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Archives for September 3, 2017

September in the garden – The San Diego Union

August brought some surprisingly cool and pleasant gardening weather. September is usually roasting hot, and if that continues, schedule your gardening time early in the morning and in the late afternoon so you stay out of the midday sun and heat.

Even though it’s hot, keep your arms and legs covered. If you rely on sunscreen, reapply it every few hours. Either way, get a comfortable hat with a wide brim to shade your face, neck and shoulders. Now, you are ready to garden!

  • Irrigation is at peak demand this month, so it is critical to manage water carefully. Water ornamental plants deeply, running the water for a long time, then letting the soil dry before you water again. The water should penetrate at least 6 to 8 inches deep with each time you water.
  • Vegetable gardens are totally different. Vegetables do best when the soil is consistently damp. Not wet, just damp. Test the soil. If it is not damp at least 4 inches down, do a deep water and follow that by regular, shorter waterings to keep the soil damp from the top down at least 6 inches.
  • Mulch everything — straw mulch for vegetables; rock, gravel or DG for succulent gardens, wood-based mulch for everything else. If you mix succulents and non-succulents, use a wood-based mulch. Wood mulch needs to stay at least 6 or 8 inches away from the base of the plants.
  • If your plants look a little peaked at the end of the day, don’t water. Instead, wait until morning and check them again. Often, in the heat especially, plants lose water to the air faster than their roots can take it up from the soil. By morning, the roots catch up and the plants are fine. If they are still droopy, then it is time to water.
  • Be especially water frugal with native and drought-tolerant woody trees and shrubs. Too wet, warm soil encourages deadly Phytopthera fungi. Watering too much, then, kills the plants. Instead, irrigate only occasionally if at all, using in-line drip (for natives, too!). Run the drip at night when soil is its coolest.
  • Spritz dusty plants and those covered in spider webs with a sharp blast from the hose. That washes away mites and other tiny pests that hide or nest in the dust.
  • If you intended to solarize your lawn this year you are almost out of time. Start now, so there is still enough sun and heat to superheat the soil to kill plants, weeds and seeds in the upper layer. This simple process involves clear (not black) plastic and takes six to eight weeks in the hottest months of the year. For directions, visit
  • Pick ripe fruits and vegetables to enjoy, to preserve, and to keep scavenging rats, possums and other critters from treating your garden as their favorite fast-food joint.
  • Prune fruit trees right after the harvest to keep them small and the fruit within reach. You’ll prune again when the trees go dormant, and that’s when you shape them. For now, all you need to do is cut back the tall growth to keep the branches (and fruits) within reach. Visit for more information.
  • Fertilize summer vegetables, citrus and avocado. Use organic fertilizers and follow label directions. Water the fertilizer in, then cover with a few inches of mulch.
  • Start fall vegetables now from seed: broccoli, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower (I love the orange variety called ‘Cheddar’) arugula, beans and so on. They’ll be ready to plant out in about six weeks.
  • Buy seeds for cover crops you’ll plant in fall.
  • Feed pumpkin plants and remove any pumpkins that have soft spots or insect damage. Put a bed of straw under the good pumpkins to keep them off the dirt. Elevating them on an upside-down yogurt container or cottage cheese container is another option. Do the same for melons.
  • Continue to harvest late-season figs and grapes as soon as they ripen.
  • Pineapple guavas ripen and “self harvest” this month. As fruits drop to the ground, gather them, cut them open and enjoy their sweet flesh.
  • Continue planting spring-flowering bulbs such as species Gladiola, Watsonia and Babiana.

Antiques can add personality, focal point to a garden

Adding antique garden ornaments to the landscape blends horticulture with history. One-of-a-kind pieces will personalize your property, and over time may grow into something richly rewarding — financially as well as artistically.

“Really outstanding good old pieces such as a swan bench, unusual large decorative urn or piece of sculpture will continue to go up in value, but really more important to my client is the same artistic pleasure that placing a certain piece in their garden gives to them,” said Aileen Minor, owner of Aileen Minor Garden Antiques Decorative Arts in Centreville, Maryland.

Some of her garden antiques have been installed in the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and in private collections around the United States, Germany, England and France.

The definition of “antique” is somewhat elastic but generally applies to objects more than 100 years old.

“What makes a piece worth collecting? I would say rarity, design detail, all original parts and age,” Minor said.

Garden antiques are most commonly made of wicker, metal or stone, and range from pergolas and gazebos to cemetery headstones and fountains, from ironwork, fencing and gates to outdoor furniture and windows.

Family heirlooms certainly qualify.

Each person has his or her own idea about what constitutes a collectible, said Troy Rhone, owner of Troy Rhone Garden Design in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Typically, I look for pieces that are over 120 years old and have a unique history,” Rhone said. “I’m not as concerned about the price because I’m usually looking for a specific item for my gardens.”

Rhone studies each piece to determine if there are markings to determine who made it, signs of wear and tear, and areas that might deteriorate quickly.

“Not many pieces can stand the test of time when exposed to weather, so using pieces that have proved their sustainability is something most people are drawn toward,” Rhone said.

Many people shape their garden antique collections around a theme. Some may want to match a Victorian-era setting, highlighting the looks of their home and neighborhood. Others simply want practical antiques spotted tastefully around their landscape.

“Collectors do collect pieces based on forms such as antique hitching posts or interesting sculpture,” Minor said. “But more often they are looking to find unusual pieces such as a fountain for a focal point in a garden, or are looking for an attractive antique or vintage bench or settee for seating in their garden.”

Estate sales, auctions and antique dealers are good places to look, Rhone said. “They can be a great resource when searching for a specific item. Most of the time it’s pretty easy to have shipping arranged.”

Living at a time when so much is mass-produced, it’s nice to have something that no one else has, Rhone said.

“That is easily accomplished with an antique that was handmade,” he said. “No one else is likely to have that exact piece so it allows a space to have individuality, which is what makes one garden stand out from the rest.”

Secure them, though. High-end antique pieces are prime targets for thievery.

Article source:

Blundering Gardener: The latest gardening trend? Nature itself … –

Last week I was invited to give a talk on trends in horticulture. Which styles are “trending” and which are passé?

Time was, the assignment would have been a no-brainer. A few of you may remember, for instance, when perennial borders came back into vogue.

Bonnie Blodgett

Creating a pleasing show of flower color took experience and skill. There were rules to help a novice avoid disaster, such as don’t plant just one of any plant but in groups of three or more. There were tricks to be played by contrasting foliage color and texture to knit together different floral hues and ease the transition from one blooming period to the next and to get the garden through the August doldrums, when almost nothing is at its peak, before late bloomers took charge.

Cool colors like blue and gray were often clustered at one end of the border and hot colors (red, yellow, orange) at the other end.

We all learned how to read a color wheel, and assumed that it was flower color only that the colors on the wheel represented.

Borders were “edged” in tidy low plants like lady’s mantle, with taller plants standing behind them much as people are arranged by height in family photographs, with a clipped hedge or stone wall as the backdrop.

Perennial borders are still the hallmark of many of England’s most famous formal gardens, but they are no longer a must-have. In fact, if I had to describe what’s trending today, it’s “anything goes,” as long as it obeys not the rules of Martha Stewart but the laws of Mother Nature.

I used to write for a magazine called Garden Design. I thought of it as horticultural haute couture, the gardening equivalent of Vogue. Others called it garden porn.

Every issue had its cover girl, a single specimen, usually in bloom but not always, photographed against a solid background. A simple narcissus was as glamorous as Angelina Jolie.

Sometimes the plant was chosen to represent what was “cutting edge.” When the tropical look came on like gangbusters in the 1980s, elephant ears graced the cover.

Then came ornamental grasses. Garden Design sent gardeners running to buy a feather reed grass as amazing as the one on the cover.

As always there were rules to follow: These fancy new grasses were best planted en masse, so they moved in drifts in a summer breeze, perhaps alongside batches of native plants — coneflower, rudbeckia, blazing star.

Then came the cultivars — “improved” varieties of politically correct plants. The Garden Design cover featured a coneflower that looked like bee balm crossed with a sunflower.

Foliage replaced fIowers as the main attraction in the fanciest gardens. Shade gardens had their day in the sun. I wrote a humorous piece for Fine Gardening asking the question: How many variations on the theme of coral bells could there be? I’d lost count. And what did the very first coral bell look like anyway? Could anyone remember? Did anyone even grow it anymore?

One of Garden Design’s most striking cover girls was a cactus. It almost made you flinch when you picked up the magazine. Those were some sharp spines on that thing. Xeriscaping had just been invented to give homeowners in arid climates a way to garden that didn’t require sacrificing the kids’ college education in order to foot the water bill.

As the 21st century loomed, all these trends began to coalesce. People began to see gardening as a way of reclaiming the earth from industrialization. Caring for a garden became an end in itself. A learning process and a healing process at the same time. Gardens were planted everywhere — in front yards and boulevards, in city parks and freeway medians — as demonstration sites for a massive rescue mission.

Gardening is almost by definition a “local” endeavor. National gardening media have always struggled with regional climate differences. What works in Arizona won’t work in Maine. The internet dealt magazines like Garden Design the final blow.

Anyone can start a blog. Now topics trickle up instead of down. In today’s garden, instead of trend watchers informing the gardening public what’s up, information flows broadly, around the globe and across the fence by ordinary gardeners sharing their stories and the stories themselves creating the trends.

The big story or trend, if you will, is nature. A garden isn’t like a closet, a repository of styles collected over the decades that add up to a mish-mash, but an ever-evolving, living thing. That plants can’t be treated like other disposable, mass-produced products, but must live in balanced ecosystems to thrive, gripped the imaginations of gardeners everywhere and of all ages.

Gardening has always defied labels and rules. It is practiced by all sorts of us for all sorts of immediate reasons — we like to cook, or we like fragrance or beauty or both, or all three. Plants feed our souls and our bodies. They feed our minds. Their presence in our lives challenges us to solve problems. The events this week in Houston are yet another reminder of what those problems are.

It is the responsibility of gardeners not only to learn and grow but to teach. Encourage others to take up the trowel. Dig a hole, examine the earth. Get to know its creatures and how they live and what they do for all living creatures.

It’s about balance. The tipping point is upon us.

Article source:

Gardener wins fifth garden club award

MANSFIELD – Barbara Metcalf has always had a green thumb. 

Her father cultivated a meticulous vegetable garden and her mother grew flowers, so Metcalf helped from an early age and developed a love of gardening. 

She’s created or maintained impressive landscaping at each of the four homes she and her husband, Richard, have lived in over the years. And at each of the homes, her hard work has been recognized by judges from the Mansfield Men’s Garden Club. 

This year marks Metcalf’s fifth win of the club’s coveted Beautification Award. Gardeners can only win once every five years, so the contest has become a decades-long tradition for Metcalf.

“I’m really excited about this,” Metcalf said. “I’m excited that I’ve been able to win it each time.”

Metcalf is one of 18 winners who will be recognized at the club’s annual corn roast on Sept. 5.

Her first win came in 1986, when someone surprised her by submitting her name to the judges. 

She moved to a new home a few years later, so she decided in 1991 to throw her hat in the ring again, and she won at the new house. 

Then she and Dick then moved to the country, where she took her yard from plain to beautifully landscaped, complete with a fruit orchard. That project resulted in another garden club award in 1996. 

At her current house on Walnut Drive, she won in 2002 and again this year. The yard has changed a lot in those 15 years, Metcalf said. 

“I usually redo one bed every year and try to improve upon it,” Metcalf said, adding that she often takes out more than she puts in and sets plants out by the road for friends and neighbors to take for their own gardens.

“A lot of people come and I’ll give them a whole carload,” she said. 

In addition to countless perennials in beds all around the house and along the back in the back yard, Metcalf plants a few colorful annuals in the beds and maintains several pots and container boxes.

Many of her flowering plants are done for the year, Metcalf lamented, but she’s getting ready to plant mums for fall displays.  

Few of Metcalf’s plants are purchased. Most are handed down from family or traded with friends, and many are associated with memories of a particular person or place. 

Every time she and her husband have sold a house, Metcalf has made sure to add a clause into the contract stating that she can take starts from each her favorite plants to take to her new home. 

A retired elementary teacher from Madison’s Mifflin Elementary, Metcalf has had many of her summers free to work in her garden.

These days she teaches children of migrant workers at the Head Start program in Shiloh in the summer months, so she finds herself mulching, weeding, mowing and planting mostly on weekends. 

Metcalf said she can’t help but garden because she loves to look at the flowers and plants and she loves the feeling of improving her home and yard. She doesn’t garden for accolades, but it’s nice to be recognized, she said.


Twitter: @courtneymcnaull

Article source:

Village cricket clubs are left stumped as mowers become prime targets for professional thieves

  • Clubs as far apart as Upottery, Devon and Queensbury in West Yorkshire victims
  • Experts struggling to explain thefts as specialist mowers unsuitable for gardens
  • Peter Maltby of Lilleshall Cricket Club said it is rumoured mowers went to Ireland

Nick Constable for The Mail on Sunday



Mowers belonging to village cricket clubs have become a prime target for professional thieves.

Clubs as far apart as Upottery in Devon and Queensbury in West Yorkshire are among those reporting losses of mowers.

One of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s official insurers, Marshall Wooldridge, which covers about half of Britain’s 6,000 clubs, says that of all its claims, those relating to ground equipment were running at about 13 per cent over the past three years but since March this has shot up to 50 per cent.

Experts are struggling to explain the thefts, as specialist wicket mowers are unsuitable for back gardens or landscaping, and there is no evidence they are being offloaded at car boot sales or eBay.

Peter Maltby, secretary of Lilleshall Cricket Club in Shropshire (pictured), where three mowers were stolen recently, said: ‘These were professional thieves. The rumour is that the mowers have gone to Ireland’

Clubs as far apart as Upottery in Devon and Queensbury in West Yorkshire (pictured) are among those reporting losses of mowers

Peter Maltby, secretary of Lilleshall Cricket Club in Shropshire, where three mowers were stolen recently, said: ‘These were professional thieves. The rumour is that the mowers have gone to Ireland.’

Police are advising clubs to install CCTV, conduct regular reviews of locks and storage and have ground machinery security marked.

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Rain garden being built at Bay View church

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199,, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH,

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