Don't Touch that Dial!

Don't Touch that Dial!

As our rainy season draws to a close, gardeners everywhere are turning their irrigation systems back on in anticipation of the dry summer months to come. And this year, with the drought emergency officially over, it’s with an easy conscience. After all, why not treat the garden to a little more water this year? After all those lean water years, don’t the plants deserve it? Whoa! Don’t touch that dial!

Read More

Don't Give Up!

Don't Give Up!

These are the dog days of summer. The gardens are dry and dusty, the street trees are stressing, plants all over town look flaccid and dull and hopeless. On the days when the city air is clear of smoke, we can try to forget how bad fire season is in the wild lands this year. But it will rain again, and when other parts of the country are deeply dormant, in December and January, our plants will be growing and blooming enthusiastically in the mild and juicy winter rains. Don’t give up!

Read More

Brown is the New Green?

Brown is the New Green?

Brown may be the new green, but what happens after that? Can we really count on future rainy years to save our lawns? Wouldn’t it be better to redesign our city now, with plants that do not need much summer water? Then silver and gold, lime and lavender and burgundy can be the new brown. These are only some of the palette of colorful and thriving plants you can see if you visit Garden for the Environment.

Read More

Space, The Final Frontier

Space, The Final Frontier

It is good to know that now is the second best time to plant water-wise plants. The deeper soil layers are still moist from our December rains, and the soil is also beginning to warm up. As the sun feels stronger, plants shake off winter and start to grow and bloom. But wait! Before you run off to the nursery to buy new plants, take the time to make some space in the garden. Grab your pruners and saw, your gloves and your green bin, and head outside. A lot of what’s hanging around in your garden belongs in the green bin.

Read More

Sidewalk Gardens

Sidewalk Gardens

I’m excited about a new element in the streetscape, sidewalk gardens. More and more frequently, I pass sections where the sidewalk has been removed and small gardens have been planted even where there are no street trees. Here are blooming yarrows, geraniums, sages, and lavenders. There are dramatic effects with New Zealand flax and muscular succulents. Grasses, wallflowers, and California natives like hummingbird sage or ceanothus, thrive in a profusion of colors and textures.

Read More

Why I’m Planting Ceanothus Now

Why I’m Planting Ceanothus Now

This year, I'm desperate to plant Ceanothus now. There are hundreds of reasons to plant this sturdy, tidy, beautiful, fragrant native, but this year three of those reasons are pushing me into urgent nursery buying excursions. If not now, then soon, landscape watering is going to be very limited. So working slowly, section by section, I have been replacing plants in my gardens that need summer water with new choices that will be drought tolerant once established, like Ceanothus. I invite you to do the same.

Read More

The April Gardener is June-Minded

The April Gardener is June-Minded

Spring is here, and the long-awaited rains are blessing the garden. By the south gate of Garden for the Environment, I can look with satisfaction at the bright bursts of color from harlequin flower and spring star flower blooming on one side of the pathway, while colorful grasses, rock roses, and irises light up the other side. But this is no time for a gardener to rest on her laurels. The flowers that are blooming today are the result of work done in fall and early winter. And today’s work must plan for the upcoming months.

Read More

Late Summer Gardens, Part II

Late Summer Gardens, Part II

Last month, this column covered some tips on design and care of the late summer garden. A month later and we are still in the same late summer weather pattern, with mostly foggy days on the western side of the city, dry soils, and cool temperatures. As each week of late summer passes, the summer-dry garden looks more and more disheveled and dreary, unless the gardener follows a few simple rules.

Read More

Late Summer Gardens, Part I

Late Summer Gardens, Part I

For summer dry gardens, August begins to separate the fabulous gardens from the rest. It's relatively easy to make a garden gorgeous in the late winter, spring, and early summer. There are a multitude of plants to choose from, all of which thrive in the cool moist soils and sunny warm days between rains. But by August, our foggy season is well advanced, and plants have already suffered through weeks of cool moist air and warm dry soil.

Read More

New Look for the Water-Wise Garden

New Look for the Water-Wise Garden

As environmentally responsible gardeners, one of the most important advocacies we can engage in is to create change in the predominant garden aesthetic. The thirsty lawns, clipped hedges, Japanese maples, rhododendrons, roses and annual beds which defined a beautiful California garden since the dam-building era cannot define beauty for the future.

Read More

Art and the Garden in the Summer

Art and the Garden in the Summer

In garden like in art, colors and textures repeat themselves, drawing me into the space, and there is a rhythm and order to the pathways my eyes follow through the visual field. The difference between a good garden design and a lovely canvas is that the garden is constantly changing. Each week of the year some of these effects will fade as others emerge, because the garden is made up of living plants going through their cycles of weather and season. 

Read More

The San Francisco Peninsula from Long Ago

The San Francisco Peninsula from Long Ago

Deer grass, coyote bush, hummingbird sage, sandhill sage, sea thrift, even the names of our native plants sound like a poem. They conjure up a time not so long ago when the San Franciscan peninsula was a mix of dunes, low hills and valleys, where seasonal creeks threaded between shrubby, windswept slopes until they fed into the few year-round creeks running to the bay.

Read More