UCSC Garden Events for April

The Monterey Bay community benefits from the local presence of a productive and respected university. The US News & World Report’s ranking program places the University of California, Santa Cruz within the top 50 of the world’s 1,250 universities. This impressive ranking is based on multiple indicators, but because this column is on gardening, we focus on this noteworthy institution’s upcoming garden-related events. (Links for detailed information are listed below.)

April 7th — Opening of “Forest (for a thousand years…)” — This event is a “beguiling and uncanny audio installation” staged in the redwood grove of UCSC’s Arboretum. This immersive 22-channel audio piece will continue through June 30th, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller will discuss their work on Friday, April 6th, 7–9 p.m. at UCSC’s Digital Arts Research Center.

April 7thFirst Saturday Tour of the Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Meet at Norrie’s Gift & Garden Shop at 11 a.m. A guided tour is free with admission to the Arboretum.

April 14thSpring Plant Sale. Members pre-sale 10 a.m. – noon; Open to the public noon – 4 p.m. In partnership with the California Native Plant Society, the Arboretum’s Spring Plant Sale will offer quality, regionally friendly plants from both groups at great prices. Watch for more information in these pages prior to the event.

April 15thArboretum Phenology Walk. Sunday, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Do you enjoy watching plants change through the seasons? Would you like to be a part of a national effort to monitor the effects of climate change? Advanced registration is recommended.

April 25th — “Amah Mutsun Relearning Program,” with Rick Flores. Flores will discuss the collaborative work by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and the Arboretum to assist the Tribe’s efforts of cultural revitalization, recuperation and relearning of dormant cultural knowledge, and environmental justice. This 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. session is part of the Volunteer Enrichment Series. Each session is open to the public and free, with priority registration given for prospective and currently active volunteers. Contact Katie Cordes, Volunteer Coordinator, with questions (831.502.2300, cscordes@ucsc.edu).

April 26th & 27th — Seedbed — A Soil Symposium. This free interdisciplinary symposium on the state of soil will feature performances, interactive activities, and visual artwork installed throughout campus. Panel presentations will take place in the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn exploring a diverse range of topics from microbes to waste management, labor and farming; the magic of composting and soil science. The symposium will explore how climate change and human industry have endangered our topsoil – rendering it deadly– as well as the amazing life-sustaining potential of what we call “dirt.”

April 28th & 29th — Farm & Garden Spring Plant Sale. All plants are organically grown and include a wide selection of annual vegetables and flowers, along with wonderful perennials for the landscape. Plants are selected for their proven performance in the Monterey Bay region. Corner of Bay Street and High Street at the base of campus, Saturday 10 a.m.– 3 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

April 28th — Free Tour of the UCSC Farm, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Take a free, docent-led tour of the beautiful 30-acre UCSC Farm. Learn about the education, research, and outreach work that is taking place through the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. No reservations necessary. Meet at the Hay Barn on campus for the short walk to the Farm. Free parking available at the Hay Barn.

April weekdays — Visit the instructional greenhouses operated jointly by UCSC’s Divisions of Physical and Biological Sciences and Social Sciences, and located on the roof of Thimann Labs. This facility has a botanical collection as well as a lab, library, outdoor seating areas and staff representation to facilitate its appreciation. Open weekdays for free visits from 9 a.m. –3 p.m.

April all days — Self-guided walks through the Arboretum 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day except occasional holidays. Admission is $5 (18+) $2 (6 –17); free (<6).

This month’s diverse activities offer opportunities to broaden your gardening perspectives and gain familiarity with UCSC’s several garden-related programs.

For more information:

Removing Elements to Improve Your Landscape

The annual landscape review, which was our recent focus, amounts to keeping, improving or removing elements of the landscape. We suggested an approach to review categories of the landscape elements: hardscape, larger plants, smaller plants, and special facilities. Review that column here.

Today’s column addresses the removal of larger plants. The reasons for a removal of a tree or large shrub include not healthy, badly located, or poorly maintained. A large tree growing close to the home could present a fire hazard, or its roots could be lifting nearby pavement.

Taking out an established tree or large shrub could require substantial effort and cost, sometimes including commercial services. On the other hand, removal of a significant plant could yield a great aesthetic change in the landscape’s appearance and an opportunity to introduce one or more new plants in pursuit of landscape objectives.

In other words, replace a loss with an opportunity.

Removing a large plant could include resistance to change in addition to avoidance of related energy and expense. It can be a big decision. Once the homeowner has prioritized a removal, dwelling on the landscape benefits can be helpful to “getting to the root of the matter.”

Speaking of roots, the task of removing a plant should always include removing the roots. Leaving a stump in place might reduce the cost or effort of the project, but leave new problems. The obvious downside is that the stump continues to occupy space in the landscape, precluding a direct replacement. I often see an old stump that is an eyesore in a home’s parking strip.

Also, the stump of a healthy tree or shrub could sprout, even after months of apparent inactivity. Plants strive to survive!

Smaller stumps can be dug out with a shovel, an ax or a Sawzall, and perhaps a pickaxe. The objective is to remove the crown of the plant, plus major nearby roots. It’s not necessary or practical to chase the outreaching roots unless they are lifting pavement. This is likely to be time consuming and dirty work that might inspire hiring assistance. One helpful hint: when cutting down the plant, leave a long stump to provide leverage for loosening the roots.

When the stump is out of the ground, it’s time for a pat on the back and planning for good use of the reclaimed space.

Larger stumps require professional services. Commercial trees services often will include stump removal or provide references to local specialized services. In either case, ask if equipment of the appropriate size will be provided. An overly large stump grinder can disrupt areas adjacent to the target. A smaller unit (some are even hand-held) can provide a precise removal, which could be important when working close to pavement or desirable plants.

Stumps also could be moved with chemicals (potassium nitrate). This process accelerates rotting of the wood in a few weeks, after which it could be chopped out or burned out. For more information on this approach, visit www.familyhandyman.com and search for “stump removal.”

The final thought on this subject is that some trees or stumps should be removed, and the landscape can be much better as a result.

Annual Review of Your Landscape

An annual review of your home’s landscape helps in the long term to raise your level of satisfaction with your surroundings. You will either gain appreciation for that landscape’s good qualities, or establish goals for improvement. In many cases, the likely outcome would be a combination of these results.

You could conduct such a review at any time, but early spring (right now) presents a good opportunity because the seasonal arrival of warm weather stimulates both the plants’ budding and the gardener’s enthusiasm.

This column suggests an approach to landscape review, in search of an orderly and productive process. The approach outlined here is one of several possible ways to go about such a review. Feel free to modify it to accommodate your local situation and preferences.

Begin with an inventory of features of your landscape that you like. For example, these might include hardscape elements, e.g., a wall, patio, pool, stairway, pavement, or garden structure.

Another category for this inventory of Liked Features includes larger trees and shrubs that are healthy, well grown, maintained, and located.

Then, consider planting beds and lawn areas, with emphasis on good size, good placement, and interesting shapes. Are smaller plants, e.g., herbaceous perennials and grasses, in good condition?

Finally, list specialized features, e.g., play areas for children or adults, cooking facilities, and furnishings for dining or relaxing. Relevant criteria: are these features still needed and still used?

Next, using the same categories, identify the features that you don’t like. List the hardscape elements that need repair, maintenance, or, for those that are no longer needed or used, removal.

Identify trees and shrubs (and stumps) that do not meet the criteria listed above, i.e., not healthy, badly located, poorly maintained, etc.

Moving on: are planting beds and lawn areas too small or too large? Are they poorly shaped? Are smaller plants, including lawns, in poor condition?

Then, identify specialized features that are in poor condition, no longer needed, or not used.

Document your inventories of liked and not liked features. The record can be simple and informal, such as a handwritten list on a single piece of paper, and still provide a useful reference for planning purposes.

Develop an action plan. In most cases, the first priority should be the Not Liked Features. Using the inventory, flag each of them for Improvement or Removal.

Barriers to Removal actions might include an excess of nostalgia, a lack of time or energy, or significant expense. Lacking a magic wand, you must deal with such barriers in your own creative way. The removal of large hardscape items or trees could require professional help and related costs but could provide major steps toward landscape improvement.

Improvement actions might require time and energy, or even professional assistance. A good strategy is to prioritize these actions, working first on those that can be accomplished with the least time, energy and expense. The benefits gained from these improvements could motivate proceeding to the more challenging tasks.

The next priority is Replacement of Not Liked Features that have been removed. Every removal might not require direct replacement but might produce a gap that needs filling. This “one step at a time” approach should avoid any confusion that might result from concurrent efforts to improve, remove and replace.

A future column will deal with Additions to the landscape, after completion of the tasks outlined above.

A review of your landscape can be an interesting and creative exercise for you and your significant other, and perhaps an independent observer whose brings relevant skills and diplomatic honesty to the task. Enjoy!