Discovering a Chilean Plant

Ochagavia litoralis

It’s not easy to find plants for my Chilean garden, so I was pleased to come upon a fine specimen at a local garden center. Its common name, calilla, must mean something, but because I don’t speak Chilean I will use its botanical name, Ochagavia litoralis.

The plant is a member of the Bromeliad family, which, with a few exceptions, is native to the tropical Americas. The family is quite large, with 51 genera and around 3475 known species. Some of its relatives are familiar, e.g., pineapple and avid gardeners will recognize some others: tillandsia, billbergia, puya,

My new acquisition, which grows to about one foot high and wide, has look-alike relatives, including Dyckia (from Brazil and central South America) and Hechtia (from Mexico). There are differences, including flower color, that require close examination.

In the course of my Internet searching, I learned about the Crimson Bromeliad (Fascicularia bicolor), which is a close relative of my new plant, and also from Chile. It is even rarer than the calilla, and about twice its size with softer spines and rosette centers that become bright red. My Chile garden should have one of those!

The Ochagavia litoralis forms multiple rosettes. The plant I bought looked like a candidate for division into three or more offsets. I have been pleased on occasion to acquire a plant that has outgrown its container because I could get multiple plants for one price. When I pulled this plant out of its pot, however, I found that its rosettes were more like branches than offsets so dividing it would be tricky. I just cleaned up some dry leaves and planted it without dividing.

The plant’s roots had filled its 1.5–gallon nursery can. For some time, the plant needed to move into a larger pot, or into the ground. San Marcos Growers, a wholesale nursery just north of Santa Barbara, had grown the plant. I have visited that impressive nursery, and have often drawn plant information from its excellent website. This plant, which some people regard as quite rare, might also have infrequent demand, with the result that it languished too long in the can.

Realistically, there are not many gardeners with an interest in Chilean horticulture, and even fewer that find very spiny plants appealing. The Ochagavia litoralis has foot-long spine-margined leaves, making it attractive in its own way, but hazardous to handle. I wore my newly acquired goatskin gloves with cowhide gauntlets and planted this specimen without the slightest injury. The gloves will be equally protective when dealing with roses, agaves, and cacti.

My new calilla is now safely and happily installed in my Chilean garden. I will need to practice its name.

***

For an inspiring garden tour this weekend, visit Love’s Garden, which on the west side of Santa Cruz. This free tour, from 1:00 to 4:00 on Saturday, features a permaculture food forest, with dozens of edible plants, a rainwater catchment and greywater recycling, all on a small residential lot. The enthusiastic gardener behind all this, Golden Love, is an ecologically friendly horticulturist and the proprietor of a long-standing landscaping business. For information and registration, visit the Love’s Garden website.

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.

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:

Inspiration for Next Year’s Garden

We are now one week into the fall season of the year (the autumnal equinox occurred last Friday. Now is the time to plant in preparation for the new season. In the spring, many gardeners become inspired as garden centers display flowers that have been nitrogen-dosed into bloom, but the fall is best for installing new herbaceous perennials, and woody shrubs and trees. This time is good for such tasks because the plants will have time to establish their roots during the winter months and prepare to burst into bud and bloom in the spring. As this underground growth happens, our seasonal rains (hopefully) will provide needed moisture.

Planting and transplanting involve the pursuit of landscape design visions, which makes the late spring/early fall also a fine season for touring gardens for new ideas.

The Garden Conservatory, a non-profit organization, conducts a national program of one-day garden tours, known as the Open Days program. The tours are organized in local clusters of three-to-five outstanding private gardens. The Conservatory publishes an annual catalog of Open Days events, which are scheduled from April through October.

Last weekend, I visited one of the Open Days clusters in San Jose, and volunteered as the greeter at one of the gardens. There were three gardens on tour: a garden designer’s “intensely private sanctuary” with extensive stone and cast embellishments; a design gem, once featured in Sunset magazine and recently recovered from five feet of flood waters; and an artist’s nicely designed and well-managed collection of palms, cycads, bromeliads, ferns and succulents.

I won’t attempt to describe these gardens in more detail. The direct experience is always best. These three gardens are not larger than standard city lots, and they each presented details that most gardeners could adapt for their own landscapes. They also have interesting and well-grown plants, one of which (shown below) I could not identify:

Photo of Unknown Plant in Container

Mystery Plant

This striking plant was in the designer’s garden, but he was not present when I visited. The flower resembles that of the Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ignea), but the leaves are quite different. I’m searching for its name.

Several design details caught my attention. I particularly liked the use of small black river stones (Mexican pebbles), which are available in several sizes. These can be used loosely as a stone mulch, placed in sand or concrete as decorative pavement made by Custom Rock Formliner, or in other ways as imagination might lead.

Another design detail of interest was the use of small Christmas light strings, woven into hanging metal pieces, e.g., chandelier, empty birdcage, etc. and serving a decorative lighting under a patio roof. Not everyone has a similar situation, but the effect would be attractive in the evening.

Thirdly, I was impressed by the use of very large carved stone, natural stone, and cast concrete pieces in a relatively small landscaped environment. Placing massive blocks requires bold commitment as well as physical effort, but such pieces express permanence with great clarity. Even a single specimen could be a strong addition to a garden, and a vote against more tentative actions.

Visit the Garden Conservatory’s Open Days website < www.gardenconservancy.org/open-days > for more information.

If you are ready to add plants to your garden, a good opportunity is the 5th Annual Native Plant Sale of the Watsonville Wetlands Watch. The sale will be 8:30–1:00 on Saturday, October 7th, at the organization’s resource center at the Pajaro Valley High School campus in Watsonville. The sale supports the group’s education and restoration programs in the Pajaro Valley. For info, visit www.watsonvillewetlandswatch.org/.

Garden Faire Celebrates Sustainable Gardening

The first day of summer, June 21st, approaches rapidly, marking an annual astronomical event (the Summer Solstice), the annual Garden Faire (more about that below), and perhaps a time for gardeners to review their calendar calendars.

For each year since 2005, the Garden Faire has convened in Scotts Valley as a regional celebration of sustainable gardening, water conservation, and healthy living, The program varies a bit each year, but there are certain constants:

First of these is consistent—and greatly appreciated—support of local water providers, specifically the San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, and Soquel Creek water districts. Their interest in the Garden Faire reflects official reports that close to 50% of residential water use happens outdoors, largely for garden irrigation. That usage is ok when it is done wisely, which generally includes:

  • Using landscape plants that are appropriate for the local environment, particularly plants that are native to California or at least to our summer-dry climate, and avoiding tropical climate plants that require a lot of water; and
  • Providing only the amount of water that plants need, by using drop irrigation, turning off irrigation after a rainy spell (or during!), and directing water to the plants rather than to paved surfaces.

Water conservation makes sense during periods of drought and is always good practice. Drought considerations could return at any time, so we should make wise water usage a matter of habit. Our payoff comes in the form of smaller water bills.

Our water districts also prioritize the protection of the watershed. As we consider the water cycle, we appreciate the importance of keeping synthetic chemicals out of our groundwater. For gardeners, good practice means using only organic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides in the landscape. These products are best for our water supply as well as for the quality of our soils and the wellbeing of all forms wildlife: mammals, birds, insects and, lest we forget, the incredible diversity of organisms that make up the soil food web.

Gardeners and water providers have common interests: practices that are consistent with water conservation and watershed protection are also strongly preferred for garden cultivation.

This year’s theme, “Cultivating Community in Times of Change,” a variation on previous themes, emphasizes timely and interconnected issues: growing plants and society, and the opportunities and challenges of current environmental and political conditions.

The Garden Faire presents messages along these lines in various ways, without preaching. The event includes knowledgeable Main Tent speakers on various aspects of sustainable gardening, in the Main Tent, and Nutrition Tent speakers on healthy foods. The Faire also includes vendors that have been selected for their compatibility with the Faire’s theme, and that offer a variety of garden-related products and services. Community groups also participate in offering information related to sustainable gardening and healthy living.

The occasion also includes musical entertainment and healthy food choices. All these elements combine to provide a pleasant, low-pressure environment to celebrate gardening, learn a bit about sustainability, and enjoy a sunny day among friendly members of the regional community. For more information, visit the Garden Faire’s website.

The Garden Faire is a free-admission event, made possible by local sponsors, modest fees paid by exhibitors, and a hard-working team of volunteers. Still, you will want to be prepared to purchase plants for your garden.

IF YOU GO

What: The 12the Annual Garden Faire

Who: The Garden Fair, Inc., a non-profit corporation.

Where: Skypark, Scotts Valley

When: 9:00 to 5:00, Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cost: Free admission, free parking.

Information: http://thegardenfaire.org

Sanctuary for Hummingbirds

If you are a hummingbird, the University of California’s Arboretum provides an excellent home territory. During tomorrow’s Hummingbird Day at the Arb, you can see the hummers enjoying this local sanctuary.

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Anna’s Hummingbird (female) at a Grevillea

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider the threats to the hummingbird’s life and limb (make that “life and wing”).

Habitat Loss

All of nature’s flora and fauna depend on the surroundings of their native environment. They have evolved to consume familiar food sources and enjoy safe places for shelters and nurseries for their young. Too often, human encroachments have converted such environments through urbanization, agriculture, and logging, leaving the denizens of the wild to retreat into smaller and smaller areas.

The hummingbirds’ challenge in finding an appropriate place to live resembles that of people looking for affordable housing in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas.

Long ago, hummingbirds discovered the Arboretum as a fine place to find nourishment and safety, and to raise baby hummingbirds.

They found one significant complication to the sanctuary they discovered: the Arboretum has lots of California native plants that the hummers know best, but this place also grows many plants that thrive in Monterey Bay area’s climate and the Arb’s soil, but are California exotics. The native plants of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa contribute to the Arboretum’s unique collection, which fascinates its many human visitors, but puzzle the hummingbirds.

Happily, hungry hummers have adapted to this special situation: they have grown to love many of the Arboretum’s plants. They show great appreciation for the Australian collection, and have made particular favorites of the Grevilleas and Banksias.

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Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ – a hummingbird favorite

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pesticide Poisoning

Pesticides provide another important threat to the hummingbirds. Pesticides include synthetic chemicals that kill plants, animals and insects that damage both crops and ornamental plants. Too often, these chemicals unintentionally kill desirable and beneficial flora and fauna, as well. For example, bee colonies have been damaged greatly by exposure to such chemicals.

Hummingbirds, too, are susceptible to chemical poisoning. Their small size and rapid metabolism makes them vulnerable to even small direct exposures to toxic materials.

Pesticides also have indirect impacts on the wellbeing of hummingbirds by killing insects that are an essential source of protein. Hummingbirds are carnivorous, eating insects that they snatch out of the air, pluck from foliage, or glean from spider webs. Hummers could not live on sweet nectar alone.

The Arboretum’s historic avoidance of synthetic pesticides adds substantially to its quality as a hummingbird sanctuary. The Arb’s insects, plants and indeed the soil are naturally clean and safe for hummingbirds.

Predators

Feral cats represent a third threat to hummingbirds, as well as to other birds and small mammals. Cats are favored companions for many people, and friendly in their aloof way, but in their wild selves they are fierce predators, with birds as their preferred prey. Unlike other birds, hummers occasionally hover close to a nectar-filled flower cluster. If that cluster is fairly close to the ground, the bird becomes an easy victim of a crouching feline, which could kill a tiny hummer with one swipe.

The Arboretum asks its human visitors to not bring pets with them to view the collections. This ban focuses on dogs and certainly includes cats, although few people take their cats with them for outings. The Arboretum, being a natural environment at heart, is visited occasionally by mountain lions, but those noble creatures are unlikely to feed on hummers, and more likely to discourage visits by feral cats.

Hummingbird Day

Two genera of hummingbirds visit the Arboretum; both are members of the family Trochilidae, which includes a large number of hummingbird genera from the Americas.

The Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) are permanent residents of the Pacific Coast, and the Allen’s Hummingbirds (Selasphorus sasin) spend most of the winter months in the mountain forests of Mexico and migrates to northern California during breeding season, from January through March.

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Allen’s Hummingbird (male), at rest

 

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Anna’s Hummingbird (male) at rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arboretum schedules its annual Humming Day to coincide with the combination of breeding season and the arrival of the Allen’s Hummingbird. This is prime viewing time for hummingbird watchers, who can enjoy two eye-catching activities.

First, the Allen’s Hummingbirds tend to be very territorial, so their arrival leads to aerial battles with the resident Anna’s Hummingbirds, who have been simply minding their own business.

Then, for the hummers’ breeding season, the males display unique courtship antics, with amazing steep dives toward a targeted female, culminating in sound effects: male Anna’s make an explosive popping sound; and male Allen’s produce a metallic whine. Later in the season, while the females are feeding their young, there is a good deal of swooping about to collect insects to bring to their nestlings.

As a result of these two activities, during which the hummers ignore their human observers (while staying safe), Hummingbird Day is a great opportunity to see the aerial stunts of these exceptional flyers.

The event, which is each year’s most popular occasion to visit the Arboretum, happens on Saturday, March 4th, and includes guided tours, talks on hummingbird gardening and photography, and special craft activities for children.

Young visitor with a hummingbird toy

Young visitor with a hummingbird toy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hummingbird Day is one of the Monterey Bay area’s most unusual and most enjoyable encounters with wildlife. Be sure also to browse the plant collections during your visit.

IF YOU GO

What: The annual celebration of hummingbirds. Walking tours, talks, and children’s activities with a hummingbird theme.

When: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, March 4th

Where: UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, on Arboretum Road, west of Western Drive

Cost: $10 for public; $5 for members of the Arboretum; free for UCSC students and children under 12

Parking: Free

Information: Visit the Arboretum’s website.

Eco-culture at The Garden Faire

The Garden Faire, now in its 11th year, originally focused on the best practices of organic gardening, conserving our finite water supply and protecting our watersheds from chemical contamination.

The Garden Faire spreads out on Skypark's playing fields-300

Click to enlarge

The Faire continues to deliver these messages and has added broader perspectives that emphasize the overarching notions of sustainability and stewardship of the environment.

Another, more recent theme in the Garden Faire’s evolution focuses on the nutritional and healthful aspects of our food. Edible gardening predates ornamental gardening by thousands of years, and responds to our fundamental needs for sustenance, while ornamental gardening feeds higher levels of our consciousness. Edible and ornamental gardening are complementary and each is indispensable within its respective sphere.

The Garden Faire continues to change. This year’s theme, Cultivating an Ecoculture, explores ways that humans already partner with Nature and opportunities to strengthen that critical relationship.

To appreciate the timely importance of ecocultural ideas, consider the development of academic pursuits. At some early point in history, scholars categorized knowledge with the disciplines: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts. They sub-divided each discipline into the numerous subjects we now encounter in formal education and splintered them further into courses within each subject.

The division of knowledge into academic disciplines responds to the human interest in managing and controlling nature and yields certain conveniences. Scholars can pursue specializations, schools can be organized into departments, courses and books can be labeled in ways that are widely understood.

Such arbitrary and artificial divisions also can lose awareness of the connectedness of biological and cultural diversity, and, indeed, of everything comprised by the diversity of life.

The academic disciplines are constructs, which depend for their existence on the minds of the persons who create them. They are not real objects, which are directly observable.

Today, as we are challenged by global issues of economic instability, resource degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change, our responses must be based on real objects, and on an integrative approach to conserving Nature alongside human culture.

In this pursuit, we can learn from the integrative approaches that indigenous cultures have practiced for millennia. These existing eco-cultures honor the unity of people with the rest of nature.

This brief article is not the place to enumerate specific eco-cultures of the world. For the present, it is sufficient to acknowledge that many groups, through many generations, have followed their instincts to achieve sustainability.

Working in harmony with nature is not a new idea. We see applications of that principle in gardening organically, conserving water wisely, consuming natural foods, exercising regularly to maintain body health. These are integrative practices that we can adopt readily as individuals.

As we increase the scale of human activities, however, and consider policies affecting groups of people, distractions and barriers come into play. The academic disciplines might not always support the connectedness of real objects, but they can serve as the basis of developing ecocultural practices. Indeed, many examples of cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary initiatives can be cited. More would be helpful.

The work that lies ahead involves applying ecocultural concepts widely, in many (perhaps all) areas of human endeavor. The work includes adapting successful practices from the distant past to succeed in today’s fast-paced, complex society.

This work begins with individuals who grasp the concept and help to shape policies that will help to sustain life. It begins with you.

The world needs many conversations to advance the ecocultural perspective.

The Garden Faire supports one of those conversations for the Monterey Bay area, together with expert speakers on eco-culture, as well as gardening, water conservation, and nutrition. There’s much more: garden-oriented exhibitors, small farm animals, a krauting party, yoga and both familiar and exotic music.

***

IF YOU GO

What: The 11th Garden Faire

When: June 18th, 2016, 9:00 to 4:00, music continues to 9:00

Where: Skypark, Scotts Valley – free admission

Information:

The Garden Faire, now in its 11th year, originally focused on the best practices of organic gardening, conserving our finite water supply and protecting our watersheds from chemical contamination.

The Faire continues to deliver these messages, and has added broader perspectives that emphasize the over-arching notions of sustainability and stewardship of the environment.

Another, more recent theme in the Garden Faire’s evolution focuses on the nutritional and healthful aspects of our food. Edible gardening predates ornamental gardening by thousands of years, and responds to our fundamental needs for sustenance, while ornamental gardening feeds higher levels of our consciousness. Edible and ornamental gardening are complementary and each is indispensable within its respective sphere.

The Garden Faire continues to change. This year’s theme, Cultivating an Ecoculture, explores ways that humans already partner with Nature and opportunities to strengthen that critical relationship.

To appreciate the timely importance of ecocultural ideas, consider the development of academic pursuits. At some early point in history, scholars categorized knowledge with the disciplines: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts. They sub-divided each discipline into the numerous subjects we now encounter in formal education, and splintered them further into courses within each subject.

The division of knowledge into academic disciplines responds to the human interest in managing and controlling nature, and yields certain conveniences. Scholars can pursue specializations, schools can be organized into departments, courses and books can be labeled in ways that are widely understood.

Such arbitrary and artificial divisions also can lose awareness of the connectedness of biological and cultural diversity, and, indeed, of everything comprised by the diversity of life.

The academic disciplines are constructs, which depend for their existence on the minds of the persons who create them. They are not real objects, which are directly observable.

Today, as we are challenged by global issues of economic instability, resource degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change, our responses must be based on real objects, and on an integrative approach to conserving Nature alongside human culture.

In this pursuit, we can learn from the integrative approaches that indigenous cultures have practiced for millennia. These existing eco-cultures honor the unity of people with the rest of nature.

This brief article is not the place to enumerate specific eco-cultures of the world. For the present, it is sufficient to acknowledge that many groups, through many generations, have followed their instincts to achieve sustainability.

Working in harmony with nature is not a new idea. We see applications of that principle in gardening organically, conserving water wisely, consuming natural foods, exercising regularly to maintain body health. These are integrative practices that we can adopt readily as individuals.

As we increase the scale of human activities, however, and consider policies affecting groups of people, distractions and barriers come into play. The academic disciplines might not always support the connectedness of real objects, but they can serve as the basis of developing ecocultural practices. Indeed, many examples of cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary initiatives can be cited. More would be helpful.

The work that lies ahead involves applying ecocultural concepts widely, in many (perhaps all) areas of human endeavor. The work includes adapting successful practices from the distant past to succeed in today’s fast-paced, complex society.

This work begins with individuals who grasp the concept and help to shape policies that will help to sustain life. It begins with you.

The world needs many conversations to advance the ecocultural perspective.

The Garden Faire supports one of those conversations for the Monterey Bay area, together with expert speakers on eco-culture, as well as gardening, water conservation, and nutrition. There’s much more: garden-oriented exhibitors, small farm animals, a krauting party, yoga and both familiar and exotic music.

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Tom Karwin is president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, president of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999-2009). Visit ongardening.com for links to information on this subject, and send comments or questions to gardening@karwin.com.

IF YOU GO

What: The 11th Garden Faire

When: June 18th, 2016, 9:00 to 4:00, music continues to 9:00

Where: Skypark, Scotts Valley – free admission

Information: http:/ /thegardenfaire.org

A Primer on Succulent Plants

California’s recent drought, which promises to stick around in future years, has inspired a surge of interest in succulent plants, which, as a group, grow nicely with limited moisture. If you already know all you want to know about succulent plants, you can skip this column, but if (like many gardeners) are just becoming interested in such plants, here is a primer.

Gardeners who explore the world of succulent plants soon discover that these plants have more to offer than drought tolerance:

  • They bring a great range of forms, foliage colors, blossom colors, and sizes
  • Some grow well in bright sun, while others thrive in filtered light
  • There are are winter dormant varieties (“summer bloomers”), and summer dormant varieties (“winter bloomers”).

These characteristics make succulent plants terrific for landscaping and container gardening.

Cream Spike Agave

Cream Spike Agave, from Mexico

Cream Spike Agave - cu

A closer look

The world of succulents includes some ambiguities to get used to, as follows:

First, the term “succulent” refers to the plant’s biological ability to store water during dry spells, and does not indicate a botanical category. The succulent characteristic occurs within about sixty different plant families. Succulence is a variable trait: succulent plants differ in their needs for moisture.

Second, some definitions of succulent plants exclude geophytes, which are plants that store water underground structures called bulbs, pseudobulbs, tubers, corms, rhizomes or other terms. Interestingly, plants that store water in a caudex (a modified stem that might be partially underground) are considered succulents even when geophytes are not.

Third, all cactuses are succulents, but all succulents are not cactuses. Cactuses are in the plant family Cactaceae. All plants in this family have specialized structures called areoles, a kind of highly reduced branch that produces spines, which are highly modified leaves.

Fourth, except for the cacti, succulent plants do not have spines, but some have leaves with hazardous sharp points or spiked edges, intended to discourage predators.

Always the best way to learn about plants is to grow them. Hands-on experience and regular observation are the best forms of education.

There are faster ways, however. The Internet contains vast informational resources about succulents, accessible by searching on any plant name or botanical term in this column. Very helpful Internet resources for this purpose include Wikipedia for botanical information, Pinterest for photos of succulent plants, and YouTube for video clips on all aspects of growing and displaying succulent plants.

Another very good strategy, especially for Monterey Bay area gardeners, is to join the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society (http://mbsucculent.org/). This non-profit group has monthly meetings in Watsonville, with expert presentations, a fine lending library (listed on its website), and public shows and sales in the spring and fall. The shows at these events include displays of a great variety of expertly grown and often extraordinary succulent plants. The sales present a vast number of small and not-so-small plants in great variety and for attractive prices.

If You Go

What: Spring Show & Sale of Cacti and Succulents

Who: Monterey Bay Area Cactus and Succulent Society

When: Saturday, April 23, 9:00 to 5:00 and Sunday, April 24, 9:00 to 4:00

Where: Community Hall, 100 San Jose Avenue, San Juan Batista, California

Admission and Parking: Free for all visitors

Spring Show of Tall Bearded Irises

The tall bearded iris is among the most rewarding drought-tolerant plants, and right now is the ideal time to plan for irises in your garden.

Big Picture (Ghio, 2014)

Big Picture (Introduced by hybridizer Joe Ghio, 2014)

There are several iris genera and species, and several varieties of the bearded iris. The tall bearded iris is the most popular variety, the result of the past fifty or so years of hybridizing. The hybridizers’ patience and creativity have yielded an amazing range of colors, color combinations, patterns and blossom forms, as well as plants with great vigor, productivity and in some cases repeat blooming.

The early fall is the time to plant irises, but they are blooming now, in the early spring, making this the time to learn about the varieties and choose plants to add to your garden.

The occasion for this timely and enjoyable pursuit is the Monterey Bay Iris Society’s annual show, scheduled for this weekend. This event features the best plants grown by local gardeners. There are a few “ringers” among those displaying their plants (people who grow irises commercially), but they are also locals and active participants in the Society’s ongoing educational programs.

A room full of top quality irises can be overwhelming to those not already familiar with these striking plants, and perhaps intimidating. You might even think, “How could I grow such impressive plants?” A good defense to such feelings is to read “How to Grow Tall Bearded Iris,” which is freely available online from the MBIS.

This two-page tutorial will make clear that irises are among the easiest great garden plants to cultivate and provide the confidence to bring them to your garden.

Another very good preparation for this show is to look through the Show Program, which is also available online from the MBIS. This eight-page document is packed with information about the categories of irises in the show, the exhibition rules, and the awards to be won. The Show Program provides an excellent orientation to the blossoms to be seen at the show.

The Program also includes information about membership in the MBIS and a calendar of the Society’s sales in June and July, anticipating planting in August and September.

This show is conducted according to the rules of the American Iris Society, and a team of expert judges will evaluate the blossoms. This process occurs on Saturday morning, before the show is open to the public, so visitors will see which blossoms have received first, second or third place awards. Visitors to the show are invited to vote for the People’s Choice Award.

Irises can beautify your garden!

If You Go

What: Spring Iris Show: “2016 Spring Rainbow”

Who: Monterey Bay Iris Society

When: Saturday, April 23, 1:00 to 6:00 and Sunday, April 24, 10:00 to 5:00

Where: Louden Nelson Community Center 301 Center Street, Santa Cruz, CA

Admission: Free for all visitors

Information: “How to Grow Tall Bearded Iris” and Show Program: http://www.montereybayiris.org/