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Archives for October 30, 2017

On Gardening: Visiting gardens a great resource

Gardeners should visit public gardens to broaden their knowledge of garden design and plants. Visiting private gardens is also a good practice, especially to learn of the possibilities on a residential parcel, with various levels of time and resources. By contrast, public gardens typically are much larger than private gardens, and have much more gardening support, including staff and volunteers. They can be wonderful resources for the home gardener’s continuing education.

An excellent resource for visiting public gardens is Donald Olson’s new book, “The California Garden Tour” (Timber Press, 2017). The book’s subtitle, “The 50 best gardens to visit in the Golden State,” describes its scope, and the contents page lists these targets geographically. The book includes maps of the northern and southern parts of the state, showing garden locations.

The Northern California section lists 26 gardens, from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in the north and continuing southward to The Secret Gardens of Monterey.

The Southern California section lists 24 gardens, with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden northernmost and San Diego’s Balboa Park southernmost.

Olson’s nineteen-page introduction is definitely worth reading. It includes a concise history of California gardens, a distinction between art gardens and botanical gardens, a nice overview of the California floristic province, and more.

Olson then describes each of the gardens in two or three pages, providing enough information to prepare the visitor with the garden’s history and orientation. The descriptions include a summary of basic facts: address, operating hours, phone number and web address, admission cost (usually free), etc.

His descriptions are readable and include one or more photographs by the author. Olson’s comments about the plant collections and noteworthy plants reveal his familiarity with horticulture, and his appreciation for plants that each garden features.

Information about the book’s 50 gardens and other public gardens in California is available on the Internet: Google “California public gardens” for links to several web sites that list such gardens, often with terse descriptions. Such information can be useful, but doesn’t compare well with Olson’s more complete and expert presentation, like that of a well-informed friend. A visit to given garden’s website will yield more information of interest, but if you are interested in visiting any of California’s excellent public gardens, this book will be a valuable introduction.

Here are three recommendations for visiting a public garden.

Select a garden to visit firstly for its convenience. The maps in Olson’s book will be helpful in spotting gardens that are close to your home, or near a future travel route. Certainly, readers of this column you might begin with gardens of the Monterey Bay area: the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and The Secret Gardens of Monterey.

As you enter a garden, notice how the pathways bring visitors past a series of horticultural displays. These displays might be designed as vignettes or “rooms,” or as sections that focus on plant genera, geographic regions or landscape styles. If the pathways offer only a random variety of routes to follow, look for a map that helps to make sense of the garden experience. Larger public gardens’ maps might highlight one or more walking routes as learning opportunities. A large garden that lacks an organizational model can be confusing and less successful, despite expert maintenance of the inventory of plants.

Finally, prepare to enjoy your visit. For some gardeners, preparation might include listing learning objectives, but for all visitors it is wise to wear comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate attire, carry some water, and provide enough time to enjoy the experience.

Federal and state agencies recognize public gardens as living museums. They offer unique resources for both avid gardeners and casual appreciators of nature to gain understanding of our horticultural environment. California has many wonderful public gardens (even more than the fifty excellent gardens in Olson’s book) that should be part of every gardener’s ongoing education. Find time to see a new garden every year.

Tom Karwin is past president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, president of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999—2009). Visit for links to information on this subject, and send comments or questions to

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Grow better mums: Lan Su Chinese Garden chrysanthemum displays, classes, competition (photos)

Brighten up November days by strolling among thousands of blooming chrysanthemums at downtown Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden and vote, this weekend only, for your favorite flower arrangement created by the Pacific Northwest floral industry’s top designers.

The annual Ninth Moon Floral Design Showcase organized by the Chinese garden and Portland’s Floral Design Institute is Friday, Nov. 3, through Sunday, Nov. 5.

One of the prizes in the competition will be a People’s Choice Award based on visitors’ preference for classic Chinese techniques, Western approaches or a mix.

Throughout the month, chrysanthemums, in all shapes, sizes and colors, will be displayed in the garden’s pavilions and along white stone walls as part of the annual Mumvember celebration.

Against the garden’s autumn backdrop of oranges, reds and yellows will be pops of bright pink, lime green and other vivid blooms from more than 750 potted plants. You’ll see quills, spoons, semi-doubles, anemones and exotic mums.

The month-long celebration includes talks about caring for the flower revered around the world for its late and long-lasting blooms. There will also be floral demonstrations as well as classes on feng shui, Yang-style tai chi and calligraphy.

Over the year, Lan Su Chinese Garden, at 239 NW Everett St., hosts more than 500 events included with admission or membership at no additional cost.

Admission is $10 for adults ($9 for seniors 62 and over, $7 for students and $28 for a family with two adults and two students. Children five and under are free). Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily Nov. 1-March 14 (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).

From 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3, you can meet the floral designers, see the Ninth Moon Floral Design Showcase displays and enjoy dessert, sparkling wine and music ($75) as part of the preview gala.

British Columbia floral designer Brenna Quan, a member of the American Institute of Floral Designers and who created an elaborate fan-shaped arrangement at the 2015 showcase, will demonstrate how to create a unique arrangement at the preview as well as from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, and Sunday, Nov. 5.

Mums are culturally significant flowers, says Leanne Kesler, who, with her husband David Kesler, has owned the Floral Design Institute vocational school since 1988.

The Chinese associate mums with old age and wisdom, Leanne Kesler adds. It is one of the Four Gentleman of Flowers, sharing the honor with the flowering plum, bamboo and orchid.

In Japan, the mum represents long life and happiness, she says, while Hindus closely associate the chrysanthemum with mourning and funerals.

In the Netherlands, the red chrysanthemum denotes love, white stands for truthfulness and yellow represents slighted love.

For home gardeners, here are tips for growing chrysanthemums from Leanne Kesler and the Floral Design Institute:

  • While commercial flower food is best, in a pinch you can add a drop or two of bleach to the water. This will prevent bacteria build up and make them last much longer.
  • If you want tight buds to open more rapidly, place the blooms next to a bowl of bananas. The ethylene will speed the maturation of the flower. Likewise, to increase their life, keep them away from the fruit bowl.
  • To keep the bloom perky and prevent petal drop, put hairspray on the back side.
  • The interior of the base stem of the chrysanthemum is soft and sometimes even hollow. You can use this as an extender for short, broken blossoms. Just give the bloom a fresh cut and stick it directly into the stem. Extended blooms can last just as long as the natural stem.
  • For a full, round bouquet, place the lower perimeter blossoms first and then work up to the center point. This will keep the design symmetrical and balanced

— Janet Eastman

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Mass Hort to host symposium on ecological garden design

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Massachusetts Horticultural Society will host a symposium on ecological gardening design and techniques at their home, the Gardens at Elm Bank.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Massachusetts Horticultural Society will host a symposium on ecological gardening design and techniques at their home, the Gardens at Elm Bank.

The symposium will empower home gardeners to become the stewards of their landscape. Presenters will introduce you to the basic principles and benefits of ecological gardening. Attendees will discover ways to welcome birds and other wildlife, improve your soil, techniques to select the ideal native plants for your growing conditions, how to monitor and manage invasive plants, and so much more.

The symposium will run from 1-5 p.m. For more details and to register please visit Registration is $40 for Mass Hort members, $60 for general audience.

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Columbia looks to remake housing project into a more upscale $60 million destination

COLUMBIA — One of Columbia’s oldest public housing projects now is empty, surrounded by wire fencing and being pulled down brick by brick.

Gonzales Gardens, opened in 1940 to provide affordable homes for both U.S. Army personnel from Fort Jackson and local residents with lower incomes, is being replaced in a project that is estimated to cost at least $60 million.

More than 250 residents have moved elsewhere in the city, either into other public housing projects or private developments via a voucher program.

“Attractive landscaping will make Gonzales Gardens a beauty spot,” promised a 1939 brochure for the project. But in recent decades it mostly looked like what it was: row after row of public housing.

Its replacement is intended to be more upscale with a neighborhood feel that combines public housing, private homes and special facilities for the elderly.

That change is expected to take several years to complete, as it did when the Columbia Housing Authority demolished Hendley Homes overlooking Williams-Brice Stadium and gradually rebuilt the area as Rosewood Hills, a process that took more than six years.

A similar redevelopment was done at Celia Saxon Homes on Harden Street.

All Columbians deserve better than the outdated housing at Gonzales, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said.

Building a better complex that will boost the neighborhood and welcome residents of varied incomes is the right move even if it disrupts people’s lives during the process, he said. Not only was the design outdated but the facility was crumbling and had issues such as asbestos and mold.

“The traditional public housing from the mid-20th century needs to be replaced,” Benjamin said.

He praised the housing authority for the job it had done to relocate the residents of Gonzales, one of the oldest public housing projects in the country. They will have an opportunity to move back in the future if they wish, he said. The end result will be a development that “brings new life to a neighborhood that desperately needs it,” Benjamin said.

The process at Gonzales, along Forest Drive near Two Notch Road, could be accelerated if the city gets a $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That would allow the redevelopment to go forward in larger phases instead of smaller steps as money becomes available, said Nancy Stoudenmire, director of planning for the city housing authority.

Nationwide competition for the grants is intense, Stoudenmire said, but Columbia has some points in its favor: The site will already be clear for the work, and the city also can tout its success in places such as Rosewood Hills.

In 2000, the housing authority demolished Hendley Homes, a similar set of multifamily buildings along Rosewood Drive that had opened in 1952.

In its place came about 160 units of housing, including single-family dwellings, and both duplexes and a high-rise building designed to accommodate the elderly. Nothing about it to the bystander identifies it as a project focused on public housing. The tasteful row houses and landscaping make it look like other urban in-fill development.

The project itself, however, took years and wasn’t completed until 2007. To start construction on the redevelopment, it was necessary to displace all of the families living in Hendley’s 300 units.

They moved out, and very few of them moved back, according to Stoudenmire. People moving out of Hendley relocated to 26 different zip codes around the Midlands and state. They were aided by the housing authority voucher system, which allowed many of them to move into privately owned housing and receive a payment that covered more than half of their rent and utility bills.

This allowed them to find new homes that they liked without feeling any lingering stigma of living in public housing, Stoudenmire said.

“For a lot of people, they really liked that,” she said.

The residents forged ties in their new communities despite many having fond memories of the Hendley community, Stoudenmire said. Their children enrolled in new schools, and their new homes often were closer to jobs.

“It’s just like anybody who goes and moves,” she said.

A much higher number of those displaced by the work at Gonzales Gardens have chosen to relocate elsewhere in the public housing system than did at Hendley, Stoudenmire said. Of the former Gonzales households, 106 moved elsewhere in public housing, while 147 are using a voucher to live outside the public housing system.

One factor is the long tenure of Gonzales, with some residents having lived there for decades.

“A lot did not want to move out of the safety net of public housing,” she said.

Others did use it for a limited amount of time as a stable place to live and save money, then used it as a platform to move up and out, she said.

“People loved living in Gonzales Gardens,” she said.

Like Rosewood Hills, the new complex at Gonzales Gardens will include some housing sold on the private market. The hope is that the newly developed project will appeal to young professionals who are looking for downtown housing, perhaps including some who work across the street at Providence Hospital, Stoudenmire said.

At Rosewood Hills, the market for the available houses looks strong. The three-bedroom units on the market are valued between $170,000 and $210,000, with one house selling in July for $207,500, according to the Zillow real estate website.

Making Hendley Homes into Rosewood Hills has been a boon to the larger neighborhood of Rosewood, Stoudenmire said.

Redevelopment projects such as City Roots urban farm and the new brewpub in a historic hangar at Hamilton-Owens Field were given a boost by the improvement at Rosewood Hills, she said.

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Ellen DeGeneres reels in a new spot on the Carpinteria coastline

Ellen DeGeneres, who has history when it comes to fixing up and selling homes, appears to have found her next project. The daytime talk show host and her wife, actress Portia de Rossi, have purchased a home in Carpinteria for $18.6 million.

Set along roughly 80 feet of sandy beach, the gated estate centers on a shake-sided main house of about 6,000 square feet. A matching guesthouse, lighted clay tennis court and plunge pool share the site, which is more than an acre.

The main residence, built in 1979, has been extensively remodeled and features light wood floors, vaulted ceilings and walls of windows that bring ocean views inside.

A step-up living room, a dining room, an open-plan kitchen, four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms are among the living spaces. Another bedroom and two bathrooms lie within the guesthouse.

Putting a garden to bed

CLIFF HAVEN — The growing season has stuttered to an end but a gardener’s work is never done.

Linda Noyes offered up fall-gardening tips at a recent Ladies of Cliff Haven meeting.

“My expertise with flowers,” said the retired educator and Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

“That’s where my passion is. I have much of my yard that can be flowers as possible. I live in the middle of Beekman Street. My back is shaded because I have a wall of huge, huge cedar trees. My shade flowers in back yard. Then in the front, I make use of the sun as much as I can.”

A varied border lines one side of her driveway, and the other side is line with day lilies.

“I love day lilies, so I have been accumulated day lilies and trying how can I get them all and still have a little bit of lawn,” Noyes said.


Now is the time to divide perennials.

A rule of thumb, spring-blooming perennials should be divided in the fall and fall-blooming perennials divided in the spring.

“There are some exceptions to that, for example day lilies,” Noyes said.

“They are pretty hard and can be divided at anytime. I’m dividing day lilies right now, and I’ve divided them right in the middle of summer. It doesn’t matter.”

Some flowers are not divisible.

“They just don’t like it like lupines, they really have a hard time with that,” Noyes said.

“Poppies, so for getting extra plants the best thing is to gather the seed and just throw the seed down and see how that goes because they just don’t tolerate it.”

The peony is fussy, too.

“Fall is the time to divide the peony,” Noyes said.

“What I would do is cut it down, to the foliage, off to about six inches and then dig it out and really make sure you have a good clump. You want to put it in the ground so you that can see the crown. The crown of the plant is where the stem starts coming up. You’ll notice it. It’s kind of bumpy. And right now, you’ll see little sprouts on it like buds. You want that exposed from the ground. You don’t want to cover that up. Give it a good watering so those roots really get established the rest of the fall and all winter long.

The nutrients are going right into those roots.”


The best time to divide plants is on a cool, cloudy day. Divisions should be at least six inches in diameter for a substantial clump.

“Sometimes, you have to be ruthless with them,” Noyes said.

“I use something called a hori knife. You can get it at a garden supply store. It chops right through it. I’ve seen people use reciprocating saws to cut through hosta roots. Sometimes, you will see natural divisions like if you’re wanting to divide your irises. This is a good time to divide irises, too. Just cut that whole clump off and put it on a tarp. You can look at the rhizomes, and you can see what ones are kind of shriveled up, which ones are rotted and cut that out.”

Keep the more robust rhizomes for transplanting. When planting, keep a little bit of the rhizome above the surface.

“They will flower better,” Noyes said.

“It’s just unusual and unique to irises.”

Dahlias are bulbs and should be dug up before a hardy frost and the ground gets too frozen.

“When you dig them up, you can separate them out,” Noyes said.

“You want to store them in a cool, dry place, preferably in a bag that has some holes in it so some air can get in there. Even if you see them start to get dry, mist them with a little bit of water. Just check them periodically. Some people, I don’t want to bother with that and they just buy new ones next year. They use them as an annual. Some people will do that.”


Don’t add fertilizer this time of year but do add compost.

“I will buy compost in bags,” Noyes said.

“I do add leaves. I’m always on the lookout for maple leaves. I have been known to go all over the city. I shred them because maple leaves decompose the best. I have all oak leaves that go into my yard, and they are the longest to decompose. Compost always and water everything that you do divide or even transplant. Just keep watering. We’ve been really dry, so I’ve been watering constantly because you don’t want your plant to dry out. And you want your plants to be successful all winter, so if they have a good, deep-root watering, they will make it through the winter much better.”

Her rhododendrons were absolutely gorgeous this year.

“It’s hit and miss,” she said.

“This year, the bloom was unbelievable. I had hardly any green leaves but then other years, it’s been sparse like my lilac tree. I have a lilac tree that is built into my stone patio. I keep it trimmed so it looks like a bonsai configuration. Some years, I have great lilacs and some years, not so great.”


A rule of thumb for putting down mulch is to not put it down too early.

Mid-November is a good target date.

“The way our weather is going, it could be late November,” Noyes said.

“Leaves are great to use because they always add organic matter as they decompose. Organic mulch is great for anything.”

Now is a good time to plant shrubs and trees because they have the fall and all winter long to develop root systems.

“Then in the summer, when we got those drought conditions they will be able to tolerate it better,” Noyes said.

“The only proviso with that is when you go to nurseries, you have to really look at what you are buying because some of them may have been delivered in the spring and have been sitting there all summer.”

Make sure roots are free and not circling around the tree.

“Then, when you’re planting trees or shrubs, you want to put the mulch down but you want to make sure the mulch is not touching the bark of the tree and not touching the crown of the shrub,” Noyes said.

“You want to keep that free. Your root ball should not be covered so much with mulch.”


Out with planting trees and shrub in deep holes.

“Now, the wisdom is not to plant it so deep,” Noyes said.

“You want it as deep as your container root ball but what you do want to do is make your hole wider, two to three times wider, because you want those roots to spread out.”

She puts compost in her hydrangea holes but she mixes it in with native soil.

“If you take the compost and just throw it in, the roots are no dummy,” Noyes said.

“They are going to want to stay with that beautiful compost, and they are not go out into the native soil so much. So, you just don’t want to load your hole up with compost and say done. You want to mix it with native soil, and then back fill it and then water it carefully. Deeply.”

Email Robin Caudell:




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Fall tips for your vegetable garden

I planted a vegetable garden for the first time this year and would like some advice on what to do this fall in preparation for next year.

— Riley Gray Morton Grove

Warm-season plants like tomatoes, beans and peppers are winding down now, so go ahead and remove them once they stop producing. The unusually warm weather — including warm nights this fall — have kept these plants going later than in a normal year, when the first average frost at the Garden is Oct. 15.

If you previously seeded any cool-season vegetables like lettuce (it’s too late to do so now), leave them in and continue harvesting until a hard freeze stops them. Go ahead and compost plant debris if it is free of disease. Most home compost piles do not generate enough heat to kill disease organisms, so discard any diseased plant material.

Cut back on irrigation and remove flammable materials

The autumnal equinox is behind us, and winter looms. Time to do some clean up in the garden, get the winter planting done, and get ready to ease into the slow lane.

  • Although we sometimes have downright hot days, the overall evaporation rate is slowing as the days grow shorter and the nights cooler. That means you can start reducing your irrigation schedule or, depending on what you’re growing, cut it off completely.
  • If we don’t have any rain in the next few weeks, water your trees and shrubs to a depth of about 12 inches, once this month.
  • You probably don’t need any more incentive after watching the destruction of Wine Country, but you really need to do some fire protection around your home. Prune low-lying branches on shrubs, and clean the eaves to remove leaf buildup. If you have flammable plants close to your home, you might want to get rid of them.
  • Shred pine needles, and use them as mulch beneath irrigated, acid-loving plants, or compost them. Trim away dead woody plant parts, and while using oak and redwood leaves beneath those trees as mulch is a good idea, you’ll need to shred them first if you live in a high fire danger zone.
  • Plant spring bulbs — daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths — this month and next. Chill tulips before planting.
  • This is the week to plant garlic and shallots for harvest next summer.
  • If you aren’t growing winter crops this year, considering planting a cover crop to protect your beds and improve their fertility. Plant legumes or grains, or a combination of both.

The Contra Costa Master Gardeners contributed to this report.

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Put on a sweater and other indoor gardening tips for fall

The cooler weather means a lot more time indoors for gardeners — but there’s still work to be done. 

As the days get darker and the air changes, master gardener Brian Minter says plants need to be protected once they’ve been moved inside to prevent them from suffering and turning yellow.  

“We treat our plants just like we always did but no, it’s a new situation,” he told CBC guest host of B.C. Almanac Michelle Elliot.

Minter said indoor plants, even a small potted plant on the windowsill, brightens the room and helps purify the air. But they need extra care this time of year to combat the changing light, heat and humidity conditions.

“Each day, we’re losing more light and light is the essence — it’s the life and death of plants inside our homes,” Minter said. “We need to move our plants to where they are getting more light.”

And not just any light, he said. Indirect light is better than direct sunlight and artificial light can be a good substitute on those cloudy overcast days, Minter recommended.

“We have so many great LED types of lighting that you simply plug into a wall to give your plants a good spectrum of light so that helps immensely,” he said.

‘Put a sweater on’

Along with less light, decreased humidity can also be deadly for plants and cranking up the heat in the house only makes it worse.

“Put a sweater on — I’m serious. It’s chilly outside, we’re going to put the temperature up and when the temperature inside your home starts to rise, the humidity disappears,” he said.  

Watering plants is, of course, also vital but many people don’t do it correctly. Minter said the common method of touching the top of the soil to check water levels is inefficient.

“That gets your fingers dirty and that’s about all it does,” he said. “Pick up the plant and feel the weight of the plant.”

If the plant is heavy, the water levels are good and if it’s lighter than usual, give it warm — not cold — water, he said.

And it’s always better to underwater plants than overwater them, Minter added, because underwatering is easier to fix.

“Go hug a plant but, more importantly, we have to change how we look after them,” he said.

To hear more, click on the B.C. Almanac podcast below:

With files from B.C. Almanac.

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