- Author: Launa Herrmann
Recalling that ancient folklore saying — “cool as a cucumber” — I now wonder if there's some truth to it. Supposedly, science confirmed in 1970 that air temperature is 20 degrees cooler inside a cucumber field. All I know for sure is that one scalding hot July afternoon I picked and brought inside a couple handfuls of my harvest, rather surprised they weren't boiled to a mush but actually were quite cool to the touch of my very warm hand.
- Author: Brenda Altman
On Saturday, August 11th a New Sensory Garden and a bench in honor of Mary Bourguignon were dedicated at the Fairfield Civic Center Library on Kentucky Street.
Mary Bourguignon was a lifetime community activist and Fairfield library supporter. The bench is dedicated in her honor and features herself reading a favorite book to her son. Directly across the bench is a plaque honoring Mary B.
The sensory garden was the brainchild of supervising librarian Serena Enger and Teresa Lavell a literacy program assistant. The garden started off with a $1,000 staff innovation grant quickly followed by a $7,028 grant from the Solano Community Foundation. The grants were just the beginning as Serena and Teresa worked endlessly soliciting in-kind funds, materials, and labor from various community sources. Within 14 months the vision of a sensory garden, that vision became a reality with the first shovel of dirt being overturned by volunteer labor from the Master Gardeners (MG) of Solano County. Teresa Lavell herself a Master Gardener asked Jennifer Baumbach, program coordinator of UC Master Gardeners of Solano and Yolo Counties, to ask for volunteer help on the UCCE Master Gardener-Solano website.
The MGs who contributed their time were: Teresa Lavell, Jennifer Baumbach, Brenda Altman, Benita Brittain, Mollie Jarret, Amy Mason, Karen Metz, Kristina Moore, Sherry Richards, Melissa Sandoval, Kathy Tomko, and Beth Wells. The digging wasn't easy, the soil consisted of hard clay and rock but the group was able to plant over 80 plants in two-morning plantings. Follow up volunteer work on successive days included irrigation installation done by Teresa. A weeding and mulching party days before the Saturday dedication completed the garden. One library patron Ryan saw our mulch party and joined right in, he a grabbed a wheelbarrow and distributed mulch around the site, thank you, Ryan. Overall the MGs contributed about 60 hours of labor. It truly took a village to make this garden a reality.
Many thanks to the Landscape Architect Aimee Ruskewicz who donated her time and expertise to the planning of the garden. Her blueprints were easy to follow.
Thanks, are also in order to: Mija Berg (a former MG and owner of the Ranch Motel) who donated a truckload of compost, and Lemuria Nursery in Dixon who provided the plants at cost.
Wait there's more! Coming soon tree rounds that have been donated by MG Sterling Smith will be installed as seats for the story time area. The library is hoping to add signage and an information board to update visitors to look for in the garden as it develops.
The garden as it develops and grows will incorporate all the five human senses except for taste. The lambs' ear gets my vote for touch!
If you haven't seen the garden drop by next time you visit the library. In six months, the landscape will change as the plants mature and flower. Come springtime next year, take time to smell the flowers and touch the lambs' ear. Several local bees have already tasted the nectar and they give it two antennae up!
Beth Shedden commenting on the initial grant thanked the Solano Community Foundation, “We appreciate partners like the Solano Community Foundation who support our mission of literacy and lifelong learning. This is a gift that will keep giving to Fairfield families for years to come.”
This is your garden come by and enjoy it!
Garden site before bench and plantings!
Garden after planting
Mary B's Bench
Teresa Lavell presents a thank you gift to Landscape Architect Aimee Ruskewicz
MGs at the dedication
- Author: Michelle Davis
A few evenings back, driving into town, I saw a young woman park her minivan next to a field of sunflowers. She and a little girl got out of their car and walked up to the flowers. The little girl was about the same height as the shorter stalked variety, while the woman was towered over by the taller type. I have passed the fields of sunflowers each summer in our area for many years. I have always enjoyed looking at the tournesols, as the French call them, translated “turns towards the sun”. While some think of Provence when seeing sunflowers, they actually originated in North America. Of approximately 70 varieties only 3 originated in South America.
Sunflowers were first cultivated by Native Americans. The seeds were pounded into flour for bread or cracked and eaten raw or crushed for oil. Other parts of the plant were used for body ointment, dyes, medicine, building material and ceremonial use. The Spanish explorers took the seed to Europe in the 1500's, and it has flourished there since. In the early 1700s, an Englishman devised a way to squeeze the oil from the seed on a larger scale basis. Russia became the largest grower in the 1800s. Today Ukraine is Number 1 and Russia Number 2 as the top growers in the world. The US has about 3 million acres planted with sunflowers and about 90% is of the type used for making sunflower oil. The seed pulp that is left after crushing and squeezing for the oil is used for livestock feed. Whole seeds are used for human snack food and for birdseed.
Something you may not know about sunflowers is that they were planted at Chernobyl and Fukushima after the radiation accidents at each place. A researcher from the University of Virginia, Catie Kitrinos has found that some (not all) sunflower varieties can remove toxins (lead, zinc, uranium) from the soil while growing, a process called phytoremediation. The plants are safely destroyed (not eaten) after they have matured. This process is much less costly in taking care of radioactive or heavy metal-laden soil.
Sunflowers grow quickly reaching their full height in about 120 days. Their roots can be 9 feet deep. In the fall, after they have dried on the stalk, the sunflower heads are harvested. The larger black seeds are typically used for oil, the striped ones for human snack food, and the smaller black seeds for birdseed. Birds don't actually care if seeds are striped or black and will eat what they find. Since each sunflower head can produce up to 1000 seeds, there should be plenty to share.
- Author: Lowell Cooper
There is little doubt that trees are wonderful – both out in nature and in home gardens. My wife and I have lived in our current home for over 20 years and when we moved into our very modest-sized front and backyard were quite undeveloped. With the advice and consent of a Master Gardener, who was incidentally quite wonderful, I embarked on a 7-year plan since I thought that was how long we would be in the house. At this point, I have no idea where I thought we were going after 7 years. I also had my own planting ideas. So off I went and within 6 months I had put in about 20 trees. Little ones, like dwarf lemon, apricot, and peach (which is not all that small). I also put in a jacaranda, a wonderful palm (Washingtonia), an empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa), a silk tree (Albizia), 2 Arbutus, and a Robinia, and others. They all began to grow and for the (most part) stayed quite healthy.
Our house is in a hilly section of Benicia and we love our view. In fact, it is in a development that takes advantage of the view and we have a really dramatic hill-view of the Carquinez Straits and bridge which is a great source of pleasure. There is really a lot of life on urban waterways. The problem is, our neighbors also treasure their view.
The smaller trees grew quite well and before too long we were able to give bags of fruit to the neighbors and to receive their largesse also. All good. The big trees, however, also grew rather spectacularly. I must say I feel like I did nothing to encourage them other than look at them often with admiration. They were placed so that they didn't interfere with our view, but not so for the neighbors, who seemed to enjoy the arboreal majesty as much as we did. Much to their credit, there were no big complaints. In fact, we weren't noticing just how intrusive they were for the neighbors until we were standing on their property and happened to notice that they couldn't see the water anymore. Clearly, our seven-year plan had some limits: we had outgrown it.
It was a hard decision, but we thought it best for neighbor goodwill to cut some down. So, after 15 years of enjoying them, many had to come down. I tried to be as selective as I could about what to eliminate, but I missed each and every one. It is amazing to me just how much majesty the big trees added to the garden space and the property as a whole.
I ask myself what I learned from the experience. I got 15 years of enjoyment from the trees and that makes it worth doing, keeping in mind what the neighborhood can bear. Gardening is a community event, in a private garden as well as a public one. And a good neighbor policy has to be part of the landscaping plan.
- Author: Janet Snyder