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.