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.

  • Fri, February 01, 2013 9:13 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Jan Ahrens wrote: I often take photos of my garden to give me a different perspective. Somehow my eye doesn't pick up that there are gaps or overcrowding, but when I look at a photo it's obvious. The photos are also a history of how the garden and my tastes have evolved.

    Mo Price documents her plant purchases: I take a photo of every plant that I purchase, and another photo when I place it in the ground. I periodically take a photo of the plant over the years, usually when it is blooming. I keep a corresponding Excel spreadsheet that contains pertinent information about the plant.  The photos are catalogued in such a way that I can page through the library and see how a specific plant has grown (or not) over the years. This is such a handy reference, as I often look at a plant and wonder.... how old is that plant? How big was it when I planted it? What is its botanical name? The information is at my fingertips!

    Lucy Warren said: My garden is eclectic and always changing (not always for the best, but that's called learning). I photograph it as it captures my attention, overall and more often in one or more details. Most photos linger, but some I share and some find their way into my writing.

    Paula Suttle captures the garden’s beauty: I take photos of plants in magnificent flower I am proud of and wish to remember. Also, this week I took photos of the garden fall colors. Sometimes I take an overall scene if it looks really nice.

    Tynan Wyatt records his garden’s changes: I photograph my garden so I can document the conversion from all lawn and (not very) ornamental landscaping to fruits, flowers, succulents, and vegetable beds. I used to mow that massive lawn every weekend and it's always nice to look and see how much less work there is now and how much more rewarding the work that's left is. Also, the pictures are like baby pictures for my trees; as they grow I can see how far they've come and trust in the potential of each new tree I plant!

    Meredith French has three reasons she takes photos: I make images in my garden for several purposes. 1. To post on Facebook. 2. To use as illustrations for my two talks on “Making Better Plant Portraits” and “Habitat Garden Development.” 3. And just because something really excites me – the lighting on the subject or the fear that I will never see it again if I don’t capture it. What else motivates a photographer? We are all rather sick!

    Barb Huntington said: I photograph my garden and my grandchildren for similar reasons. I am a proud grandma! I also like to keep my friends up-to-date with my labyrinth and veggie garden on Facebook, show folks at the nursery what I am trying to do, and send updates to the kind construction guys who leave two rocks a day out for me to carry home from work. The photos are on my computer, my Facebook page, and my phone. I used to enter pictures in the Fair once in awhile, but don't currently have time.

    Sharon Corrigan’s photos help her plan changes: I photograph everyone's garden, including my own. I use it as motivation to weed and prune: before and after, to capture ideas or combos that strike my fancy, and to share on Facebook with like-minded garden nuts like myself. What do I do with the photos? Got a million DVDs full and can’t bear to throw them out. I'm a visual person and garden plant photos are only a part of my collection.

    Anne Spindel wrote: I photograph my garden to share its beauty with my friends and family on Facebook. (I don't photograph it during its scraggy times!)

    Steve Brigham likes to document his young garden’s growth: Interesting that you mentioned this question right now, which is early December. I like to see the way my garden has grown over the months and years, and looking back on photos, I am always surprised how much it's grown over time! You'd actually have to leave your property for a few months to get the same realization (when you return). Even better, right now my garden photos from this year are going out to my friends with their Winter Holiday greeting cards. What else is so important to send?

    Michael McCaslin hopes to paint his garden: I photograph the garden thinking I will make a painting of it someday. I keep most of the photos on the computer.

    Linda Bresler captures her plants at different stages: I photograph my garden for three reasons. First, when it is looking great, I want to capture that moment. Second, I photograph a garden in its infancy, and then again every so often so I can compare its growth from when everything was first planted. Third, I photograph certain plants at different times in their lifespan so I can see how they mature, and how long it takes.

    Amelia Lima also likes to use her photos for documentation: I like to photograph my garden so I can compare and observe as plants grow and feel the spaces.

    Susanna Pagan shares some photos with clients: I take pictures of plants and ideas in my yard usually to show to clients, to get an idea across, show them what a particular plant looks like, or I use the photos to promote my business on Facebook.

    Cheryl Hedgpeth Nichols said: I take lots of pictures of other people's gardens but not my own. After reading your question, I went outside to see if there was anything worth photographing. I discovered an epiphyllum in full bloom. I had promised my Dad a cutting, so I took a picture for him.

    Louise Anderson wrote: I took a photo of my roses to put up as wallpaper on my cell phone.

  • Tue, January 01, 2013 9:10 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Debra Lee Baldwin, SDHS Life Member, was the first to reply: I've not only been photographing areas of my garden, I've been video recording them. I'm planning a You Tube series on how to take cuttings and replant overgrown areas of a succulent garden. [See her photos at]

    Margaret Jones has a great way to use her photos: I take photographs of the garden to see how it grows. Our garden is about 4 years old. I love to take lots of digital photos - the whole garden, different sections, various plants, vignettes, blooms, and potted plants.  Every year for Peter's birthday he gets a "Garden Photo Album." The yearly albums are created via the internet and one of various on line publishing houses. We enjoy seeing how the garden changes - it tells us what to do next.

    Tom Biggart wrote: I don't usually photograph my garden, although I use my iPad to take photos of individual plants to send to friends for a variety of reasons such as: showing off, showing how well a plant is doing that I got from the person, showing a plant the friend may want a division of, illustrating the success of a particular plant combination, and so forth.

    Trish Watlington opened her fabulous veggie garden during our garden tour this spring and says she takes photos because: the shapes and colors that I find in the garden are incredible. Because the changes that can happen from one day to the next are astounding. Because I want a record of what we did and how we planted this year so I can refer to it for next year. I keep them to refer to, and I post them on Facebook on the restaurant’s garden page I share them in eblasts and I’m planning to print and frame some, too.

    Karen Hoffman uses Picasa for her photos: I photograph my garden in different seasons and locate them on my Picasa. When I go into the program I can detail and enlarge pictures so I can locate problems. Sometimes the eye doesn’t see the little faults. Plants that do not complement each other, colors that clash and oh, yes, I forgot to pick up that piece of trash. When I find a pretty one, I put it on my desktop, where I can see it every time I turn on the computer.  

    Connie Forest likes Snapfish for photos: I guess the reason I photograph them is that I want to capture fleeting beauty. Especially in the spring, the color is so bright and varying and it does not last very long. I then load them into the computer and into Snapfish so I always have them. I also have made a couple of photo books just of my flowers, again using Snapfish.

    Cindy Sparks says: I take pix for a couple of reasons. First, I want to identify something (usually a bug), so I send a photo to somebody else. Also, people ask me about things and if I have one or something like it in my garden, I can send them a photo (example is the net structure over my low-chill cherries, which I keep to 8 feet tall). Sometimes I just see something I like and I want to capture it at its peak. I have found it helpful to have a library of shots for later requests. Master Gardeners publish a spiffy calendar every year with beautiful (un-PhotoShopped) photos, and sometimes if I'm really lucky one of my shots gets into the calendar. Thank goodness for cell phones with good cameras in them.

    Ava Torre-Bueno puts her images online: I photograph plants, bugs and animals in my garden. I post the pictures on Project Noah ( and other nature lovers from all around the world identify the ones I don’t know. I had a guy from Greece give me the correct IDs for two different Madagascar palms I have in my front garden, including scientific names and references. Photographing my garden links me to an international community of environmentalists and nature lovers.

    Jill Landry takes photos at random intervals: I take pictures of bugs mostly to identify later, or scenes as things are in bloom that catch me off guard. I never plan it, and don't take enough, and have no skills in this area. When I look at them later I am always glad I did it. And they just seem to sit on the computer waiting for the month of later to come. 

    Gerald D. Stewart writes: I photograph my garden for a number of reasons. One is to catalog what it looked like at a point in time – it’s interesting to look at the same spot over the last 35 years and see the evolution from the yuccas/roses/lawn when I moved in to lots of plants that produced seed for nursery production, to the current all shrub bed garden of “geraniums” and colorfully-foliaged plants. Another use was to illustrate slide lectures and articles submitted to newspapers, and greeting/note cards for personal use. For the last few years it has often been before and after shots – things take so long to get done I almost forget all the work because it’s a little now, a little then over an extended period of time, so when I’m finished it feels like I haven’t done much. Once I’ve renovated an area it’s good to look at what it was at the start of the project, which then reinforces a feeling of accomplishment. Now the most common use for photos of the property is to post them on Facebook.

    Stephen Zolezzi uses photos to jog his memory, too: We are in our gardens daily and loose the perspective of change that is continually occurring, so I go through the garden mid-Spring and Autumn to document what has happened to compare with previous years photos. I am always surprised, especially looking back several years, to see how much plants have grown, how changes are coming, and what needs to be planned going ahead. Finally, there is satisfaction in all the work is paying off. Now if I could just find the time to sit and relax with a gardening novel… was it the head Gardner in the cutting garden or Susi in the hot house?

    Nancy Carol Carter wrote: Most pictures are taken to document plant growth or capture the initial appearance of a redesigned area, but occasionally one of my plants produces such a beguiling and unexpected bloom that I take photos to share with East Coast friends who do not have gardens full of the wonderful succulents we can grow in San Diego.

    Cindy Witt uses photo for her garden blog: My garden, whether in stellar or not-so-stellar condition, is being photographed continuously for a garden blog at The latest picture taken was of a spectacular gopher hole in one of my ornamental garden beds, a pic soon to make its appearance in that blog. Aaaaargh. This year we're also using our garden photos in a 2013 calendar for ourselves and our family using Shutterfly. Finally, last year we used our garden photos for presentations given to the new 2012 Master Gardeners on "Managing Garden Pests with IPM" and "Vegetable Gardening.” Looks like we have a few more gopher pics to add to that Managing Garden Pests presentation, should I ever give it again. That's assuming we get those critters under control, that is.

    Meg Ryan does special photos once a year: Though I truly enjoy shooting plant closeups, juxtaposing patterns, colors, etc., there is one shoot I feel is particularly rewarding: On the first overcast day after April 1st annually I shoot an overall picture of the garden from the same vantage point. It ends up being several pictures taped together. I post them on the side of my refrigerator, and I witness my garden growing and maturing each time I walk by. My garden began as a completely barren patch of dirt, and now, 12 years later, it is lush, colorful, and full of plants I dearly love. If you do no other shooting in the garden than this, it will reward you many times over.

    Roy Wilburn from Sunshine Care has a fine blog with photos: Every month, I take pictures of fruits, veggies, flowers or something growing on our 32 acres here at Sunshine Care in Poway. I use these to compliment my blog for The Mulch. For example, last month I sent pictures of our lettuce and how we incorporate them in our cole crop plantings. There were also photos of our seedlings from the greenhouse and pelletized lettuce seed. The blog was titled “November in the Garden - Inland Southern California.” Check them out on A picture is worth a thousand words. I also find these photos helpful for certain garden lectures that we hold here on the 3rd Saturday of every month.

    Ida Rigby has made a pictorial garden history: I photograph to capture the momentary, changing beauty of the garden. The result now is a record of its evolution over 20 years. I photograph visitors: a coyote jumping up for figs or loquats, a phoebe or a humming bird catching gnats at the end of the day over the pond, a passing monarch butterfly. I also photograph it to share; just sent a Belgian friend photos of a blazing yellow pomegranate tree festooned with ruby-red orbs into which a blooming Old Blush rose is climbing to let her see the incongruities and seasonal confusions that occur in our San Diego gardens.

    Ken Blackford shares photos on Flickr: I like to photograph my garden, and individual close-ups of various plants, to keep a record of their growth and bloom cycles. Everything is kept chronologically by year, month and day in my photo folders on the computer. When I see something blooming anew I can go back and see how its grown and done in past years. I also like to post my garden shots (and those of other gardens/plants) on Flickr to share with like-minded plant nerds. (Yes, I am a plant-nerd, and addict! No 12-step program and none needed!) If folks want to see some of my photos on Flickr just go to Also, it helps me re-experience my California garden, since I am on a 1-2 year job stint in Washington, D.C., and miss San Diego very much

    Barbara Patterson also uses photos to jog her memory: Like Mary, Mary quite contrary... well, you know the rest. I take pictures to see how my garden grows. It always seems so slow, but when you have pictures to look at you realize things actually change quite quickly. It's also a great way to see the garden from another perspective, with fresh eyes as it were. I also plan to start photographing plants when I put them in the ground for later identification. Sometimes the tags get lost.

    Tzung-Horng Yang gave us three reasons: (1) For documentation purposes; (2) to show friends, and (3) to make pictures to frame. 

    Tandy Pfost wrote: I take photos because I like to try to capture happy activities in the garden, to document how things change, and it is another reason to be out there. Sometimes I post them on Facebook in an album. At a past and bigger property, I did a garden journal blog in which I included photos and information. I started my current garden from a hardpan sand/dirt, bare lot. So I wanted to document progress. I keep the photos on the computer by year and month. Earlier this year, I sent one to the North County Times, and it was published.

    Steve Gerischer is a “crazy” gardener: I photograph my garden to document some of the beautiful, and awful things that happen there. I lecture and teach on a wide variety of subjects, and the photographs are instructional as well as entertaining. I am always keen to see pictures from a home/dirt gardener's garden, and I think most people attending a lecture want to see these types of pictures. They can say to themselves, "I can do that!" (I also think I'm a bit crazy, and when I see pictures from other "crazy" gardeners, I feel much better!)

    Cathy Tylka told us: The only reason I photograph is because I feel accomplished. I may send to friends and family, but I have lots of photos and don't know what to do with them, but when I look at them, I feel good!

    Lorrie Webb likes photos without people in them: I photograph our garden because I love to select color palettes from Nature. After all, she is the BEST! Garden photography also makes me look like a really good photographer. I am greatly rewarded with early rising for morning light and dew drops. No smiling, no moving babies or arranging the pets, just a living still life all over the front yard. FABULOUS! I use them for design ideas, and Facebook kudos.

    Barbara Thuro has a unique reason for photographing agaves: I like to do dramatic photos of my agaves and write haiku to match the mood. 

    Susan Krzywicki wrote: I am working on long-term "time lapse" photography. I take pictures of plant over the course of months and years to see their growth, maturity and, in some cases, decline. It gives me a perspective I lose when I just look at the plant in situ.

    Vivian Blackstone said: I only take once a year to see what I have and where, also to show people sometimes why I put a plant where I put it (shade, sun, partial sun). It’s not a bad idea for insurance purposes, too.

    Patricia White uses glass in her garden: I occasionally photograph my underwater sea bed of succulents to see what might be missing or to get an overall look at what visitors see as they come through the patio. I live in a small gated community where land is at a minimum. I like a theme and embellish with glass art from friends who are talented in making glass sculptures. Check out to see Charlotte and Brent Mitchell's work. Charlotte is an incredible glass sculptor who has been battling a brain tumor for over four years. They have a studio (near Julian) open to the public.

    Ruth Sewell takes a photo: if I see a spectacular bloom, such as the dragon fruit blossom. I want to be able to enjoy it longer than just one night, and I might share with friends.

    Laura Walker shares her images: I love to share with my family and friends in my garden club. I also label photos by year so I can look back and see how my garden has evolved.

    Patti Vickery has many photos: I have been photographing my garden since I bought my house in 1989 to remember what I started with and the transformation to today. I have a photo album that is only for garden photos that I can share with friends. I only have one pine tree and one camellia bush left from the original landscape.

    SDHS president Jim Bishop takes lots of photos: I photograph to post on Facebook. Since garden visits are few and far between, it is a way to share the garden with others. Also, many of my Facebook friends have never been to California. I also use the photos to document changes in the garden. I'm always looking at old photos to see what has changed. And some photos get used on our website page, pre-meeting slides and monthly email message.

    Candace Kohl tantalizes her cold-climate friends with photos: I usually only take pictures of parts of the garden during special times when something really nice is blooming or looking especially good or I have just finished a big project. I email them to garden friends or keep them on my phone to show people. I have also been guilty of sending pix of the garden in winter to my gardening friends in Minnesota and Germany, probably not fair, but there it is. I have used photography to document plantings with the intention of keeping a record of what is where and how well it is growing but somehow never follow thru on the project. I have taken pictures of some plants and sent them to my plant expert friends for identification.

    Barbara Weiler uses photos for national contests: Since digital photography has evolved, I take pictures of everything. The usual pictures are of the garden in full flowering or fruiting, close ups of prime specimens, and the activity of birds, animals and butterflies enjoying the garden’s bounty. I have also made it a habit to take pictures of parts of the garden that need improvement so that I can look back and see how things have changed over the years. I also record the vegetable garden, which helps me remember where things were planted previously to help in crop rotation. I try to label my individual plant photos with the botanical and common names for reference purposes. Additionally, I have used my photography in applying for awards with California Garden Clubs, Inc., for photo contests, and in illustrating gardening techniques for publications. And of course, I post photos on Facebook and e-mail them to my family back East.

    Kathryn Blankinship wrote: My yard is more rock than dirt. I take photos to show progress as each flower bed becomes a trench that is backfilled with “good” dirt (compost-enriched DG) and then flourishes with new plants. I also take pictures of sprinkler installations and any pipe replacements so I can recall where they are and what was done. I take pictures of flowers in bloom to capture the moment for later enjoyment. It is fun to see how different plants look as they mature, especially large shrubs and trees.Lastly, I take garden pictures for e-mailing to family so I can share the changes in my yard, a great show of flowers on one of my plants, or fruits and vegetables that I have grown.

    Carol Wilson also shares her photos with friends: I photograph my garden when the flowers are a riot of color, especially in March when the wisteria, clivia, and freesias are in bloom. I photograph the trees as the fall colors come on the Eastern redbud, the evergreen pear, the pomegranate, and the Chinese pistache, as I grew up in the Midwest. I share the photos via email.

    Tricia Daley wrote: Wow, what don't I photograph!? I photograph the changing of the seasons, bugs and butterflies, plants in their many stages of growth, lots and lots of edibles. I love taking pictures of dew and frost on plants! How sunlight changes the mood of a garden and reflection of light on the ponds. I don't do much with the photos but I truly should... I have in mind to do a wall collage in my office, but it's still in my thoughts.

    Jeff Moore said: I have become a compulsive succulent photographer ever since I went digital and learned I could take a zillion pictures and keep the best, plus later enhance them a bit. Succulents make fantastic still-life subjects, although many have implied motion. I initially photographed for garden club presentations, but now it is primarily for the book I'm making. Plus, I always have my camera handy and can't pass up a good shot as I'm always around the material.

    Katrin Utt said: I can't help photographing my garden when I see an exceptionally beautiful spot. My roses get the most attention, especially the old garden roses. They are so spectacular and fragrant when in full bloom. I print out the best pictures and send them to friends, I also have created albums of my best shots. Here is a photo of my American Beauty, a hybrid perpetual from 1875, growing along a wall at our Cabin in the Cuyamaca mountains.

    Charlotte Gresham told us: I take pictures of the plants in my garden to show myself and others how awesome that they are. Pictures are worth a thousand words. I use the pictures to show a client, friend or family the plant that I am verbally talking about.  I also use the pictures in fun emails and letters that I write. This month I am using some of my garden pictures to include in a San Dieguito High School Class of 1972 Reunion Memory DVD the Reunion Committee is creating.

    Linda Lawley wrote: While I don't know about the garden looking so great, it is alive with caterpillars and emerging butterflies, mostly Monarchs, but here is what I photographed a couple days ago. The Swallowtail emerged from its chrysalis, seen in the first shot, then hung around the garden until the next afternoon. He got on my finger and I took him to the sunshine and a lantana flower, where he drank nectar for a long time. The rose is "Shocking Blue" and blooms regardless of the abuse and neglect it gets from me. I sometimes send my photos to friends, or make prints for greeting cards. They allow me to get a close look long after the butterflies have flown away.

  • Sat, December 01, 2012 9:04 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Scott Jones wrote: What do I plan to recommend more for people to grow in their gardens in 2013, and beyond? Answer: Enjoy the heat, Grow Mangos!, or "take advantage of the heat, Grow Mangos!

    Tammy Schwab plans to: incorporate more edibles, install a waterfall in my front yard, change to drip irrigation around the perimeter of my home, and hopefully do some terracing in both the front and rear yard. The why.... to fulfill my goal of home grown edibles, to add a focal point in the front, and so I can have better accessibility.

    Elizabeth Aschmoneit said: Oh the wonderful things my garden will hopefully undergo! (1) A split rail fence with a farm style entry gate! Why you ask? Keep our pets in and the pickers out! (2) A chicken coop! Why? I love the little buggers and gifts the girl us for taking care of them! (3) An edible garden! Because there will be a class on it this month and I think it's a grand idea!

    BJ Boland shared that: having just moved into a West Coast home for the first time, I expect to rip out the present builder's palms and randomly planted shrubs. Then we'll put in a lap pool and 4 gardens, all on ground that tightly hugs the house.

    Charlotte Getz is: gradually converting many of my plants to succulents and drought tolerant shrubs: grevilleas, leucadendrons, flax lilies, etc. All plants that want little water will be the recipe for 2013 and beyond.

    Jim Farley is also going for edibles: In the interest of supporting a sustainable food shed, I will be looking for opportunities to convert trees that beautify my garden and require maintenance and water to beautiful sources of food.

    Gloria Alexanderson will be: finishing putting my cacti and succulents all into pots, on a drip system.

    Lorrie Webb told us: We are going to rotate our vegetable planters and give them a rest during the winter. We might have to sneak in a little kale. We are also going to buy good organic soil from City Gardens and try our own homemade compost. 

    Gerald D. Stewart said: I have hundreds of impetuous plant purchases, many of which die before I figure out what to do with them. In the future I am going to know what is going to happen to a plant and do the preparation (having a hole ready, or for a new area have the irrigation system in place and on a timer), before I actually make the purchase. This change in next year’s gardening is due to a book I read over the summer. Dwight Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe was a fascinating read. In it he described over and over how detailed planning before an event was crucial for the success of any military action. That will be a useful tool for me in the garden: purchase by plan rather than by impulse. It should save a lot of time hand watering a bazillion pots with individual needs, not to mention money wasted on dead plants.

    Diane Scharar will deal with accessibility: Since breaking my hip I realize that the garden needs to be easier to care for.

    Enid Sherman is going for native plants: We are going to redo our front yard using native plants. We have Greg Rubin coming over here in a few weeks to give us guidance. We want to conserve water and also blend into our surroundings better. Torrey Pines Park is in our close view. Since we also love succulents, we want to incorporate some into this new landscape. We have learned much visiting monthly gardens with the Hort.

    Linda Bresler said: I am beginning this fall to concentrate on planting proven drought tolerant plants from Australia, South Africa, etc. like the ones already in my garden which survived this past summer. I am also planting lots of succulents because they do well without much water. I won't plant anything after April except succulents since they have a much better chance of surviving the summer heat.

    Sue Ann Scheck is going for major changes: This year Bill and I are going wild with natives. Also, we want to create a more intimate feel, cover our hardscape with pebbles and slabs of stone. We are loving grasses, watching many plantings mature, and trying to add some pizzazz to our garden. Maybe some colored boulders.... anybody know the best place to get them?

    Jennifer Harris will be saving water by: replacing more lawn with decorative rock, and succulents. Reason? They are not only beautiful, but require less H20, and attract less rabbits and gophers!

    Anne Murphy will add worms: I will add worm composting to my garden. I want their worm castings for my garden. I also want to add chickens for their chicken castings. Both of those are geared to my fruit and vegetable plants. On the other hand, for ornamentals I will continue looking to recommendations for plants for really hot climate areas, plants that love the heat, poor soil and need little water, once established. Recent successes in this category include Abutilon palmeri, Indian mallow, with soft fuzzy leaves and prolific yellow blooms and Caesalpinia gillesii, a large shrub with attractive delicate flowers, yellow petals and long red stamens.

    Marilyn Guidroz has plans for removing some plants: I plan to get rid of plants that are just not working for me anymore. Since my garden is fairly new and I am working on establishing some of my plants that have been sitting in containers waiting to be planted, I have had time to consider them again. Some plants are gifts, some are inherited from projects, and some are ones that have been around so long I forget where they came from. As I am putting together a very drought tolerant and native garden I must cull out some plants that will just not fit in. It is a hard thing for a plant lover to do, but it must be done! I wonder if my neighbors want them?

    Stephen Zolezzi will re-think what he has now: In 12 years my present garden has grown, changed and matured; what worked before, shade, sun, fertility needs to be re-assed for the future. So, in 2013 I will need to reinvigorate soil, trim trees for more sun, move some plants that are just not working or need a change, and continue to add more succulents/natives that are water wise. Gardening over half an acre I need to not only conserve water but how much time it takes to maintain so I can enjoy my work.

    John Wear will see results in 2013 from what he did in 2012: I just planted a bit of Russian Sage into attractive beds for my daughter-in-law. Previous plantings of herbs are returning beauty, great odor-essence, and joy in the daily encounter upon passing the portals (out the front door). Increased humus in rooting areas around all the new plants. Retro-installed more RZH and RZHO (humus products) into rooting areas. Enhanced coloration and odor-output guaranteed! Healthy, happy plants. Results will continue to be less watering, weed control and vector control owing to the new methods causing values to outcompete invasions. We may have started a rosemary forest; the blooms are fantastic!

    Peggy Rados has a good problem: I plan to put my herbs in containers next year because they grow so well they are taking up too much space and I find I have little space for other things. It certainly is wonderful to have such a problem.

    Ann Hoeppner is re-thinking tomatoes: I'll plant my tomatoes later, in June, rather than in April. I tried both this year, and the later ones caught up pretty quickly, and were healthier because the weather was warmer.

    Louise Anderson will garden more carefully: Next year I'm getting help with the heavy work because my body won't go along with the program. Will also be more careful with what's planted and use less vigorous plants.

    Stevie Hall is: not quite sure what I'll do differently in 2013. This year I switched over (sort of) from roses to edibles, but was only semi-successful with my crop and also have a major infestation of sooty mold on my citrus. Maybe next year I'll be a little more pro-active with fungicide and insecticide (organic, of course) and not let the bad stuff get ahead of me like it did this year.

    Janet Voinov is removing succulents – temporarily: I'm taking out my succulents and drought tolerant plants (storing them safely), putting in drip, and replanting with more concentration on what to put where. I was so excited to take out my grass several years ago that I just got rid of the grass and put things in wherever they fit. Now, I'm taking my time, putting plants in groups, making sure that the taller plants are in the back so shorter plants can be seen. I'm raking up a couple of year’s worth of leaves (for my compost) and putting in new mulch. Hopefully I can get everything done before the leaves start to fall again.

    Candace Kohl is not planning any major changes to the garden this coming year: I have been doing some big projects that I have put off; replacing a dirt path with DG, replacing an old rotten wood retaining wall with rock and redoing some parts of the irrigation that have never worked well. These expensive improvements should be finished before the start of 2013 and should last a long time, and I hope make the gardening easier since I will actually be able to get to some areas. This will allow me to keep more on top of the garden condition next year. My gardening goals are a lot like my exercise goals. The same every year but seldom accomplished in the way I set out to do. My main goal (which is the same as last year but one I didn't do very well with) is to enjoy the garden more and spend more time just hanging out in it.

    Sky Jeannette is excited about her veggie success: In 2013 we are going to grow more veggies in our Tower Garden. Our big switch this past year has been to grow many of our veggies and some fruit in our vertical, aeroponic (without soil) Tower Garden saving 90% on water, 50% on space and growing crops 50% faster. My husband and I are long-time gardeners. We went from skeptics to great enthusiasts: the tomatoes, kale, squash, lettuce, chard and more were the best tasting veggies I've ever had. No gopher problems, either.

    Leslie Crawford says: It’s a jungle out there! My goal is to consolidate a lot of my little pots into bigger plantings and to do a better job with the plants I have.  I would like a tidier garden. Also, I'm going to set a budget for how much I can spend on plant material so I am not impulse buying plants I don't need! Lastly, I want to try to root more of my plants to give to friends, and I want to grow more food in my small space, preferably from seed.  

    Cindy Sparks does plan to do a few things very differently: I will have the house termite-tented at the first of the year, so I'll need to dig and hide away several prize plants. After the tenting they can go back, hopefully with good results and that is a one-time problem. Next, I have succeeded with making my front yard into one needing very low water and also low maintenance. The one exception is that I got a "native" grass, Leymus arenarius 'Glaucus' which turns out to be a very big thug (and native to Europe, not California), so I may start a program of "sequestering" new potentially invasive natives in pots first to determine their ability to invade. In back, my edible plots have gotten away from me, too, so I will make a better plan of what I really want to eat, and when to plant what. Yes, it will mean less food to the food bank, but less work for me too. Otherwise, business as usual.

    Sue Lasbury has plans for little bits of her time: One thing I plan to do differently next year, is to use those little pockets of time that don't seem big enough to tackle a gardening project. Let's say I only have 15 minutes. That's enough time to pull a good many weeds, or turn the compost, or jet-spray a plant infested with white fly, or test the moisture level of spots all over your garden. And if you only have 30 minutes, you can plant something, or prune a small shrub. The point is to use small bits of time to garden. Sometimes its difficult to find a huge hunk of gardening time, but we all have small segments of time available and when we use them they really do add up to getting a whole lot done in the garden.  

    Vivian Black is removing any extraneous iris plants: With water and weather changes, it's very labor intensive to water and prune them. I have rare iris and a lot of fruit trees, which I’m keeping. If any members want double blooming iris, I'm thrilled to give them away... they can come and dig them up. 

    Elf Mitton will keep her critters happy:  I plan to add more plants for hummingbirds and butterflies. My garden is a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat and every year the "hummies" nest. The butterflies also lay eggs in the trees, so its fun to watch the "wooly boys" climbing up the walls of the house after they hatch. I also plan to grow veggies for my tortoises.

    Tynan Wyatt is also growing edibles in 2013: A cover crop of vetch or fava beans in the vegetable beds is one idea I'm considering. Another would be more thinning of the fruit clusters, especially the grapes. Oh, and bagging more of the fruit to protect them from the birds, bees, and wasps. Last year we fed more critters than people.

    Una Marie Pierce plans to: upgrade the irrigation and plants to make the garden easier to take care of in my old age. I also plan to cut back fruit trees and plant fewer vegetables in order to not have so much to give away. I wouldn't mind giving excess away, but no one comes to get it, and they just wait for me to deliver. I still love my garden and have NO intention of moving into retirement home!

    Steve Brigham said: After two years of developing my garden here at Happy Acres By-The-Sea, I'm largely done! So, in 2013 I won't do much differently in my garden. But I will do some different things in all my neighbors' gardens! Let's all make this the year that we plant all of our neighbors' yards, not just our own!

    Renee Shepherd is going for color: I plan to plant more primroses for spring color because they last much longer than I ever think they will.

    Roy Wilburn has info about pelletized seeds you might want to try in 2013: One thing that we find very helpful here at Sunshine Care, is the use of coated (pelletized) lettuce seed. Our residents, special needs kids, and home school kids do all of the seeding for our gardens. We don’t lay out streams of lettuce seeds in the gardens because I don’t have the time to go through later and thin them out. Plus, I have a very nice heated greenhouse for excellent germination. The larger coated seeds can be sown one seed per cavity in the seed trays. The plugs are then transplanted one at a time in about a month. This results in a very uniform stand of lettuce in the row and all can be harvested in one shot.

    Susi Torre-Bueno is re-doing part of her garden: I have a labyrinth which was originally planted four years ago with herbs and edible flowers in 18” wide beds. Sounds great, and I thought it would be interesting and low-maintenance. Hah! The flowers were mostly annuals and needed constant replacement (they didn’t self-seed as expected), and the herbs got wayyyyyyy too big for the available space – think 6’ tall (and 5’ wide) rosemary and 4’ wide lavender. What had I been thinking? Starting a few months ago I removed virtually all the herbs and have been re-planting the labyrinth with a wide range of colorful succulents and low-water bulbs. Sounds better, right? Nope! I’ve recently been reflecting about how the main purpose of a labyrinth is to be a calm, meditative place, and I’m finding the very colorful succulents.

  • Thu, November 01, 2012 9:01 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Lorie Johansen started this topic off when she wrote: After starting a cup of coffee with the mere intention of enjoying the courtyard, I started pruning the water lilies… then I didn't like the looks of the potted stream plants and decided to prune those… then I had to get in the pond to prune those plants in the middle of the lower pond. I never finished the cup of joe, but still in my summer sleepwear, I finished cleaning the entire pond by noon.

    Sharon Muczynski speaks for many of us when she says: I swear I will change shoes, but I always end up in the garden in slippers.

    Enid Sherman sometimes suits up: I have worn a bathing suit… coming back from my water aerobics class, you just notice something in the garden that needs attention, so you do it pronto and then there is something else you notice and it goes on and on… my PJs, bathrobe, slippers all have made it in the garden!

    Sue Lasbury says: I certainly have gone into my back garden in my cozy pajamas, sometimes even a nightgown. It's usually just to do some little thing by the door, but then I see something else and soon I'm checking the neighbors’ windows to see if anyone is looking out at their goofy gardener neighbor in her night clothes. Gardening is addictive. Besides going out in my PJs, when I return home I almost always jump out of the car and into my garden to do just one thing. An hour later I'm still out there and my non-gardening clothes and shoes are really dirty. We gardeners are quite different from other folks and we wouldn't have it any other way.

    Annie Forseth-Smith must look stylish in: A big hat and a jumper from Hawaii. Go tropical native.

    Tory Monigold also gardens in PJs: I have most definitely gardened in my pajamas! The last time I found myself awake at 5am and headed out to the garden in gnome pajamas. The neighbors started stepping outside and I headed back in when a lil’ voice cried “Mama!” This morning I was watering in my leopard-print robe. I’m usually more concerned that the plants get water early in the morning than what I might be wearing.

    Meredith French also has shoe issues: I have often been caught in the garden still in my a.m. loungies with no bra! But what my husband complains about are my “gardening shoes.” You know how you go out to water something and then you spot some weeds – in your “go to work” shoes? Any new pair of shoes remains publicly acceptable for about a week by this owner.

    BJ Boland says: If by gardening we include repairing fence to keep the deer herd away from my rhododendrons, then house slippers (I was in a hurry) rather than snow boots. I was knee deep in ice-crusted snow and needed my husband to rescue me with hiking sticks. He was not amused. (This was in our garden in Boxford, Massachusetts. The only herds I see in Carlsbad are ants.)

    Lisa Bellora is another PJ gardener: Seems like every morning I'm up in the front yard in my jammies, watering or some such nonsense! Since my PJs cover more of my body than when I wear shorts and a t-shirt I figure what the heck. My neighbors do seem to be a little taken aback by my "baggy attire" sometimes, and then other times I tuck my jammies into my shorts which, of course, looks lovely.

    Janet Miliken wears: Not pajamas, just old spotted ratty shorts and cool tops. A lot of dirt stains, so you won't see me in the "Martha Stewart" look in my garden. I grub. 

    Bryan Morse doesn’t wear PJs: I usually garden in a great deal less than my pajamas at my home for as much of the year as possible. You aren’t identifying the source of the information are you? Oh, I see that you do… I guess that I had better not elucidate on my reply.

    Ann Hoeppner is sometimes overdressed: My biggest temptation is to "just do a little something" in the garden while still wearing my good clothes and good shoes. Harvesting vegetables and feeding the worms are particular temptations, because they don't take long and I can certainly be careful enough to stay clean. Yeah, right. That's how I got zucchini sap on my work blazer, and coffee grounds on my suede shoes.

    Linda Bresler got sidetracked once: On my way to the pool, I got sidetracked by the overgrowth of the Pittosporum blocking my way down the steps. I spent the rest of the afternoon in my bathing suit pruning back the foliage. I totally forgot that I had planned to go swimming since I was so involved in what I was doing.

    David Curtright dresses for his messes: Working in my own yard, instead of other people’s yards, allows me to wear my more worn out and comfortable clothes, such as shorts with torn legs, broken zippers, split crotches, and the odd blood stain, or shirts with such problems that they aren’t fit for public consumption. My work involves working in pond water all of the time, so sartorial elegance is out from the start, and I gave up looking good on the job a long time ago, but I at least don’t wear the worst of it when I’m in other people’s yards. No, I save the better rags for clients’ yards by wearing the real rags here at home.

    Susanna Pagan says: Watering in the early am to beat the heat, before I've had time to change out of my pajamas, is standard procedure at my home!

    Susi Torre-Bueno has a favorite shirt: Almost every day I wear the same old cotton top with a blue geometric pattern. It has been washed so many times it’s almost faded completely in some areas, and it’s so stretched out (partly from using the front as a pouch to bring in veggies from the garden) that it’s pretty loose – but I love it ‘cause it’s so light and cool. The many stains are like old friends.

    Susan Krzywicki also gardens in PJs: Of course I've gardened in my PJs, or what passes for them in my house. I've gardened with a toothbrush still hanging out of my mouth when I just HAD to run out there and do that one little task and then, half an hour later, I'm still at it. But my dream is to have my garden in such great shape that I can garden in a bikini and flip flops. I seem to feel that some day I'll be past the "heavy lifting" stage that requires closed toe shoes. I have been dreaming of this for so long that I have begun to realize that I may not look so hot in a bikini by the time I achieve my goal.

    Meg Ryan sometimes wears scrubs: I have gardened in my pajamas many times, but only during the winter months when it isn't too warm for pjs outside. The down side of this is that I have occasionally stepped in dog do-do in my bedroom slippers. In the summer, when it is way too warm to wear pjs outside at all, I wear scrub tops (like nurses wear at doctors' officers and hospitals) with a pair of shorts. All the pockets are handy. Not wanting to sweat on a clean bra, I went without for years. But now, I save yesterday's, and consequently I'm a whole lot more presentable. Maybe I shouldn't admit to all this!

    Tynan Wyatt says: Boxer briefs have more than once been my gardening attire, though I have rationalized that if someone is looking hard enough to see through the wall of foliage and realize I'm in my underwear then they must be more intrigued than offended. 

    Rachele Melious is another member who fancies a bathing suit: Oh my gosh!!! ONLY for the sake of evening out my farmer's tan, particularly when I have an event I need to dress for, I have "killed two birds with one stone" by gardening in my bikini (in the back yard only and when no one else is home). My "go to" is old, faded and stretched out but oh so comfortable. Don't be fooled, it is NOT attractive. The top has trouble holding on and the bottom is so stretched it looks like Baby Huey's diaper! As for the farmer's tan… it helps!

    Margaret-Ann Ashton’s hubby dresses up instead of down: Most of us have probably run to the garden in our jammies to turn off a water geyser that was a sprinkler the day before, or to grab a puppy that somehow managed to escape and is now rolling in the newly transplanted echevarias. You slip out barefoot with a pair of clippers to deadhead “that rose” or fetch a blossom for the breakfast table, only to find an hour has passed and your wet nightgown is turning heads. My husband dresses “up” when he goes to the “back forty” to do the chipper-shredding. He usually picks a day that is hot, because that is when the piles of prunings are driest. On go the wellies, or high boots for protection from shrapnel, then a pair of jeans, then one of his white Oxford long-sleeved-monogrammed-button-down-collared-shirts that I slaved over ironing when he wore them to the office. Then a wide brimmed straw hat, protective glasses, and ear plugs. The white shirts reflect the sun and protect his arms from insects and clippings, and the cotton absorbs the perspiration. It’s a way to get a last use out of those gol darn shirts he wore for years. Oh, he wore one the times he climbed Mt. Whitney for most of the same reasons.

    Pat Crowl is among the ranks of members who can’t stop at just one: I do occasionally garden in my PJs, while not really intending to. Sometimes I go out to do "one" thing, and CAN'T STOP! I bet there are other garden addicts who go to trim something or pull a weed, and soon find themselves involved in a more major project. The back yard is one thing, with only one neighbor who could observe, and no doubt has, but really, WHO CARES! I'm a little more careful bending over in the front yard! My spouse, who does not

  • Mon, October 01, 2012 8:56 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Carol Prior said: I have a lot of succulents in pots that have perlite in the soil that always manages to float to the top. I have found that very small pebbles are not only decorative but also cover the top of the soil and hides those white spots (caused by the perlite). I can buy a 50-pound bag for $10 at Thompson Building Materials in Lemon Grove.

    Jim Mumford was quick to suggest: Recycled and tumbled glass in multiple colors!

    Ari Tenenbaum uses organic mulch: I like to mulch my containers with organic compost from City Farmer’s Nursery. It looks nice and provided lots of organic nutrients so I don’t need to fertilize as much!

    Linda Bresler suggests a living mulch: I usually don't put mulch in my potted plants. Often, I put a small sedum around a larger plant so that you can't see the bare earth. Small, polished stones would also look nice as a decorative mulch in pots.

    Wanda Bass has a source of free mulch: I use leaf mulch from tree trimmings. I get a load of tree trimmings dropped off in my driveway and use them to mulch plants and roses.

    Tammy Schwab likes inorganic mulch: I can't seem to get away from the years I lived in the desert, which is why I predominantly use pea gravel. I have recently expanded my palette to shells and glass, both tumbled and nuggets. I love the look with my potted succulents.

    Devonna Hall had a fun suggestion: I learned at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show a few years ago that used wine corks also help keep the soil most for longer periods of time, and if you can bear the teasing about the amounts of wine you drink, they look nice too!

    Peter & Margret Jones use a variety of mulches: In many of our pots the type of mulch varies with the type of & color of the plant and the pot. It should complement the pairing of the plant & its pot. So, we may use rounded pebbles of different colors and sizes, pumice, sea shells (crushed &/or whole shells), or pieces of wood, but my favorite mulch is corks. These are the corks from wine bottles (the best part is collecting the corks… one at a time). We have a BIG pot with a grape vine in it that is mulched with corks – it looks terrific! Fabulous pairing!! Since we had extra corks we put in a wall of wine bottles (the bottles are a by-product of the cork collecting). The mulch we are using by the wine bottle wall is more corks. We expect the wall will continue to grow. We really do believe in using LOTS of mulch.

    Meg Ryan has a very thoughtful approach: The first decision I make regarding mulching pots is: does this plant require dry time? Is it susceptible to root rot? Some of the cacti and succulents need fast-draining and fast-drying soil. I learned the hard way, and now I don't mulch those at all. Plants that want constantly moist soil get a layer of pea-size gravel, washed before it is placed around the plant. Looks nice, and the gravel can be re-used if a plant bites the dust.

    Donna Gottfried shared a tip for mulching in-ground plantings: When planting new areas I use landscape cloth over soil, covered with fine mulch to decrease the amount of weeding. To plant, I push back mulch in area, cut hole with scissors or blade, and lay a sheet of plastic down to put the soil removed for new planting. After the planting is completed, remove the plastic and any remaining soil and mulch still looks like new.

    Shirley Elswick has a plentitude of pine needles: We have 40-year old Canary Island pines surrounding our yard, with barrels of long needles raked each day. The needles become so heavy if left unattended that they eventually weigh down and discourage growth of plants that they fall on. So, these needles work well as a filler for deep pots before good soil and desired planting. They also work as a mulch on the soil surface after your prized plants are in place. They do not rot away but do help hold moisture.

    Tynan Wyatt’s mulch serves two purposes: For mulch on my potted plants I like to use all the sweepings I collect about once per month when I see the spaces in between the pots is getting a little grungy. In addition, if I have some plants that died or plants that have die back (not from disease, though) I'll trim these parts off and clip them to mulch size. I keep all of these bits in a small bucket for ready use whenever a plant needs more mulch. I've found this system is a big help for a balcony gardener like myself!

    Karen Eckhart has two types of mulch: In one pot I have a layer of smooth beach stones and shells for mulch. In another I have dried lotus seed pods repurposed from a spent holiday wreath.

    Linda Espino likes cedar mulch: I am using cedar mulch now that I get at Cedros Gardens, Solana Beach. This mulch has various sizes and helps keep the moisture in the pot. My plants seem to be responding well to it. Also, it is supposed to last lots longer than the smaller decorative pathway bark I was using.

    Pat Welsh has two suggestions: I don't use any mulch in pots. However pebbles are nice for mulching succulents, and the seedpods of Liquidambar will prevent cats from visiting large containers.

    Don Yeckel uses a variety of mulches: Depending on size of pot and type of plant: pine needles, Mexican beach pebbles/rocks, Spanish moss (many garden centers, but Michael's is an especially good source), various small decorative stones (Southwest Boulder, KRC, and many garden centers) – these work especially well in succulent containers

    Bea Ericksen uses LOTS of mulch: Every year for the past fifteen years we have ordered mulch from Evergreen Nursery; this last year we had them deliver 25 yards. This is placed in all our beds, even on the garden railroad layout; we spread it about 4 to 6 inches. This keeps down the weeds and holds in the moisture. For our potted plants, we use shades of gravel in our pots with the cacti and succulents. We have found this is very attractive and also holds in the moisture.  [Editor’s note: Bea & Dick Ericksen’s marvelous Bonita garden was our Featured Garden in September.]

    Steve Brigham sometimes uses mulch… and sometimes not: At the Westport Community Garden, we grow our vegetables in either raised beds or large half-wine-barrel-sized pots. We use rice straw for our mulch, which works very well, since there are no seeds in it. However, I always fill up all the space around newly planted larger vegetables with leaf lettuce seedlings, since they'll be harvested quickly, so no need for too much mulch.

    Why grow mulch in pots when you can grow color instead? When I plant pots here at home, they're always "chock-a-block" (an Australian term) with a mixture of plants. Even when just newly planted, the pots are so full of annuals, perennials, and sometimes even shrubs that there is never any soil visible from the get-go. So no mulch needed!

    Gerald D. Stewart says, “For several years I’ve had three small ponds to house the variegated bog & aquatic plant collection, with feeder goldfish for mosquito control. Early on it became apparent something was needed on the mud used in the pots because the fish action over them muddied the water (sidebar: clay pushed-up by gophers is a great source of dirt for the pots). Small black Mexican beach cobbles were perfect in this unusual “mulch” that keeps the dirt in a pot submerged under water. Scoria (a dark-colored volcanic rock) provides a two-purpose mulch for the colorful succulent collection: it retains soil moisture, yet because it stays dry itself, keeps the crown of the plant dry. Another “mulch”, used in larger containers, is tightly-spreading small-scale ground covers, like Cape Blanco or Blue Spruce stonecrop, dwarf Mondo grass, or Chocolate Chip bugleweed.”

    Kathy Esty has a novel approach: For my vegetable garden, I like to use bedding that is used in small animal cages….the sawdust natural color kind.  I place a nice thick layer in my pots that are growing peppers, etc.   I even lay a nice thick layer where my tomatoes are growing in the ground.  This gives  my vegetable area a wonder smell of sawdust “farm-like” fragrance….It keeps the weeds down and makes everything look very clean. 

    Candace Kohl uses different sizes of rocks: I use small rocks in different (natural) colors to compliment the plants and pots, especially for my succulent collection. Then I add larger rocks and shells collected from travels. Not a mulch item but fun: I have a number of 2- 3 inch metal insects that  I out on top of the little rocks.

    Ruth Sewall said: My son picked up one cubic yard of compost for $12.00 at the Miramar Landfill.

    Annie Morgan employs a range of mulches: In most of my succulent pots I use small, 1/8" - 3/4", stones of various natural colors, or the larger pieces of decomposed granite (DG) that I get when it's screened. (Apparently succulents like more minerals vs. nitrogen and the DG provides that. In fact I read a comment from a Haworthia grower about how DG will prevent the black spots they get on their leaves, and since I started using it all the new leaves have stayed spot free.) In my houseplants and large outdoor potted plants I don't use anything except leaves that fall into them, but would love some ideas. August’s speaker mentioned tumbled terra cotta, so next time my neighbors go out of town I'm going to use our cement mixer to tumble some larger pieces (1”-3") for the larger pots. I love Susan Krzywicki's idea and will be doing that, too, as I've been collecting pine cones of all sizes.

    Barb Thuro is another rock lover: I use river rocks for my larger planters. They add another design dimension.

    Judy La Vine has a local source for glass mulch: I used recycled glass in some areas. I have recycled art glass (available sometimes from Glass Ranch in Escondido) and I also have used broken safety glass around potted plants. It adds a little sparkle to the garden.

    Al Myrick get his mulch for free: We hijack our local arborists who want to save dump fees and have them fill our driveway with a hill of shreddings from their trucks. Three-fourths of that goes on soil surfaces directly (up to about 10 inches thick: and it is already hot); the rest usually goes into various piles that naturally leach and decompose. We mine the decomposing layers (usually full of worms and other animals) and use them in our pots and planters. Works well especially when mixed with composted manures. The fresher stuff usually goes around plantings to keep the soil moist. Be careful not to mix it into soil until it has mostly broken down.

  • Sat, September 01, 2012 8:54 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Pat Welsh, who garden expertise is legendary, wrote about her worst pest this year: GOPHERS! We are waging gopher wars and the gophers are winning! My favorite trap is the "Black Hole", but even with that superior device, mortarless rock walls and sandy soil give gophers the edge. Anyone know a canny trapper with genuine hunting instinct? Or a Rodenator that fills the holes with propane and air, sets it alight and boom! (

    Lorie Johansen’s Argggh moment this year is due to: SNAILS!!! They poop all over the courtyard wall, drink my cheap beer and don't even die or leave a tip! I spent a long morning gathering decollate snails in a Valley Center orchard and diligently spread them about. I am trying to be patient but I don't see that they have done their job very well this year.  The brown snails also eat my roses, daturas, and eppies. It's an endless battle but I get so much joy out of doing the snail stomp!

    Gabe Mitchell had heirloom veggie problems: This year we wanted to try some heirloom tomato varieties and ordered some seeds online. Come to find out the vendor was based out of the east coast, where early blight has run rampant this past year. All our heirlooms ended up with the blight, and we've since had to revert to the same boring (though resistant) commercial hybrids.

    Mary Poteet wrote about geranium pests: This one's easy for me.  The geranium budworm (aka tobacco budworm, Helicoverpa virescens) destroyed my 10 large hanging baskets of geraniums. We recently moved here from Oregon, where I never encountered this problem, and at first I was bewildered about why my new geranium baskets were doing so poorly. Currently, I'm trying to save these plants by treating them with Bt.

    Donna Gottfried is married to her garden problem: My husband decided to plant leaf lettuce seeds in my 4' x 4' raised bed, leaving me no room to plant any other vegetables.

    Kathleen and John Anderson have a smelly digging pest: My Argggh!!! is skunks that dig under plants, sometimes completely uprooting the plant.

    Tynan Wyatt had a governmental Arrgggh! Incident: The county, when they spray weed killer on a breezy day and my 3-year old Desertneyi pomegranate, Sherwood jujube, Rhus integrifolia, and Concha ceanothus turn brown overnight. And the worst part is they are spraying for goathead weeds, which don't even grow more than an inch off the ground (I weed whack all the taller weeds) all in the name of wildfire control. ARGGGH!!!!!

    Sheri Mongeau is another member who says her problem is: The huge numbers of gophers this year. 

    Janet Milliken said: Snails and huge grasshoppers made me most unhappy. Haven't had snails for quit a few years, but this year they came out en masse.

    Devonna Hall has a garden mystery: I bought a beautiful little watermelon cucumber at Pearson's on a recent nursery hopping trip. My leaves are beautiful and it's grown six feet, but not one flower or cucumber has appeared! A friend who was on the trip also bought one and she has lots of cucumbers! We have our plants in a similar spot for sun and protection. Arrghh!

    Patty Sliney had critter woes: My ARGGH!!!! moment this year was my new stone and pome tree walk and pick orchard I had planted 2 seasons ago. This was going to be my first harvest, and despite taking "measures" to reduce the ground squirrel and roof rat population, I still only ended up with about one-quarter of my lovely fruits. Between the ground squirrels, rats and snails, about three-quarters of my fruit were eaten or chewed on. Next year it will be all out war on rodents and mollusks!  

    Sharon’s May’s ARGGH!!! is due to tomatoes: My gorgeous heirloom tomatoes were struck by a virus and are no longer producing! After last year’s bumper crop, I acquired the tools and skills to can them this year but don’t have enough to eat fresh! It even attacked my beloved “Indigo Rose”, the first truly purple tomato, introduced just this year! Gosh -@#$%* virus!

    Christine Harrison also had a tomato disappointment: After planting my tomato seeds in raised beds filled with brand new imported topsoil enriched by me with mycorrhizal fungus, eggshells, organic fertilizer, worm castings, and bone meal and spraying and drenching regularly with home-brewed worm tea and applying fertilizer once a month and side dressing with my own compost and putting down mulch and hand picking the icky green horned worms while in my robe and nursing them into wildly huge plants until I was able to pick beautifully colored fruit… I was shocked to find that they all tasted like GROCERY STORE TOMATOES!  In hindsight, I think I probably gave them too much water.  

    Kristie Hildebrand has an unusual problem – can someone suggest a solution?: I've got a 4' retaining wall along the north side of my home with a 5'5" wall that abuts an alleyway which leads to a large open field to the NW and slopes downhill to the SE to a dirt road/semi-paved street and other fields. On the alleyway side there is about 14" of dirt from the wall to a concrete drain which captures rainwater and that leads down to the street. I'm growing Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis' due to privacy issues and planted some star jasmine to tumble down the wall to hide water seepage stains during the rainy months (unfortunately wasn't done correctly by previous homeowner). Also, previous homeowners planted a running bamboo so I had it removed and installed 30" of polyethylene barrier just in case there were further problems with wandering rhizomes. Industrious gophers have gone under the concrete drain, under the wall, under the barrier and have come up right beside my star jasmine through little "doors." They gnaw off branches (doesn't matter if they are large or small) and pull entire branches down into the holes, then backfill the "door." I'm amazed at how large some of the branches have been that go missing. I lost 4 large plants this way. My husband has gone gopher shopping in the alleyway but this area is a bit of a challenge because he says the tunnels go down about 6 feet. I was in a panic on what to do so I put aluminum foil around the base of each new & old plant and then tied strips a little further out that make noise. Seems to work for now.

    Sue Lasbury wrote about critter problems: This year my garden has become a haven for wildlife, which is great up to a point. It's a new garden with practically all natives and drought tolerant plants. However, something rather large has been digging big holes under my fence in the middle of the night. Each time I fill the holes and reinforce the fence with boards and bricks. But the next day I find yet another hole. Whatever it is also digs holes in the garden, snaps off plants, including the beautiful large head of an Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'. I'm tempted to set out traps and I just may do that if it doesn't stop. However, I'm afraid I will hurt birds and lizards and other small creatures. It's terribly frustrating to find this kind of damage and not really know how to stop it. I live in the Del Mar Highlands/Carmel Valley area, near Torrey Pines High School. We do have a large canyon just up the hill. It may be raccoons, possums, or even a coyote.

    Diane Foote said: I have the best fed rats in the neighborhood - they've been dining on my tomatoes, beans, eggplants and the peanut butter in the traps. I also have never seen so many rabbits before - and my dog who loves to chase rabbits on our hikes has been no help in her own backyard! Argggh! :-)

    Roy Wilburn is also fighting squirrels: Rabbits have been no problem this year because all of our organic gardens are fenced in with hardware cloth. I didn’t think we would have our annual squirrel problem this year, until I went to the garden last week and saw that these vermin chewed up all the tender leaves on my most recent squash plantings. I am pulling out my Squirrelinator trap today and going after those guys. I got my trap at Grangetto’s (see ad on page 21), and even though they come with a humane(?) way to kill them, I relocate them to Carmel Valley and release them by my house.

    Deidra Krutop shared this with us: In my two Point Loma gardens there’s been a population explosion of stick bugs. They range from babies a quarter inch long to adults 3” long. They will strip a plant of many leaves and keep looking for more. Aarrggh! Not cute anymore.

    Jennifer Harris has another buggy pest: I've said "ARGGGH" (and worse) to meal bugs (aka mealworms)! Almost seems as though they are already in some bagged soils that we buy? They especially love beautiful overly fed, watered, and "plumped up" succulents – a reminder that these plants are actually supposed to go through their natural annual dried out and stressed looking phase!

    Elf Mitton also has rabbit problems: The rabbits ate most of my front lawn and sat there thumbing their noses at me. I finally took out some large bushes which shielded them from view and put much smaller plants in so the rabbits couldn't hide and… they left. I did have to replace some of the grass but my lawn is much smaller. (I need it for my dogs).
  • Wed, August 01, 2012 8:52 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Gerald D. Stewart wrote: Over the years I’ve accumulated lots of “family tools” – hand-me-downs from my grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles. One that I was given when I moved onto the acre 35 years ago was my grandfather’s wheelbarrow. After replacing the tub three times the wooden handles and frame were too frail for heavy loads. The wheelbarrow spent more than ten years as a cache pot at the entrance to the front yard, for a never-ending rotation of plants from the pelargonium collection. Sadly, by last year the wood had rotted to the point the wheelbarrow wasn’t strong enough to withstand being moved during a garden renovation and the tub had rusted out entirely, but it was a nice bit of eclectic nostalgia while it lasted.

    Katrin Utt has a “cheap trick”: I buy ordinary clay pots and antique them with furniture stain. A sponge works fine. It is simple and cheap- makes the pots look aged, artistic and expensive!!

    Leslie Crawford has photos on her blog for her great tip: I found a houseful of custom plantation shutters that a contractor let me haul away from a house that was undergoing a remodel. They are made with a vinyl material that looks like wood so they won't rot out quickly. With my husband's help, we put a back on them with lath and plywood to create a growing box and I filled it with a cactus soil for good drainage. I tried to create a salad wall, but there isn't enough soil area and the veggies just bolted immediately. If I treated these shutter planters like a hydroponic garden, maybe I would have had better results, but it would have been very labor intensive with fertilizer and water needing to be applied constantly. Now the shutters are all planted with succulents and they are thriving. They are growing well, and it's a great conversation piece when people come over to visit. Not so labor intensive and beautiful, too! Here are a couple of links so readers can see pictures and directions:

    Audrey Musil has help from her cat: I save my small Fancy Feast cans and plant succulents in them and give to friends and garden meetings. They don't take up much room and are easy to transport.

    Susan & Frank Oddo had a couple of suggestions: The only concession we make to planting annuals is in our old mailbox. Upended, it is just the right size for some cheerful color while keeping to the low water goal. Someone gave us six old half wine barrels years ago. The roses we first planted in them didn't like the tannins, but the succulents we replaced the roses with love it. Our poinsettias went in a 2-gallon gift tin that came with gourmet popcorn and are still happily 'blooming' two years later. In the works right now is a broken concrete dolphin fountain that will take on a new life as a succulent garden. An old wheelbarrow full of holes in the bottom is next in line for repurposing. The most visible unusual planter in our garden is the Rick Hartner roadster (from the 2011 SDHS display garden at the Fair). Rick and Rosie came over to install his new rumble seat metal “luggage” in the back of the roadster so we are looking for just the right succulents to complement the delightfully rusty frame.

    Donna Brigham said: Over the years, I've used many re-purposed items for plant containers, from barbeques to army boots. The possibilities are, as they say, endless! All you have to do is make sure your container drains well. With some things, you might have to drill generous drainage holes, and it never hurts to put gravel in the bottom for better drainage. Among favorites, old toasters actually make fine succulent planters, with the added bonus of if you don't like what you've done, you can just flip the trigger and send the plants flying! And then there were the Ruby Slippers from the Thrift Shop that were given to me (just like The Wizard of Oz!). What a statement when filled with succulents! Speaking of statements, always remember that it's your presentation that can make even a simple planter a work of art. And sometimes, plants aren't always the main attraction. As the current Queen of the Westport Recycle Center (on the North Mendocino Coast), friends bring me all sorts of things to add to my garden there. So here is a photo of the REAL Westport Recycle Goddess, who presides over all of her Re-Purposed Garden here with Star Trek-like grace and beauty!

    Susan D’Vincent has an interesting tip: I am excited about landscaping a strip along our driveway that was recently opened up by removing an old acacia. Along with other debris that quickly made the trash was the cement base for a wooden post that had long rotted away. It left a nice plantable hole all the way through the middle of an interesting, highly textured cement container. Now I'm trying to figure out the perfect plant to compliment it.

    Rachel Cobb has been collecting vintage watering cans for many years. If the watering can does not have it’s own aged drainage, she will drill a few holes in the bottom. Then she fills each with the appropriate soil mix and plants her favorite herbs. The planted watering cans are then placed around the garden to add country charm and they support the garden as hose guards. 

    Al Myrick is also repurposing: Old holey trashcans, with the bases hidden by foliage or painted tastefully, are great for oversized plants or small trees that you don't want to put in the landscape yet or permanently. They deteriorate slowly and don't usually find their way to the landfill. I have also used old punctured hubcaps, abalone shells, and coconut shells for hanging baskets for rainforest cactus and orchids and bromeliads. They are all part of our Darwinian Wilderness junglescape.

    Candace Kohl has several hints: I use mostly ceramic pots and am always on the lookout for interesting ones, especially at the Potters Guild sale in Spanish Village. One tip is to buy berry bowls that have lots of holes and use them for some of the very low water succulents. Plastic pots are great for large plants and I paint them to compliment the house. 

    Kathy Esty heads to the kitchen wares department: I have used brightly colored colanders. I use a little bit of moss right at the bottom and along the side to keep the dirt in. They are so cute right outside a kitchen window.

    Nancy Gordon has tried many things: An old claw foot tub, an antique small wheelbarrow, old teapots and coffee pots, strainers, old wire baskets, once an antique stove until it rusted through...

    Susi Torre-Bueno was inspired by the SDHS Fair garden this year: I’m making a curved wall of stacked old s-shaped roof tiles. It’ll be about 2-1/2 to 3’ tall when finished, and I’ll be planting succulents in the spaces made by the curves.

    Debra Lee Baldwin recently taught a workshop on “Flea Market Gardens” at Waterwise Botanicals, here’s a photo of SDHS member Susan Morse with her planted Croc container. More photos are at Read all about it at

    Susan Nance has a brilliant use for wine carriers: I have started repurposing the polypropylene wine carriers 

  • Sun, July 01, 2012 6:00 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Tita Heimpel from Courtyard Pottery, Solana Beach, said: “I got a great tip from one of my customers, an engineer for NASA. He told me to add copper to all my fountains in the store and it would help reduce the algae and calcium deposits. The trick is figuring out how much copper to add. I buy 1/4" copper tubing and I either roll it into a ball or create decorative rings to lay in the fountains levels. I used to clean my fountains every two week, now I go three to four months.”

    Carol Bratton wrote: “I wanted a fountain to sit outside my new garden window in 2009 and just couldn’t find the right thing in my price range. Then a year and a half ago I saw a ‘stone’ fountain at Lowe’s, - fiberglass but realistic. The price was right, about $250, and I could get it out of my car and put it together myself! I had my handyman build a hexagonal planter of 2 X 12s, fill it with dirt, set the fountain in the middle and surround it with dark gray river rocks. I already had had the pump switch put in the wall when the window was installed, so I can turn it on from the inside. Now it’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning around 5:30. As soon as the water bubbles out of the artichoke on top the hummers come and take a bath. Then goldfinches, towhees, sparrows, doves, mockingbirds, thrashers, orioles, tanagers and grosbeaks take their turn. They fly up into the Coast Live Oak overhead and flutter their wings and preen. Of all the yard purchases I have made this tops the list! What entertainment as I have breakfast every morning! How do I maintain it? I dip most of the water out once a week, scrub, rinse and refill it. Then I add a couple of teaspoons of household bleach. My pond/spa guy says that small amount of bleach won’t hurt the birds. I scoop out the oak leaves in between. That’s it!”

    Sue Martin told us: “Though the water feature on our dining patio is fairly small, about 30 gallons, periodically it needs to be emptied and cleaned. The onerous chore is easier with a hand bilge pump. My husband uses a large trash can with a hose attached to a faucet down low. The bilge pump transfers the water to the trash can and the nasty water runs out the hose to irrigate trees in the yard. The hand bilge pump is available at marine supply stores for about $25. Certainly beats filling, carrying and dumping big buckets of water.”

    Carol Costarakis has a very large koi pond she maintains with “regular cleaning ( every 2nd or 3rd week ) of pumps and removal of dead plant matter. Professional draining and cleaning of bog area annually, whole pond draining and cleaning every 24 to 36 months.

    Lorie Johansen wrote that “this suggestion spurned a dreaded all day project that I haven't done for at least three years: It was time to clean the water lilies in the holding pond which is a large round horse trough. There is no easy way about it when water lilies escape their pots. After 7 hours of cleaning, dividing, repotting, every bone aches and I still smell like pond scum after a thorough shower. BUT the trick is I worked off all the excess calories I inhaled yesterday at a party and am settling for vodka and tangerine juice for dinner (high in Vitamin C)."

    Amelia Lima suggested: “1 teaspoon of chlorine once a week to keep the water clean for the birds to drink.”

    Sue Ann Scheck said, “I use rocks to maintain the look of a water feature without actually having one!”

    Jim Mumford wrote “We have several fountains and because of the water restrictions, capture rain water from our roof to refill them. It’s amazing how much water can be harvested from a storm: 0.6 gallons per inch of rain per square foot of roof. We have an array of holding tanks from 50 gallons to 500 gallons and utilize a ‘first flush’ system 

  • Fri, June 01, 2012 8:58 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Susan Addams has several invaders, including: “Vinca (migrated from neighbors yard), asparagus fern, Cape honeysuckle, and raspberries in back of my raised veggie bed.”

    Louise Anderson’s pest is a grass: “Mexican Feather Grass. Worse than the invasiveness was the fact that I put pruning in my compost bin. NEVER DO THAT unless you want Mexican Feather Grass wherever you put your compost. I still have it in my rose garden and that was about three years ago. It is self seeding, and I'm being polite about it. Once you've got it it's pretty much like having Nasturtiums: you never have to plant it a second time. I still like the movement and have learned that it's something that needs to be controlled.”

    Lynlee Austell-Slayter has three problem plants: “My borage, Lychnis coronaria and Geranium maderense are beautiful nightmares that colorfully and sweetly haunt me all year long and year after year. I keeping taking ‘the hair of the dog’ and continue to cultivate them and like a drug pusher, I give them freely to all my friends!”

    Ken Blackford has an invasive vine: “Perennial morning glory vine, Ipomoea acuminata. Ten years ago, I commented to my sister, who was visiting from out-of-state, that I enjoyed their blue flowers. I neglected to tell her that I thought it could be invasive... or at least so rampant and stubbornly robust as to be nearly impossible to control. Before she left, she purchased one as a gift. I made the mistake of planting it at the far back side of the yard along the neighbor's fence. I cannot keep up with its runners, which even seem to root in the dry soil, and my neighbors are not happy either. It is a constant battle to keep it out of trees and from engulfing shrubs. It's the West Coast's version of the Southeast's Kudzu vine! Still... I do enjoy those magnificent electric blue flowers!”

    Lynne Blackman’s pest is a bulb: “I salvaged some innocent looking ornamental oxalis with pink and white flowers from a construction site about 15 years ago. I wish I had left it for the demolition crew. It comes up everywhere, whether invited or not, and is prone to unsightly rust.”

    Jo Casterline has a few problems: “Besides that persistent Geranium incanum there is Centranthus ruber. Now that I have decided it can have its way I enjoy its taking over the back of the grove. It does have to share with Matilija poppies and crown daisies. How many are going to say Alstroemeria? That is another love/hate relationship.”

    Susan D’Vincent has two cautionary tales: “Two plants stand out as uninvited pests. The first is a nice, creeping Vinca minor (myrtle, periwinkle). Knowing it needed to be confined, I was deliberating the best place for it, but before I could find the right spot, it slipped out of the pot and made itself comfortable, which was ok there at the time but a couple of years later, I've found it 50’ down the garden! I hate ripping out that sweet, innocent looking plant, but it's asking for it! Our worst invader was a morning glory I picked up on sale (suckered me in), knowing full well it could become invasive. Well, before I got it planted, it escaped out of the pot and headed down the length of the house. It looked like such a pretty ground cover, I let it grow until our house became infested with ants and termites! The inspector showed us where the tendrils were creeping up and into the house letting those little buggers in. After an expensive extermination of the bugs and a vigorous eradication of the plant we've learned our lesson!”

    Bea Erickson still takes pride in her potentially invasive plant: “I have always loved the look of a Pride of Madeira. I purchased one two years ago. I was told at the time that they get huge, so I planted it with plenty of room around it, at least 9 feet, it took two years before I got any blooms, but now it looks marvelous with beautiful blue cones all over it and bees everywhere.”

    Linda Espino has two troublesome beauties: “What a pretty orange & purple flower I thought. I did not know better. I let it grow. Years later I am still pulling it out all over the garden beds and in all of my potted plants. The name? Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis; also known as red pimpernel, red chickweed, poorman's barometer, or poor man's weather-glass). Also, a pretty blue, really true blue flowering plant I let go for a while with the same result - Commelina diffusa!”

    Marilyn Guidroz has removed a nightmare plant for several clients: “The lovely wispy dramatic Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). It looks so nice but becomes a formidable plant that takes over the garden. It is difficult to remove as the roots have to be dug out completely or it will sprout right back. The main problem with this plant is that it is HUGE: 6-10 feet tall and spreads all over the place. The only setting that I have seen this plant looking good is submerged in a large pond. With the water conservation issues it is one plant that I would not recommend using in the landscape.”

    Steve Harbour wrote about several problem plants: “I wish I could write that I only have introduced one invasive nightmare, but there are several that keep me busy. Mexican Primrose was the first to go wild over 20 years ago. Geranium incanum quickly followed. Both were impossible to totally eradicate. I let the primrose bloom and then try to pull it before the seeds can set. The geranium I pull as soon as I see it, although it seems to be happiest intertwining itself in the root crown of another plant, making it impossible to get without removing the desired plant as well. Others followed: Morning Glory vine, Mint, Santa Barbara daisy, Feverfew, Mexican Feather Grass, and Gaillardia to some extent. The Morning Glory is the most challenging to remove as it trails along the ground through plant beds. I have found that getting a hold of a branch near the base of the plant and pulling it like a rope will produce pieces 20 feet long without severing the branch (which would start another entire plant to deal with). Add in weeds to the plant removal chores, and this is how I spend 75 percent of my time in my garden!”

    Lorie Johansen suggested this month’s topic by writing, “I have been miserably weeding all the Echium seedlings (millions and millions). Matilija poppy was also a nightmare. My garden helper had to take a pick axe to get out the tuber that was the size of a Volkswagen! I weeded those seedlings for about three years thereafter.”

    Linda Johnson told us that her  “Red Apple (Aptenia cordifolia) looked great at first, grew fast, used little water... however, it became a maintenance nightmare! It creeps everywhere, up fences and trees, into planters, and is hard to remove. Happy to say it is all gone now (whew!) and I would NEVER suggest using it.”

    Scott Jones mentioned one pest: “This readily becomes a weed due to prolific reseeding, germination, and growth: Oenothera elata, Hookers Primrose, which is native to much of the western and central U.S. and North America.  Whether it's evening or day, the flowers are open for the most part. The plants last a year or two.”

    Linda King foiled an invasive succulent: “My worst nightmare was planting Euphorbia tirucalli. It was a small plant when I put it into my succulent garden due to its stunning color. Within the first year it was huge and a nightmare no matter how much I pruned it, I felt I was behind. I removed the entire plant and put a small sucker in a clay pot and it has stayed nice and manageable. ”

    Bill Knowles mentioned a bulb: “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER plant the Oxalis pes-caprae with the pretty yellow flowers and bright green leaves with dark spots. I thought it a wonderful signal to spring. This was 20 yrs ago and I'm still digging out the bulbs. Neighbors on two sides of us gave up and mow their oxalis ‘lawns’ nowadays.”

    Candace Kohn has two pests, one worse than the other: “I have planted Lychnis coronaria and now have it all over, but it seems to be no trouble to remove where I don’t want it and I love the color. It is one of the best weeds I have experienced. On the other hand, I have a problem with some sort of allium that I did not plant. It does have small white flowers and I foolishly left if alone when I first discovered it. It propagates by tiny bulb divisions, hundreds of them, and by the tiniest seeds imaginable. I have actually dug up a three square foot area of my garden down to 8” and discarded the soil in an effort to manage it. The situation is better, but not perfect. I still discover the dammed things all over, but now mostly one at a time. Any help in what it might be and suggestions for control would be appreciated.”

    Brenda Kueneman has three garden nightmares: “I can think of three plants that I would plant again but with more respect. I am very eclectic when I purchase plants and try to understand the best methods of planting and caring for them, but accidents happen. We have five acres and I love plants that reseed or spread themselves as long as they can be removed easily and don't climb over their neighbors. I have a very large koi pond that I planted with four water lilies, but chose the containers poorly that I used to enclose them. Needless to say I have so many lilies that I need to drain the pond and remove most of them as I only have a 6' by 7' space where the water is visible. My poor koi hang out there for food and no matter how much I pull them out they just seem to explode again. My koi are huge now and I really hate to remove them to refurbish the pond, but I seem to have no choice. I believe that had I chosen a bigger, stronger, container when I put them in I wouldn't have a pond so out of control. My next culprit is a gorgeous, harmless looking little plant called Creeping Wire Vine. I think it is just beautiful, with tiny, shiny little green, green leaves that just look lovely in a hanging basket, or as a ground cover. But watch out if you are not tending it often and making sure where it is traveling: you might be sorry. It has wire-like stems and roots itself strongly into the soil and therefore is very hard to pull up. I planted it in a large bed with a Canary Island palm in the center and of course it climbed up and looked so natural and healthy that I let it go pretty much where it wanted to. I am pulling it out now because it is covering all my well-placed bromeliads and tillandsia plants, so while beautiful it is very invasive. My third mistake (and this is probably the worst of my problems) is Liriope (lilyturf) that I planted in the same bed with my Canary Island palm. It is very hard for me to dig out and I can see it thrive by the day. Beautifully green laves with lilac blooms so healthy and robust that any gardener would enjoy its beauty, except it takes over everything in sight and crawls along under the ground entrenching itself by the hour. Lilyturf is hardy and great when it knows no bounds but mine is taking over and I have to dig deeply to remove it before it harms all my other plants just minding their own business. Just when you think you get it there is that big mistake that slipped right on by.

    Linda Lawley has made a truce with her invader: “I loved the look of Santa Barbara Daisy that I saw in pictures of drought tolerant gardens, so I planted a six pack here and there in my garden. It was fine for a little while but soon took over the garden. I started pulling it out but several years later it is still coming up in the cracks in the sidewalk and all over my garden. I started calling it by its other name, Fleabane, to show my dislike of it. I have finally decided to accept it and let it go. Every once in a while I cut it all back or pull out large chunks of it. The flowers are pretty and it does fill in holes.”

    Frank Mitzel has some suggestions for good plants to try: “When we moved almost five years ago and I re-landscaped most of our new property, I wanted a fast, low-growing flowering groundcover to fill in all the bare spaces around all the new shrubs, trees, and perennials until larger growing plants matured. Boy do I regret planting Geranium incanum! Initially, after the first couple years, the mauve colored flowers and light green delicate evergreen foliage was very beautiful and effective groundcover. However, they started to seed and pop up everywhere, I'm still having a hard time eradicating them from my entire yard. Alas, a beautiful weed! As an alternative, I've had great success and really love a relative, Geranium 'Tiny Monster' (It's also fun that the pop singer Lady Gaga call her fans "Tiny Monsters"). This sterile cultivar from Germany is the same 10"-12" height as G. incanum, but it doesn't self-sow all over the place. A cross between G. sanguineum and G. psilostemon, with purple-violet flowers with a 36" spread, they are totally low-maintenance and self cleaning. I cut them back to the ground the first of January, and now (late April) they have grown to full maturity and have been in full bloom since the first of March. Rather drought tolerant once established, grow Geranium 'Tiny Monster' (Cranesbill) in mostly full sun (but it will tolerate semi-shady conditions). A real show stopper!”

    Susan Morse says, "I rue the day I purchased six bulbs at a local garden club meeting and thought I had such a good deal, paying 50 cents a bulb. The exotic appearance of the Casmanthe floribunda, the orange cobra lily, seemed so enchanting. I had no idea that I was going to get such an 'a bunda of flora.' To compound my own problem, since my bulb production was good, I lifted some bulbs and planted them in the front yard, in addition to the patch in the back yard. By the third year, I realized the Sorcerer's Apprentice (of Pinocchio fame) was reproducing bulbs at a rate faster than snails reproduce. Casmanthe propagate by bulb division and by seed. I dig them up and pull them up, year after year. If I am diligent about pulling off the blade shaped leaves when they are three inches tall, it seems to slow the process. Being a plant nerd, when I learned that there was a yellow version of the Casmanthe, the C. duckittii, and it was less invasive, yep, I got some of those bulbs. Some people never learn."

    Al Myrick’s pest has thorns: “California Native Wild Rose – don't ever, ever do it!”

    Ted Overland sometimes cuts his thug down: “Geranium incanum is so cute and yet requires a good bit of ‘behavior modification’ to keep it in check. If nothing else, I like to laser it down when it gets too bushy. It comes back nicely.”

    Pat Pawlowski was beguiled by pink flowers: “Oenothera berlandieri 'Siskiyou'  (Mexican Evening Primrose) looked so sweetly innocent in its little pot. However, once planted, it revealed its true wild promiscuous nature and flamboyantly popped up all over the yard, giving all the other plants big bear hugs, smothering them to death. Yanking doesn't get rid of it; apparently tiny little pieces of root are enough for it to spread. I rue (ha ha) the day I bought it.”

    Katie Pelisek mentioned two invaders: “Just hate having to say I told you so. My friend Donna didn't heed my warnings when she wanted to plant pink Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa 'Siskiyou'.) She lets me know annually, while still trying to eradicate it, that she wish she had listened! On a happier note; over 20 years ago someone planted mint on my front slope, mixed in with ice plant. While I pull it out by the can-full, it is always there when I want it for my sun tea!”

    Carey Pratt said: “I planted Lobelia laxiflora because of beautiful hummingbird-friendly red blooms, long blooming period, and superb drought tolerance. After a year or two they were obviously too large for their site, so I dug them out, only to find that you can't really dig them out because the rhizomatous roots are everywhere, and any little piece sprouts readily. I still like the plant, but it should be planted in an area that will confine the roots, maybe with a root barrier. It's a little coarse for a pot plant, but maybe that would work in combination with other plants.”

    Barbara Raub mentioned two problematic plants: “OH! That asparagus fern that so beautifully graced our raised planters when we planted them 31 years ago! Even though we have long since pulled them up we continue to see them popping up in ridiculous places all over our yard... intertwined in a shrub and peeking out at the top, sneaking low beneath others, here, there, everywhere. I thought we were going to have to remove all the soil in those planters as there were so many of those bulbous root ball things. I referred them as tumors. Now, I knew about mint... so 31 years ago I also planted mint... but over our property line/low wall, on the green belt side (shhhhhhh!) so it does not invade our yard. Tabouli anyone?”

    Ida Rigby has another view of an invasive beauty: “Invasive? Of course: the glorious pink Mexican evening primrose. Two one-gallon pots have become hundreds of square feet, blooming their lovely little heads off surrounding trees as flashy circular frames, forming rivers down the dry creek bed, and turning the gravel paths literally into primrose paths. BUT, am I sorry, actually no, just pull them up in some areas; then after the rapturous bloom finishes celebrating spring, I pull out most and wait for the next round. In our current gloomy weather they are a blaze of joy. Caveat: I do have room for this exuberant undergrowth.”

    Robin Rivet wrote about “pretty plant which became a constant nightmare. No, it wasn’t a tree, but sometimes I thought it wanted to be. While sipping wine at twilight on what we call a terrace (but which is actually an unstable perch overlooking the suburban hills of La Mesa), a captivating fragrance wafted my way. It was so compelling I sniffed and discovered a remarkably large volunteer plant with white, trumpet-shaped with lavender edges. My instinct said the plant was a nightshade, but I was perplexed how anything so lovely could bloom on this barren and droughty slope. I concluded it was none other than native Datura wrightii, Sacred Datura or ‘sacred thornapple’ as the UC Davis IPM site so tenderly names it ( So content to grow in a bleak, non-irrigated location, I thought I’d help it along by spreading its seeds along my embankment. When it dutifully responded by taking over the entire slope, I enjoyed a summer of love. Each evening we watched as hawk moths, known for their long tongues and bodies the size of hummingbirds, arrived to pollinate the flowers as they twitched and opened each night. (These are the adult stage of the tomato hornworm; see You can actually sit and watch the intoxicating flowers unfold their large fused petals at dusk. The penetrating scent now enveloped my early morning walks before sun-break and during evening happy hours. Truly remarkable, I thought I’d become the envy of the neighborhood. That was until ‘the thing’ began to migrate. Like bamboo on the run, it would emerge under garden zucchini, beneath the orchard trees, or try to climb trellises of grapes, beans and tomatoes. Yes, it is a hardy summer-blooming flower, bulging with beauty during arid months when it is difficult to coax any flower to linger. However, after two seasons we humbly dug up the slope to eradicate this now rampant and invasive species, and found the plants had rooted more than to six feet deep and sprawled more than ten feet across. They still pop up everywhere, and it is one of very few plants I threaten with toxic herbicide, but I suspect they would just lap it up and morph into a dangerous Monsanto creation. Free seeds – buyer beware.”

    Cindy Sparks has an edible pest: “I planted Amaranth, Amaranthus hypochondriacus, both because it was long ago a major food crop in Mexico (so I wanted to find out about it) and because the purple form is simply gorgeous. Unfortunately it self-sows rather aggressively. I can put a bloom stalk, upside-down, in my bird feeder and the birds seem to enjoy it, but then it seeds all around the feeder stand. Phooey! My solution is to water it enough that it stays tender longer and then I put it in the salad bowl. It's still a pest once it grows up, but it's nice when small and tender.”

    Barbara Thuro has mixed results with one genus: “My prettiest and most invasive plant is the tall Alstroemeria. It keeps coming up all over the place even after more than five years of struggle to get rid of it. However, I have several of the small/short ones and they are a joy to grow.”

    Susi Torre-Bueno had problems with: “Verbena bonariensis. In the mid 1990s took over part of my front garden flower border and seemed to take forever to get rid of. There’s also a charming little invasive perennial that pops up occasionally in the garden: Kenilworth Ivy (Cymbalaria muralis). I never planted it, and it really is cute, but once it gets a toehold it’s almost impossible to eradicate, so I’m ruthless about removing it when I find it.”

    Katrin Utt warned about “Alyssum! Once you have it is yours forever. Fortunately it is very pretty and enhances almost all other flowers. I pull it out when it gets old and in a few weeks it is back from seed. Second most invasive but enjoyed in my garden are Forget-Me-Nots. Very pretty in the Spring; we pull them out when they get leggy and they are guaranteed to return in the Spring to mingle with my Alyssum.”

    Arlene Watters planted “a one gallon Mexican Evening Primrose in an open front yard area. It has spread throughout my vegetable and flower garden a third of an acre away! I consider it the Bermuda grass of the flower world. Useful in some settings but needs major control. I don't use any herbicides so have spent many hours in the garden evicting this pretty pest.”

    Ron Wheeler wrote: “I had a Mexican Primrose is a pot that seeded outside the pot and spread like wildfire! It took a lot of Roundup to wipe it out.”

    Marilyn Wilson’s pest has lovely white flowers, but beware: “I planted white Japanese anemones. They are pretty and they bloom in the autumn when not much else is blooming. But if they're happy, they spread and spread and spread.”

    Sandy Yayanos has an invasive vine: “Without a doubt it's Podranea ricasoliana or pink trumpet vine. This Bignoniaceae has the most beautiful clusters of showy flowers but it suckers everywhere and is very, very difficult to control. If you really must have this vine either dig up shoots from my garden (but you must take all of them) and plant where it can't be invasive, or put it in a escape proof pot.”

    Stephen Zolezzi wrote about a popular tree: “Ficus benjamina. Planted a row of 3’ tall, 2-gallon specimens for a screen between me and my neighbor. What a mistake that was. They grew like crab grass to constrict all living plants within a 10’ diameter area, sucking up all moisture in the ground like a vacuum, and shot up as if on steroids, wanting to become a full size tree within one year which meant I had to trim them monthly. Great lesson to be learned the hard way: always research when planting to insure it’s the right plant for the right spot.

  • Tue, May 01, 2012 5:57 PM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

    Louise Anderson is starting from seed: “I've put some beefsteak tomato seeds in dirt in an egg container. Prayer seems to be the only thing I haven't tried yet.”

    Marsha Bode told us: “My favorite crop last year for my garden in Vista was Japanese cucumber. They grew quickly to be a very satisfying size and I was able to make a refreshing, old-fashioned cucumber salad with vinegar and a little sugar. It is very portable for a picnic. I did, however, have to make a Rube Goldberg style system to keep the squirrels away.”

    Jane Coogan Beer is growing many different veggies: “Tomatoes: Early Girl, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, SunGold, Green Zebra. I step them up several times; bury them deep each time. When planting in the ground again leave only one or two sets of leaves. This results in advantageous roots along the buried ‘stem.’ Sun Gold is my new garden candy. It and Yellow Pear are lower in acid according to an old wives' tale, making them suitable for pregnant and nursing mothers and others sensitive to acid. Cucumbers: Japanese, Armenian, and lemon; growing them up the side of 8-foot tall wire cages with the tomatoes inside. Squash: Butternut and Kaboucha, for sure; haven't decided on summer varieties yet. Also, Hasta la Pasta, a spaghetti squash that is darker (towards orange) than the regular one, supposedly more flavorful and more nutritious.  Beans: Resolved to use up the various saved seeds.

    Willa Gupta is trying “grafted tomatoes. You can order them at I joined John Bagnasco and Sharon Asakawa (from the Garden Life radio show) at the San Francisco Garden show.”

    Brenda Kueneman said, “We are really going over-board this year; if it is successful we will be knocking on our neighbors’ doors with baskets of veggies to share (beg them to take). I plan on canning as much as possible; my family truly enjoys the fruits of our labor. We will be planting corn, beets, potatoes (for the first time), pole beans, dry beans, peas, tomatoes, carrots (4 different varieties), asparagus, radishes, eggplant, squash, cabbage and several new herbs. We have just planted new blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and grapes to add to our old varieties, and added new apple and apricot trees. So with all the fruit to can I will be very busy. We are going all heirloom this year and hope they will do well. I joined the Seed Savers Exchange and find it very interesting. My husband is busy building new boxes and trellises, and we put in gopher wire and fencing to try to ward off the critters a little. We have trouble with the ground squirrels too; they are the worse ones, actually. We really have bitten off more than I planned... We have a lot of work ahead of us to make this garden a success, and so far it is looking beautiful.

    Maxine Levine has beautiful chard: “I have some fairly newly planted tomatoes in pots growing now in addition to some beautiful Swiss chard. The plant is so pretty that I just want it to keep going. My big surprise, however, is that there are 2 tomatoes growing out of the side of the compost bin. ”

    Annie Morgan wrote: “I have limited space with sun so am only growing tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and herbs in my raised beds. But instead of using cages I'm building an upside down L-shaped trellis and will let the tomatoes grow up and over the top which will be about three feet off the soil in the beds and five feet off the ground next to them. My neighbor does this and it eliminates much of the staking and tying and it is easy to pick the tomatoes from under the top of the horizontal trellis section. I'm also trying something new this year that I learned from his successfully growing pumpkins planted in pots to make watering more efficient. I'll be planting squash in 5-gallon pots and will let them hang down over a retaining wall since I don't have room otherwise. I'm hoping the heat from the wall will make up for them only getting sun until early afternoon, and if the wall is too hot I'll put some cardboard behind the vines hanging down.”

    Anne Murphy has a neat tip: “A trick that I got from Fine Gardening magazine's website: I plant empty 1-gallon pots close to my new veggies, with the top of the pot just above soil level. The pots that I use do not have holes in the underside but in the sides next to the base. When I want to water the plants, I pour water into the pots; they drain low in the garden to encourage root growth but add none to the surface, which encourages weeds. When veggies grow bigger most pots are hidden from view.”

    Susan Oddo said: “We bought seven heirloom tomatoes at the SDBG Tomato Mania sale and are looking forward to tasty, hardy plants. No corn this year but will have most everything else thanks to our 'grow everything' climate. Listening to Jimmy Williams [at the March meeting] we decided to amend the soil this year with E.B. Stone Edna's Best Potting Soil (yes, potting) instead of the usual mulch or planter mix. A lot more expensive but, for one year, we're betting it will be a big boost to the quality of our vegetables. Time will tell. Also adding worm casings to a bed to increase the worm population throughout the garden, again, thanks to Jimmy and his wonderful grandmother for some terrific ideas.

    Katie & Steve Pelisek shared a tip from Bill Teague: “We use almost of all our sunny space for tomatoes - 30 plants and 8 or 9 varieties. We always have at least 6 'Early Girls' (dependable on the coast) and 2 'Sungolds' (our favorites!) along with a collection purchased at Tomatomania! Bill Teague taught us that putting stakes around the raised beds and wrapping with 2 feet of black plastic keeps the critters out. Since they can't see beyond the plastic, they won't go there for fear of predators. It is inexpensive and works great! Plus it blocks the wind and heats up the beds too - which the tomatoes love. Not the best looking solution but the harvest is well worth it!”

    Una Marie Pierce told us: “I've got green beans well started. Lauren, my new helper from City College, had me cut the bottoms out of plastic pots and planted the beans in them. I also started several kinds of squash in ‘cow pots’ and have them in the garden now. We have some seedling tomatoes (volunteer) and one ‘bought’ tomato doing very well. I think the secret is good preparation with organic fertilizer, worm castings and a light turning of the soil.”

    Ruth Sewell planted “several varieties of leaf lettuce. Hint… Plant less or eat more salads.

    Barbara Thuro said: “I use a product called Walls of Water that provide columns of water warmed by the sun to promote faster growth. They are advertised for use with tomato plants, but I use them for many different veggies. I also use them for planting veggies late in the summer to extend the growing season.

    Susi Torre-Bueno loves leftovers and volunteers: “I had some red mustard left over from our 2010 Fair display garden and planted it in my raised veggie garden. It has self-sown and the volunteers are providing yummy greens for stir frying and adding to hot dishes of all kinds. Added bonus: the wine-red foliage is gorgeous!”

    Katrin Utt is growing heirlooms: “I am again planting 2 heirloom tomatoes plants that a friend gave me. They are super delicious and easy to grow. Best tomatoes we ever tasted! The name is Cherokee Purple. I plant them in big pots so I can move them around with the sun.”

    Ron Wheeler is using 2 clever devices: “This year I constructed a ‘grow box’ out of a 35-gallon Sterilite tote box bought at Home Depot. This box has a false floor that sits on top of eight 1-gallon pots. The lower chamber holds water and the upper chamber has the soil and plants. The water seeps up to soil above through columns of soil at both ends of the box. The idea is that the water reservoir helps maintain even soil moisture over a long period, without constant irrigation. See details on how to construct the grow box at I also obtained a used vertical post card display rack (15"wide and 6’ tall), which I am using as a trellis for Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Such display racks can often be found as discarded equipment in the trash area behind stores.”

    Tynan Wyatt is excited about NOT hand watering: “While I am very excited about the potatoes, carrots, scarlet runner beans, watermelons, squash, and more that I plan on growing the thing that I'm anticipating most this season is the new drip system I've set up for my raised vegetable beds. Last year my veggie harvest came in much under my expectations and the biggest reason for that was the time it took to adequately water the beds nearly everyday from June through August. Taking a couple days off from watering caused the whole thing to dry up and the water from my next irrigation would simply run off, forcing me to do multiple short waterings that day to re-wet everything, which took FOREVER! So, this winter I installed drip irrigation with ½-gallon emitters every 12 inches with four lines per every 12' x 6' bed. One turn of the faucet and I can enjoy the fruit trees while the vegetable are watered. We'll see how this works!”

 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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