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!

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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.

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Towards a Leafy Future (Even in a Drought)

Towards a Leafy Future (Even in a Drought)

Every spring, as the last rains finish, gardeners are busy turning on the drip irrigation timers, and running each valve, to make sure that there are no leaks, and that the water is being targeted correctly. This year, because of our record-breaking drought, the stakes are even higher. Almost every garden has room to trim water use. First of all, if your garden still doesn’t have drip irrigation, now is the time. Drip irrigation applies the water slowly and evenly directly into the soil, so that none is lost to evaporation or run-off.

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Garden Tolerance

Garden Tolerance

Some native plants can be mixed in with other plants requiring summer water, but most can not. This is called the garden tolerance of the native plant. Most native plants have poor garden tolerance, which just means they will not thrive if exposed to normal garden conditions like rich soil, fertilization, and summer irrigation. They may even die.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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To Prune or Not to Prune, That Is the Question

To Prune or Not to Prune, That Is the Question

During the summer months, this had been a butterfly garden, full of dozens of different pollinators. Now, with late fall turning into winter, it was time to cut back and shape the garden for next year's pleasure. One of the Verbenas needed to be moved out from under the shade thrown by a huge Salvia karwinskii. There was never a better day for a sharp pair of pruners.

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Fall Weed Strategies

Fall Weed Strategies

The new growing season also means an abundance of seedlings in the garden soil. In well-tended old gardens, many or most of these seedlings will be desirable plants, cool season annuals emerging from last year’s seeds. But just as reliable are the weedy seeds. Good gardening calls for an organized strategy to combat the new weed season.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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