April’s Garden Events

April 2nd, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum: The Ray Collett Rare & Extraordinary Plants Lecture Series, 7:00 p.m. Fee. UCSC Arboretum, High Street/Empire Grade, Santa Cruz.

Plantsman Rodger Elliott will recount the development of the extraordinary gardens of Australia’s Royal Botanic Gardens Chadbourne. A strong advocate of Australian native plants, Elliot assisted the Arboretum greatly during its early years.


April 5th, Monterey Bay Dahlia Society: 2014 Annual Dahlia Tuber & Plant Sale, 9:00–11:00. Upper Level, Deer Park Shopping Center, Aptos.

Amateur, advanced amateur and professional growers will offer easy-to-grow dahlias in countless delightful colors and forms. MDBS members will offer advice and cultivation tips.


April 5, Monterey Bay Master Gardeners, Smart Gardening Fair, 9:00–3:00. Highway 1 at Rio Road, Carmel.

A marketplace of  “all things gardening,” the fair focuses on sustainable practices. Local businesses and community groups offer gardening goods, services, knowledge and passions.


April 12th, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum: Plant Sale, Members, 10:00–12:00, Everyone, 12:00–4:00. Arboretum’s Eucalyptus Grove, High Street/Empire Grove, Santa Cruz.

Bring home some of the Arboretum’s dazzling colors and most drought-tolerant plants from California, Australia and South Africa. Come to the sale for ideas and advice to replace plants lost during our earlier freeze or replace a lawn with low-maintenance landscaping.


April 12th, California Native Plant Society, Santa Cruz County Chapter: Plant Sale. Members, 10:00–12:00, Everyone, 12:00–4:00. Location: Arboretum’s Eucalyptus Grove, High Street/Empire Grove, Santa Cruz. (Yes, the CNPS and Arboretum sales collaborate.)

This event is the year’s best opportunity to find California native plants for your garden. CNPS volunteers have propagated these plants lovingly to encourage gardeners to cultivate plants that thrive in this specific environment.


April 12th–April 20th, California Native Plant Society: Celebration of Fourth Annual California Native Plant Week, 2014. For a statewide activity list, visit the CNPS website.


April 18th–20th, California Native Plant Society, Monterey Bay Chapter:  Wildflower Show. Fee. Pacific Grove Museum, 165 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove.

This annual display of hundreds of the Monterey Bay area’s native wildflowers broadens our appreciation for Nature’s bounty of beautiful and highly varied plant life.


April 19th–20th,, Monterey Bay Area Cactus and Succulent Society: Spring Show & Sale, 9:00–5:00. Community Hall, 10 San Jose Street, San Juan Batista.

An opportunity to see exceptional specimens and purchase fascinating plants for your garden.


Enjoy your garden!

Seasonal Delights

Spring is in full swing: plant sales and garden tours keep us occupied in discovering new plants and encountering new ideas for the garden landscape.

At several recent sales, I accumulated twenty new plants and a big handful of dahlia tubers. One of my prizes is a “beloved serpent” (Agapetes ‘Ludgvan Cross’, A. serpens X A. rugosa). This rare caudiciform plant from the Himalayas produces four-foot arching branches that are festooned with gorgeous pendant blooms. I had an A. serpens before, but sadly it expired.

After my plant-buying frenzy, I became immersed in a hurry-up project that has postponed installation of those plants. I must keep them watered!

Here are upcoming opportunities to gain inspiration and plants.

May 4th & 5th – Monterey Bay Iris Society Annual Show. Louden Nelson Community Center, 3013 Center Street, Santa Cruz. 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. Saturday; 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. This free admission event provides the year’s best opportunity to see outstanding iris blooms and decide which rhizomes to buy when opportunities arise. Click on the thumbnail image for a full-size the MBIS poster:

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May 5th – Marina Tree and Garden Club’s Sixth Biennial Marina Garden Tour. This self-guided tour includes six varied private residential gardens, two public water-wise demonstration gardens, and a community food garden with 89 raised beds. Visit the gardens from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., in any order. Tour tickets are $15. For information, and slides of previous tours, browse to <www.marinatreeandgarden.org>.

May 11th, 12th and 13th – Cabrillo College’s 35th Annual Spring Plant Sale. This free event, billed as the largest annual college plant sale in Central California, will offer “over 1000 different organic vegetable starts, perennial edible crops, annuals, bedding plants, culinary & medicinal herbs, cut flowers, natives, perennials, salvias, succulents and vines.” On May 10th (Friday) there will be Presale and Silent Auction for Friends of the Garden. For info and a plant sale inventory, visit <http://www.cabrillo.edu/academics/horticulture/plantinventory.html> Memberships will be available at the gate for $25 (no surprise).

At last year’s silent auction, I acquired an uncommon Japanese dwarf crested iris (Iris gracilipes). It has been growing well in my garden, and I’m anticipating flowers in May or June.

May 11th – Annual St. Philip’s Garden Tour and English Tea Luncheon, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. This unusual occasion always includes exceptional gardens and a unique “full High Tea Luncheon of English favorites such as scones with jam and cream, a delicious and light carrot-cilantro soup, sausage rolls and finger sandwiches, and last but not least, English toffee and shortbread cookies!” Visit <http://www.stphilip-sv.net/> for a Ticket Order Form and request for a luncheon seating time.

Visit garden tours and shows with camera and note pad; visit the sales ready to buy and bring home new delights for your garden.

Perennial Wildflowers and the Year’s Big Show

When we think of native California wildflowers, we usually envision wide swaths of gold or blue blossoms draped over the state’s open spaces. The state’s hundreds of annual wildflowers are great treasures of nature, whether in open fields or private gardens, but our delight with the annuals should extend to California’s perennial wildflowers. Many of these are excellent candidates for the residential garden.

Both the annual and perennial wildflowers offer all the benefits of native plants: having evolved to thrive in our dry-summer climate and native soil, they are both easy to grow and eagerly enjoyed by the native fauna for food and shelter.

Many native perennial wildflowers are valuable assets for the home garden. Here are a few of the most popular:

  • Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus) and Bush Monkey-flower (Mimulus spp.) grow well in both full sun and partial shade.
  • Pacific Coast Irises, smaller than the tall bearded irises, include the best-known Douglas Iris (I. douglasiana) and ten other species. These plants hybridize easily in the wild, so they are usually referred to by their group name. Both species plants and natural hybrids are reliable bloomers, as are the many cultivated hybrids. Pacific Coast Irises are difficult to transplant successfully, so are usually propagated in the fall by divisions or seeds.
  • Alumroot (Heuchera spp.), a small, easily grown plant for the shade garden, occurs in sixteen native California species, including H. maxima, H. sanguinea, and H. micrantha. Growers have developed many hybrids with a variety of leaf colors. The flowers are attractive but not the primary attraction.
  • Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), which prefers moist and shady conditions, produces large triangular leaves and carmine red flowers on stems that rise up to three feet.

Visit ongardening.com for sources of information on many more California native perennial wildflowers.


The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show opens on Wednesday, March 20th, and continues through Sunday, March 24th at the San Mateo Event Center. One of the nation’s largest and best events for home gardeners, this year’s Show offers 20 gorgeous international display gardens and the 30 small space gardens, 13 seminars each day by gardening experts, and a Marketplace with several hundred vendors offering plants and garden products.

A highlight will be the world’s largest rotating succulent globe, designed and created by Robin Stockwell, in Monterey County. I saw this unique globe in development and I’m confident it will amaze all who see it.

The SF Flower and Garden Show is a must-see event for learning about many aspects of gardening and landscaping, bringing home desirable new plants and garden accessories, and simply enjoying time in the company of other avid gardeners.

For more info, see the feature article in today’s Herald and visit http://www.sfgardenshow.com/.

Enjoy your garden!

Immersed in Gardening

Gardening is generally a slow process. We progress on a seasonal schedule, as we monitor the emergence of seedlings, the opening of buds, the ripening of fruits. We might even sit and contemplate the birds and bees, or just the leaves moving in the breeze.

Learning about gardening also is a slow-paced process: we notice when plants bloom, early, late or mid-season, and examine how our pruning affects the development of our plants. We might take notes to help us recall what we have seen and done in the garden.

On rare occasions, we can advance our gardening knowledge at a more intense pace. One such occasion is the annual San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, Wednesday, March 21st through Sunday, March 25th, in the San Mateo Event Center. This year’s theme is “Gardens for a Green Earth.”

The Show invites interested gardeners to immerse themselves in a rich array of learning opportunities for a full day, or even several days, to see the latest plant introductions and the newest garden tools, hear informative talks, and study trends in garden design.

Many need a couple days to benefit from this multi-faceted event. Here are the Show’s primary components:

• The Display Gardens are always the Show’s featured attraction. This year, twenty design teams will demonstrate their innovative approaches to garden design with full-scale garden settings. These displays will include imaginative creations, often with stunning presentations of trees, boulders, water features, and outdoor furnishings. The plants are always the centers of attention.

• Gardening Seminars will fill a continuing schedule in three venues within the San Mateo Event Center. Well-known garden experts will share up-to-date ideas within their fields of particular interest. Consider scheduling your visit to include your choice of 80 presentations. A hot topic this year is small-space gardening, with talks and displays for those who garden on balconies, in tiny side yards, or on small decks, or who just prefer small-space gardening.

• The Marketplace is a unique setting to see and acquire plants, tools and decorative accessories for your garden. 200 vendors will offer a wide array of garden-related items, and gourmet food items as well. “Window-shopping” is welcome, but the event invites you to stock up on your garden desiderata. There’s a free package check, too, so you need not haul your purchases around all day.

The Show’s website, http://sfgardenshow.com, is an excellent resource to learn more about the Show, plan your day, buy tickets ($20), study the seminar schedule, find driving directions and even reserve lodgings for multiday sessions. The Show’s phone number is 415-684-7278.

Immerse yourself in gardening at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show and gather inspirations to enjoy your garden during all the following year.

Garden Happenings

We have had some rain! More showers could start Saturday, and continue for at least three days. Our plants are thriving with this overdue moisture, which might reach normal seasonal levels.

On Tuesday, March 20th, the 2012 Vernal Equinox marked the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Equinoxes occur when the sun shines directly on the equator and day and night lengths are nearly equal. True spring weather should follow—but the weather offers no certainties.

San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

Saturday, 10:00 to 7:00 and Sunday, 10:00 to 6:00. Again, this is the largest garden-related annual event in the western U.S., and an unparalleled opportunity to learn about gardening, attend seminars by experts, buy plants, garden tools and accessories, and examine extraordinary display gardens by some of northern California’s most creative designers.

The San Mateo Event Center is a short road trip from Monterey, and admission is just $20. For details, visit http://sfgardenshow.com/.

California Naturalist Program

The California Naturalist Program launches on April 7th, a new certification program of the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum to promote stewardship of California’s natural communities. Expert specialists will generate understanding and appreciation of our interdependence with nature and the need to conserve the natural environment.

The program will meet twice weekly for ten weeks from April 7th to June 16th, on Thursday evenings at the Arboretum and on weekend field trips to natural areas. The $300 fee equals $15 for each of the twenty sessions, a bargain if your schedule permits and loving nature is among your priorities.

Contacts: Arboretum (831) 427-2998, Arboretum Director Brett Hall (brett@ucsc.edu), or the program’s web page (arboretum.ucsc.edu/education/UCCNP/).

California Native Plant Week

The Second Annual California Native Plant Week happens April 15th through April 22nd. The California Native Plant Society inspired this occasion, and California Assembly Concurrent Resolution 173 made it official in August 2010. ACR 173 proclaims the third week of April as a period to recognize the many benefits of native plant gardening and landscaping: including reducing residential water use from 60 to 90% over conventional gardening.

Pacific Grove Museum’s 49th Annual Wildflower Show

With the Monterey Bay Chapter, California Native Plant Society. 100:00 a.m., Friday, April 16th through 5:00 p.m., Sunday, April 18th. “… the largest [show] in the Northern and Western Hemispheres featuring over 600 species and varieties of Central Coast wildflowers.” $3 requested donation.

UCSC Arboretum’s Spring Plant Sale

With the Santa Cruz Chapter, California Native Plant Society. Opens to CNPS and Arboretum members from 10:00–12:00 on Saturday, April 21st and continues from 12:00 to 4:00 for everyone. No surprise: you can join the CNPS or the Arboretum on sale day and enjoy your membership all year.

Visit my very new website, ongardening.com, for descriptions of plants offered at the Arboretum/CNPS Plant Sale and more.


The CNPS will have several thousand colorful native and drought tolerant plants for sale, and will feature a selection of Ribes, the genus of currants and gooseberries, which is one of the best of California’s spring bloomers for gardens.

The Arboretum will offer selected specimens of plants from Australia and South Africa, as well as California natives, all of which well suited to grow nicely in the Monterey Bay area. Featured plants include Grevillea ‘Mason’s Hybrid’, Erica speciosa, Boronia heterophylla, Leucospermum ‘Spider’, and Berberis pinnata ssp insularis ‘Shnilemoon’, any of which could a great addition to your garden.