- Author: Maria X. Isip-Bautista
Our family's excitement for the spring planting season is growing daily. The kids are a great help at this time of year- selecting what to grow in the veggie garden, picking varieties of flowers to create a rainbow of color for our bees, and sowing seeds to plant over the next couple of months. Being involved in the planning makes them all the more likely to actually want to harvest and eat what we've grown!
Along with all this planning work, we still try and carve out some time to complete a crafty project or two. This week the kiddos really enjoyed creating their very own decorative “garden stones.” Here's what we did-
- Plastic container, paint stick, and gloves for mixing, plus measuring cup for water.
- Stone Craft Mix or Plaster of Paris (available at craft stores)
- Aluminum pie tins/cookie cutters for molding/shaping your stone, stone stamps or popsicle sticks for carving/writing
-Lots of fun decorations- seashells, dried flowers/leaves, feathers, beans/seeds, glass marbles/stones/pieces of tile, small figurines, glitter, anything fairly flat and fun you can think of!
-Trash bags, newspaper, paper towels to line workspace and for cleanup
-Prep- Cover work area with trash bags/newspaper for easy clean-up. Lay out decorations for kids to choose from. Prepare Stone Craft Mix and water for mixing, but don't mix yet!
-Layout- Allow kids to choose decorations they'd like to use and actually lay them out in the design they want on their stone. The Stone Craft Mix dries quickly, so it's important to prep as much as possible ahead of time!
-Mix and form- Using gloves, slowly stir in water to the Craft Mix as directed on package. Working quickly, pour mix out onto a paper towel or onto plastic (garbage bag-lined) surface and use gloved hands to form into desired shape. You can also use pie tin as a mold or cookie cutters to make smaller shapes (these would be great to create plant markers for the garden).
-Decorate!- Again, working quickly, help kids add their decorations to their stone.
-Dry- Allow to dry up to two days undisturbed in a cool, dry place.
Lastly, find a special place to display these in the garden! These “stones” won't be durable enough to step on or withstand extreme wear. You can make actual step stones for the garden using a similar procedure with quick drying concrete, but you'd need to take much greater precautions with proper protective gear, ventilation, etc.
- Author: Patricia Brantley
I'm an impatient gardener. Every year I get suckered in by the promise of sunny days and I plant ahead of schedule and end up with frozen vegetables or young sprouts that get too leggy for their starting pots or containers. So, I'm really trying to be good and follow what should be started now indoors by referring to Dr. Norris' plant chart (which has got to be the best thing ever to give a local gardener!) and review seed catalogs and planning my outdoor garden. Just about anything other than working on taxes or cleaning house!
So here below is the plant chart to get you started and a link to seed catalogs that you can request and some garden planning sites to try out.
Dr. Norris' Planting Chart—A beautiful visual graphic of when to plant!
Seed Catalogs – Actual paper catalogs that can be requested! If you want to save paper many offer digital catalogs as well, but sometimes it's nice to give the eyes a break and curl up with a warm cup of something and browse the “old-fashioned” way!
A couple of the links didn't work, but I found that the majority did and I found quite a few new ones! One of my favorites for the past few years has been Kitazawa (based in Oakland) with a wide variety of Asian veggies and plants! You can find them specifically here:
Lastly garden planning/plotting- I always end up changing my mind, but it is fun to mess around and see all the different ways of re-arranging. Who knows, maybe you'll try something different!?! The one I've included here is very simple and free. It just helps you lay out the veggie garden a la the “Square foot Garden” style, but it give you something to click around on for fun. You can change the size of your plot by Clicking on the down arrows under the page heading where it says “Select Garden Size”.
So whatever you do to bide your time until you can get back to the “down and dirty” of the actual garden, I hope you find something here to have fun and enjoy!
- Author: Melissa Sandoval
Right now, the fragrance I smell when walking through my garden is that of violets. After doing some research in Sunset Western Garden Book my first guess is that these violets are Viola adunca, California Sweet Violet or Western Dog Violet. I am saying my first guess as they came into my garden on a clump about 5 inches wide from my grandmother's garden. From that small clump they have spread to many shady areas of my yard, even under the orange tree and into the lawn. They spread by runners and seeds. My grandmother's garden was in Sunset Zone 7, where V. adunca is native. But a bit more research of actual flower photos makes me think they are actually V. odorata instead, as they lack the bright orange stigmas of the V. adunca.
They make wonderful groundcover in any area with shade mixed with bright light or even some morning sun. Here they are under a Camellia japonica.
They bloom better when they have been thinned out and given a very light fertilizer in late fall or winter. Violets are also great filler beside a walkway or in crazy paving as shown in the next picture.
Their smell, though light, is a delight to wander into during these late winter months. They also represent, for me, a link to the gardens and gardeners in my history.
- Author: Launa Herrmann
Whoever in the world said that roses don't bloom in December?
It's almost the middle of the month, and this morning I spied from the kitchen window several pops of crimson red. Delighted, I traipsed through the dewy fog to the flowerbed, clippers in hand and plucked a rose. Two blooms and five buds to be exact. As I placed the stems in a vase, I savored the heady old rose fragrance emanating from the velvety clusters. Ah, what a beautiful crimson gift on a dreary overcast day!
William Shakespeare 2000® is more than just an ordinary rose. The bush growing in my garden was also planted in numerous groupings at Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born. New Zealand named it “Most Fragrant Rose 2011" in the Hamilton trials. I purchased mine online several years ago, sight unseen. No regrets.
Here's all you need to know about this easy-to-grow rose bush:
It's a disease-resistant, medium size hardy shrub. Blooms several times throughout the year. Flowers are double with multiple tightly compacted petals that open in a velvety crimson color that changes to a rich purple.
For a link to this particular English rose on the David Austin Roses website, click
To learn how to care for English roses, visit: http://www.davidaustinroses.com/american/Advanced.asp?Pageld=2006
- Author: Toni Greer
During the last sale at the UCD Arboretum plant sale I purchased three Arbutus ‘Marina' trees which have been planted up north on our property. Our goal over the past several years has been to create everything from orchards to a memorial redwood grove to lots and lots of trees. I purchased the trees without knowing a great deal about them.
This hybrid variety is highly desired because of its moderate size which is about 30' tall and wide. It's an evergreen with a rounded natural growth habit. They like full sun and their pink blooms appear during the fall and winter months.
The Arbutus ‘Marina' (Strawberry Tree) has a beautiful bark and attracts bees, birds and butterflies. They also are drought resistant as well as being considered dependable in many climates and conditions. Arbutus varieties have been seen all over Europe and North Africa but most often around the Mediterranean Sea and it dry regions.
Once established, they will only require occasional water. They are a moderate to slow growing tree which allows time for shaping throughout the years for us to achieve the right shape for our needs.
These trees, as well as others, are lining a wide pathway from our meandering road to my garden shed. If you aren't familiar with them, as I wasn't, Arbutus ‘Marina' have large dark green leaves which are red when they are new and are Rhododendron-like. It is said that their pretty urn-shaped pink flower clusters, which appear in the fall and winter, resemble “elaborate dangling earrings” at the same time as the strawberry-like yellow to red fruit. This is an unusual alternative to what is normally expected, which is only a beautiful fall leaf show.
The Arbutus has a peeling red bark, like that of the Acer griseum, which I love! With its mahogany colored peeling bark, glossy leaves and berries, it truly standouts in the garden, or our case in the field pathway. The bark peels in late summer and gives you a glimpse of what it to come for next year, which is a cinnamon-colored bark
Arbutus ‘Marina' was first introduced in the mid-80's and is considered to be trouble-free. They are great specimen trees or work well in a group. The fruit, which stays on the tree from the past year, produces the current season's flowers. The fruit is edible and is said to taste like a mix of strawberry and kiwi. If you purchase your tree with the standard truck rather than the multi-trunk, you may want to stake it for a couple of years. The crown may be heavy with leaves and exposed to wind (which ours are). They are known to tolerate wind, which is good for us.
Arbutus ‘Marina' can be planted in the sun or part shade. However it is a must that they have good drainage. They will die or suffer root rot if they sit in very wet soil.
I look forward to our Arbutus ‘Marina' trees growing, thriving and providing habitats for many of natures families.