Social Distance VIII

Our gardening by walking around continues. Today’s encounter is Rosa ‘Lady of Shallot’, a shrub rose with “striking apricot-yellow, chalice-shaped blooms.” David Austin introduced this rose in 2009, and it soon won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It’s a good choice for the Monterey Bay area gardens.

Rosa Lady of Shallot

We continue our exploration of three categories of gardening activities that are suitable under social distance constraints and rewarding to the gardener.

1. Care for Your Garden

A natural accompaniment to gardening by walking around is garden photography. With very effective cameras included in our ever-present cellphones, frequent documentation of garden plants can be achieved with little effort.

Depending on individual interests, the gardener could pursue various objectives for garden photography:

  • Developing an inventory of plants in the garden
  • Following plant development (cellphone cameras record each’s picture’s date)
  • Showing parts of the landscape that look fine or that need change
  • Recording landscape vistas over seasons
  • Sharing digital garden photos with friends via email or social media
  • Printing photos for storing in an album or sending to friends (use a color printer and paper for glossy prints, available from office supply stores)
  • Creating artistic images

Currently available cellphone cameras, when used in the garden under common conditions, automatically produce photographs of very good technical quality. Here are five basic guidelines for achieving pleasing results: (1) fill the frame with your subject by moving in close; (2) position yourself with your back to the sun (but avoid shadowing your subject); (3) experiment with natural lighting effects shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset (noontime sunlight can be harsh); (4) take several different shots of your subject (multiple photos are essentially free); and (5) keep only the best.

Remember that guidelines can be ignored in favor of convenience or imaginative urges.

Also remember that your practice and regular critique of results will build your skills.

2. Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

While garden photography is an accessible pursuit without prior study or training, there is always more to learn. The first resource is the instructions for your cellphone camera. These might have been provided on paper with your cellphone, but more likely they are available online. Search the Internet for the make and model of your cellphone, then browse for “photography.”

You could also search the Internet or a local bookstore or public library for books on photography in general, or garden photography in particular.

A highly accomplished and widely published garden photographer, Saxon Holt, has self-published his “Think Like a Gardener” series of e-books on garden photography. I have previously recommended these inexpensive books for their guidance in conceiving and composing garden images.

For a wide range of other online opportunities to advance your gardening knowledge, visit Garden Design magazine and search for “online classes.” This magazine, which recently evolved into a digital publication, has provided an impressive array of fee-based short courses on several aspects of gardening.

3. Enrich Your Gardening Days

One of the many pleasures of gardening is the “butterfly phenomenon,” which is simply the natural spectacle of the colorful creatures flitting among the flowers. They truly enrich our gardening days.

If you have even a few flowering plants, you will probably see butterflies around them, but you have the option to further enrich your garden by growing plants that butterflies want, need, and will find.

Monterey Bay area gardeners living within five miles of the Pacific coast, should not plant milkweed, which would encourage butterflies to breed at the wrong season. Instead, select nectar plants that bloom from late fall to early spring. These months are the butterflies’ overwintering period when flowering plants are in limited supply. They will thank you for it by fluttering by.

For lots about the importance of California Milkweed (Asclepias californica) and the Western Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), see a fine article by Hillary Sardiñas, Thomas Landis, and Jessa Kay-Cruz, posted by the California Native Plant Society.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.

Social Distance VII

While thinking about today’s column, I walked through my garden to see what’s new, and found my favorite tall bearded iris in full bloom. This cultivar’s name, ‘That’s All Folks’, indicates the last introduction of highly accomplished hybridizer, William Maryott, who built upon the work of another highly accomplished hybridizer, Joseph Ghio, of Santa Cruz, California.

This iris was introduced in 2005. The American Iris Society describes its flower form as “bubble ruffled,” and it color as “brilliant gold standards; white falls with gold blending to wide muted gold band.” In 2013, the AIS honored it was its highest award, the Dykes.  Memorial Medal.

We continue our exploration of three categories of gardening activities that are suitable under social distance constraints and rewarding to the gardener.

1. Care for Your Garden

A previous recommendation from this column is particularly appropriate now: walking around the neighborhood. Walking has always been a good form of light exercise and is now categorized as an essential activity during the current sheltering at home program.

For gardeners, a neighborhood stroll provides very good opportunities to identify plants that the stroller might want to add to his or her own landscape. When the observer spots an appealing plant, the occasion has at least these two strong points:

First, assuming the walk is not far afield,  the plant’s environment is similar to that of the observer’s own garden. The climatic and soil conditions are likely to be a close match, although sun exposure might differ from the site the walking gardener has in mind.

Second, the plant probably grows under normal garden conditions, resembling that of the walker’s own garden. Garden centers and mail-order nurseries offer plants that might be so artfully dosed with fertilizers or hormones to maximize their appeal that they falter when moved into a typical garden.

Take advantage of your neighborhood walks by setting a goal to identify two or three plants that look good for a specific spot in your own garden.

If you know the plant, you’re ready to acquire your own specimen from a garden center, printed catalog, or on-line nursery. If the plant is unfamiliar, consider asking the garden owner (from the correct social distance). Most gardeners are pleased to share knowledge about their plants, and many are also willing to share cuttings upon request.

If you can’t identify the plant in these ways, check the following section.

2. Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

Knowing a plant’s name leads to important information for its cultivation and care. Traditional plant identification resources began with an experienced gardening friend. More recently, we have access to various online resources, some of which have been mentioned in this column. One favorite has been the National Gardening Association’s Plant ID Forum, where an informal panel of experienced gardeners identifies plants from photographs emailed by the puzzled gardeners.

There have been online, computer-based plant identification services, but in my experience they have been unsatisfactory. It’s frustrating to have a mystery plant identified as “flower.”

We now have access to an online, powerful, and free plant identifier that uses artificial intelligence to link the user’s plant snapshot to an enormous database of plant information. This application is PlantSnap, which has been developed in partnership with American Public Gardens Association and Botanic Garden Conservation International. The application has a database of 600,000 plants and is easy to use on a cell phone. The curious gardener snaps a photo of plant and emails it to PlantSnap. After a very brief processing period, PlantSnap will identify the plan correctly 94% of the time and offer basic information about the plant.

The free, advertising-supported version of PlantSnap is available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play. Give it a try!

The premium, ad-free version is available for a small monthly charge. At this time, the premium version is available in exchange for a $20 donation to the public garden of your choice. To consider this option, browse to the PlantSnap web page.

3. Enrich Your Gardening Days

There are numerous YouTube channels on gardening. Here are two that I’m finding well-done and illuminating:

John Lord’s Secret Garden. Search YouTube.com for “John Lord’s Secret Garden.” The host is the head gardener for Ratoath Garden Centre, a small public garden in Ireland.

He provides brief, informal video talks about the plants in his garden, and generously shares his extensive experience and opinions about plants that could be found in many home gardens.

Monty Don’s BBC Programs. Search YouTube.com for “Monty Don.” “Britain’s favourite gardener” is the host BBC television programs about gardens throughout England, Europe, and elsewhere in the world. His commentary provides a cordial, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable introductions to a wide range of gardens.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.

Social Distance V

We continue our exploration of three categories of gardening activities that are suitable under social distance constraints and rewarding to the gardener.

1. Care for Your Garden

Time-honored advice in business calls for “managing by walking around.” That practice helps the manager to stay in touch with the day-to-day work of the enterprise.

The same practice applies to gardening. The gardener should walk through his or her garden often to observe how plants are growing, what they need, and what improvements would improve the landscape.

Recently, I discovered another result of “gardening by walking around:” a surprise development.

As I enjoyed the orange blossoms of the South African Bush Lilies (Clivia miniata), which I wrote about last month, I was surprised to find new, nearly white blossoms.

An apparent natural mutation (sport) of the red-orange Clivia miniata

I had not planted such a variety! Clivia specialists noted the impressive range of blossom colors in hybrids of this plant: common orange, salmon orange, deep orange, to dark red orange, creamy pale yellows, pale pink, rich peach and pink shades, and green-tinted bronzy red.

They have not mentioned white.

My Internet search for “white clivia” revealed a Clivia relative, Cryptostephanus vansonii (no common name). This is a rare plant, also from South Africa, with both white and pink forms. Online pictures of this plant showed that it differs enough from the familiar Clivia that I suspected that my newcomer could be a “sport” with very pale yellow blossoms.

That’s my “walking around” reward for this week.

Another garden care activity that could reward your efforts is to propagate a shrub through cuttings. Roses are popular candidates for such propagation. Here’s how.

  • After the first flush of bloom in the spring, cut a pencil-thick, six-inch long piece of strong, healthy stem.
  • Remove all but one set of leaves from the stem, and the growing tip of the cutting.
  • Dip the bottom of the stem in rooting hormone and insert the cutting in a container of potting soil.
  • Keep the cutting in warm and soil moist and watch for new leaves in six-to-eight weeks.
  • At that stage of growth, you could transplant your young new plant into the ground,

Propagating several cuttings at the same time could yield a swath of your favorite plant to enhance your landscape. This real gardening process creates free plants and much enjoyment.

2. Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

You can find more detailed descriptions of these methods by searching the Internet for “propagation of [the plant of your choice].” Also, searching Youtube.com will provide brief practical demonstrations in video recordings. Keep in mind that there could be as many approaches as there are gardeners, so draw on more than one demonstration.

3. Enrich Your Gardening Days

As promised, here are more botanical gardens for virtual tours as part of your personal program of garden exploration. Botanical gardens have an educational purpose in addition to their commitment to research and preservation of selected categories of plants. This list of international gardens is drawn from recent recommendations from a British garden magazine, especially to “help beat the self-isolation blues.”

For the full list, browse to tinyurl.com/vvpsn4g.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.

Social Distance IV

Social Distance in Gardening, Part IV

In this column, we continue emphasis on maintaining social distance while developing specific actions within three priorities for gardening during these difficult times.

We should commit ourselves to the eventual reduction of the coronavirus threat. This surely will happen in time, according to expert analyses, as long as everyone continues the mitigation measures that are being described by the media,

We can sustain and build our optimism by observing the ongoing natural development of our gardens. Our plants follow their seasonal growth patterns, and we can be assured that nature still functions despite this temporary disruption.

Our gardens illustrate this reality in many ways. One pleasing example is the emergence of apple blossoms, which signal the annual development of fruit.

A close up of a flower garden

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The blossoms of the Gala apple tree (Malus ‘Gala’) are much like other apple blossoms.

1. Care for Your Garden

Part of caring for your garden is reviewing and improving your home’s preparations for wild-fire season.

The patterns of recent history have included limited rainfall and dry plants during the period from May through December, and the occurrence of wildfire sin June, July and August. We are not predicting similar patterns for this year, but we will experience fire dangers depends in part on the dryness of the environment.

We are not predicting fire dangers, but we are recommending readiness. This could require time and effort, so now is a good time to begin the process.

If your home is within or close to a forested area, you are probably already quite aware of fire dangers. If your home is in a more urban area, but surrounded by trees and shrubs, you should be complacent. Vegetation around your home could become dry and flammable, and airborne burning embers could  travel a mile or more from a wildfire site.

In either situation, consider developing your landscaping to establish an adequate defensible space around your home and to include fire-resistant plants.

The good news is that a fire-resistant landscape can increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home. The following priority section includes online sources of information to support these developments.

2. Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

CalFire’s website offers detailed online information for developing a fire-resistant landscape.

Important steps toward this goal include choosing fire-resistant plants and landscaping materials. Many plants are fire-resistant while none are completely fire-proof. Good choices include succulents, which have high moisture content, and hardwood trees, which have low sap or resin content.

A group of universities in Oregon has compiled information on plant selection in a free online publication. Browse to www.firefree.org and click on “fire resistant plants”

Additional recommendations for fire-resistant plant selection is provided by Pacific Horticulture magazine.

3. Enrich Your Gardening Days

While you are sheltering in place, visit virtually other places of interest to gardeners. Here are three botanical gardens in California that share their horticultural riches on the Internet, while inviting personal visits when that will again be possible.

  • The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. “The 34-acre UC Botanical Garden is one of the most diverse landscapes in the world, with over 10,000 types of plants including many rare and endangered species. Organized geographically, the Garden features 9 regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a major collection of California native plants.”
  • The Huntington Botanical Gardens. Schedule enough time to absorb all of the impressive displays of this garden. “Explore living collections of orchids and camellias, a botanical conservatory, fragrant rose garden, children’s garden and more, in 16 themed gardens spread over 120 acres.”
  • The University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanical Garden. I must include the Monterey Bay area’s fine botanical garden, which “ maintains collections of rare and threatened plants of unusual scientific interest. Particular specialties are world conifers, primitive angiosperms, and bulb-forming plant families. Large assemblages of plants from California natives, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand are displayed on the grounds.”

There are more excellent public gardens in the United States, and several lists of the top choices. Conduct your own list by searching the Internet for “Best botanical gardens in the US.” We’ll plan virtual tours of the world’s best gardens another time.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.

Social Distance in Gardening VI

While walking around in my garden (a highly recommended shelter-at-home activity), I was pleased to see one of the earliest Irises to come into bloom. (Local gardeners in slightly warmer locations already enjoy several Irises.) This specimen is Iris pallida ‘Variegata’, which is appreciated primarily for its green and yellow or green and white foliage.

We continue our exploration of three categories of gardening activities that are suitable under social distance constraints and rewarding to the gardener.

1. Care for Your Garden

Engaging school-age children  in gardening is a way for parents to and grandparents  to help children to learn and be productive while sheltering at home. A fine source of gardening activities is the non-profit Kids Gardening organization (kidsgardening.org).

Short-term gardening activities can be enjoyable for adults and children to work together, but as we deal with extended stays at home, consider more programmatic approaches.

Borrowing concepts from formal schooling, adults should adopt a gardening curriculum for young learners. Basically, a curriculum involves learning objectives within a defined scope and following a logical sequence. Gardening naturally involves periods of a given plant’s development with beginning, middle, and end (germination, growth, ripening), so it lends itself to clear lesson plans.

Browse to kidsgardening.org and explore the menu, “Educator Resources” for a wealth of ideas for gardening with kids at home. The website offers many options, so interested adults will need to commit time to select lessons that are suitable for their site, workable with available tools and other resources, and interesting for both adults and children.

Pruning Salvias

Salvias should be pruned heavily every year to remove spent branches and promote fresh new growth. Some gardeners accomplish this pruning in the late winter, just as the spring shoots begin to appear at the base of the plants. That approach works fine, but this year the opportunity came and went, leaving the apparent option to skip pruning until next year.

Then, I learned of a more complex situation. Salvia specialist Kermit Carter, of Flowers by the Sea advised different strategies for each of four kinds of Salvias:

  • Rosette-growing, herbaceous perennials, e.g. Hummingbirds Sage (Salvia spathacea). Deadhead spent flowers; cut to the ground when growth stops (prune winter bloomers in summer, summer bloomers in autumn).
  • Deciduous or semi-evergreen types with soft stems, e.g. Mexican Bush Sage (S. leucantha). During the season, cut spent stems; at first frost, cut all to the ground.
  • Deciduous, woody-stem varieties, e.g. Autumn Sages (S. greggii species). During the season, cut spent stems; at first frost, cut all to the ground (same as above).
  • Evergreen, woody species, e.g. Karwinski’s Sage (S. karwinskii). Remove old wood at any time to encourage fresh growth.

Now, the task is to identify each type of Salvia in my garden and prune accordingly.

2. Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

This lesson on Salvia pruning illustrates the importance of knowing the plants in your garden, as the foundation for their cultivation. For any given plant, the gardener can gain important information by searching the Internet for the plant’s botanical name. In many cases, a search by common name will lead to the botanical name, and useful knowledge.

For many popular garden genera, specialized web sites provide good basic facts of value in caring for plants. In the above example, Flowers by the Sea has an extensive database of Salvia species and cultivars.

For the large category of bulbous plants, a fine resource is the Pacific Bulb Society, which maintains a wiki with images and growing advice for a great range of bulbous plants. The Society’s name relates to its geographic origins; the wiki includes plants from everywhere. By the way, “wiki” comes from a Hawaiian word for “quick,” and it refers to “a website that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users.”

3. Enrich Your Gardening Days

Opportunities abound for virtual tours of public gardens. In previous columns, we have recommended public gardens in California and in England and France. Here, we feature some of the now-closed great public gardens in the United States, outside of California.

  • Chanticleer, A Pleasure Garden. This is a relatively small public garden (35 acres) that had been a private garden before 1990. Today, Chanticleer has been called “the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America.”
  • New York Botanical Garden. 250 well-tended acres of plants. Use the Garden Navigator to explore the current and historic living collections, see photos, get plant information and see when they have bloomed at the garden.
  • United States National Arboretum. This amazing place, established by Congress in 1927, has 446 acres of plants. Try the Arboretum Botanical Explorer, a unique learning tool available on the website.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.

Social Distance in Gardening III

The spring season continues to unfold. The plant pictured is the Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata), believed to be the easiest orchids to grow.

A pink flower on a plant

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Over time, the Chinese Ground Orchid develops clumps with rose-mauve flowers.

In today’s column we again explore the three priorities suggested for gardening while maintaining social distance (everyone’s first priority).

1 Care for Your Garden

If you have school-age children whose schools have been closed for the present, and who need your attention and guidance, they could enjoy gardening with you. Developing and maintaining a home garden involves scientific, aesthetic and physical concepts that we have described before. In the present context, gardening with kids also could emphasize these aspects in a thoughtful manner.

There are several garden-related short-term activities and long-term programs that parents could organize for their child’s education and enjoyment. For ideas, check out the Kids Gardening website for a wealth of ideas for indoor and outdoor gardening. They invite opportunities in which children benefit most when parents and children work and play together.

During the early spring, weeding remains a necessary task. Some gardeners find weed removal sessions to be meditative and satisfying. It is certainly a safe and welcome distraction from our threatening surroundings, so align your thoughts to emphasize this work as a contributor to the health of your plants and garden.

Now is still a good time for installing new plants in the garden. Some local garden centers have continued business hours with various strategies for enabling customers and staff to maintain social distance. In some cases, for example, gardeners can order plants in advance by phone or email for curbside pick-up at the harden center.

Mail-order opportunities also continue to offer a great range of choices, and to evolve into a convenient approach to plant buying.

2 Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

If you are not already a well-equipped and capable computer-user, consider using this shelter-at-home period to update your devices and skills. Our society and the world have entered well into the digital age, and gardeners now have access to excellent online information on plants, landscaping, and related topics. While we still learn gardening from friends and relatives, an Internet search will provide basic concepts and answers to questions quickly and in abundance. If you should come across shaky ideas, comparing it with other sources will lead to reliable information.

Tutorial help (free or fee-based) might help to build your computing skills, but a good strategy is practice, practice, practice. And don’t hesitate to try different ways to pursue specific objectives: keyboard actions won’t hurt the computer.

Mail-order shopping for plants requires source information: plant catalogs and websites. A valuable resource for locating plant nurseries that will ship plants to your home is //gardensavvy.com which lists sources for several kinds of plants as well as a range of other garden-related information.

Here are websites to draw upon to advance your knowledge of some popular garden plants.

The American Horticultural Society also lists many garden societies that specialize in particular garden plant genera. To advance your knowledge of almost any plant genus, visit the AHS website and look under Resources/Societies, Clubs and Organizations.

3 Enrich Your Gardening Days

  • On Gardening. My Facebook page offers daily “garden notes,” brief current reports from my garden, as “what’s in bloom now” articles updates focusing on Mediterranean climate gardens. .
  • ReScape California. Tools and resources to help you to plan, design and create beautiful sustainable landscapes and gardens.
  • Gardening Discussion Forums. The National Gardening Associations community forums on a range of gardening topics.

These websites only suggest the online resources for enriching your gardening experiences.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.

Social Distance in Gardening II

Today’s column follows last week’s column suggesting three priorities for gardening while maintaining social distance during this difficult period. Many print and electronic media channels address the rapidly changing financial and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. We’re all greatly concerned about those impacts but for the moment, let’s just think about gardening.

  1. Care for Your Garden

After each year’s vernal equinox, many plants spring into growth and begin a season of vigorous development and delightful blossoms. Gardeners often can do well by simply enjoying the season through frequent walls through the garden and observing Nature’s small miracles. A good garden has a few seats to accommodate reflection, perhaps with a cool beverage. Take occasional opportunities to meditate about your plants and life.

During a recent walk garden walk, I was surprised that my Madeira Island Geranium (Geranium maderense) was blooming. I had cut it back after year’s blooms. I understood it to be a biennial and expected to wait a while for more flowers, but here it is. It’s the most giant geranium, 4-5 feet high and wide.

A large purple flower is in a garden

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This giant geranium displays an abundance of light mauve flowers.
A pink flower on a plant

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Geranium maderense commands a 5′ x 5′ space in the garden.

When you can no longer resist do some weeding. Set aside an hour or two each day to clear weeds from an area that’s large enough to make a difference and produce a Gardener’s Endorphin Rush, while small enough to complete within the budgeted hour. It’s also good mild exercise to offset the stay-at-home doldrums.

Landscapers might or might not be available for garden development and maintenance, but the National Association of Landscape Professionals advocates classification of landscape services as “essential.”

In any case, most if not all garden centers and garden exchanges are closed temporarily, so adding to your landscape might require swapping plants with gardening friends (while maintaining a healthy distance).

  • Advance Your Gardening Knowledge

Develop a learning plan to suit your individual needs and interests. For example, list your favorite plants in your garden and devote an hour a day to learning about each of them. There are excellent print resources for such a project, e.g., Sunset’s “Western Garden Book” and American Horticultural Association’s “A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.”

The Internet provides easy and free access to great amounts of gardening information. A very good place to start is Wikipedia.com, which has detailed information on almost all plants. Other good general sources are San Marcos Growers’ Plant Index, www.missouribotanicalgarden.org, and National Gardening Associations’ Plants Database.

A future column will include sources of information for specific plant genera.

The best searches will be for the plant’s botanical name , which usually can be found, if necessary, by starting with the common name. Many plant names include a cultivar name, which might be of interest, but if you’re looking primarily for cultivation advice, the genus & species will be fine.

Knowing your plants’ seasonal development and cultivation needs contributes greatly to gardening enjoyment and success.

  • Enrich Your Gardening Days

The Internet’s many social features offer the gardener both “infotainment” and addiction potential. Rationing your time to about an hour each day would be good ideas.

There’s an abundance of garden-related blogs and videos, many providing opportunities to comment or even to dialog with the producers. Here are five to check out:

Gardening Gone Wild – A group of talented gardeners bring diverse perspectives to the topic.

Success with Succulents – Debra Lee Baldwin’s website, from southern California, offers expert, non-technical advice on growing, displaying, and landscaping with succulent plants.

Garden Answer –  Laura LeBoutillier demonstrates hands-on gardening in her expansive garden in Oregon and offers practical advice. 

Plant One on Me – Summer Rayne Oaks shares her wealth of knowledge and experience with growing houseplants in Brooklyn, NY, and tours public gardens and large-scale nurseries for more ideas.

Facebook: On Gardening. Do visit my Facebook page for “garden notes,” which are brief current updates from my own garden. The examples and ideas are fully appropriate and timely for gardens and gardeners in the Monterey Bay area and other summer-dry regions.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.

***

Tom Karwin is past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and Monterey Bay Iris Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). Visit ongardening.com for previous columns.
Send comments or questions to gardening@karwin.com or facebook.com/thomaskarwin.

Social Distance in Gardening

Spring is here! The vernal equinox, March 19th , marked this year’s first day of spring, and we enjoy the early stages of spring growth. Here are examples:

The Australian Wonga Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana) produces a curtain of cream-colored blossoms. The Chinese Peony (Paeonia lactiflora): a common species with a great range of cultivars. 

The arrival of the spring season presents Natures gifts, delights our senses, and inspires our gardening urges. This has always been a welcome time of the year.

Our usual seasonal gardening activities include garden societies’ regular meetings and annual shows and sales. The early spring weeks have been filled with opportunities to share gardening ideas, techniques and plants with friends in the local community, to examine exemplary plants at regional showcases, and even to go out of town to attend national shows.

This year is different because the coronavirus threat requires everyone to avoid public contacts.

All garden-related events in the Monterey Bay area have been cancelled or are on the verge of being cancelled. Before you travel to an event of interest, verify that it is still happening!

One distant example was the 2020 Clivia Show & Sale, organized by The North American Clivia Society at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, and scheduled for last weekend. This rare event in a great location was worth considering for a major weekend trip, but alas it was cancelled, as were countless other garden events throughout California (and likely the rest of the country).

Gardeners and the gardening community are feeling multiple impacts of these cancellations. Many other elements of America and the world are being affected as well, of course, but let’s focus for the moment on gardening. The impacts include loss of interaction between like-minded members of the community, interruption in the continuity of non-profit garden societies, and loss of revenues that sustain those societies.

This situation undermines gardening’s social dimension. The good news is that gardeners have ways to stay busy and productive even while sheltering in place. Here are three ideas to consider.

The first priority is to care for your garden. Plants continue to grow during these difficult times, and to benefit from regular care by gardeners. Reserve a couple hours each rain-free day to keep your plants irrigated, pruned and weeded, and enjoy their contributions to your environment. This includes mild exercise, which keeps us healthy.

Another priority is to advance your gardening knowledge and skills. Assuming you have access to the Internet, search for information about plants you have—or would like to have—in your garden. A basic search by plant name will yield general descriptions. Searching for “how to cultivate [plant name]” will display helpful advice. Try this method on YouTube.com for video demonstrations by both amateurs and professionals.

With practice, the Internet can support your advanced education in gardening and provide a respite from binging on entertainment resources.

The third way to enrich the days of maximum social distance involves additional uses of the Internet: the social media, particularly e-mails with your gardening friends, garden-related blogs that support limited dialogs, Twitter messaging, and Facebook pages.

I have begun posting frequent “garden clips” on my long-time dormant Facebook page, with an emphasis on topics that are current to the Monterey Bay area. You are welcome to sample these clips and to comment. Browse to facebook.com/thomas.karwin.

Future columns will include ideas in support of these three constructive ways for gardeners to shelter in place.

Meanwhile, for up-to-date health information, browse to www.cdc.gov and click on “Coronavirus Disease 2019”

Take good care of yourself during these difficult times.

***

Tom Karwin is past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and Monterey Bay Iris Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). Visit ongardening.com for previous columns.
Send comments or questions to gardening@karwin.com.