An Alameda Garden: March 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Weekend Gardening Events 3/27-28

The big gardening event this weekend is, of course, the SF Flower & Garden Show, which is running through Sunday. But after your gardening appetite is whetted there, check out these sales in Berkeley:

  • Plants and more will be on sale at 28 Vallejo St in Berkeley the next two weekends, March 27/28 and April 3/4 from 10 AM to 5 PM. The house is being foreclosed upon, and all the plants, trees, palms, bamboos, succulents, etc. will be up for sale, in addition to a Jacuzzi for $3500, a teak table and chairs, and tools such as ladders, wheel barrows, power tools, building materials, etc.
  • More than 850 different kinds of succulents and cacti are for sale this Sunday, 3/28/10 from 11 AM to 5 PM at 1735 Delaware St. in Berkeley. In addition, there will be a short talk there on “What to Do Now for Your Succulents and Cacti” at 1:30 Sunday afternoon.
  • Berkeley Hort has organic herbs in 3 1/2” pots on sale for $2.49 (reg. $3.50).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

San Francisco Flower & Garden Show 2010

Just a quick post to say that I hope you're planning a trip to the SF Flower & Garden Show, which runs through Sunday. The new owners of the show have done a terrific job. The demo gardens are great. It seems like there's less over-the-top design this year and more ideas you can really use. Amen to that. Here are some pics of my favorite of the demo gardens, The Salvaged Creole Jazz Courtyard by Santa Clara designer Dawn Engel:

A lobster arch

A close-up

A succulent fountain...

...complete with crocs

A musical rebar fence


If you go to the show, don't leave without attending one or more of the seminars. They present a great opportunity to hear and see new ideas from all kinds of garden pros.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Weekend Gardening Events

In case you don’t want to spend all of what should be a gorgeous weekend in your garden, here are a few garden-related events you can attend:

  • Designer Michael Thilgen is speaking at Annie’s Annuals on Saturday (3/20, 11:00 AM) on how to design and select plants for a California native garden.
  • Sloat Garden Centers have various gardening seminars you can attend for only $5 and you get a 10% discount coupon redeemable at any of their locations as part of the package. This weekend’s seminars cover Growing Vegetables (Sat., 10:00 AM, San Rafael or Sun., 10:00 AM, Novato); Using Color in the Garden (Sat., 10:00 AM, Danville); Fruit Tree Pruning (Sun., 10:00 AM, Mill Valley—Miller Ave.); Pruning Hydrangeas, Camellias, and Rhodies (Sun., 10:00 AM, San Francisco—Pierce St.). Call ahead to reserve a seat!
  • Debra Lee Baldwin has two appearances scheduled this weekend to talk about her new book, Succulent Container Gardens. On Saturday (2:00-4:00 PM) she’ll be at the Faith Christian Fellowship Center Auditorium doing a presentation to benefit the Ruth Bancroft Garden ($25 general admission, $20 members—advance registration required). And on Sunday she’ll be signing books at Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts (4:00 PM, Berkeley).

And if you’re in a shopping mood, check out these sales:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Less $$, More Veggies

There's a great article in the April/May issue of Organic Gardening detailing how a couple managed to grow six months of fresh vegetables (about 800 lbs. worth) for around $75. In "Less Is More," author Sharon Tregaskis tells how she and her partner did it, relying on seed swaps, bartered labor, and shared tools to keep costs low and productivity high. Unfortunately, the article is not available on the web site (oddly, the In This Issue page doesn't even mention it in the list of featured articles), so you'll have to purchase the magazine to read it. But Organic Gardening is continuing to impress me since its latest makeover, so it's worth the purchase (or subscription!).

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

DoLeaf--A New Online Marketplace for Plants

As a rule, I don't do a lot of plant shopping through the Internet or mailorder catalogs, but when I was invited by the folks at a new website called DoLeaf to sample some of their plants and write about them, it was easy to say yes. Even a quick look at the DoLeaf site tells you that this is different. DoLeaf is like a virtual farmers market for specialty nurseries and independent garden centers. With the participation of more than a dozen nurseries across the country so far, the variety of plant material is good and likely to get better.

What I liked even better was how you can shop. The site offers several ways to search for plants: by category (trees, shrubs, perennials, indoor, etc.); sun preference; growth rate; shipping form (seed, bulb, bareroot, etc.); USDA growth zone; or store. So if you want a slow-growing shade tree for your zone, you can check the appropriate boxes and get the results without having to sift through a lot of unrelated products.

After quite a bit of searching (there were a lot of good options for just about every spot in the garden I was looking to fill), I finally narrowed my selection down to three plants from Studley Flower Gardens: a fuchsia begonia, a gartenmeister fuchsia, and a variegated bougainvillea, each in 4.5-inch pots.

The plants arrived yesterday and here's where the story is not quite as good. Although the three plants were clearly healthy, beautiful plants when they were shipped, two of the three suffered some breakage during shipping. The bougainvillea was intact and beautiful:

The fuchsia begonia lost about a 4-inch piece:

And the gartenmeister fuchsia got the worst of it--several broken branches that left the plant looking pretty small:

Now, as I said at the beginning, I don't often buy plants through the mail, so I'm not sure how common it is to have plants arrive broken. And because the plants were big and healthy when they were shipped, I'm sure they'll recover--and I'll get several additional plants by rooting the broken pieces. So I'm not disappointed. But with all the aspects of DoLeaf that I liked, packaging may be the one area they need to improve.

Do check out their site, though, which is still in beta. It seems like a great idea and I'd like to see anything that gives small, independent growers another sales outlet succeed.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Baby Figs

The garden is really starting to come to life now. I haven't quite figured out how I wanted to prune my Brown Turkey fig tree yet (whether I should keep it single-trunked or let it go to two or three trunks). But nature isn't waiting for me to make up my mind. I noticed that little figs have already begun to form on the lower branches I was considering taking off. I guess those branches will be staying, at least for the time being. I have no idea how long it will take these figs to mature and ripen, but I can't wait to taste them!

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Friday, March 05, 2010

I'm Not an Orchid Killer!

As much as I enjoyed the Pacific Orchid Expo last weekend, I came home from the show empty-handed for the simple reason that I made a vow a while back to not purchase any more orchids. I think orchids are gorgeous flowers and fascinating plants in their seemingly infinite variety. But I have a bad history with them. I've been given or purchased a number of orchids (mostly phalaenopsis) only to see that after the flower spike faded, the plant never rebloomed and eventually died a slow death. I was careful not to overwater, tried to give it the right light and some kind of humidity--it didn't matter. They just kept dying on me.

But a couple years ago at the SF Flower & Garden Show I bought a mystery cymbidium orchid plant. The seller had a box of them that had lost their tags and were not in bloom so there was no way to tell what color they would be. But for only $10 or $15 it was worth a try. The main appeal was that cymbidium orchids can grow outdoors year-round in this area and I've known people who have found them to be very low-maintenance plants. My grandmother used to grow them in her back yard and all she ever did was throw her used coffee grounds around the base of the plants. They bloomed like mad.

So this mystery cymbidium has been in a pot of orchid bark on my deck for the past couple years, and while I didn't kill it, I still hadn't gotten it to bloom. But lo and behold, the mystery is about to be solved. Today I looked out my kitchen window and noticed an unusual shape popping up from the orchid pot:

I can't wait to see what they look like! But even more exciting than seeing what the flower will look like, is knowing that I am redeemed (at least a little bit) as an orchid grower. I'm no longer an orchid killer, which means there can now be more orchids in my future!

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