labels from recycled blinds: I use a Number 2 pencil (good old plain yellow pencil) on a cut-to-size piece of mini-blind. It doesn't fade and lasts a long time. Especially nice for seeds because I can add whatever data I want (date planted, moved up to bigger pots, etc.). I also like to use these for plants I donate to my garden club and, besides the binomial and common name, I include some cultural info - full sun, rich soil, moderate water, etc.

    Patti Vickery labels her roses: I purchase printed plastic labels and stakes with the names of all my rose bushes. When I enter a rose show I need to know the correct name. Any other significant plants I only list in a database on my computer. I also keep diagrams of landscape projects with names of trees and plants.  

    Laura Tezer ties on her labels: To label my plants in the garden, I use aluminum labels that I tie around each different plant. They are weather proof and light.

    Susi Torre-Bueno uses a marker for every plant: My memory is terrible, so I’m pretty compulsive about labeling each plant, and I don’t put a plant in the ground until I have the label ready. For about 18 years I’ve been very pleased with plant markers from Paw Paw Everlast Label Company ( They sell a number of different styles, including some you tie on the plants. I use their “rose labels,” which have a replaceable zinc nameplate (1-14/” high x 3-1/2” wide), and you can order from a variety of stake heights (11-1/2” works well for me); they call the label stakes “double wire standards.” You can order the labels and standards separately, too. I write on them with a regular #2 pencil or a fine line paint marker (NOT a Sharpie, which fades quickly). To ensure the plant name doesn’t fade away, I write the Latin and common name, along with the date planted, on both sides of the label. When the front fades I copy the info from the back side.

    Tandy Pfost likes a natural look: I use wooden craft sticks and pencil. They look natural and are inexpensive.

    Barb Strona has a tough love approach: I don't label my plants. I have tried metal tags that you use a gadget on, pre-printed, plastic. They all disappear, disintegrate, get lost, become illegible, or rust. I remember the first ones I planted… but if they die, I don't remember the names of their replacements. Sometimes I don't even remember planting stuff. I am definitely not a scientist nor am I a master gardener. I use the Darwinian method.  If the plant can handle too much attention followed by total neglect, starvation and then being stuffed with whatever plant food seems appropriate, then I let it stay. If it gets sick, I give it a long time to recover by itself. If it dies and isn't planted too deeply, I chuck it. Otherwise, the corpse remains in the midst of its hardier peers.

    Gerald D. Stewart says: There are multiple ways plants are labeled in the garden, both for plants in the ground and for plants in containers. Plants in the ground have zinc labels from Paw Paw Label Co. (thanks, Susi, for the lead years ago). For back-up, as planting areas are defined (the Kaleidoscopic Hedge, the Shade Hedge, the Kohuhu Hedge, Dahlia Dell, Canna Court, the Gay Glade, the Succulent Slope, etc.) a list is compiled in the computer from north to south or east to west, plus there is a field in each plant’s record in the Plant Collection file to detail location. There are several stake heights so that labels don’t have to be obvious, although plants new to me have the 18” stakes so I can see the name every time I walk by to ease memorizing the name. In containers, the nursery pot the plant is in is put in a cache pot so the roots don’t bake. The plant’s name is written on the nursery pot with a white grease pencil, and a Paw Paw mini label is usually in the pot itself for easier identification. Plants not in cache pots (stock plants, for example) have a plastic label sticking out of the soil for easy reading, plus a second plastic label for “insurance,” pushed down into the soil along the pot’s wall so it doesn’t deteriorate in the sun or break off. As an aside, Paw Paw also offers flat zinc labels with a hole and twist-em wire that I’ve found to be really handy for labeling stuff, like the location a strand of mini lights was crafted for, or what area an irrigation valve controls along with the line number and which time clock it is hooked to.

    Mary Poteet uses: white plastic T-shaped labels that you push into the ground, written in permanent marker.

    Robin Rivet got advice from a tagger: Garden graffiti anyone? Frustrated by forgetting the variety, cultivar or rootstock of a plant, even when I can remember the genus and species, I explored other people’s methods for plant labeling. I experimented with prefab metal tags using so-called “permanent” marking pens or graphite pencils, but they all faded rapidly. I also purchased the soft copper tags you can etch and hang, but I found they’re also pretty hard to read, especially over time, and they can strangle tree branches, if you’re not mindful of how you connect them.

    My latest idea is buying used silverware and wooden spoons at thrift stores, and gluing on whole or broken pottery or tiles, wood scraps, or just using an entire metal spatula or recycled stirring spoon as the label, with the handle stuck into the ground. The key is to use oil-based paint pens. I found white paint pens seemed to hold up to sunlight the best, especially against darker wood or tile colors. Long, wooden spoons currently explain my herb bed, and except for the brown oil-paint pen (which faded); the black and white markers are doing swell, and the wood stirrers proudly decree Originum dictamnus ‘Dittany of Crete oregano’, Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum - Florence fennel, and Lavandula dentata ‘Goodwin Creek Gray lavender’, for anyone fascinated by unusual herbs.

    However, the latest and greatest suggestion came from a tagger I met who worked at a craft store. He directed me to what he described as “graffiti markers.” I thought he was kidding, but sure enough, there are nifty stores that actually sell products to make street “art.” Unsure if I’m ready to be caught shopping in such a place, I haven’t bought any tagging markers yet, but I now have a large collection of stainless steel, thrift store knives for the handles, and loads of scrap tile and wood for the sign bases. Look out La Mesa, there’s a tagger loose in my backyard.

    Katie Jablonski said: I planted cucumbers in my front yard amongst the bushes and perennials. My husband is horrified. I'm eating cucumbers.

    Cindy Sparks also uses mini blinds: I believe I have a wonderful plant label system. I use old metal mini-blinds. I have two colors, one for summer growers (most plants) and one for winter growers (some succulents, or whatever other category you want). I use a plain old #2 pencil to record Latin name, common name, and anything else that's brief. I have used some of these for 3 years and the lettering has held up. They can be cut to any length, and if I inadvertently step on a length of blind, it bends but does not break. The best part: cost is zero, and they are readily available.

    Barb Potts and Nancy Gordon have gorgeous pottery markers: Since we have the convenience of a pottery studio in our yard, we have made large clay markers for all of our veggies. We start our veggies from seed, and if we want more information than just the name of the veggie, we write it on duct tape on the back of the marker. Permanent ink markers insure that the writing lasts through the watering. Once the markers are in the garden they show up well and also inform the kids, coming to summer art camp here, about what we are growing. We have a small yard and have planted much of the front yard in vegetables. We recently took out an ornamental plum in the front and put in 6 artichokes and a kabocha squash in gopher cages. They seem to be doing well!

    Susan Morse has labels with a funny name: My favorite plant marker is called DooHickey, by Yucca Do (, a Texas company that Steve Brigham told me about. They come in 2" and 3" sizes, and last forever. I find them particularly useful when I label multiple pairings of succulents in containers, à la Debra Lee Baldwin’s inspiration. I can stack up 4-5 tags and discretely tuck them behind a leaf or plant. I know they are there but they are out of sight. Using a No. 1 or No. 2 soft lead pencil, I write whatever information I want to reference, such as source of plant, cost when purchased, planting medium used, date potted up, etc. To clean off the tag to rename, I rub it with a little cleansing powder (like Comet or Soft Scrub) to remove the pencil marks and I am ready to go. The malleable end is helpful to wrap around supports, such as tomato cage wires or the chain link fencing I use to grow sweet peas in the Spring.  Even if these little guys were not so darn useful and last forever, I might buy them just because their name is so cute.

  • Tue, July 30, 2013 9:25 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Ron Vanderhoff is succeeding with a grafted veggie: My grafted tomatoes are off the charts this year. It's my third year with grafted plants (four varieties) and they are bearing heavily with no verticillium, fusarium or apparent nematode issues. 

    Jeanne Skinner does great with zucchini: It is always a wonderful year to grow zucchini and have a game of where is it in the garden. Remember: veggies love compost tea and warm winds, giving us a reason to use overhead watering in our grow plan.

    Gerald D. Stewart says: The vegetable garden is late in being planted, but tomato seeds were started awhile back and are nearing full size in quarts, ready to plant out. The seeds, purchased three years ago, germinated almost 100%. Cultivars are: Ace 55VF, Balconi Yellow, Black Sea Man, Burpee’s Long-Keeper, Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Green Zebra, Goliath Pio, Red Alert, Red Zebra, Striped Stuffer, Super Beefsteak, Super Sweet 100, Sweet Million, Tami G, a rainbow mix of cherry types, a rainbow mix of beefsteak types, and a tomato with variegated foliage! Two herbs were planted near the tomato patch. African Blue Basil grows 4’ around and nearly 4’ tall, and is full of flowers that attract hundreds of bees from March well into December. It usually survives the winters here in Vista, and lasts two to three years. Also planted was bronze fennel, which was allowed to go to seed a couple of years ago. When harvest-time came I was stunned at the huge number of tiny ladybug “alligators.” It is like a ladybug factory. The cut seed heads were laid on other plants so the larvae could scurry onto them. Once they were gone the seeds were finally collected and saved. Those seeds provided the plants that were planted this year.

    Andy Rathbone has some veggies year-round: The tarragon is doing better this year than last year’s plant. The basil’s not doing as well. I also tired of buying green onions, only to have them rot in the fridge before having a chance to eat them. So, before the last batch was about to rot, I stuck them in a glass of water. A few days later, they had roots, and a few days after that they were in the ground and doing well. When I need some green onions, I just dig down a few inches, then snip a few onions a half-inch or so above the roots. They always grow back within a few weeks, ensuring a supply of fresh green onions. The year-round gang of chives, rosemary, sorrel, thyme, and oregano are all doing well.

    Tammy Schwab is using grow bags this year: I am in the middle of a landscape makeover, so this season I am trying grow bags for my veggies and herbs. I have several heirloom tomatoes, celery, fennel, basil, parsley, oregano, eggplant, and peppers. So far so good! All were purchased from the Master Gardeners, including the grow bags. Love the grow bags!

    Barb Huntington has been very busy with: regular zucchini, some kind of pale long zucchini, a big rounder squash (can't find packets, but I know it was all organic and it tastes great). Cucumbers (several varieties), green beans, Russian kale, spinach (still going strong and hasn't bolted, chard (several types), a gazillion tomatoes (have only had a few ripe small ones), still getting wonderful peas, tomatillo, beets, carrots. Fruit: blackberries (not doing very well), strawberries, finishing up the goji berries, one single almond on the new tree, peaches, apples, avocados (the tree that came up from a discarded seed is full of avocados I can't get with the longest picker), kumquats (vast quantities), moon and stars watermelon, but I don't see any apricots. Also: fava beans, soy beans, artichokes (went past perfection while I was on vacation), many kinds of basil, marjoram, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, (sing along), kohlrabi, fennel (finishing up), onions, garlic, leeks, plus probably other stuff as I plant way too much and don't space adequately. Tonight's dinner included squash, big (but still tender) pea pods, beans, carrot, and basil from the garden and the give away bag I put out in front is gone.

    Paula Suttle tried several things with mixed results: I planted English Peas (from a Von's store package) and I got a small harvest, but very sweet. I used to plant them up a cloth net, but these were bush peas so it was simpler. Also, chamomile is doing well. I'm growing Early Girl and Big Boy tomatoes. They are not wonderful yet, but I've done my best and given them all day sun, which is becoming harder to do in my Poway garden. I grew just about 20 bush peas, mostly as an experiment to see if they would work and they were wonderful. However, they only gave 3 pods to a plant and I was used to growing long vines of them in Allied Gardens. I have mints and sages but am not a tea drinker: I grow them for my older children who are! My problem is we inherited 8 raised veggie beds put in by former owners and the neighbors' eucalyptus trees make them useless. I have a wish to make this, my favorite feature of Let’s Talk Plants, more helpful by having everyone say where they live. Then if they experience success or failure it will help to know if they have the same climate. 

    Susan Oddo is letting other farmers do some of her planting: I am planting fewer vegetables with all the farmers' markets nearby that sell wonderful organic, field-ripened product. We'll use less water, have more variety over a longer period of time, and contribute to the sustainability of our local farmers. I'll always have heirloom tomatoes, though. This year I took off all bottom growth and espaliered our six tomato plants vertically so the fruit is easy to see and pick. Also, this lets me find critters before they can do too much damage. Biggest problem is finding tall enough stakes. Next year I think I'll do a combination of horizontal and vertical espalier. The plants are doing fine with fairly aggressive removal of a lot of the non-producing leaf stems that block the sunlight from the fruit. I worried that they would suffer but they are lush, green, healthy and full of tomatoes so apparently that hasn't affected them at all. 

    Cassidy Rowland planted a good variety of things: We have planted the usual suspects: tomatoes (heirloom brandywine, Cherokee purple, amana orange, green zebra, and stupice) and peppers (jalapeno, banana, Fresno, and other sweet ones). We have potatoes, cukes, zukes, melons, kale and kohlrabi. And, of course, lots of herbs. Also in the yard are avos and citrus. They are all growing; tomatoes have fruit but not ready yet. Can't hurry Mother Nature, altho I would love a Cherokee purple tomato and jack cheese sandwich for lunch!

    Diana Downey has a lot in her raised beds: Tomatoes, basil, watermelon, peppers, sunflowers, Swiss chard, lettuce mix (mesclun), strawberries. All is doing pretty well, really. Some of the lettuce mix has gone to seed, but I keep cutting that off. Tomatoes are forming nicely, and I got a couple of waves of planting in so we shouldn’t be inundated. Pics of our new veggie garden are here: 

    Robin Hansen provided this extensive list: Tomatoes have heavy powdery mildew and some blossom drop, but am/will be getting fruit. I am pretty coastal, so the powdery mildew is always a problem. Fava Beans are always bullet-proof (except the rabbits discovered them!). Lettuces have been bountiful, no problems. Carrots are coming along nicely. Radishes did very well; need to re-seed. Chard is doing great. Kale just okay, some aphid trouble. Brussels Sprouts have massive aphids (I am organic). Bush and climbing beans are coming along nicely. Cucumbers also coming along nicely; picked the first ones (mini-whites) in early June. Various herbs: all but Tarragon doing very well. Dwarf mandarin oranges got infested by neighboring hibiscus whitefly and snails, but hoping it will set its fruit and recover completely. Strawberries are doing ok. Eggplant should be getting fruit any time now. Artichoke is doing ok. Blueberries are doing well.

    Lisa Bellora has been very busy: I have 3 different kinds of tomatoes, two different sweet peppers, two different kinds of cucumbers, Swiss chard, yellow summer squash, zucchini, orange beets, carrots, sweet basil, oregano, Japanese eggplant, strawberries, blueberries, butternut squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon (along with other dwarf fruit trees). The tomatoes got put in the ground early and are 4' high at least and loaded with green tomatoes. The eggplant actually was from last year and overwintered (in Rancho Penasquitos). I have peppers forming, although some of the leaves are being eaten probably by snails/slugs. The beets are just coming up. I am harvesting small yellow squash. I finally got some bird netting over the berries so I am eating them instead of the birds! This was all due to the inspiration of Pat Welsh at the recent Master Gardener conference. I have a small backyard and some of these plants I only have one or two of, but that is all you need for a small family. It is a joy to go out every morning and see what is going on in the garden!

    Chip Milligan will probable re-think how he uses compost tea: I was looking forward to tasting my first home-grown celery! It was beautiful, very green and leafy. When I bit into it, yech! It was so bad I had to spit it out. I think that I should not have poured my home-made compost tea directly on it, as it has kelp and fish emulsion (as well as molasses and my own compost). However, I also grew cilantro, spinach, zucchini, Swiss chard and Swiss kale, all of which tasted fantastic. They are all still doing well, except that I am out of spinach.

    Robin Rowland has been busy planting: squash, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, peppers (6 varieties), eggplant, kale (I know, winter plant), marjoram, thyme, savory, and we still have 2 square feet to do more, always more!

    Katherine Nowak is going hydroponic: This year I am growing tomatoes hydroponically in a hydroponic garden I made at a class at San Diego Botanic Garden and they are doing beautifully. I will never grow tomatoes in the ground again.

    Anne Murphy is growing a cornucopia of goodies: I have tomatoes, zucchini, cantaloupe, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and artichokes (last year's artichoke died but left me three offsets) in the veggie bed. Cherry tomatoes are almost ready. Zucchini doing as expected, and I started giving them away; the rest of the squash family doing well. I usually replace the perennial chard once a year, but this year decided to continue with the gorgeous ones from last year. Broccoli did well, Brussels sprouts only so-so, last one is about done. This year I have added lemon verbena and stevia to herb collection. 

    Nants Gordon and Barb Potts are tending a nice variety: heirloom and cherry tomatoes, eggplant and peppers (in greenhouse on the coast), winter and summer squash, chard and kale, lettuce, carrots, fresh beans, artichokes, asparagus (soooo bountiful this year), lots of basil, and perennial herbs, rutabagas, turnips, beets, onion… everything we like.

    Jan Tucker is off and running with a big list: I am a newbie in your society and a newbie to gardening. It's my third year. I started an organic gardening meetup group in Temecula Valley in April and we have 55 members already! In my garden this summer I have the following veggies and herbs (and notes to tell you how they are doing). Many are heirloom. Most are organic:

    Russian Kale (Ragged Jack): Planted this last fall. It is as big as a tree. The leaves are beautifully tender. It has thousands of aphids, and the ladybugs didn't cooperate this year. I soak them and then wash them thoroughly.

    Broccoli: From last fall. Still producing! I must've had 9 heads off of the one plant that made it. Others were eaten by pill bugs.

    Chard: Beautiful as ever. Some from fall, some new plantings from seed planted indoors in Feb.

    Sugar Snap peas: The ones on the northeast side of the garden grew tall and thin. I thought they would be better than the ones on the southwest side that grew so slowly. But the latter are bushier and are producing far more. However, they look strange this year. They are very bumpy: I can see each pea inside the shell. They look like knuckles.

    Zucchini (two kinds): The first ones didn't come up, I think because the sprayer wasn't functioning. I changed to drip and planted more last week.

    Cucumbers (Market More): The first ones didn't come up at all so I planted more last week. Last year we had a bumper crop and made lots of awesome gazpacho!

    Kale: The ones I planted from seed don't look very good. The little seedlings look mangey. I got a nice seedling from a local farmer and it looks great. I guess I didn't treat my seedlings very well.

    Eggplant: It's very small right now but promising

    Tomatoes (2 indeterminate and 1 determinate): All have blossoms. One of the indeterminate ones had 1 very low fruit, which I cut off. I am trimming them very well.

    Bell Peppers: Still very small. Just grew a bit over the weekend.

    Bush Beans (Blue Lake): Growing VERY slowly, still small seedlings.

    Bean Contender: Growing better and they have blossoms

    Napa (? maybe not Napa) Carrots: Growing so slowly!

    Yellow Onions: From last fall. A few of them are giants. I let them flower.

    Garlic: Planted last November. They're almost ready. Had to fight black aphids most of the time they were growing. They dwindled a lot because I hosed them off with water pretty often.

    Lettuce (merlot, butter head, romaine and other): All doing superbly

    Strawberries: Very low yield. This is their 2nd or 3rd summer.

    Broccoli: Tried a spring crop that didn't go anywhere. The leaves of the seedlings looked chewed and brown.

    Mustard greens: Ate the first ones today. They started to bolt already. Covered them with shade cloth. Lots of aphids like the kale, but very good.

    Beets: Lovely. My best plant always.

    Radishes: No issues.

    Spinach: Looking good.

    Tarragon: Its Third summer. Looks lovely. Had cut it all the way back. I love this in my omelettes!

    Mint: Third summer. Lots of aphids, but smells as wonderful as ever. Think "sun tea."

    Oregano: Third summer. Lush and beautiful.

    Chives: Second summer. It was hiding under the parsley last year and looked so weak and small. I pulled the parsley out and it is now 2 feet tall and proud.

    Dill: Planted this year from a starter. It's growing like crazy. Hung some up to dry today. It has several colors, didn't expect that.

    Basil: From seed. Not going anywhere yet. Same thing last year but it turned out great.

    Cilantro: Going nowhere from seed. We'll see if it does.

    Marsha Bode is having good luck in Vista: I have been concentrating more on my vegetable garden this year and have had great success with many herbs purchased from SDHS sponsor Pearson's Garden and Herb Farm in Vista. They have a multitude of unusual herbs and all are very healthy. Since I have a lot of bare ground and no worries about mints becoming invasive I have planted (in the ground) Apple Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint, and Silver Mint. Also from Pearson's are African Blue Basil and Nutmeg Bush, which I bought just because they sounded interesting. For vegetables I planted zucchini, yellow crook neck squash, red onions, lemon grass, sugar snap peas, and tomatoes (of course). Nothing especially unusual, but for once I planted them at the correct time and have already had a good harvest. Lettuce mix in a long planter box did well until the recent hot days. I also have lots of blackberries, boysenberries, and blueberries. I'm thinking it might have been a mistake to give the blackberries and boysenberries part of the vegetable garden, so this issue will have to be faced in the fall, when I think I will transplant them to their own larger spot.

    Katrin Utt has free veggies: I did not plant any vegetables this year, but I have lots of volunteer tomatoes! The small cherry tomatoes are sooo sweet! I think my birds planted them for me to thank me for feeding them. 

    Mary Poteet is doing well with herbs: Pesto Perpetuo Basil and Tricolor Sage are doing great!

    Cindy Sparks shared this with us: Hi from the longest running construction project in the county. My garden has been trashed by construction and repair work. One minute I think they are done, and the next minute they come back and make yet another mess. I am trying to grow tomatoes as usual, but in the fog belt of Pt. Loma, it’s difficult. I am growing fava beans this year, and the one plant is limping along. I also started a brown sesame plant (who knew?). On the positive side, my perennial asparagus patch is as high as my head (it’s out of their way, that must be why). I had a nice cherry crop and the four blueberry plants are bearing well, except for the few weeks when the sprinkler controller was ripped out. It’s all about water, isn’t it? I have squash and more beans ready to go in the ground, AFTER the construction boys are really done. I hope that is sometime before August.

    Stephen Zolezzi has had some snail challenges: Having a set of raised beds where crops are protected from gophers and rabbits is a good starting place… but all that protection does not include SNAILS: they seem to come out of nowhere. Constant attention is the best way to get them among edibles. I started this year by purchasing well-along tomatoes and squash and chard to plant, which are with fruit, as opposed to starting them from seed. Have started basil from seed to transplant, but they are slow this year for lack of heat. Thymes, marjorams, oreganos and sages were pruned back from winter-fertilized and are now doing great. I am heavily planted with no worry about over production now that I have 7 chickens. The eggs are pre-seasoned for delicious omelets!             

    Connie Forest is having problems: My problem this year is basil. I started a bunch of seeds this spring and they all came up. I hate throwing seedlings away, so I transplanted a number of them. So, now they are all ready at once. I know you are supposed to stagger your plantings so they mature at different times, but I am lucky if I get around to planting once. So, I made pesto and will make more and freeze it if I get around to it. I looked up recipes on the net using basil, but I don't want to have a primary diet of basil food. So what will happen is that I will let it go to seed and then wish I had basil later in the summer. I do so admire gardeners who are diligent and organized all the time, but it just isn't in me.

    Kenneth Selzer is having success with herbs: Cilantro, parsley, and chives are all doing great.

    Penelope Smith tried artichokes: I planted two artichoke plantings in my tomato bed from last year. I did not want to use as much water as for tomatoes, nor did I have the time to put in more plants. Naive me! These two are flourishing, but use the same amount of water. They are coming on in the slightly warmer weather, but no flowers yet.

    Woon Lee is another member with good herbs: Rosemary, basil, chives, green onions and garlic greens.

    Carol Hartman is also growing herbs and edible flowers: Dill, parsley, fennel, oregano, cilantro and mint so far. Also, I use various flowers when mixing my spices for salads or rubs. They grow large and well and I’m always reseeding to keep a constant supply. I also grow tomatoes (of course), kale, potatoes, and asparagus, plus several squash types and peppers.

    Cathy Tylka is growing mint – with no water: I know some people complain about mint taking over their garden, but I am using it for a ground cover in spots nothing else seems to grow. It's surviving, and I do say surviving, as I do not water it at all. I treat it like a San Diego native, plant it, water it for about three months and if it lives, it lives. Now those areas look good and I can have mint tea whenever I like. Some may argue this, but do not treat it tenderly.

    Vivian Blackstone reports that her organic veggies are producing a lot: I’m growing these veggies: New Zealand spinach, Early Girl tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, red currant tomatoes, yellow currant tomatoes, and Jerusalem artichoke plants. Also have these herbs: watercress, spearmint, peppermint, society garlic, lemon verbena, feverfew, pineapple sage, Hawaiian ginger and nasturtiums. Also growing Gotji berry.

  • Sat, June 01, 2013 9:18 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)
    Jackie McGee has a carefree reliable favorite: Every year I am delighted by the great show of flowers I get from the Ipheion bulbs I planted many, many years ago. I bought them from Buena Creek Gardens where they were growing, and they just dug up a shovel full for me. They have spread all over and every year they come up, bloom, and when finished blooming they gradually disappear until the next year. Absolutely maintenance free. Their lovely blue color is a delight in my garden.

    Chuck Carroll said: The only winter and spring blooming bulbs that did really well for me this year in my yard in Carlsbad were amaryllis, watsonia and gladiolus.

    Willa Gupta doesn’t have much luck with bulbs: I live in South Laguna. Somehow, I have NO luck with bulbs. Some Freesias did come up. A neighbor had a great flush of dark purple tulips. I've done the fridge treatment of tulips, etc.: only got minimal blooms. I got 10 iris (from Garden Life); only 2 made a bloom. Phooey. Right now my roses are great. And I got lots of cactus blooms.  

    Charlotte Getz has a variety of bulbs: Bulbs that did well for me were daffodils, freesias, hyacinths and watsonias. My bulbs came from Master Gardener seminars when we sold bulbs to the public. They have been in the ground for two years now, so I will divide them for next year’s planting after they finish blooming.

    Debra Lee Baldwin’s success story is babiana: Babiana stricta (baboonflower) has naturalized in my garden. It's a garbanzo-bean-sized bulb native to South Africa with blue-purple flowers on 12-inch stalks. Fifteen years ago, I started with a dozen dry babiana plants, which a friend had uprooted (babiana can get weedy). I harvested the baby bulbs that had formed at the base of each flower stalk, then planted them without amending the soil in a part of the garden that receives no irrigation. Every summer after that, I harvested baby bulbs and replanted them where I wanted more. Babiana, which blooms in April, is lovely contrasted with ice plant, Bulbine frutescens, California poppies and gazanias. 

    Kathy Esty got her bulbs at our meeting: The VERY BEST bulbs I ever had I won as one of the door prizes at a HORT meeting. They are Babiana ‘Brilliant Blue’. They came from Willow Creek Gardens. Every spring, they have these wonderful blue flowers… and at the end of their bloom, I simply move them in my “nursery” until next year. I really do nothing at all and each year they bloom better and better.

    Heather Callaghan loves narcissus: When I first moved here, I went to a seminar given by Pat Welsh. She talked about Tazetta narcissus. I ordered them from Brent and Becky's catalog. The best ones for me were Falconet and Avalanche. I now have a huge swath of them. I move them, and I usually cut the foliage off too early, and still they just keep on coming back and blooming. Sometimes they are a bit early – around Christmas – but this year they were Spring bloomers. Love them.

    Vivian Blackstone has three favorites: Daffodils and freesias (red/orange), ordered from Brecks. Double bearded iris, yellow and purple, were received from a friend and now I constantly give away and subdivide them.

    Wanda Bass likes her Amaryllis: These are in the ground from previous Christmas gifts and are now blooming in season. They are gorgeous!

    Linda Bresler has snowflakes: I had planted Leucojum aestivum (Snowflake) a few years ago among my succulents. They come up reliably every spring and look lovely blooming among my echeverias, etc. They are not too tall and don't overpower the smaller plants. Leucojum are not difficult to find at nurseries or from bulb vendors.

    Andy Maycen has an exotic bulb: Okay, I know I'm in Hawaii so my remarks are probably going to fall on deaf ears, but we have had great luck with Eucrosia sp. (see photo).


    Barb Huntington has TOO MANY bulbs: I am overrun with paperwhites (narcissus). They bloom like crazy, but would like to give away a bunch of them.

    Su Kraus grew up with bulbs: Spring bulbs remind me of my English origins where the spring bulbs are fantastic. I have slowly been recreating that look using California native Iris and the native Tritelia laxa, along pathways, under oaks, in my patio (basically anywhere I can poke them in!) I have the purple-blue Iris douglasiana and the hybrid 'Canyon Snow' (white with a yellow center), as well as the Pacific Coast Hybrid in shades of purple. Since I grow them here at the nursery I got them straight from my growing grounds at Moosa Creek Nursery! [A SDHS sponsor, visit] By the way, there was also a very good bloom of the Dicholostema capitata (Blue Dicks) this year. They sprung up on numerous banks around my house and in the nursery.

    Helen Miyahira is another member happy with her babiana: My Babiana stricta did amazingly well a few weeks ago.  I’ve had them three years and have they ever multiplied. Got the bulbs at one of the Master Gardener Seminars.

    Lori Kilmer’s bulbs honor shooting victims: I planted 2100 daffodils in honor of the Sandy Hook Shooting victims. They did really well. I got them at Home Depot in the bulk bags. Some were from Costco as well. I plant lots of bulbs, amaryllis, Dutch iris, and ranunculus, and they all did great.

    Susi Torre-Bueno had help from the @#$%*! squirrels: I grow a LOT of bulbs and most of them did great this year. Before listing them here, I need to share how the devious squirrels have “helped” me by replanting some of my iris.  In 2008 I planted 100 bulbs each of five colors of Dutch Iris in one area of my labyrinth. They put on a fabulous show for the first two years. I noticed about two years ago that less than 500 bulbs were coming up in this area, and at first I thought I had somehow lost about a third of them. Last year, I noticed these missing bulbs popping up all over the garden in groups of 1-3 bulbs, always with one color iris per group. I have figured out, and I’m pretty sure this is true, that our @#$%^&* squirrels must have dug some up and replanted them elsewhere, probably meaning to come back and eat them at some point. The single bulbs they have planted here and there have slowly multiplied in some cases into small clusters of bulbs. Now it’s kind of a game to see where the stray bulbs pop up each year. So far them seem to be only on my property and not in my next-door neighbor’s yard.

    The winter and spring bulbs that are very successful for me are:

    Anomatheca laxa(from friends)

    Babiana stricta(from friends)

    Cyrtanthus brachyscyphys(Dobo Lily – from Plant Play Nursery, Carlsbad)

    Dutch Iris (from our sponsor

    Re-blooming bearded Iris (from friends)

    Narcissus –paperwhites and other daffodils come up reliably every year (from our sponsor Green Thumb Nursery, San Marcos)

    Scilla peruviana(

    Watsonia (from friends, also U.C. Riverside fall plant sales)


    Linda Espino also has success with paperwhites and freesias: I have lots of paperwhites and freesias (different colors, in pots) from Mary McBride (purchased at SDHS meetings), Cedros Gardens (a SDHS sponsor), and Trader Joe’s. I had daffodils spring up over a two months in all different shapes and colors. I have some Japanese orchids in bloom now (early May) in the garden. Got them at both Home Depot and from the great auctions for orchids that the local clubs have twice a year. I have some scented garlic from Mary McBride, Aztec red lilies from the farmers market couple that sell herbs, veggiees etc. at the Hillcrest farmers’ market. Also, snowdrops someone gave me years ago are still blooming.

    Cassidy Rowland also recommends paperwhites: In a holdover from living on Cape Cod for a number of years until recently, I forced paperwhites and other narcissus for the first holiday season we were here. I usually buy my bulbs in early fall at a plant nursery (I think these were from El Plantio, in Escondido). To my delight, in January many of the same flowers came up in our backyard in locations other than where I had planted the leftover bulbs. I was happy to know the yard had a head start on providing me flowers for my home. Since that first winter, the bulbs and their lovely scented flowers have spread and continue to delight us and our home every winter. I highly recommend this treat to all.

    Nancy Mueller has bulbs in Fallbrook: In the fall of 2011, we planted blue, white, and pink Hyacinthoides hispanica from Brent and Becky's Bulbs. All three colors came back again this spring, with the blue dominating.

    Carol Costarakis is another with a re-blooming Christmas bulb: I have amaryllis saved from Christmas forcing; they pop right up in the garden with those grand big blooms. Bravo!

    Louise Anderson also has happy paperwhites: My paperwhites were especially prolific this year. Guess there was a lot of reproduction going on. Don't remember where I got them, but they are obviously enjoying my front yard meadow.

    Liz Woodward has snowflakes planted with her roses: Bulbs are like garden magic, popping up out of a bleak garden in late winter to give you a great show in the spring. One of my favorites is Leucojum, commonly called Summer Snowflakes, and it reminds me of the Lily-of the-Valley of my childhood. I have planted Leucojums at the base of all of my Iceberg Roses. A couple of weeks after the roses have been pruned back in January and are looking despoiled, out pops up my Leucojums to add their bright white flowers to my garden. By the time the Summer Snowflakes are ready to die back, my roses have taken off in all their glory.  Another favorite is Babiana, which blooms from late winter through the spring with a profusion of purple, pink and white blooms. They are very drought tolerant and multiply freely. I get all of my bulbs at the San Diego Botanic Garden's annual Fall Plant Sale, which takes place every year over the third weekend in October (put it in your calendar and come early for the best selection). Incidentally, October is probably the optimal time to plant your spring bulbs so the timing is just right.

    Barbara Strona had mixed results this year: My daffodils were disappointing. I planted them a week apart so I never got the burst of color I usually get. Freesias also were not so prolific that I was anxious for them to be finished. Watsonia have been very rewarding.

    Carol Wilson is another member enjoying amaryllis: Our red amaryllis from Christmases past have returned with beautiful blossoms each spring. They reproduce to the point that we have more than 20 in blossom now, the first week in May. Some of the flowers measure 7 inches across. What a delight for very little work; my kind of gardening.

    Other bulbs which members brought into our meetings from December 2012 through April 2013:

    Bletilla striata  CHINESE Ground Orchid

    Bulbinella cauda-felis

    Bulbinella latifolia var. dolertica

    Bulbinella nutans 

    Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii  Yellow Chasmanthe

    Gladiolus splendens 

    Haemanthus albiflos  Paintbrush, BLOOD LILY

    Hyacinthuscv.  HYACINTH

    Iris unguicularis  WINTER IRIS, ALGERIAN IRIS 

    Ixia rapunculoides  CORN LILY 

    Lachenalia aloides  CAPE COWSLIP 

    Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor 

    Leucocoryne ixioides  GLORY-OF-THE-SUN 

    Scilla hughii 

    Sparaxis tricolor  Harlequin Flower  

  • Wed, May 01, 2013 9:17 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Susan Nance mentioned a large shrub: Junipers, with cultivars like ‘Hollywood’, et al.

    Meg Ryan, a member from El Centro (!), says she rarely sees this lovely tree: The big show in my garden in late winter/early spring was a new tree planted about a year ago, a Dombeya wallichii, or Pink Ball tree (or Tropical Hydrangea). I threw an afternoon party so my friends would come and see the fragrant 6-inch wide pale pink pendulous blooms. Even in its first year, it wasn't stingy with the blooms. It's an easy-to-grow show stopper.

    Jim Stelluti listed some once fashionable plants he doesn’t see much these days: Escallonia, Pilly Nilly Eugenia, Dichondra (green form), Ornamental Strawberry, Lippia, Silver Dollar Eucalyptus, Hoya vines, Ripsalis, Night Blooming Cereus, Corokia.

    Ron Stevens told us: I have several old timers in my garden that were once trendy but now have fallen out of favor. Blackwood Acacia is probably the best example. I planted seven of these trees in a row to form a privacy screen on the East side of my house around 28 years ago, and they matured rapidly and completely screened our bedroom windows (about 30’ high) after seven years. Blackwood Acacia (Acacia melanoxylon) was once used extensively as a street tree in the San Diego area, but because they tended to break pavement, seek out plumbing lines, and sucker quite a bit they lost favor as street trees. You still see them in yards and as street trees in older neighborhoods, but I haven’t seen a newly planted tree in years. I love mine. They are tall and dense, long lived, and extremely drought tolerant. Where I have them planted, there are no concerns about pavement or plumbing and they just seem to thrive on no care whatsoever. I just remove the occasional sucker they produce. As a side note, wood from the Blackwood Acacia is beautifully grained and excellent for guitar making. Last year, I went to an acoustic guitar concert by San Diego guitarist David Lindley, and he had three acoustic laptop guitars onstage with him: one made of Koa (Acacia koa, which is indigenous to Hawaii) and two made of Blackwood Acacia. The Blackwood Acacia guitars were his favorites, and although now they are just a footnote in old San Diego gardens, they are favorites of mine as well.

    Vivian Blackstone replied with three old-fashioned plants: Borage – I still use it because it brings bees and butterflies. Stinging nettle – it keeps people away from picking my fruit and I make tea. Thornless blackberries – I still like them, but didn't realize they are so long, prolific, and invasive.

    Meredith French had four plants to discuss: At first I was thinking “nothing,” but then I remembered the invasive Cape Honeysuckle straddling the property fence adjoining the neighbor. As much as I dislike this plant, it is a good screen from equally messy neighbors and provides good shelter for song birds using the nearby feeders. My mind then wandered just west to the Carpobrotus (freeway iceplant) happily dying over granite boulders. I wish it well. Lastly, a Ficus benjamina graces a small part of the landscape in the eastern yard. This tree will probably remain manageable due to its being potted for too many years.  It is a nice “eye break” in the landscape. Does Nasturtium count? I would never go out and buy any but it sure provides a lot of aphids for the house wrens and ladybugs.

    Ann Hoeppner still likes her Acanthus mollis: I fell in love with this when I saw it years ago at Disneyland. It is not used much because it is invasive, but I think it is worth it.

    Marilyn Guidroz wrote: I inherited an old style garden from the 70's. I have a messy pollen-producing Mulberry tree which gives great shade in the summer. I can't just cut it down, so have planted an Agonis flexuosa to take its place eventually. I also have the Chinese Elm and California Pepper Trees. I have decided to just keep these as the shade is so important and it would take years to replace them. We have such better choices for the garden today, but sometimes you just have to work around things that already exist. For fall color I planted the seedling variety of Liquidambar, which we don't plant much anymore. I love the colors, so planted one far away from the house because of all the mess. The other trees I planted are the Ginkgo biloba and the Chinese Pistache. Old fashioned, but so gorgeous.

    Annie Morgan has an oldie but goodie: Dipladenia. I got my first one, the pale pink flower, about 24 years ago when Weidner's first introduced them to the area, and I just gave it away two years ago. Over the years I've gotten each new color and currently have five: two white and three 'Red Riding Hood' reds, all in pots as they don't do well in the ground. The first one went through a good frost when we lived in Vista, but I cut it back to 4" sticks and it grew back large and lush. They are easy care, needing full sun and moderate water, and typically their only pest is aphids. I used to just apply a rose fertilizer with systemic insecticide once a year, but now that I no longer use systemics the aphids are usually controllable with a good washing or removing by hand. I love their beautiful green foliage and how profusely they bloom, providing beautiful spots of color in the garden almost year round.

    Tammy Schwab enjoys five plants that are now less popular than they once were: The succulent Pedilanthus macrocarpus (slipper flower); Phoenix Home & Garden featured this plant several years ago and you couldn't find one that you could afford for a long time. Mascagnia macroptera or calleum macrpterum (yellow orchid vine): I love the flowers and the seed pods on this non-aggressive vine. Cordia boissieri (texas olive), love the white flowers on this evergreen low-water shrub. Acacia willardiana (palo blanco); a very graceful small tree with white papery bark; looks great against a dark house or wall. And a cactus, Trichocereus candicans (Argentine giant); the flowers are amazing!

    Sylvia Keating regrets planting the once wildly-popular Bacopa: I put it in and it became a weed. I pull as much if it as I can now and don't plant it ever. (There are, however, far worse weeds.)

    Jim Bishop remembers every new house and public landscape in the 70's, 80's and early 90's had a one more Melaleuca quinquenervia. Almost no one plants them today.

  • Mon, April 01, 2013 9:15 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Katrin Utt told us: I have many Cotoneaster bushes: the birds love the red berries. I also use the branches at Christmas time to decorate our home. In the summer I have many wild sunflowers, some of them grow 6 feet tall. The birds get most of the seeds, but the sunflowers come back every year.

    Sisters Abby & Kathy Esty wrote: We are still establishing a California native plant garden near our bird feeders, so we can’t really comment yet on now successful it is as a natural alternative to store-bought bird seed. Since we live on Tecolote Canyon, we mostly chose plants that we have seen growing in the canyon, but we are also trying others that we hope will be comfortable in a coastal sage scrub environment and clay soil.

    For hummingbirds:

    Cleveland Sage – Salvia clevelandii

    California Fuchsia – Zauschneria californica ‘Mexicana’

    Firecracker Island Bush Snapdragon – Galvezia speciosa ‘Firecracker’

    Bush Monkey Flower – Mimulus aurantiacus

    Penstemon – Penstemon heterophyllus

    For berry-eating birds (hooded oriole, cedar waxwing, California towhee, etc.):

    Lemonadeberry – Rhus intergrifolia

    Toyon – Heteromeles arbutifolia ‘Christmas Berry’

    Mexican Elderberry – Sambucus mexicana

    Beach Strawberry – Fragaria chiloensis ‘Lipstick’

    For finches: We are trying some native California sunflowers (Encelia californica) in hopes that we will be able to attract goldfinches without going broke on thistle seed.

    For shelter:

    Manzanita – not sure which kind we have

    Toyon and Lemonadeberry will also provide shelter when they get bigger


    Sherry Bommer’s tip: Hummingbirds love Aloe vera when they are in bloom (and other aloes, too).

    Vivian Blackstone shared this about her native birds: Hummingbirds made a nest on top of a hanging glass wind chime right outside my front door (facing southwest) and it's only 5' away from a whole row of fuchsia plants. It's also an area I'm always growing red cherry tomatoes. They have come back to the nest for 3 years. I also have a family of doves that have made several nests, but the one that has survived the longest is on an overhang to my pond under the eaves that’s hidden (facing northeast). There is a bird feeder about 30' away on a Fuyu persimmon tree, that I refill during the cold winter months. The family has come back for about 5 years now. They have built many nests on my property, but the crows are so smart and have found most of them. Then there is a finch nest under the eaves on the south side that they remake each year, and they feed on seeds 100' away in the back. There must be four finches at a time on the Fuyu feeder, a regular songfest.

    Irina Gronborg says: My overgrown cape honeysuckle is like a giant aviary, housing and feeding and sheltering many birds all at once, from hummingbirds to orioles. Beautiful.

    Connie Forest reports from Fallbrook: My hummingbirds seem to be particularly fond of Grevilleas; they bloom in the winter when there are few blossoms to chose from and the blossoms are just right for hummingbirds to access their nectar. I have bird feeders hanging from a pepper tree (no, I did not plant it, but there it is, very large) over a thicket of rosemary probably 40 by 30 feet. It is a finch hangout. They like the rosemary seeds when the birdfeeders run dry, and it provides a place to hide when big birds like jays come by. The pepper tree provides insects for woodpeckers, as well as shade and perching spots. The sparrows and phoebes feel safe scrounging on the ground for food that the finches have let drop. And all this is five feet away from my kitchen window.

    Steve Brigham told us: This is a great topic, and fortunately I've written quite a bit on it in past issues of the SDHS newsletter. In a nutshell: keep feeding those birds – the birds are becoming very active now, and seed, nectar, suet, and fresh water gives them a prosperous life as opposed to merely subsistence living, which no one should have to be content with. As for plant supplements, winter-blooming SALVIAS are a great place to start for the hummingbirds, who seldom like to live by sugar water alone. And almost any shrub makes good shelter for most birds (and also nesting sites for the many birds that breed in the San Diego area).

    Louise Anderson has a good tip: I have several butterfly bushes (Buddleja) that not only attract humming birds but also bees, and various butterflies. There are numerous sizes and colors, so no excuse to not have at least one.

    Meredith French shares her bird feeding techniques: For winter feeders – Out here in Mt. Helix, my spiny red berry and persimmon seem to be big hits. There is still fruit on the red berry come fall and then the persimmon hits big time. I (and neighbors) supply pyracantha and cotoneaster berries as well. The mobs of green parrots go mad. I put a squirrel mix in one feeder for the jays and doves. Other feeders contain black oil sunflower or nyjer seed. I also keep a peanut-based suet on hand. It is quite a party everyday. Two days ago, the Lawrence Finch arrived. I had never seen one but it is quite distinctive. I will post pictures of this little darling on FaceBook soon. Hummers and House Finches are using my lint holders for early nest building. I also spot hummers going after California Fuchsia and other winter bloomers. Welcomed insects keep the phoebes and bluebirds busy. I am thinking there is no deprivation on this God’s Green Acre.

  • Fri, March 01, 2013 9:14 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Marilyn Wilson wrote: Rainwater is PERFECT for my plants. But we don't get enough rain in San Diego County, so I must supplement with "city" water. To help lessen the effect of the hard water that comes out of the tap, I pour a gallon of vinegar into each of my large rain barrels (1000+ gallons). The plants get some acid and some alkaline. And of course they get some PLAIN RAIN straight from the sky. I just bought one big bottle for each tank. No figuring… just a guess. Better than nothing.

    Lisa Rini had a great trick: You know that sticky stuff on pots under prictetags? Or when you have trimmed star jasmine and your tools get all sticky? Or you are working around a pine tree and you get pitch on your hands? A great option that works every time and removes sticky residue is to get tea tree oil pads (available at Trader Joe’s) that are designed to be used for cleaning your face (so they are very gentle). They come in a small jar and you just toss each pad after you use it. I will never go back to Citrasolv!

    Dale Rekus shared two good tips: I use worm castings tea for white fly. Put 1 cup castings in a gallon of water overnight, and shake a few times. Just dump the tea and worm castings into the pot and no more white fly. A lot cheaper than a 2”-3” deep mulch of worm castings. I also use peroxide water (1-1/2 teaspoons of 3% drugstore peroxide to a cup of water) to soak seeds prior to planting and watering them until first true leaves show. Seems to improve germination speed and rate and lessen disease (damping off).

    Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care (and one of our workshop teachers) sent this good advice: When doing our fall/winter planting of cole crops, we are generally greeted with an attack of cutworms. These little lumberjacks come out at night and chew through the stems of the tender broccoli and cauliflower transplants. If going out at night in the cold with a flashlight to squish these little devils is not in your playbook, then try this organic means of control. Try it around your strawberries, too.

    3 oz of Safer Garden Dust (a powder form of Bacillus thuringiensis, OMRI approved)

    1 lb corn meal

    Mix it up and toss a tablespoon or two around the base of the transplants. The little critters pop out of the soil at night and are attracted to the sweet smell of the corn meal and gobble it up along with the BT. They might nail one or two of the plants in the row, but will then burrow back into the ground before sunrise and DIE.

    Robin Rushmore had two tips for those plants in the Protea family: 1) Lomandras, Australian rush-like plants (closely related to the Grass Tree Family), are excellent at extracting phosphorous from the soil. This trait makes them very compatible with Grevilleas, Banksias and Leucadendrons. 2) When planting your Grevilleas, etc., a handful of cottonseed meal is beneficial for its establishment. Do not use inorganic complete fertilizers.

    Marilyn Guidroz had two fine suggestions: I like to use the clumping clay balls from my used kitty litter boxes and roll them down into an open gopher hole. They hate that and move somewhere else. It doesn't kill the gophers but it might save your fruit tree or rose bush from an agonizing death by gopher bites. I also like to use corn meal around the base of my fruit trees and around the open ant holes to keep the little critters under control when it gets hot. It does seem to help and is much better than poisons.

    Cindy Sparks shared several great remedies that work well in her garden: For snails and slugs, I save the rinds from cantaloupe and other melons and put a few out in the evening. In the early morning, when I go to run, I collect the (mostly) slugs and dispose of them. Near the birdbath, I like to take a gnarly bare branch, the more rugged the better, and clamp it to a tall pole nearby. It gives the birds a place to perch, and it is totally "natural.” Copper bands around the veggie patch work well. I use the copper tape from a HAM radio grounding strip, because it's half the price of the copper at your full-service nursery, and the snails won't cross it even when it gets old and dull looking.

    Rachele Melious uses dish soap to kill ants and other insects: The soapy water must touch the ants/insects to kill them; it is not residual like pesticides. If a pot has ants, I soak it in a bucket of soapy water. If they're in the ground, I usually re-use dishwater I've washed dishes in, adding a little more soap if needed and pour it around the plant/tree. It usually takes a few soakings. Sometimes, I will spray trees, especially citrus, with a hose end sprayer. This also works for whitefly and, best of all, no special equipment or gloves needed! The amount of soap needed is just a squeeze, the same as you would use to do fairly dirty dishes (hence adding a little bit to used dishwater). If I'm making a bucket, I add most of the water first, to avoid over-bubbling, because the hose has so much more pressure than the sink. Detergent will work as well, but there is more pushback by some because of phosphates. Simple Green and Orange something-or-other also work. However, dish soap, in my opinion, is the most benign.

    Ava Torre-Bueno has a way to foil the ants: In a lidded container, mix about equal parts of sugar syrup (Karo syrup is good for this) and diatomaceous earth (pool filter powder). Add about half as much water to make a somewhat runny goo. Track your ant trail to as close to the nest as you can get. Sometimes this is to the floorboard the ants are coming out under, or it may be outside. Put about a tablespoon of the goo in a semi-circle around where the ants are starting to trail (you can also put the goo in a small open container). They will go for it immediately. Then, especially in dry weather, add a few drops of water twice a day to keep the trap moist. Every couple of days, add a bit more goo on or around the first goo. In two weeks, when there are no more ants, just use plenty of water to clean up the trap. This is completely organic and harmless to pets and kids.

    Margaret Jones has an herbal tip: incorporate rosemary into flower arrangements to deter inquisitive cats!!  You can also put rosemary cuttings into flower beds to deter cats; just be careful the cuttings don't root.

 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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