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Archives for February 3, 2018

Growing Concerns: Hosta of the Year brings gold to your garden – Post





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Playscapes, geometric pools and roof gardens: the Society of Garden Designers awards, in pictures

The Society of Garden Designers announced the winners of the SGD Awards 2017 at its sixth annual award ceremony in London yesterday evening.

Robert Myers MSGD was presented with the most prestigious award of the night, winning the Grand Award for The Magic Garden at Hampton Court Palace.

The garden, designed as an imaginative and playful new garden for families, is inspired by the rich history of the palace. It was described as ‘truly magical’ by the judging panel, who said it was ‘full of surprises and fun.’ The garden was also named best public or commercial outdoor space.

Matt Keightley MSGD won three awards including the distinguished Judges’ Award for his eastern-inspired Tyre Hill House Garden, and visionary Spanish designer Fernando Caruncho was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award. 

In total, 17 designers were presented with awards across 19 categories, including accolades for the best healing and learning garden, international garden and roof garden.

Society of Garden Designers (SGD) chair Sarah Morgan said: “The SGD Awards are all about celebrating the very best in landscape and garden design and recognising the incredible talent being brought to bear across the industry. It’s clear from tonight just how much fantastic work is being done within the sector.”

The Grand Award, and Public or Commercial Outdoor Space Award

Robert Myers MSGD

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Learn how to grow your own salads

Stefani Bittner’s home garden in Lafayette demonstrates the use of harvestable plants within a landscape. (Photo by Erin Scott for Homestead Design Collective)

Stefani Bittner’s home garden in Lafayette demonstrates the use of harvestable plants within a landscape. (Photo by Erin Scott for Homestead Design Collective)


What: “Grow Your Own Salad”

When: 10 to 11:30 a.m. March 9

Where: Marin Art Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross

Admission: $25

Information: 415-455-5260,

For those who love their spring and summer landscapes, winter is not just a waiting time for nature to burst forth in bloom.

It’s a time to prepare the garden and to plan, and if you need a little motivation for that, the Marin Art Garden Center may have a solution.

On March 9, Sierra Vasquez, the lead edible gardener of Homestead Design Collective, will offer a workshop, “Grow Your Own Salad.”

The Homestead Design Collective, owned by Lafayette resident Stefani Bittner, designs, installs and organically maintains gardens throughout the Bay Area with recent projects in San Anselmo and Novato.

The author of “Harvest” (with Alethea Harampolis, 2017, Ten Speed Press) and “The Beautiful Edible Garden” (with Leslie Bennett, 2013, Ten Speed Press), Bittner is also the creative force behind the MAGC’s edible garden and, more recently, the new test gardens for Sunset magazine in Sonoma County.

Homestead Design Collective emphasizes the creation of both productive and aesthetically pleasing gardens where edibles live happily with ornamentals and where the garden is an extension of the living space.

“A garden can benefit and enrich your life in so many ways,” Bittner says. “We want to inspire folks to grow harvestable plants throughout their landscape,” she says, not just in the kitchen garden. “We grow plants that provide flowers, fruits and herbs for use in the kitchen as well as throughout the home in beautiful arrangements.”

And, she adds, “the ability to grow food throughout the landscape is one of the most exciting realizations a gardener can make.”

Still, for many edibles-reluctant gardeners, committing to the production of year-round produce can be daunting.

“Most folks who are hesitant to include edibles in their garden often refer to the fact that they do not have a ‘green thumb,’” she acknowledges. “Actually, they have simply not followed good gardening practices, including irrigation and successive planting.”

A year-round edible garden doesn’t have to be time-consuming, either.

“We believe in gardening with food-based plants, not ‘farming’ our gardens,” she says. “This means that we include perennial plants throughout the landscape to provide harvest and beauty for us to enjoy while we are in our gardens.”

This practice, she says, “limits the amount of plants that need more attention during their peak harvest, which is the case of many annual vegetables planted in our kitchen gardens.

“And, because we are gardening with food and not ‘farming’ our gardens, our expectations are not that all gardens will provide all the food our family consumes,” she says.

She advocates for choosing perennial plants that support your garden with seasonal harvest and select annual vegetables that can thrive within your garden’s growing conditions of light, water and soil.

“No plants are bullet-proof if folks have not selected the right plant for the right space, meaning that they have good, high-quality and nutrient-rich soil, the right light conditions for the right plants and a working irrigation system,” she points out.

“That being said, in the Bay Area, I think most folks should grow a Meyer lemon,” she says. “After that, both herb and salad gardens can be transformative.”

Don’t-miss events

• Learn easy-care tips for growing orchids at home with tips from Armstrong Garden Centers at 9 a.m. Feb. 10 at 1430 S. Novato Blvd. in Novato. Admission is free. Call 415-878-0493 or go to

• Does your green thumb need a job? Sloat Garden Center’s Job Fair takes place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at 700 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Kentfield. Experience not required and Sloat includes flexible hours, paid health benefits and nursery discounts. Call 415-454-0262 or go to

• “Keeping Varmints at Bay: Deer, Rats and Gophers” is the subject of a talk by Lois Stevens’, a UC Marin master gardener, from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Landmarks Art Garden Center at 841 Tiburon Blvd. in Tiburon. Call 415-473-4204 or go to

• Discover which roses are the best ones to grow in Marin during a panel discussion by knowledgeable Marin rose growers augmented by photographs and descriptions, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Marin Art Garden Center at 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Ross. Admission is free for members, or $5. Call 415-613-4395 or go to

• Celebrate spring and Valentine’s Day with elegant seasonal flowers and custom bouquets by Mill Valley’s Rito-ito at a pop-up shop from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 14 at Erica Tanov at Marin County Mart, 2415 Larkspur Landing in Larkspur. Call 415-464-9008 or go to

• Save money by learning how to install a new shower head and various bathroom hardware to enhance your home’s bathroom in a free class from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 10 at Home Depot at 111 Shoreline Parkway in San Rafael. Questions? Call 415-458-8675 or register at

PJ Bremier writes on home, garden, design and entertaining topics every Saturday and also on her blog at She may be contacted at P.O. Box 412, Kentfield 94914, or at

If you go

What: “Grow Your Own Salad”

When: 10 to 11:30 a.m. March 9

Where: Marin Art Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross

Admission: $25

Information: 415-455-5260,

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A muddy garden is everyone’s worst nightmare, ALAN TITCHMARSH tells us how to prevent it

In summer they are less noticeable, for the grass grows rapidly even when you walk over it with increasing regularity (non-league football matches apart), but in winter with grass growth at a standstill it is not long before the greensward turns to mud on regularly traversed routes.

Now it is no earthly good telling yourself that you will not walk that way for a while, since it is human nature to take the shortest route from A to B.

No; what you need to do over the next few weeks is to make sure that the most frequently used pathways through your garden are as all-weather friendly as they can be.

If you always walk across the lawn in the same place, sink stepping-stones into the grass. It’s an easy thing to do.

On a day when the lawn is not squelchy, lay your slabs out in a pleasing but practical pattern from the place where you will set off to the place where you will arrive.

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Two tips can allow coneflowers to flourish

Our Jan. 24 “Spring Fever” gardening symposium was quite a success, with more than 200 attendees and an excellent program of presentations and demonstrations. The symposium was planned and carried out by our Craven County Master Gardeners, and as with their two previous symposia in 2013 and 2015, they did a wonderful job.

Bryce Lane, currently a lecturer emeritus at N.C. State University, was the keynote speaker with an overview of “eye popping perennials” for the home landscape. Lane gave the audience a lot of great information to go home with, and I was particularly interested in his suggestions for planting and establishing purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).

Many of us have had the experience of planting coneflowers in the spring, enjoying a few flowers that first year, and then seeing no trace of the plants by the second year. To avoid this outcome, Lane suggests a two-part strategy that goes against the instincts of most gardeners, but one that should be given serious consideration anyway.

First, if your coneflowers are blooming when you purchase them at the garden center, clip off the flowers when you get home. If they’re not flowering, remove any flowers or flower buds that develop later, and keep this up for the duration of the first growing season. The idea is to direct the plants’ energies into vegetative growth and root development, rather than flower production.

Secondly, instead of planting your coneflowers straight into the garden soil the first year, pot them up into larger containers. This will be especially important for smaller-sized plants with sparse, underdeveloped root systems. Monitor the potting media so that it doesn’t get too dry, and keep the plants in a protected site during the winter months.

Plant the following spring when soil temperatures have begun to rise, and you’ll have larger plants with more developed root systems than you would have had the previous spring or summer. And that should greatly enhance both establishment and long-term performance.

Purple coneflowers are among the most popular of all perennials in American landscapes, partly because not all of the flowers are actually purple. Plant breeders have invested heavily in this species, and today you can find cultivars with purple, pink, red, orange, white and other shades, coming in a variety of flower forms.

Once established, purple coneflowers are tough and relatively low-maintenance; they are also avoided by deer, which is a big plus for many Craven County gardeners. Watch for these plants in the garden centers this spring, and consider giving Bryce Lane’s advice a try.

Landscape professionals and home gardeners continue to have questions regarding widespread cold damage to our landscape plants, and what we can expect to see this coming spring and summer.

Tim Minch, another speaker at our gardening symposium, has some answers for at least one group of plants. Minch told the audience that Camellia japonica flower buds are at risk of serious damage when temperatures reach 15 degrees. We saw those temperatures and lower in January, and as a result we can expect greatly reduced flowering from our japonica cultivars this winter and spring. The good news is that flowering should be back to normal in 2019 — unless we have another abnormal winter.


Tom Glasgow is the Craven County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at

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The ‘Grumpy Gardener’ Steve Bender brings humor, snark and horticulture tips to New Orleans


Steve Bender, the famous Grumpy Gardener from Southern Living magazine, was scheduled to give a talk at the Fall Garden Festival in City Park last October, but the festival was canceled due to weather. Now Bender is making up for the lost opportunity.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., he will share his hilarious observations about gardening. Held at the New Orleans Botanical Garden’s Pavilion of the Two Sisters, the event is co-sponsored by Longue Vue House Gardens. Tickets are $20 at and available at the door.

Here’s what|The Times-Picayune gardening columnist Dan Gill wrote about Bender last year before the fall garden show: I’ve been reading and admiring the work of Steve Bender for much of my horticultural career. He’s one of those people gifted with the ability to make you laugh while you learn. The wisecracks, wry comments and humorous remarks that punctuate his writing and lectures make his information as enjoyable as it is educational.

What do I mean? Here’s how he is described on the Southern Living website.

“Steve Bender grew up in Lutherville, Md., and was exiled to Alabama in 1983 for reasons that remain secret to this day. He loves fried okra and often selects dinner wine based on whether it goes well with fried okra. His mission is to make gardening uplifting, accessible, and inspirational to all. He will no doubt succeed.”

His nickname, “The Grump Gardener,” reflects the humorously wisecracks that often pepper his writing.

One of my favorite gardening books, “Passalong Plants,” was written by Bender and Felder Rushing. In this book, they write about old-fashioned plants that have a long history of growing successfully in the South. These plants, often shared between gardeners or “passed along,” are tough, resilient and successful in Southern gardens. Both of these guys treat the subject with humorous irreverence that’s totally enjoyable to read.

And that brings me to Bender’s new book, “The Grumpy Gardener: An A to Z Guide from the Country’s Most Irritable Green Thumb” (Oxmoor House, 2017). The book combines definitive gardening advice along with stories bound to get a chuckle or two. With equal doses of sarcasm and sidesplitting humor, Bender provides valuable tips for planting, troubleshooting and growing flowers, vegetables, shrubs, trees and more — all delivered in his signature cantankerous style.

Take, for instance, his stance on golden euonymus. Let’s just say, he’s not a fan. “If you plant this in front of your house, you probably gave your girlfriend a pop-top for an engagement ring,” Bender writes. “I used to call golden euonymus a ‘gas station plant,’ until gas stations cleaned up their act and substituted plastic palms.”

Sidebars throughout the book — “Ask Grumpy” — help readers tackle common garden problems. And you will be in stitches when Bender shares his favorite readers’ responses to some of his advice. His rules for gardening and QA’s covering popular plants and flowers also are included.

Don’t miss your chance to hear Bender speak on Saturday.

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Tools and tips on growing a garden plot

Hobbyist gardeners are involved in a flurry of activity, planting even on the grounds of the Istana three days a month in special plots set aside for them.

And edible gardens are all the rage: Out of 1,300 community garden groups islandwide last year, 80 per cent grew edibles, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

In total, 220 new allotment gardening plots will be opened on Feb 10 at five more parks, said the board last month. These are the Bedok Town, Chua Chu Kang, Yishun, Pasir Ris and Sengkang Riverside parks.

Allotment gardens, now wildly popular, make available plots of land for community gardeners to grow their own plants. Each plot is a raised planter bed measuring 2.5m by 1m and can be leased for three years at $57 annually.

Mrs Emily Fong, a retiree in her 60s, leases a plot at HortPark.

“The best part isn’t the harvest – it’s meeting new friends and sharing tips with these like-minded folk,” she told The Straits Times.

She grows passion fruit, bananas, watercress, pandan, chilli and an oyster plant. After 11/2 years of owning the plot, Mrs Fong has picked up many tips and tricks.

So for someone lucky enough to snag an upcoming plot, how should he get started?


The best part isn’t the harvest – it’s meeting new friends and sharing tips with these like-minded folk. ”

MRS EMILY FONG, a retiree in her 60s, who leases a plot at HortPark. 


Since plots are small, gardeners hardly need fancy or huge tools, said Mrs Fong.

“A pair of good gardening scissors, a pair of pruning shears and a spade is more than enough,” she said.

For cheap and durable tools, Mrs Fong recommends $2 items from Japanese retailer Daiso.


Organic fertilisers are kind to the wallet and easy to make, according to Mrs Fong.

One brew is a fish emulsion fertiliser – a mixture of brown sugar and fish guts, left for about three to four months.

“I usually just ask fish mongers at the market for the guts,” she said.

A less odorous alternative is a fruit peel fertiliser. Orange or lemon peels with brown sugar and water – which are then left to ferment for three months – can be used as an enzyme spray, she said.


Snails are unavoidable, she said.

“Simply crack eggshells and leave them in the soil to drive the snails away,” Mrs Fong advised. The shells act as a barrier around the plants as they are too spiky for snails and slugs to crawl over.

For flying creepy-crawlies, insect traps can be bought at nurseries or gardening stores. These are transparent bottles containing a sweet-smelling liquid. “Put a few drops into the bottle, and voila – the insects all come flying to the bottle instead of my fruits,” she said.

She has two, which cost $6 each.


Okra, or lady’s finger, grows extremely fast – fruit pods can pop in a few days – and bitter gourd makes for a fuss-free harvest as well, she said.


To keep the soil fresh and loose, grow legumes – like peanuts or long beans – which is the advice from an NParks gardening video tutorial. For allotment gardeners, soil is provided by the board, and they need only add more top soil to replenish nutrients.


Mrs Fong visits her plot only once a week, so she has invested in a battery-operated irrigation system. Beginner gardeners can buy a big tank that takes 80 to 90 litres of water and lasts a week. Mrs Fong sets a timer to water her crops for one minute every 12 hours.

Water is provided by NParks.

Shared water points are available for use at the allotment garden. Storage boxes or a storage area is usually provided for gardening tools.

No electricity is provided. There are also no surveillance cameras.

To date, 480 plots have been snapped up by gardening enthusiasts at four parks islandwide.

Registration for the new plots will be held from 9am to 3pm at the five parks on Feb 10. For more information, visit

Send an e-mail to

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5 garden tips for this week, Feb. 3-9 – The Pasadena Star

1 For trees, thin is in

Plan to thin out heavy growth on large trees — if they survived our recent winds. Don’t just butcher the tree tops, but actually thin out some of the denser leaf-laden branches so the winds can flow through the trees instead of breaking off major branches or toppling entire trees.

2 Camellia care

Camellias do not require much pruning, but they may be trimmed to maintain shape. Do this as flowers fade, but before new growth emerges. Cut extra-long, out-of-place, or other offending branches back to the growth ring scars that mark the start of previous years’ stems. Feed after pruning: new shoots that grow this spring and summer will form next year’s flower buds.

3 Pruning time

Remember: rose leaves that make it through the winter get more diseases, and the diseases start earlier in the season then move to newer leaves and to other plants. So, if you haven’t pruned your roses, do so this weekend. And be sure to remove all the old rose leaves in order to have healthier plants and prettier roses this spring and summer.

4 Avocado tip

Watch your avocado trees to see when they start blooming. They will only set fruit if night temperatures remain above 58 degrees F during flowering time. If night temperatures dip below 58 degrees when the avocado flowers, the best way to get some fruit is to spray the blooms and leaf canopy at night with water — just plain water. It acts as insulation against the cold so the Avocado Matchmaker can do her job.

5 Cut back

Prune plumerias if they have become too big for their space. Use the trimmings to start new plants for yourself or for friends. Trimmings are easy to root after air-drying them for two to four weeks in a protected, well-ventilated spot out of direct sunlight. Air-drying permits the cut ends to heal over and prevents rotting when planted after a few weeks. Then plant several inches of the stems, healed end down, directly in the ground or in an airy soil mixture in containers. They will slowly root and start growing in spring – maybe even develop some flowers this summer.

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