A Not-to-Miss Event

As we enjoy the final days of winter, warmly, we begin thoughts of the arrival of spring and the reemergence of our gardens. With exquisite timing, the annual San Francisco Flower & Garden Show brings the season into focus and offers an unparalleled array of inspiration, information and products to help avid gardeners to launch the year’s gardening activities.

The SF Show began over thirty years ago as a fundraiser for the San Francisco Friends of Recreation and Parks, and soon evolved into a commercial event that features landscape designers, speakers on numerous topics in gardening, and exhibitors of plants and a wide range of garden products.

The Show ranks as one of the nation’s three largest annual events devoted to gardening and landscaping. The others are the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which was held in mid-February in Seattle, and the Philadelphia Flower Show, which will be held March 5–13. Since 1829, the Philadelphia Horticultural Society has sponsored the Philadelphia Show as a fundraiser.

The world’s most significant competitor to these three garden shows is the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, to be held May 24–28, 2016, at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (near London).

This brief survey of major garden shows indicates that the SF Show amounts to a major event for gardeners of the west coast, and a great and accessible resource for gardeners of the Monterey Bay area.

This year’s SF Show will include 125 free seminars by gardening experts who have been selected as effective speakers. The seminar speakers and schedule is available on the SF Show’s website. The seminars are scheduled in five different stages within the San Mateo Event Center, so your attendance requires a little planning.

The Show also includes over 200 exhibitors in the Plant Market and The Marketplace. If you need any new plants or tools or garden art, you are likely to find them at the SF Show. One of the favorite exhibits is the large display by Succulent Gardens, from near Moss Landing. Early word is that this booth will be larger than ever, in response to enthusiastic collectors of succulent plants.

I will bring a couple mail order catalogs of garden plants and supplies for reference in evaluating prices at the SF Show. The prices are reasonable, I believe, but I always appreciate bargains.

The highlight for many visitors will be the Showcase Gardens, which will include nine full-size garden displays of the talents of landscape designers and craftsmen from northern California. The gardens often dazzle visitors by providing elaborate presentations of beautiful plants, stunning settings and unique concepts. These gardens present thematic designs that incorporate many ideas that can be adapted for your own garden. The designers of course will welcome new clients, and most will also be on hand to answers visitors’ question.

A day at the SF Show is really close by, not expensive, and an exceptional opportunity to bring gardening ideas and riches back home. It should be on your calendar.

If You Go

What: San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

When: March 16–20, 2016

Where: San Mateo Event Center

Info: http://sfgardenshow.com/

Gardening Events – 2016

Let’s survey the gardening events of the New Year. The following list includes recurring, mostly free annual events in the Monterey Bay area. The list includes the currently available date information, and identifies organizers for more details.

I invite readers to provide additions. I will post an updated calendar, suitable for display, on my website.

Winter Quarter

Fungus Fair, Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, www.ffsc.us, January 8, 9 & 10

Scion Exchange, California Rare Fruit Growers, monterey_bay@crfg.org, January 10

Eco-Farm Conference, Ecological Farming Association, https://eco-farm.org/, January 20-23

Solstice Fest, UCSC Arboretum, http://arboretum.ucsc.edu/ , January 23

Hummingbird Day, UCSC Arboretum, http://arboretum.ucsc.edu/, March 5-6

Phenology Walk, UCSC Arboretum, http://arboretum.ucsc.edu/, January 16

Flower & Garden Show, San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, http://sfgardenshow.com/ , March 16-20

California Naturalist Program, UCSC Arboretum, http://arboretum.ucsc.edu/, begins March 24

Spring Quarter

Plant Sale, UCSC Arboretum, April 9

Plant Sale, California Native Plant Society, April 9

Dahlia Sale, Monterey Bay Dahlia Society, early April

Garden Fair, Monterey Bay Master Gardeners, early April

Garden Fair, Santa Cruz Earth Day, April 16

Plant Sale, Monterey Bay Cactus & Succulent Society April 23-24

Garden Fair & Plant Sale, MEarth, late April

Iris Show, Monterey Bay Iris Society, late April

Plant Sale, Cabrillo College Horticultural Dept., May 8

Garden Tour, St. Phillips Church, early May

Rose Show, Monterey Bay Rose Society, early May

Garden Tour, Monterey Bay Master Gardeners, mid-May

Garden Tour, Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, May 22

Consulting Rosarian School, Monterey Bay Rose Society, early June

Greenhouse Open House, Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers, late June

Garden Fair, The Garden Faire, late June

Boot Camp, Monterey Bay Master Gardeners, mid-June

Summer Quarter

Plant Sale, Monterey Bay Iris Society, August 6 & 13

Plant Show, Monterey Bay Dahlia Society, late August

Succulent Extravaganza, Succulent Gardens, late September

Fall Quarter

Plant Sale, Monterey Bay Cactus & Succulent Society, October 1-2

Plant Sale, UCSC Arboretum, early October

Plant Sale, California Native Plant Society, early October

Orchid Show, Santa Cruz Orchid Society, mid-November

Goals for the New Year

Resolutions too often involve stopping something we enjoy doing, and easily abandoned. Let us instead try positive goals for gardening in 2015.

Good goals for gardeners might involve contributing to the community, sustaining the environment and adopting best practices in our gardens. We might not want to take on all those lofty goals at once, so here is a short list of options.

Volunteer at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

The best opportunity to test the waters is to attend the Arboretum’s annual series of free Volunteer Orientation and Training classes, which are held on seven Tuesday mornings, beginning January 13th.

I confess to a personal interest in this suggestion, but the Arboretum stands on its own as a unique resource for the Monterey Bay area and California. The orientation offers a fascinating experience to move behind-the-scenes into the Arboretum’s operation, and, if you decide to volunteer, a rewarding place to help out—in many different ways—during your available hours.

During the orientation sessions, Arboretum staff and volunteers present slide shows and walking tours through the various gardens and collections. The classes also introduce participants to horticulture, gardening, plant conservation, propagation and basic botany.

For information, visit <arboretum.ucsc.edu/> and click on “Read more…”

Succeed with Fruit Trees

The Monterey Bay area is a fine place to grow a wide range of fruit trees, and you can enjoy Nature’s bounty IF you follow basic principles.

A good place to pick up those principles is the Free Fruit Tree Q&A Sessions conducted by Orin Martin, manager of UC Santa Cruz’s Alan Chadwick Garden, and Matthew Sutton, founder and owner of Orchard Keepers (www.orchardkeepers.com). Sessions will be held from 10:00 to 12:00 noon, January 10th at The Garden Company, 2218 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, and January 17th at the San Lorenzo Garden Center, 235 River Street, Santa Cruz.

These sessions will kick off the 2015 series of fruit tree workshops offered by the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden. For information and to register the workshops, call (831) 459-3240, email casfs@ucsc.edu, or see the Brown Paper Tickets site at http://tinyurl.com/workshops2015.

Graft a Fruit Tree

The Monterey Bay Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers will host is annual free exchange of fruit tree scions from 12:00 to 3:00, Sunday, January 11th, at Cabrillo College’s Horticulture Building #5005, Aptos. Several hundred varieties of common, rare and experimental scions (cuttings) from all over the world will be available. There also will be grafting demonstrations, and experts and hobbyists to answer your questions.

Adding different varieties to your fruit trees is an interesting, productive, quick and very inexpensive way to learn about fruit trees and create new edibles in your garden.

For more information, send email to Monterey_bay@crfg.org, or call 831-332-4699.

There are many other creative and productive goals for gardeners. Use this occasion to target your gardening visions during the coming year.

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:

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 1.00.30 AM

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.