An Alameda Garden: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Orchid Madness at Fort Mason

I found a cure (at least a temporary one) for the Bay Area winter blues. The San Francisco Orchid Society's annual Pacific Orchid Exposition is as close as I'll get to visiting the tropics this year but it was a refreshing break from the rain--and the gardening I'm not getting done because of the rain. If you're interested in stocking up on orchids, this was the place to shop. The variety was outstanding and the prices were reasonable. But I mostly went to ogle, and oh, was it worth the trip! Here's a taste of the goodies:

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Gardening Events

The forecast is for rain in the Bay Area this weekend, but you can still have gardening fun. Here are a few of the garden-related events going on:
  • Pacific Orchid Exposition—This year’s event by the San Francisco Orchid Society has “Carnavale” as the theme and promises to be “America’s Finest Orchid Show.” You be the judge. Come to look and drool or come to buy. The show is at Fort Mason in San Francisco and runs from today through Sunday. Details here.

  • Annie’s Annuals has fruit-growing expert Idell Weydemeyer giving a free talk tomorrow (Saturday, 2/27, 11:00). This is a great opportunity to bring all your questions about growing fruit in the Bay Area.

  • And if you’re in a full-on shopping mood, Berkeley Hort has bareroot trees and shrubs on sale this weekend for 25% off!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Small Budget Gardener

As we head into spring, and all the garden center temptations that the season brings, it’s good to be reminded that gardening doesn’t have to be a pricey enterprise. It’s so easy to be seduced by the seed and bulb catalogs, not to mention all the totally unnecessary gadgets, amendments, and chachkas that everyone else is hawking. But when we come right down to it, it doesn’t have to cost every dime of our disposable income to create a productive and attractive garden. You just have to be creative and know how to make the most of a little, and it helps to find a good resource or two.

The Small Budget Gardener by Maureen Gilmer (Cool Springs Press) isn’t a bad place to start. Gilmer begins by covering how to shop for quality tools, what fertilizers and pest-control products are worth the expense and what home-remedy alternatives are worth a try, how to shop for healthy plants that are worth the price tag, and how to amend your soil for little or no money. All good, basic information.

She then goes a step beyond the basic budget gardening kind of thinking with two excellent chapters on using plants for insulation, windbreaks, and shelterbelts, and water conservation practices and water-wise planting. Additional chapters on recycling and using salvage in the garden offer creative ideas for planters, hardscape, and garden art that are cheap and green.

The final chapters cover Internet resources, propagation, edible gardens, and government resources. Although the propagation chapter covers the basics of several techniques (seeds, rooting cuttings, layering, plant divisions), I would have liked to have seen expanded coverage of this topic since successful propagation is really the key to being a successful small-budget gardener.

And although Gilmer’s advice throughout the book is basically sound, there were a few occasions where her suggestions were outdated (such as advising the use of leftover latex paint to cover new cuts on trees, a practice which is no longer recommended) or otherwise questionable (such as suggesting the use of salvaged masonry sand for rooting cuttings—sand doesn’t really allow sufficient air circulation around new roots the way perlite does). And note to author and Cool Springs Press: please don’t release a reference/resource book like this without an index. Trying to locate specific information becomes an exercise in frustration.

But as an antidote to the many gardening books out there that promise results based only on the size of your wallet, The Small Budget Gardener offers lots of ideas for clever and resourceful gardening.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For Bird Lovers Only

If your love of gardening has led you to a love of birds (or vice versa) you might want to check out a new web site: There you can commune with other bird watchers and lovers, enjoy and share some amazing photos of birds, and get help with bird identification. If, on the other hand, you need to let off some steam about how a team of blue jays has decimated your berry crop, well, I'm thinking this may not be the place to do it.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Recycling Plastic Pots for $$

Fresh Dirt has some applause for Nopalito Native Plant Nursery in Ventura, California, for their policy of offering store credit in return for plastic pots. They offer 5 to 15 cents for each pot customers return to them. I think that’s brilliant. I know there are some nurseries in this area that will allow you to return pots, but I don’t know of any with a similar policy for store credit. If there were, I might actually be motivated to clean up the bazillion pots I have stacked at the side of my house and and trade them in for some shiny new plants!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Win an Orchid a Month

Sloat Garden Center is having a Winter Orchid Festival Sweepstakes that’s too good to miss. Enter here and you could win an orchid a month for a year. Other prizes include garden center gift cards valued at $100 to $25. The only catch is that you must pick up the prizes at one of their 9 bay area locations in Marin County, Danville, or San Francisco, so I’m afraid this is for locals only.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Getting Historical at the UC Botanical Garden

This looks interesting: the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley is hosting a three-part lecture series on garden history. The lectures by horticulturalist Meghan Ray begin on Saturday, Feb. 13 with coverage of Ancient and Medieval Gardens. The series continues with parts 2 and 3 on Feb. 20 and 27. Registration is required. Details here.

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