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Archives for December 21, 2013

Home gardening tips for growing citrus trees

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Citrus trees were introduced in California by the Spanish priests who founded missions up and down the coast, and they remain a popular choice for home gardeners looking to fill their larders with lemons, oranges, tangerines and limes.

Caring for citrus doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming as they require little attention and healthy trees are pretty much pest-free, says Contra Costa Master Gardeners Molly Wendt and Sierra Higgins, speakers at Our Garden’s weekly class.

Giving them proper water and protection from hard frosts are the keys to successful harvests. Here are their tips.


Hundreds of varieties of citrus trees are available, and you should research to find the ones that do best in your particular climate.

When choosing a tree, consider how large it will get. A standard tree grows to about 25 feet high; a dwarf variety averages 8 feet.

Dwarf varieties are standard sized citrus scions grown on dwarf root stock to produce an artificially smaller tree. However, Wendt cautions, nurseries aren’t regulated in this area so be sure you purchase a tree from a reputable nursery or you could discover that the dwarf you though you had planted is actually a much taller tree.

Unsure of what type of citrus to grow or limited on space? Consider a “fruit salad” tree that has been grafted with different types of citrus, allowing you to grow lemons, limes and oranges on the same tree.

Before buying, examine the tree carefully. It should be healthy, have no blemishes or nicks on the bark, have no pest damage, and the bud union — the place where the scion was grafted onto the root stock — should be visible above the soil. Try to find trees that don’t already have fruit on them — they will transplant easier.


Early spring is the best time to plant citrus, Higgins says. That will allow the tree to become established and survive the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

Citrus grows best in sandy to clay loam that is well draining.

Plant in a sunny location in an area that is protected from the wind.

Make sure you have enough room for the tree to grow to its mature height.

Citrus grown on dwarf stock can live their entire lives in containers. Just make sure to keep it watered — container plants tend to dry out much quicker than those planted in the ground — and fertilized.

Don’t plant a citrus tree in your lawn. It will suffer from either too much or too little water.

When digging a hole to plant your tree, dig it twice as wide as the root ball, but only just as deep as the pot the tree is in. Set the tree in the hole and cut the pot away. Yanking the tree out of the pot can damage fragile roots.

Once the tree is in place, cover the roots with the native soil and build a dirt basin around it, 3 feet around, to retain water.

Do not add amendments in the hole or after planting. You want the roots to spread out in search of nutrients, building the root system and anchoring it more firmly in the ground.

For just-planted trees, fill the water basin and allow the water to saturate the root ball. Repeat the watering two more times. Add soil if it has settled.

Mulch around the tree, staying 6 inches away from the tree trunk.

Water and fertilization

Don’t let the roots on your trees completely dry out. Although more trees die from overwatering than under watering, it’s important to keep the tree hydrated.

Don’t let the tree stand in water. Check the tree during the winter rains to make sure the basin isn’t retaining water. If it is, smooth the barrier away to allow the water to run off.

Signs that you are not watering your tree enough include the cupping of new growth (the leaves curl up to resemble cups), and fruit and leaf drop.

Sign of too much water are the yellowing of leaves while the veins remain green.

Citrus trees are evergreen and they need water all year. During the winter, they will need less supplemental water if we have rain, but you’ll need to keep an eye out.

When watering, try to avoid getting the trunk and leaves wet.

Trees should be fertilized a few times a year from late February through September. Don’t fertilize in the winter as that will encourage new growth, which then may be nipped by a cold spell.

The main nutrient citrus trees need is nitrogen.


Citrus requires little if any pruning.

For trees 3 years old and younger, no pruning should be done. After that, prune carefully and judiciously, mostly to keep growth in check and to remove damaged limbs, disease, dead wood and limbs that might endanger the health of the tree.

Use horizontal cuts to promote new growth.


Some trees, such as lemons, produce year round. Others ripen at different times throughout the year. Check the variety you are growing to determine when fruit should ripen.

Don’t go by the rind color to determine ripeness. Some fruit that looks green may actually be perfectly ripe.

The best place to store your citrus is on the tree. Pick as needed. It also will keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.

Not a problem

These are common problems that aren’t problems at all:

· Leaves drop from citrus trees regularly. Leaves live for one to two years, then replace themselves.

· Yellowing of leaves is normal during cooler temperatures. The tree will green up in the spring.

· If your tree doesn’t produce much, or any, fruit in the first three years, don’t worry. That’s natural. Production will increase after three years.

· Flower and fruit drop isn’t always a sign of trouble. Often the tree self-regulates, dropping blooms and fruit if it has produced too much.

· An excessive drop of fruit is likely due to lack of nitrogen. However, don’t apply nitrogen during the winter.

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Gardens: Edinburgh roads bloom thanks to designer

EDINBURGH City Council is following the advice of a planting designer to make its city bloom, finds Rosemary Free

If landscape and garden designer John Frater was to write a letter to Santa this Christmas, high on his list of wishes would be permission to improve municipal planting schemes on roundabouts in Edinburgh.

A large number of the bedding plants and shrubs would be replaced by a combination of perennial plants to provide a good display of colour throughout the summer and some larger areas would be planted from seed to give the look and feel of a meadow.

“I wouldn’t suggest every roundabout be turned into floral meadows or perennial schemes,” he says. “A good variety is what I would think is best. But I do think that bedding plants just don’t make sense in this particular context at all. As well as being very energy intensive, they just don’t look that interesting.

“Often these sites are very exposed and bedding looks best when it is sheltered from the worst of the elements. But it is also a matter of scale – they are too small to be properly appreciated. Their only merit is colour, which is important, but the other elements of texture and form are completely lacking.”

Through his design and consultancy business, Plantforms, Frater focuses on planting design which matches plants to a site to create plant communities rather than just pretty pictures. He has already transformed several Edinburgh City Council-owned traffic islands, junctions and roundabouts with his innovative planting schemes.

But he is itching to get his hands on other projects, including the planting scheme around the pond in St Andrew Square, a border at the west end of Princes Street Gardens and some raised beds in Stockbridge.

His first council project came about when he was inspired to approach the city’s parks and gardens manager after taking part in a plant design course in Germany.

“We spent one day with a guy who does what I do,” he says. “He persuaded the council to give him one of the spaces on Kurfürstendamm, the main street in Berlin, and he planted it all up. He gave me the idea and when I got back I spoke to Alan Bell at the council. He’s been quite keen to promote perennials in and around the city. He was really supportive and after a bit of discussion I ended up with the traffic island near the roundabout at the bottom of Broughton Street.”

Some five years later, the island at Mansfield Place is home to plants such as irises, narcissus, crocuses and perennial foxgloves mixed in with wild grasses.

The council was so impressed it planted the roundabout at the bottom of Broughton Street with a similar mix of plants.

While a perennial planting scheme is not at its best in winter, Frater still feels it’s preferable to the alternative – winter bedding plants. “A perennial planting scheme looks better even though it dies down in winter,” he says. “You just leave the plants over winter. It’s a scruffy look but I think people will get used to that. It’s what is meant for that time of year.”

And come mid-February, when the plants start to flower, it brings what Frater describes as “a natural and relaxed feel to this corner of the inner city”. Overall, his planting design on the island has been welcomed by locals. “People would stop me when I was weeding to comment on it and compliment it,” he says. “Apparently they (the council) did get one or two grumbles from local people. It was a bit too wild for them, too many grasses.

“I think they are a bit cautious about that. It’s a big change from gaudy bedding plants but even in a city, even in a busy area, at that roundabout with all the traffic about, when I went up there in summer it was buzzing with bees and butterflies.”

Another new development in horticulture that Frater has been experimenting with is sowing naturalistic planting schemes in situ to create what he calls prairie meadows.

Working with the South Queensferry-based company Water Gems, Frater has planted up a trial meadow in Rosefield Park in Portobello and a roundabout at Lochend. “Planting with seed is the way forward in the long run because of lack of maintenance,” he says.

“That’s why the council is keen on it. It’s less maintenance than cutting grass and you get a meadow-like feel using prairie plants from America. There are a lot of familiar plants from the garden and a lot of colour in summer and autumn. Although they are American, native wildlife such as butterflies and bees love them. It dies out in winter. You leave it standing and cut it down in March and it comes away again.”

He says the Germans have taken to this type of planting “like ducks to water”.

“Most cities there have banned the use of herbicides so in Berlin, or anywhere in Germany, there are weeds popping up in cracks. People haven’t complained because there’s quite a strong lobby. That’s another reason for growing things from seed. You get such a dense cover beyond the second year there is no need for input in terms of chemicals.

“I would like to see that here. It would be great. I would like to see Edinburgh up there as one of the green cities in terms of both planting it up and environmentally. We’re lagging behind a lot of Europe.”

Most of Frater’s ideas have come from Germany where he travels every year with his German partner.

“They pioneer a lot of innovative planting techniques such as the random planting technique. Research over there has come up with a mixture of plants broken into different categories to end up with a reliable combination of plants that live happily together but give a good display throughout the summer.

“They know how many square metres they need, know the ratios, and can just drop the plants in in a certain order. There’s no plan in terms of a conventional planting scheme.”

He used this technique in springtime when he did a new planting scheme at the Rodney Street junction for the council and is planning to do the same for a second project at Wester Drylaw.

Frater is hopeful the council will wake up to the advantages of perennial planting schemes, but acknowledges it will take time. “It would be great to see more of it in Edinburgh but I think it will be a slow process. They have always used bedding plants, that’s what they are comfortable with. It’s going to take a while to change direction.”

• For more information about Plantforms visit:

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Austin to Present 16th Annual Home & Garden Show, 1/10-12

Austin to Present 16th Annual Home  Garden Show, 1/10-12

Austin’s largest and most spectacular Home and Garden show is back, just in time for the New Year, with endless ideas and possibilities for every home and garden wish list. Now launching its 16th year, the show takes place Friday, January 10th through Sunday, January 12th at the Austin Convention Center, 500 East Cesar Chavez, Austin. Over 200 vendors, a Home Improvement Zone, celebrity appearance, seminars, Kid Zone, pet adoptions, top home improvement experts and family activities await guests at this year’s remarkable show.

Guests can stroll down aisle after aisle of displays; landscaping, the latest kitchen and bathroom trends, beautiful furniture, spas, patio retreats, creative home accents and even home theatre and security. The Home Improvement Zone, always a crowd favorite, is a one-stop area for guests to chat with the region’s top remodeling and improvement experts on topics ranging from roofing and plumbing to interior design trends, home security and the latest in green living.

The NARI, presented by the National Association of The Remodeling Industry has comfortable seating and offers guestsan up-close view of educational seminars. The seminars, offered throughout each day, are an excellent way to get information on a wide range of popular topics led by industry veterans.

Show Technology is especially honored to feature celebrity guest and veteran home improvement television host Jeff Devlin of HGTV’s ‘Spice up my Kitchen’ and the DIY Network’s ‘I Hate my Bath’ and ‘Good, Better, Best’.

A professional carpenter with a natural ability to entertain, Devlin has an incredible depth of knowledge and passion for designing, creating and building. With his three hit home improvement television shows on two different networks, he promises to offer seminars packed with invaluable information.

One of the most exciting and creative aspects of the Austin Home and Garden show is the long line-up of activities for the entire family. This year brings fun for the kids with snow globe photos, and a Costco interactive Kids’ Zone packed with safe and fun activities for kids of all ages. There will also be complimentary kid’s cooking classes by Chef Lori Hinze of Cook, Learn, Grow, and back by popular demand, the crowd-pleasing ‘Birds of Prey’ demonstration. For the shoppers in the family, there are unique gifts, including art, delicious gourmet treats and official GO TEXAN and Keep Austin Weirdproducts.

Finally, delight the whole family with a new furry family member at the Pet Zone, hosted by the Austin Humane Society.Cats and dogs will be on-hand for immediate adoption.

The show will be held Friday, January 10th from 2:00 – 7:00 pm, Saturday, January 11th from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm and Sunday, January 12th from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. The show is $8.50 for adults (17+), $6.50 for seniors (65+) all weekend, and free for those 16 and under. In honor of our military personnel, there is complementary admission for all active duty service men and women (valid ID required). $1.00 off general adult admission coupon is available at and free tote bags for attendees available while supplies last. Paid admission allows entry all weekend.

The 16th Annual Austin Home Garden Show is sponsored by Time Warner Cable, KVUE-TV, Mix 94.7, Majic 95.5, and 96.3 RnB.

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Main Street’s Christmas present: money for more improvements in 2014

If out-of-towners visiting Park City for the holidays return at the same time next year, they will see a changed Main Street streetscape.

And not all the work expected over the next 12 months will be on the buildings. City Hall is preparing for another year of improvements along Main Street as officials continue the efforts to ensure the street remains competitive with other shopping, dining and entertainment districts in the area.

Some work was undertaken in 2013, including redoing segments of sidewalks, but another set of projects is slated in 2014. The Park City Council recently authorized a $165,950 contract with a Salt Lake City firm called MGB+A for design and engineering work. A more lucrative contract will later be awarded to a different firm for the construction itself.

The most notable project planned next year is the construction of a small plaza on Swede Alley, which will be put in the area between the Marsac Building steps and the location of a segment of historic wall that has been uncovered. The historic wall segment will be incorporated into the work.

The small plaza will be significantly scaled back from ideas over the years to build a plaza on Swede Alley that could hold large crowds for concerts and other events. Officials acknowledge that some parking spots will be lost when the small plaza is built, but they want to minimize the number of spots lost.

A design has not been created and the proposed square footage of the small plaza is not yet known. It will be designed to serve as a link between Swede Alley and Main Street.

“I think people will be happy with the look and feel,” said Matt Twombly, a City Hall staffer who is managing the municipal work on Main Street and Swede Alley.

Twombly anticipates City Hall will spend upward of $2 million on the improvements in 2014, approximately $500,000 more than was spent in 2013 on streetscape work along Main Street. A voter-approved increase in sales tax paid within the Park City limits is funding the work.

The work could start in March, weather permitting. It is expected to be completed in November.

Some of the projects in 2014 will include:

  • removing the sidewalk between the Claim Jumper building and Heber Avenue on the west side of Main Street and then replacing it with a new one.

  • removing the sidewalk on the east side of Main Street between 5th Street and Heber Avenue and then replacing it with a new one.

  • redoing the surface of the walkway between Main Street and Swede Alley where a bronze sculpture of a bear on a bench sits. The work will include new landscaping, new lights, benches and trash cans. The sculpture of the bear will remain.

  • building a sidewalk on the west side of Swede Alley between the site of the Main Street post office and 4th Street

  • redoing the road surface at the intersection of Main Street and 7th Street with brick paving

    Main Street leaders in recent years pressed City Hall for improvements, arguing that the streetscape was showing signs of deterioration. They said public investment would attract more people and better position Main Street against newer commercial districts at or close to Kimball Junction. Main Street has faced much stiffer competition, particularly for local and Salt Lake Valley customers, in the past decade as developments like Redstone and Newpark opened.

    The work in 2014 will be the third year of a 10-year plan for improvements along Main Street. City Hall has long shown support for Main Street improvements as leaders over the years have endorsed a long list of high-profile public projects, including the China Bridge garage and its expansion as well as the development of small gathering spaces, such as Miners Park.

    Main Street leaders have been the chief supporters of the most recent work and the projects that are planned in coming years. Figures from Main Street lobbied in favor of the successful 2012 ballot measure increasing the sales tax to fund the projects.

    The Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents the interests of business in the Main Street core, is pleased with the plans for 2014.

    Alison Butz, the group’s executive director, said the work is “just keeping the momentum.” Butz said there are places where the pavement is uneven on the Main Street sidewalks and some of the curbs and gutters look “rundown.”

    “It would make their visit more pleasant,” Butz said about visitors and the upcoming improvements.

    The publicly funded streetscape improvements are being undertaken at the same time the private sector is heavily investing in Main Street buildings, making 2013 one of the busiest construction years ever on the street. The amount of work, especially the private sector sites, prompted concerns by some that the projects, taken together, overwhelmed Main Street this year.

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    Michigan Inland Lake Partnership Conference offers ways to learn about inland …

    Natural shoreline workshop for those living on lakes is just one educational opportunity planned to protect Michigan’s priceless natural assets.

    Michigan is widely known as the Great Lakes state. It is nearly impossible to overlook these enormous lakes, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior, which make up the largest freshwater system on the planet and contain about 20 percent of the world’s freshwater supply.

    Michigan also has more than 11,000 inland lakes and 23,500 miles of inland lake shoreline. Clean water, beautiful views, habitat that supports a variety of fish and wildlife species, and access to endless recreational opportunities such as boating, fishing and swimming are just some of the reasons that so many people like to live on inland lakes across the state. A soft approach to landscaping at the shoreline helps safeguard your waterfront property investment and allows lake residents to continue to enjoy all of the things that attracted them in the first place.

    Over time, increased development along lakes has led to removal of native vegetation at the shoreline which has been replaced by lawns down to the water’s edge, beach areas and seawalls. All of these can negatively impact lake ecosystems. One way to encourage healthy lake ecosystems is through the implementation of alternative landscaping technologies, such as bioengineered erosion control and naturalized landscape design. These practices can create a stable shoreline that is protected from waves and erosion, serve as a natural filter to prevent runoff and provide suitable habitat for fish and wildlife.

    Regardless of whether you know a little or a lot about inland lake management, consider attending the inaugural Michigan Inland Lakes Convention May 1-3, 2014 at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls, Mich. The Convention presents an opportunity for lake enthusiasts, lake professionals, researchers, local government officials and anyone else interested in protecting our water resources to participate in three days of educational presentations and discussion, in-depth workshops, tours, exhibits and much more focused on Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes.

    The 2014 Michigan Inland Lakes Convention is brought to you by the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership, launched in 2008 to promote collaboration to advance stewardship of Michigan’s inland lakes. The Convention is a cooperative effort between many public and private organizations including the Michigan Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, Inc., Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research.

    Convention sessions will cover a wide variety of topics, including aquatic invasive species management and control, natural shoreline management, Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program training, the latest in lake research, riparian rights and water law, and much more.

    One workshop scheduled on May 1, 2014 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. is designed to educate interested lakefront property owners on the importance of natural shoreline landscaping and the use of bioengineering techniques to provide erosion control. Workshop topics will include: Components of a healthy lake ecosystem, understanding the shoreline, planning a natural shoreline landscape, design ideas for a natural shoreline landscape, plant selection, planting stock and site preparation, Michigan rules and regulations and tips for natural shoreline success. This workshop will be coordinated by MSU Extension, Tipp of the Mitt Watershed Council and MDEQ. Cost of attending this workshop and other educational offerings on May 1 is $20, paid through conference registration fees.

    For the latest information on the Michigan Inland Lakes Convention, including registration details, visit Registration for the conference will open January 6, 2014.

    An excellent resource available for sale at the workshop is the MSU Extension Bulletin (E-3145), Natural Shoreline Landscapes on Michigan’s Inland Lakes: Guidebook for Property Owners, also available through the MSU Extension Bookstore.

    Registration for the conference will open on January 6, 2014. For the latest information on the Michigan Inland Lakes Convention, visit

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    David V. Pearson

    David V. Pearson, 84, of Warrensburg, Mo., died Wednesday, Dec. 18 at the Missouri State Veterans Home.

    David V. Pearson

    David V. Pearson

    Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 23 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Warrensburg with Father Joseph Miller officiating. Pallbearers will be Robert Hake, Matthew, Eric, Mark, and Dane Pearson.

    Entombment will follow at Warrensburg Memorial Gardens Mausoleum with full military honors provided by Whiteman Air Force Base Honor Guard.

    The family will receive friends from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22 at Sweeney-Phillips Holdren Funeral Home in Warrensburg, with prayer service at 6 p.m.

    He was born in Coronado, Calif., the son of Victor E. and Dorothy (Stephenson) Pearson.

    He was united in marriage to Maxine M. Warila on Aug. 17, 1952, in Butte, Mont.

    David graduated from San Louis Obispo High School, San Luis Obispo, Calif., in 1947.  He attended the Montana School of Mines and Mineral Technology, and participated in the Air Force ROTC.  Upon graduating in 1953 with a Bachelor’s Degree in geological engineering, he entered active duty in the Air Force.  David had a long career in the Air Force and traveled with his growing family from Montana, all over the country and to Japan.

    While on active duty, he acquired a Master’s Degree in geological engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City.  David went on to serve 26 years in the Air Force, retiring in 1979 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

    David was very interested in gardening and landscaping. Every home lived in was beautifully landscaped. He had a great artistic sense and explored many mediums from painting to woodworking to photography. His home in Warrensburg particularly showed his love of gardening. After retiring from the Air Force, he decided to put his interest and skills into growing things and bought an old farm. Blueberry Hill Farm in Montserrat, Mo., blossomed under his care. The farm’s focus was grapes and “u-pick” berries. Folks traveled from far away to pick his blueberries, grapes, blackberries and other fruit and berries.

    Somehow he found the time to also continue his education and he obtained a Specialist Degree in safety and a Master’s Degree in agriculture from Central Missouri State University. Mr. Pearson was a member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish of Warrensburg, the Master Gardeners of Johnson County, as well as more than 2,000 hours as a volunteer at Powell Gardens.

    David is survived by his wife Maxine; six children, Karen Knight of Tacoma, Wash.; Kristine Pixler and husband, Gary, of Platte City, Mo.; Mark Pearson of Woodbridge, Va.; Kathie Hake of Raytown, Mo.; Eric Pearson and wife, Cindy, of Kansas City, Mo.; and Dave Pearson of Plano, Texas; one brother, John Pearson and wife, Beverly, of Camarillo, Calif.; one sister, Carol Rovai and husband, Tom, of Redding, Calif.; 12 grandchildren, Aubrey, Robert H., David, Robert P., Adam, Angela, Matthew, James, William, Jennifer, Alexandria and Zachariah; and one great-grandson, Jordan.

    He was preceded in death by his parents.

    Memorial contributions are suggested to the Sacred Heart Parish or the Missouri State Veterans Home in Warrensburg and both can be left at the funeral home.

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    Trowel & Glove: Marin gardening calendar for the week of Dec. 21, 2013

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    • West Marin Commons offers a weekly harvest exchange at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays at the Livery Stable gardens on the commons in Point Reyes Station. Go to

    • The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards on Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 899-8296.

    • Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley or 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 561-3077 or go to

    • The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions.

    • Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

    • Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

    • The Marin Organic Glean Team seeks volunteers to harvest extras from the fields at various farms for the organic school lunch and gleaning program. Call 663-9667 or go to

    San Francisco

    • The Conservatory of Flowers, at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, displays permanent galleries of tropical plant species as well as changing special exhibits from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $2 to $7. Call 831-2090 or go to

    • The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, at Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, offers several ongoing events. $7; free to San Francisco residents, members and school groups. Call 661-1316 or go to Free docent tours leave from the Strybing Bookstore near the main gate at 1:30 p.m. weekdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. weekends; and from the north entrance at 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Groups of 10 or more can call ahead for special-focus tours.

    Around the Bay

    • Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

    • Garden Valley Ranch rose garden is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays at 498 Pepper Road in Petaluma. Self-guided and group tours are available. $2 to $10. Call 707-795-0919 or go to

    • The Luther Burbank Home at Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues in Santa Rosa has docent-led tours of the greenhouse and a portion of the gardens every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $7. Call 707-524-5445.

    • McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tips on planting olive trees and has olive trees for sale by appointment. Call 707-769-4123 or go to

    • Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

    The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 1 megabyte and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

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    The Garden Guru: A jolly holly landscape

    It’s entirely appropriate that we chat about hollies at this most special time of the year. If you ask me, of course, it’s entirely appropriate to talk about them at any time of the year. I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again: You could build an entire landscape using nothing but hollies, and it could be wonderful.

    That’s essentially what I’ve done at our house. I’m not embarrassed to say that I’ve had a long-standing love affair with the genus Ilex, since my buddy, the late nurseryman Steve Dodd, gave me a tree-form Nellie R. Stevens holly to try in my landscape. That was 43 years ago this month, and that plant is still doing beautifully.

    Steve declared himself to be a “holly fanatic,” and when we lost Steve years ago, I decided it was my job to pick up his torch. So if you ask me today to list plants you ought to consider, grab a tablet and pull up a chair. We’ll be starting with hollies.

    Having written this column for 35 years and having been on the radio as a garden talk show host even longer, I’ve heard all kinds of reasons why some people refuse to use hollies. Almost always, it plays back to the subject of spines.

    And so it is that I begin by saying that hollies come in all shapes, all sizes and all manners of textures. Yes, some do have sharp spines, but most types either have no spines or spines that won’t hurt you.

    I’ve always thought about hollies with spines much as I think about a gas grill in the patio garden. Sure, it’s hot when it’s in use, and you could get hurt if you brushed against it. But you know that ahead of time, and you just give it a few extra inches as you walk past it. That concept works just fine with hollies as well. Let’s move on.

    What is it about hollies that makes them so sacred to many of us here in North Texas? Many types grow very well in our alkaline black clay soils. They do well in sun or shade. Very few other shrubs are their match on tolerance of a wide variety of lighting. You can find a holly in any size range, from dwarf types that stay at 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, all the way to small trees 15 to 25 feet tall. Some are coarse-textured (large leaves); others are fine-textured (very small leaves). Many bear handsome red fruit all winter. And hollies are available in a wide range of container sizes at almost any month of the gardening year.

    To help you plan, here are my own personal favorite hollies for Blackland landscaping. I probably have 20 other types, but this dozen makes up the bulk of our half-acre garden. They’re all plants that are long tried and true. I’ll start with the smallest and step up to the tallest.

    Dwarf yaupon. Grows to 24-30 inches. Small leaves. No spines. No fruit.

    Carissa. Grows to 30-36 inches. Medium-size leaves. Single spine. No fruit.

    Dwarf Chinese. Grows to 36-42 inches. Medium-size leaves. Many spines. No fruit.

    Dwarf Burford. Grows to 42-48 inches (can be kept shorter with shearing). Medium-size leaves. Single harmless spine. Large red berries.

    Little Red. Grows (in my landscape in 15 years) to 48 to 54 inches. Small leaves. Several harmless spines. Red berries.

    Needlepoint (Willowleaf). Grows to 6-8 feet tall. Medium-size leaves. Dependable producer of large red berries.

    Mary Nell. Grows to 8-12 feet tall. Large leaves, toothed with harmless spines. Mine have never borne fruit but produce red berries. (Introduced by Tom Dodd Nurseries in Alabama — brother of my friend Steve Dodd.)

    Oakland (very similar to Oak Leaf). Grows to 10-14 feet tall. Dense habit. Large leaves with harmless spines. No fruit to date in my landscape.

    Weeping yaupon. Grows 10-15 feet tall. Heavy, weeping habit. No spines. Copious fruit.

    Nellie R. Stevens. Can be kept shorter, but grows to 12-18 feet. Large, dark green leaves. Harmless spines. Very large red berries. Outstanding screen.

    Yaupon. Grows to 15-18 feet. Very small, spineless leaves. Female selections produce multitudes of berries. Usually trained and sold tree-form.

    Possumhaw. Native to North Central Texas. Grows to 15-18 feet. Small leaves resemble those of yaupon, except these are deciduous. Choose variety ‘Warren’s Red’ for best red fruit.

    Finally, while I hate to end on a negative, there are several hollies that are occasionally brought in for sale in our area. In my experience, these are hollies to avoid, mainly because of our very alkaline soils and water, and therefore, acute (and uncontrollable) iron-deficiency symptoms after a few years: Heller’s dwarf, Sky Pencil, Savannah and East Palatka. Generally speaking, varieties from Ilex cornuta lineage will be fine here, but those from Ilex crenata or I. opaca will not survive very long in alkaline soils.

    Neil Sperry publishes “Gardens” magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday on WBAP AM/FM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227.

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