What's Happening in Southern California - Garden Edition February 2012

As always, I want to remind you to shop local, and get the freshest produce around by heading out to the local Farmer’s Markets in Santa Clarita:

Sundays 8:00am – noon
College of The Canyons Parking Lot
Don’t forget to visit my friend Sarah from Worldwide Exotics

Please don’t visit on January 1st (this Sunday) they won’t be open.

There is also another great Farmer’s Market:
Thursdays in Old Town Newhall from 3-7pm.

Saturday February 11, 2012 - 9 am - 12 noon CLWA – Landscape Education Class
The Edible Landscape at Castaic Lake Water Agency on the hill above Central Park. Please RSVP to (661) 513-1230.

Saturday February 11, 2012 – 10 am Seminar tbd - Green Thumb Newhall located at: 23734 Newhall Avenue in Newhall, CA 91321 (661) 259-1071

Saturday February 25, 2012 – 10 am Our Edible Garden: Success with Fruit Trees – Dan Garbe is the presenter at Green Thumb Newhall located at: 23734 Newhall Avenue in Newhall, CA 91321 (661) 259-1071

Descanso Gardens:
If you like Camellias, this is the place to be this month, of course there are a lot of other things going on. There is a bit going on my favorite will be

Saturday & Sunday February 4th is the Camellia Festival with events like Faery Tour, Camellia Walk & Talk. Put on by the Pacific Camellia Society for more information look at their website.

There is also a Heritage Oak Tour on the schedule as well as a seminar about backyard Chickens & Bees, so take a look at their calendar and make some plans.

Here is the link to Descanso’s calendar:

LA Arboretum

Lili Singer’s classes started up again on Thursdays in January, so plan to make it to some of them, she’s very informative

Saturday February 4th there is a Mushroom Identification class and the Pacific Rose Society Annual Auction which sound like fun. There is always something in bloom, so a visit is always an anventure.

For more about the upcoming events – check out this link.

If you would like to hire me to beautify your life, creating a beautiful garden with you call 661-917-3521, contact julie@thegrassisalwaysgreener.net or visit my website.


Wordless Wednesday

If you would like to hire me to beautify your life, creating a beautiful garden with you call 661-917-3521, contact julie@thegrassisalwaysgreener.net or visit my website


Backyard Orchard Culture From The Master

So, I’ve made an executive decision. I can’t add any Saturdays to this month so although I went to two amazing seminars last week at Otto & Sons Nursery in Fillmore, I am only going to write about the Backyard Orchard Culture Seminar presented by Tom Spellman of Dave Wilson Nursery. The other seminar was on roses, and although it was fabulous and I learned a lot from Otto & Son’s owner, Scott Klittich like I said there are only so much time to write. Plus, Otto & Sons is presenting Rose Care U again 1/21/12 & 1/28/12 – so just go and you don’t need me to tell you about it.

I had heard about Tom Spellman and his great talks on Backyard Orchard culture from my friend, Alex Silber, at Papaya Tree Nursery and at his suggestion I found some great ouTube videos of Tom teaching how to prune fruit trees, so I was excited when I saw that in addition to the January Saturday Rose Care University seminars Otto and Sons was offering Tom’s seminar.

So you say, what is backyard orchard culture? Good question! Basically it means changing the way you think about planting and harvesting fruit from fruit trees for your home use. Commercial fruit growers and home growers want pretty much the opposite thing from their tree. Commercial growers want a tree that will produce a big crop of fruit that ripens pretty much all at the same time, so that it can be harvested all at once with a crew that can get in with equipment and the fruit can be sent off to market. Fruit for home use (unless you have a huge family) is best if it ripens over time so that you get say seven peaches, 10 plums, a couple lemons, twelve apples a week from trees that you can easily reach to pick fruit; hopefully before the birds and squirrels get to it. Makes sense right?

How do you as a garden owner make that happen? By changing a few thought patterns!

1. Size Control your trees. Ask yourself, what is manageable to me and the other pickers in my family? Are you willing to stand on a ladder, a stepladder, or do you want to pick while standing on the ground? I’m a climber; I don’t mind heights but I am small so a 7’ tree would probably be maximum height for me even with a step ladder and since it is easy enough – I think I’m going to try keeping my new trees at 5 ½ - 6’. Sounds impossible… It isn’t!

2. Don’t have a commercial growers expectation. Plant fruit with successive ripening. Since you are keeping your trees smaller, you can have more. Plant three or four varieties of plums or a combination of plums and pluots to extend your fruit production time. Try Burgundy Plum for early June, Santa Rosa, which ripens later June into July, Beauty or Mariposa Plum, ripening in August, and Emerald View for September. A little research on fruiting time or a call to Your Garden Goddess will help you do the same as above with other fruit types. (I’m Your Garden Goddess by the way).

3. Grow varieties that you understand and that you will use at home. That doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment, you should, but don’t just plant something you know nothing about because it is on sale or because someone is clearing out their yard and it is free. If you plant something that you don’t like or don’t know how to use – you are wasting your hard work and garden space.

Here are a couple photos of how Tom suggests you prune your trees when you first get them for planting.

There are a few other items you need to know to have a successful backyard orchard beside the mindset steps above. Here they are:

  • Understand the microclimate of your garden. What are the sunny spots? Where is it shady? There are hot and cold spots as well as wet and soggy spots that need attention to drainage. By pairing up the proper fruit tree with the area you will have a lot more success. *Tip: Cane plants like berries like wet, citrus likes the sun, and avocados need great drainage… but don’t plant avocados in SCV… they don’t really work.
  • Test your soil to see what it is like – clay, sandy, loam. This is important!
  • Pay attention to the rootstock as well as the variety of tree. Citation is good for clay soils, Nemaguard for sandy soil or can be planted on a berm or mound to name just two.
  • If you are reading this in Southern California, you really need to think about chill hours. We don’t get a lot in most places so you need to select low chill varieties.
  • Your young tree is a building block to form and shape for the future. Don’t get hung up on having fruit right away, as a matter of fact too much fruit on a young tree can damage it. Hard as it is, taking off the little baby fruits before they mature (on a new tree) is really the best. (Sorry, I know it is hard.)
  • Prune twice a year: Summer Prune for size control, July – September- this is the big “haircut” and Winter Prune for detail. Always start by removing dead wood and cross branches to open the tree up for sun & air circulation, remove diseased wood, then prune to create balance. *Tip: If you have to think about whether to prune it – just make the cut! You can always fix it next year – the tree will just keep growing.
  • Mulch! Yes, I talk about mulch all the time but it is important! Use biodiverse mulch (not a single wood or product only) 4” of mulch on everything (except concrete and lawn says Tom.) If you use large chunks, you can put it right up to your tree trunks, if it is small or shaved – keep it away from the trunks. Replace your mulch yearly.
  • Fertilizing - the first two years you can use a fertilizer with a good amount of Nitrogen in it to promote growth, fertilize four times per year in January, March, May, and July. After that a fertilizer with more Potassium, & Phosphorus is better, fertilize twice per year at the end of January and the end of May. Tom recommends Gro Power Plus for the first two years and Gro Power Flower ‘n Bloom after that. They are not completely organic however, so you make the call for your lifestyle.

Tom also took the loppers to this tree which he felt was way too tall already to reach the fruit, and although it is kind of hard to see, I’ll describe that he basically cut off the whole branching top and left the trunk at about 4’ tall! Obviously no fruit this year, but this is how you start creating your building block

Here are some beautiful fruit trees, shrubs, and vines that grow well here in Southern California, maybe they will give you ideas of what you might want to grow.

Well there is so much more that I learned but this post is going to be way too long so. If you have questions you can ask them or, you can just hire me to help you create the garden of your dreams – edible or ornamental or a mixture of both! 661-917-3521 or julie@thegrassisalwaysgreener.net


Wordless Wednesday - Stop SOPA

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Stuff I Love!

The time of the year when gardens are showing off not their lovely blooms but their bones and the accessories that the garden fairies have chosen to nestle among those bones. Yes, our gardens may still be blooming here and there however there is a lot less to attract our attention color wise right now even here in sunny Southern California – so what about all around the rest of the country?

One of the garden planning activities that I love to do is dreaming… What makes your garden say that it is your garden? Yes it is the plants that you lovingly chose and the flow that you gave it to begin with but what about accessories?

I love accessorizing my garden and the gardens of my clients and shopping for those accessories can be such fun! I love to shop at flea markets, thrift stores, and yard sales for my garden ornaments and I bet that after you see some of these items you will be hitting the pavement and stores for both your garden and your home!

If you feel intimidated about shopping for accessories for you garden, just think of your flea market finds as the jewelry of your garden! You don’t need to have it, but you sure feel better going out of the house with it on. So just have fun with it!

How about these beauties:

Watering implements: Collections are a great way to tie your garden together or create a theme.

These would be a beautiful addition to an Asian or modern style garden.

Love, love, love the iron work!

These are a great addition to a contemplative area of your garden or you can even start your collection with these.

Don’t forget you can also find some great “jewelry” for the inside of your home.

These sea urchins will add a real resort or beach feel to your home.

A colorful, metal alphabet just waiting. You could use them in a kids room, an office or buy a bunch to create an inspirational phrase for just the right nook.

...and you can even find REAL accessories Pocketbooks galore!

So, now that the weather is allowing your garden jewelry to be the star of the show, why not add a few pieces?

If you are interested in sprucing up your garden with some beautiful hand selected antiques and such, you really should listen to the Complimentary teleclass that I’m having on Thursday January 19, 2012. I’ll be chatting with my friend and colleague, Tami Smight, at 6:30 pm PST. Designer tips and tricks will be revealed! To learn more and sign up for the call – please click here!


Wordless Wednesday - Towsley Canyon

Towsley Canyon - looking up

Towsley Canyon - looking down

Towsley Canyon - Pup escort

Don't forget to sign up here for my complimentary Telecall "Flea Market Finds" with special guest Tami Smight - Thursday January 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm.


What To Do In Your Southern California Garden in January

This year’s first week of January has been a far cry from our last year’s snow! We’ve had unseasonably warm weather over the past week, but that doesn’t mean that you should change your gardening game plan. Here is a list of items that you should take care of in your garden this month.

photo courtesy - Marlon of Chan Teas (check out their selection!)

1. Enjoy a little down time relaxing with some gardening catalogs, a cup of coffee or tea, order a few packets of seeds, and find some new gardening tools. Then you can spend a little time cleaning or tidying up your gardening tools. January is Get Organized Month, so your garden shed or toolbox would be a good place to start. If you live in the Los Angeles area my friend Christie Gelsemino of Vision to be Organized can help you get started.

2. This month is a great time to select Camellias they are blooming, so you can really see what the plant will look like bursting with blooms. They are one of our best winter flowers; so if you have a shady spot, grab a Camellias or two. Now be sure to give them some room – they are pretty large shrubs!

3. Plant that living Christmas tree that you selected this year. If you didn’t cut one down it is time to get your tree out of the house and into the ground. Wanting to keep your tree on the small size? You might consider planting it in a container. There are plenty of nice pots at our local nurseries

4. Bare root roses and fruit trees are out in the nurseries now. You can save plenty of money on full sized plants if you select early and get bare root plants. You can also check for bare root vines, shrubs, and ornamental trees. If you visit a few nurseries, you should be able to find everything that you want, and more.

5. Winter and spring blooming bulbs can still be planted, and while you are at it you can add some cool season annuals if you have room for some winter color

6. You can plant citrus trees now too (sometimes you can even find bare root) but be sure to make accommodations for the inevitable winter chills we are going to get. Try some little Christmas lights draped around your citrus and other tender plants. Keep your eyes open for signs of frost – yes it has been HOT these past few days, but you know that is going to change!

7. Your peach trees can be sprayed for peach leaf curl, peach leaf blight and canker.

8. It is time to cut back on your indoor plant fertilization, take a look at my blog post on How To Care For Holiday Plants if you have received plants that you don’t know how to care for.

9. Cacti and succulents that are outgrowing their pots can be repotted, if they have finished blooming..

10. Flowering fruit trees can be pruned while they are in bloom – peaches and nectarines can benefit from this early pruning method because you fool the tree into thinking the wood is older than it is and it can produce more fruit. Be careful though, you don’t want to prune if they plants aren’t well established and mature. They won’t survive the cold as well and if the branches aren’t strong you can end up with too much fruit that will put stress (from the weight) on the tree branches

11. You can plant another row or two of winter veggies – especially the greens. They taste better small, and you’ll have more to select from as they days grow warmer.

12. If you want you can start some of the hardier blooming spring annuals soon – this will save you a little money on seedlings in the spring.

13. Applying dormant spray to trees, shrubs, and vines is a chore you can do this month. I recommend that you apply the dormant spray to roses when you prune them… Superbowl Sunday, so this year that’s just the other side of the month. It’s a little too early to prune the roses right now, though the mow/blow/go landscape janitors would disagree with me. I stand my ground.

14. If your evergreen vines and winter flowering

If you are interested in sprucing up your garden with some beautiful hand selected antiques and such, you really should listen to the Complimentary teleclass that I’m having on Thursday January 19, 2012. I’ll be chatting with my friend and colleague, Tami Smight, at 6:30 pm PST. Designer tips and tricks will be revealed! To learn more and sign up for the call – please click here!


Wordless Wednesday - Ring in 2012

"Monkey Busines" Rose (Otto & Sons)

Arbutus unedo (fruit)

Yucca wipplei

For more about my designs

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