Small-scale Landscaping

“Landscaping” involves efforts to enhance an expanse of scenery that can be seen in a single view. For the gardener, this term might refer to the front or the back of the property. Developing and realizing a landscape design includes numerous steps and decisions, and a good deal of work, mostly because of the scale of the task. Landscaping the front yard, the backyard, or even a side yard could be a formidable challenge.

To make landscaping more manageable and enjoyable, consider garden vignettes. These are compact horticultural settings that could be regarded as small-scale landscapes.

The garden vignette concept conveys great versatility: it encompasses any of a wide range of areas, themes or design ideas. A vignette might occupy a quite small space, but we’re not dealing here with miniature landscapes, as for a model railroad garden.

Here’s a broad definition of a garden vignette: “a compact combination of living plants in containers or in the ground, perhaps with selected objects, that present a cohesive and attractive appearance.”

A garden vignette in one or several containers could test the gardener’s horticultural artistry. There are many possibilities, e.g., one plant or several in each container, complementary or contrasting combinations, usage of decorative stones or art objects, and the like. The appeal of containerized garden vignettes includes space needs so limited that they could fit on a balcony or a small patio, and time and cost demands so minimal that they could be developed fairly quickly, even by gardeners with very full schedules.

My current vignette project involves digging up three miniature roses into matching terra cotta pots and grouping them on a low wall, where they can be enjoyed better than is possible when planted in the ground. This is a simple design that requires keeping the roses fertilized and irrigated consistently.

A garden vignette in the ground could be quite small or fairly large in scale, depending on the space available and the desired effect. To begin developing such a vignette, identify the intended space and the preferred view of that space. If a desirable tree or shrub is in the space, design the vignette to use that plant as a feature or focal point, and select additional elements.

For a space that is without a desirable tree or shrub—or boulder, for that matter—you are dealing with a blank “canvas” and have the freedom and challenge to design your vignette from the ground up. One approach to this task is to visit your local garden center, find a few plants that you like and bring them together in their nursery pots to see how they look in combination. Most garden centers would support that process, especially when you either buy the plants or return them to their original locations.

This approach doesn’t work as well with mail-order catalogs.

Another approach is to adopt a combination that you see in another garden or in a garden book or magazine. We can all benefit from adopting successful ideas generated by other gardeners.

Because of the wide range of possible designs for a vignette, a useful next step to identify a theme or concept as a guide for selecting additional plants, natural objects or artworks to provide a pleasant setting. Consider, for example, complementary or contrasting forms or colors, or a characteristic that would be common to all the elements.

Developing one or several vignettes for your garden can be a satisfying creative exercise as you work at a limited scale that is both manageable and low in cost.

Protecting Roses from Weevils

If you have roses in your garden, right now would be a good time to examine your rosebuds. Look closely for small circular holes in the buds, and in blossoms that have already opened.

Rose Weevil photo by Ingrid Taylar

These holes were caused by the rose curculio, also called the rose weevil (Merhynchites bicolor), which is a kind of beetle, about one-quarter inch long.

The rose curculio’s damage ruins the blossoms and could ruin the entire plant if the gardener allows the insect to reproduce freely.

Fortunately, the rose curculio is fairly easy to control because its life cycle takes a full year and follows predictable stages.

Beginning in late May, the females crawl up the rose bushes to lay their eggs. Using their long snouts, they chew into the buds to feed and then turn to deposit their eggs in the buds. They could make multiple holes into a bud, and damage several buds.

When the eggs hatch, the legless white larvae feed on the buds and on the blossoms as they mature. The buds often are weakened by the adult’s feeding and fall to the ground with the larvae still inside.

The larvae burrow into the soil to pupate over winter, and, as adults, emerge in the late spring to continue the reproductive cycle.

There are several ways to interrupt this cycle and avoid damage to your roses. The timing of your controlling action is important in blocking the creation of a new generation of insects.

Starting in April, examine your roses to spot the adult rose curculio. They prefer roses with white or yellow blossoms, but could also be found on pink roses.

When you find rose curculios, either pick the insects by hand or shake branches to make them fall on to a cloth or bucket. They will play dead, but will soon revive and crawl back up the plant, so don’t be deceived: drop them in soapy water, where they will drown. You could also spray the adults with insecticidal soap or neem oil, but this treatment requires direct contact will not affect the eggs or larvae.

Predatory birds can be important allies in this process, so take steps to make your garden hospitable to birds by providing them with food, water, and shelter…and keeping synthetic chemicals out of your environment.

When you see damaged buds or blossoms, remove them immediately and dispose of them through the green waste (not the compost). Be sure to remove drooping buds. These buds have been weakened by the rose curculio and could already be supporting its larvae.

Once the larvae are in the soil, control measures are still possible. The most effective organic option is the importation of insect-parasitic nematodes, tiny worms that are natural predators of the larvae, and might already be present in the soil. These nematodes, which have been called “biological insecticides,” can be purchased from garden centers or the Internet, and imported into the rose bed.

With fairly easy but timely efforts, you can control this pest and enjoy your roses in their undamaged, beautiful form and color. The roses are looking particularly good this year, and definitely worth protecting.

Organize Plant Selection with Themes

Today’s column is about thematic gardening.

Let’s start by breaking down “landscaping” into its components.

Landscaping includes hardscapes (i.e., pathways, steps, walls, ponds, structures), but plants are enough to think about today. For our purposes, landscaping emphasizes plant selection and plant placement.

These two activities overlap in the development of landscape styles, which can be complicated and subjective. One approach defines styles in terms of décor, materials, plant palette, and fabrics.

Styles can be interesting and important, but for today let’s stay with the basics: plant selection and placement.

Plant placement involves the relationships among plants, e.g., combinations of color, height (tall plants in back) or form, swaths of plants vs. specimens.

We might explore plant placement issues on another occasion, but thematic gardening is about plant selection, so let’s stick with that.

When selecting new plants for the garden, consider the conditions for the plant’s health and growth: Specify the location for a new plant (available space, plant size) and satisfy cultivation issues (soil, exposure, moisture and drainage needs, climate, wind exposure, etc.), then…

…consider the universe of plants you can choose from. The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew concluded that there 391,000 vascular plants known to science. Add the large and growing number of recognized cultivars (hybrids and selected varieties). These creations of plant breeders are featured each year in plant catalogs and garden centers.

Given this enormous range of possible choices, how should the gardener proceed?

For many gardeners, the approach is to leaf through a mail-order catalog or stroll through the local garden center and choose plants that are striking or attractive or familiar.

This approach is not wrong, because there is no right or wrong, just personal preference. Still, a thematic approach is a more organized and ultimately more successful.

Thematic plant selection basically involves selecting plants to have a common characteristic, as a way to focus the selection process and adopt an organized approach to developing your garden.

This approach to plant selection could be used for an entire garden or sections of the garden, i.e., particular beds.

Some of the most popular themes are based on a single plant genus, e.g., Iris, Rose, Dahlia, Orchid, Hosta, Hellebore, Orchid, Fuchsia, Heuchera, Daffodil, Tulip, or another.

A variation of genus-oriented themes focuses on categories of plants within a genus. For example, there are several kinds of irises (tall bearded, intermediate, border, miniature), and the rose genus includes modern roses, old garden roses, and species roses. (My current projects include developing a bed of old garden roses.)

Other themes emphasize the botanical categories of plants, e.g., bulbous plants, succulents, edibles, conifers, variegated, blossom color, and others. There are many other possible categories.

Then, we have themes based on the native region of the plants. A California native plant theme is a popular choice, in the Monterey Bay area because these plants thrive in our climate and are hospitable to the regional fauna.

Thematic gardening can present challenges to identify plants within the theme, and then to hunt for sources of desired plants. Fortunately, the Internet is a powerful tool for success with these tasks. The thematic gardener needs to be an effective user of Google and other search engines. Once you have selected a theme to pursue, search the Internet for websites that offer useful information and ideas.

Thematic gardening offers several benefits.

  • Creates a purposeful approach to plant selection
  • Simplifies plant selection by focusing on a sub-section of available plants
  • Defines the related part of the garden, e.g., “the rose bed”
  • Adds to understanding and appreciation of the chosen part of the plant kingdom

At another level, thematic gardening brings harmony and calm to the garden landscape. By comparison, the all-too-common tendency to add plants with a random selection strategy can result in a botanical hodge-podge. The individual plants in such a garden might have gorgeous blossoms and foliage, but lack any relationship to adjacent plants. The effect could lack coherence, and could even be jarring.

If parts of your garden already follow a thematic approach, consider whether those parts please your eye more than other parts. If they do, develop a thematic approach for other parts of the garden.

Thematic gardening can be challenging and enjoyable.

Joys and Fears of Sharing Your Garden

Many people garden for their own enjoyment. Whether they grow a few plants in containers on a deck or manage an extensive landscape, they find satisfaction in the process and occasional—or frequent— successes as plants flourish and look just right in their location. A fine day in the garden might include installing a new botanical treasure or digging out a few pesky weeds or just enjoying a cool drink and watching a hummingbird at work.

Everything changes when a visitor shows up. Some gardeners will be pleased by a visit because it presents an opportunity to show off the collection of healthy gorgeous plants in charming combinations.

Other gardeners will experience a bit of tension, wondering if the visitor will appreciate the garden and understand that it includes faults that haven’t yet been corrected or shortcomings that haven’t yet been improved, not because they haven’t been noticed but due to the persistent lack of time.

This could be the time to blame the plants. The classic line is “You should have been here last week when the (fill in the blank) was in bloom.” (I actually experienced a version of this excuse at the United States Botanic Garden, on the National Mall in Washington, DC!)

Usually, the occasional visitor to one’s garden does not generate a big response, whether delightful or fraught, because most visitors will bring a few opinions and less expertise, and besides they won’t stay long. The experienced gardener can survive the visit without significant aftereffects.

Another situation entirely is the scheduled and publicized garden tour, in which the gardener’s efforts have been designated as exemplary, and worth the price of admission. Strangers who take the time on their otherwise busy weekend to visit your garden, and are willing to pay for the privilege, certainly bring more options and expertise than the casual drop-in. They might assume the guise of a novice seeking ideas for their own garden, but secretively they could observe every flaw and devote the remainder of the day to joking with their equally expert friend about the sorry mess they’ve witnessed.

That experience, real or imagined, is not good for the garden owner.

So, in anticipation of the inevitable scrutiny that is part of a garden tour, the garden owner might embark upon extraordinary preparation for a tour, to ensure that the garden will be beyond reproach. Sometimes, there will be no time for such efforts because the garden tour organizer has run out of time and must pin down one more garden, and will assure the garden owner that the garden is perfect just as it is, so absolutely nothing needs to be done before the tour, which will happen very soon (e.g., in a week or two). This proposition tests the gardeners’ self-confidence and philosophical resignation, and encourages the perspective that the garden “is what it is.” Ideally, the garden is always in prime condition and ready for an invasion of friendly and sometimes critical strangers.

Another scenario includes several weeks or even months before the date of the tour. Given plenty of lead-time, there are few barriers to converting the garden into a showcase of inspired horticulture. The exceptions include except cost, imagination and the gardener’s other life

The most positive attitude for the home gardener is to welcome both casual visitors and garden tourists to see your accomplishments and trust that they will be more appreciative than critical. After all, visitors who know anything about gardening will recognize your good work.

Sharing your gardening achievements will inspire your visitors to elevate their own standards, so open your garden to visitors when opportunities arise, and occasionally become a garden visitor yourself.

Flurry of Flowers in May

Now, halfway through spring, we have blooms blossoming in many places. We might first notice new colors in our own gardens, which both rewards our horticultural achievements and urges us to add plants.

We can respond to such urges by scrolling through a local garden center and leafing through a nursery’s mail-order catalog. We also acquire new plants at local plant sales that support local garden groups.

The Annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale offered by Cabrillo College’s Horticulture Department is among the most expansive and inspiring events of its kind. This year’s sale begins on Friday, May 11th, 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., with admission reserved for Friends of the Garden. Surprise: you can join the Friends on the spot for $25. That pre-sale occasion includes a silent auction and refreshments. The event continues on Saturday, May 12th, and Sunday, May 13th from 10:00 to 2:00. For directions and more information about the sale, visit the Cabrillo Hort website.

If you are seeking inspiration and plant selection ideas, your opportunities arise at plant shows and garden tours. These events can be enjoyable in their own right, and also preparation for purchases. The Monterey Bay area has excellent shows and tours.

Annual Rose Garden Tea

The Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula will hold this event on Saturday, May 12th from 2-4 pm. The occasion will display a collection of 112 beautiful roses planted since 1970. Come to enjoy the rose superbloom. Stroll the rose garden and enjoy refreshments, fellowship and live music by flutist Julie Roseman and guitarist. Bring your camera and wear a hat! Location: 4590 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. Free admission. Information: 624-8595 or caroleccmp@yahoo.com

Sixteenth Annual Garden Tour and English Tea Luncheon

St. Philip the Apostle Episcopal Church sponsors this occasion on Saturday, May 12th from 10:00 to 4:00 p.m. Visit selected gardens in northern Santa Cruz County, and enjoy a full high tea luncheon with homemade English favorites such as scones with jam and cream, a delicious and light soup, sausage rolls and finger sandwiches, and sweet treats such as English toffee and shortbread cookies! A rare delight! Admission: Early Bird $35; At the Door $40. Information and ticket orders: visit the St. Philip website and click on “Events.“

Secret Gardens of the Valley

The Felton Library Friends invites you to visit their selection of seven gorgeous and unique gardens. These include a wildlife habitat with a huge koi pond; garden art, succulents on rock walls, a profusion of pathway plants, a tropical plant conservatory, and bonsai and “insect hotel” demos. The occasion includes a raffle, live music by Patti Maxine & Friends, gift seeds, and succulent sales. Saturday, May 19th, 10:00 to 4:00 p.m. Admission: $20 in advance; $25 at the tour. Information: visit FeltonLibraryFriends.org or call (831) 335-1135.

Open Days in Santa Cruz

We’ll have more information about this tour next week but mark your calendar now for this first-ever tour in the Monterey Bay area sponsored by The Garden Conservancy, a national non-profit group. Three local gardens will be on the tour, which supports the Conservatory’s national program to preserve exceptional gardens. Hint: the gardens include one that has been featured often in this column. The tour will be on Saturday, May 19th from 10:00 to 4:00. Admission: $7/garden. At 4:00, there will be a Digging Deeper program, with a separate registration required. For information, visit the Conservatory’s Open Days website.

Gorgeous Irises on Show

A photo of a new iris caught my eye. I learned it is the recent accomplishment of a local iris hybridizer, Jim Cummins, who is a stalwart of the Monterey Bay Iris Society and long-time friend.

Cummins’ Iris Seedling

The iris is so new it doesn’t even have a name; it’s referred to only as “Seedling 14-21-C, TB”, indicating that it is a Tall Bearded Iris. The numbers suggest that this is one of a large number of seedlings.

Hybridizing irises involves a process that is essentially the same in hybridizing other plants. First, the hybridizer selects two plants that have desirable characteristics that would be good to combine in one plant. Characteristics might relate to flower form, height, plant vigor, color, beards, ruffles, or ability to re-bloom, i.e., produce a second flush of bloom.

The hybridizer then transfers pollen from the three anthers of one plant, the pollen parent, to the three stigmas of the other plant, the pod parent. These can be called the ”father” and “mother” plants if preferred. Some hybridizers will transfer pollen with a cotton swab, paintbrush, pencil or knife; others will use tweezers to actually remove the anther and bring it to the stigma. This simple process can be seen on YouTube demonstrations.

Detailed record keeping is important so that the parents of an exceptional new plant will be known.

Then, assuming fertilization is successful, the pod parent produces a seedpod. When it matures, the hybridizer harvests and plants the seeds, and waits to see what results.

Even a little familiarity with genetics suggests that this process is chancy. The progeny might be exactly what the hybridizer intended, or any of a wide range of other outcomes that are more or less successful. The hybridizer might propagate the best results, register a name with the American Iris Society, and introduce the plant into the commercial market.

The Cummins seedling 14-21-C, TB has noteworthy parents, ’Luxuriant Lothario’ and ‘That’s All Folks’.

Barry Blyth registered ‘Luxuriant Lothario’ in 2008. His description includes these comments: “Bright and showy for sure. Standards are buff apricot with a slight violet flush at midrib. Falls are bright lilac with a well-defined 3/8″ edge of tan to tan violet. Beards are muted burnt tangerine. Ruffled and waved petals.”

In 2005, William Maryott registered ‘That’s All Folks’, his last introduction before retiring. This plant has been described as follows: “Midseason bloom. Standards brilliant gold; falls white with gold blending to a wide muted gold band; beards gold. Honorable Mention 2007; Award of Merit 2009; Wister Medal 2011; American Dykes Medal 2013.” Local hybridizer Joe Ghio reportedly bred this plant and registered a sibling named ‘Pure and Simple’ in 2005.

‘That’s All Folks’ is a favorite of mine; I am developing a swath of its brilliantly colored blossoms, and planning a companion planting of an appropriate blossom color.

A large group of gardeners is hybridizing irises, and gorgeous cultivars by the thousands are available. A fine time to see some of the newest and best is at the annual Iris Show presented by the Monterey Bay Iris Society. This year’s Show will be at the Louden Nelson Community Center, 301 Center Street, Santa Cruz, on April 28th and 29th. The public is invited to attend the show from 1:00 –6:00 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10:00 – 5:00 on Sunday.

The Show offers an ideal occasion to see some of the finest flowers grown by local gardeners, and to make notes on plants to add to your own garden. Opportunities to purchase your favored plants will be at the Society’s annual sale of iris rhizomes on August 4th at August 4 at Deer Park Shopping Center in Aptos and on August 11 at the Cabrillo Farmers Market.

Choose your favorite irises now, shop in August, and plant in September.

In Bloom in April

Gardening at this time of the year includes at least two absorbing experiences: plants in bloom and plants on sale.

Several early bloomers are already decorating the garden. I’m enjoying a Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata), also called the Hyacinth Orchid. It has been cultivated in China for 1,500 years for its medicinal properties, but it’s also garden-worthy for its blossoms.

Chinese Ground Orchid

This terrestrial orchid is very easy to maintain, especially after striving with limited success to grow other members of the enormous orchid family. It had been growing under other plants and seemed to be struggling despite its reported need for filtered shade. It was propagating, however, by producing many small bulbs. I moved the bulbs, which were already sprouting, into containers in sunny locations, and they are doing fine

 

 

 

Australian Bluebell Creeper

Another plant that brightens the garden now is the Australian Bluebell Creeper (Sollya heterophylla). The generic name refers to British botanist Richard Solly; the specific epithet means “different leaves” because the plant produces a few different leaf shapes. This is a three-foot shrub with small, bright blue flowers that are bell-shaped with some varieties; mine are more star-shaped.

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Spurge

A third performer is the Mediterranean Spurge (Euphorbia characias wulfenii), which grows five feet high, with showy heads of chartreuse flowers and whorled blue-green leaves. This plant freely generates seedlings that are easy to pull or share.

Recent and upcoming plant sales are being listed elsewhere, so this column focuses on roaming through such sales to discover and acquire new and different specimens for the garden. I’ve been accumulating interesting additions and seeking time to install them.

 

 

Here are some of my recent additions, and their intended destinations.

At the Arboretum’s recent sale, I found a large Cape Arid Climber (Kennedia beckxiana ‘Flamboyant’), a native of Cape Arid which is in Western Australia. This vigorous, woody plant that climbs with tendrils is one of the Arboretum’s Koala Blooms selections. It produces two-inch long orange-red flowers with a showy large lime-green central spot on a reflexed petal. This plant might grow more robustly that I would prefer, but I’ve learned that it can be heavily cut back after flowering to prevent invasive growth.

This plant will replace a Canna Lily (Canna ‘Cleopatra’) that had overgrown its pocket bed, so I moved it into containers in a sunnier location. Interestingly, the canna has been described as “flamboyant,” which is also the name of this Kennedia cultivar.

I also came upon Aloe ‘Crosby’s Prolific’, which is a cross between A. nobilis and A. humilis, both of which are small aloes that succulent specialist Deborah Lee Baldwin recently highlighted as “growing tight and staying low.” I picked up three of these small plants to fill space in my South African succulent bed.

A third recent acquisition is Spanish Sage (Salvia lavandufolia). After the annual cutting back of a large collection of salvias, the need emerged for smaller plants along the bed’s border. These smaller species (one-foot high ad wide) are not widely available, so I was glad to pick up three specimens as fillers.

As stated on earlier occasions, plant hunting should be done with a specific and appropriate spots in the garden. Impulse purchases, inspired by a blossom portrait in a mail-order catalog or a real, fertilizer-dosed plant in a garden center leads to hodge-podge landscaping.

Appreciating Bonsai

This weekend, the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai presents the 2018 Bonsai Show, the 30th annual exhibit by this local group. This show offers an excellent introduction to the art of bonsai and the beginning of the appreciation of this ancient form of gardening art.

Bonsai began in China in 2000 or more years ago and spread to Vietnam and Japan, where it grew in popularity. The most basic concept of bonsai is to grow a tree in a container while keeping it small. From that core idea, the practice bursts into an extraordinarily complex art form. Japanese bonsai master Masahiko Kimura, speaking of bonsai and Japanese garden design generally, observed, “In western gardens, it’s all about how it looks. The Japanese have stripped this away and reduced it to your imagination.” This suggests bringing your creativity to the bonsai viewing experience.

Here’s a quick overview of the art of bonsai:
Plant Selection—A wide range of trees can be used, but temperate climate trees are preferred because they grow best outdoors, where projects are developed traditionally. Selections are based on attractive appearance and adaptability to bonsai treatment. Three of the most popular varieties are Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum), Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa), and Rock Cotoneaster (C. horizontalis).

Container Selection—Glazed or unglazed ceramic containers are most widely used. The size and shape are based on the intended size and style of the full-grown bonsai tree; straight sides are an important criterion, often, to facilitate lifting the plant for root pruning.
Style—The style of a bonsai tree typically describes the orientation of the tree’s trunk. A dozen or more basic styles have been described, and are sometimes combined in a single work. Popular styles include formal upright (chokkan); informal upright (moyogi); slant-style (shakan); cascade-style (kengai); and root-over-rock (sekijoju).

Size Objective—The most often seen bonsai trees are medium-sized, i.e., 12-to-36 inches high, including the container. Some specimens are large (up to 80 inches high) or miniature (as small as 1-to-3 inches high).

Control Techniques—Practices to control the size and shape of the tree include trimming the leaves or needles; pruning the trunk, branches, and roots; wiring or clamping branches and trunks; grafting new material to the trunk; defoliation for short-term dwarfing, and deadwood techniques to simulate age in a bonsai.
Cultivation—The basic methods for maintaining the health of a bonsai tree will be familiar to gardeners: soil composition, fertilization, watering, and re-potting. When bonsai master Kimura was asked if you need instructions to care for a bonsai, he replied, “Do you need instructions to look after a baby?”

The Bonsai Show will be presented on Saturday and Sunday, April 13th and 15th, at The Museum of Art and History, 705 Front Street, Santa Cruz, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Show Chairman Edward Lambing advises that in addition to the display of fascinating plants, the event includes bonsai demonstrations and sales, raffles, door prizes, and the drummers of Watsonville Taiko. Admission for both the Museum and the Bonsai Show has been reduced for this weekend to $5.

This Bonsai Show is a fine opportunity to broaden your gardening perspectives and enjoy the creations of local bonsai artists.

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.