- Author: Betsy Buxton
On Sunday which happened to be May 5, I had the “honor “of going to Bruce’s SAW (Sacramento Area Woodworkers) Club’s annual Spring open workshop tour. I use the word “honor” since the only reason I got to go was to read the map and instructions on how to get from stop to stop. I usually do the map reading and checking for where to turn in advance; I am proud to say that I do my “job” well and we don’t get lost – too often, that is. When the destination is reached, it’s back to the books and magazines for me; I’m really not interested in the oohs and aahs from looking at various jigs, hand-made or store-bought, nor do I care for the difference between Delta and Dewalt tools ( the difference appears to me that Delta is blue and Dewalt is yellow and black) – potato/patato!
However, at the last stop, LuLu (my intrepid little pooch) indicated that a potty break was due! Getting out of the car, I walked past the workshop with the throng of men and 2 women looking around and found the true jackpot! The “Master Gardenering” spot of Citrus Heights!
Before me was a path of decomposed granite which led me forward into a small ravine filled with many Japanese maples (Acer palmatum). Here and there among the most amazing mossy boulders were ferns, azaleas, and other wonderful plants growing as through it was natural habitat! As I hung onto LuLu’s leash, I descended further into this quiet, but alive garden. The wind going through the huge oaks, redwoods, and bay trees was audible but I could not feel it; the Japanese maples moved not an inch! It was heavenly!
I noticed a house above this sunken area and figured I was in someone else’s yard so I scurried off. Coming back to the car, I suddenly noticed that there was a small orchard to my left and since it was next to the shop – they were still oohing and aahing—I decided to look through there. Pear trees, peaches, nectarines, 3 varieties of cherries, fig trees and 20(!) grape vines pruned up as standards 12 feet tall and 5 vines to a small square framework. These were stars of the property to me, yet they all went unnoticed by the others.
I asked our host, Marion Gribskov, about the orchard and about the unusual grapevine which was actually 3 vines, braided up to 7 feet and then presented as an espalier following the peaked side of the workshop. The answer was rather surprising, “My wife does all that!. When we left, I was invited to come back, although I wasn’t sure if it was just a courteous remark. I made up my mind to come back very soon and talk to Mrs. Marion!
The very next day, I called to make an appointment to come back and talk with the “head” gardener about the how and why of the garden. I’m so very glad I did! On Tuesday, I spent a most enjoyable 2 hours with Jean, who advised me right off that “I don’t really know what to do, but I just do it”.
Jean started her garden in 1996, knowing that she like the Japanese maples she saw at Capitol Nursery (since gone) and wanted to grow 1 or 2 in front of the main windows of the house for viewing. She now has a total of 89 and as many cultivars. She buys them from a man in the gardening trade in the Sacramento area who makes a yearly trip to the Oregon/Washington area to gather specimens and bring back to sell. She’s such a good client now that she gets 1st pick when he returns! The most help she has had was when a gardener she knew suggested and then made the paths through her garden ravine; she balked at first, but now is glad he did so as there are now “destinations” throughout the area, along with plenty of resting places.
Other than that help, she only has people come in to plant the new trees – she does the rest! I discover through the tour that she has rhododendrons (4 total) mainly growing up at the top of the property, where they can be easily seen thru the various layers of maple trees. At least 25 azaleas thrive as understory to the maples which are themselves the understory to the much larger oaks, redwoods, and bays. The most wonderful touch is that everything can be seen since the “skirts” of the large trees have been raised above eye-level, nothing is hidden or crowded.
I noticed that the main limbs of the maples were covered by the sturdy covering used to protect trees from weed-eaters and lawn mowers which are NOT used in the garden. I figured that rabbits and raccoons were a problem. Nope! The Japanese maples wear the protection due to sun scald AND the blows from branches falling from the oaks and bays! Their little limbs may bend a lot from dropped branches, but don’t break.
This woman has accomplished all this beauty and serenity through little help and without the trusty SUNSET GARDENING BOOK; I intend to buy her a copy; she deserves it.
PS: She buys most of her plants from QVC, the shopping network. How about them apples?
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
One of the most graceful appearing trees in the landscape is the Japanese maple. Whether they are planted in soil or a container they can steal the show. They have varied colored leaves including purple, red, gold, and shades of green including lime. In the fall, the colors change to shades of rust, gold and brown. Japanese maple need to be grown in partly shaded, wind protected areas. The soil supporting these trees should hold moisture, but drain quickly. If choosing a plant for a container, choose one that will remain small.
Years ago the Solano Master Gardeners toured the Aaron acreage on top of Mt. Veeder in Napa. We went to see the large display of camellias and were not prepared to see the numerous Japanese Maples in multitudes of colors meandering over the 16 acres. Many thrived under huge, old oak trees; others surrounded the house and property. A beautiful site to see.
Japanese maples do not require pruning. You can shape them, remove crossing or dead branches, but that is about it. A commercial property in Vacaville planted six Japanese maples in front of the building several years ago. The grounds maintenance crew “pruned” them in the fall and the trees have grown back looking like topiary balls. It’s hard to identify what type of trees were originally planted as they no longer resemble gracefully flowing Japanese maples. Incorrect pruning changed that forever.
- Author: Marime Burton
The saga of my Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum) began seven or eight years ago. In response to a master gardener looking for new homes for some trees, I volunteered to take a few. My daughter and family were about to build a new house on property they purchased in the country and said they’d take some too – six or seven, they thought. They could imagine how lovely the trees would be against their new home.
The trees turned out to be six-inch pot size, and as you may know, Japanese Maples are slow growing. I kept the all the little trees on my deck for approximately four years during which time I transplanted them into ever-larger containers. As the years went by we lost a few and I moved some into the ground with other perennials until their home would be ready. By the time the house was finally completed my daughter decided they didn’t want Japanese Maples after all.
I transplanted the remaining trees again this winter along the front of my house after removing some huge old shrubs that rivaled the wall of thorns around Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
Eight years after their arrival, five enduring, winter-bare Japanese Maples of multiple varieties have found permanent homes, a real tribute to the hardiness of the species. Granted, they are still slow growing, and it will be some time before my house no longer looks naked, but I’m willing to give them a chance; they’ve earned it.
- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Time to get ready for Christmas, right?
Perhaps we should soak up what remains of autumn before we embrace the wintry wonders of the holiday season. Get outside and look at all the fall color in our area. This year seems particularly colorful. The Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) trees glow nearly fluorescent pink-orange, the liquidambars (L. styraciflua) are the pyramidal gold-orange-red standouts, the burgundy ‘Raywood’ ashes (Fraxinus oxycarpa) look positively velvety, and the Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are the petite rubies and topazes of the landscape. Even the crape myrtles put on a good show, before the winds of November stripped most of them nearly bare.
If you’re in downtown Vacaville soon — perhaps for Merriment on Main on Tuesday, Nov. 29, when the community Christmas tree is lighted at 6 p.m. — you really ought to see what I think is the best example of fall beauty in all of Solano County. On the corner of Buck Avenue and West Street, in front of what is still called the old Hartley house, is an absolutely stunning Ginkgo biloba tree. I’m not sure of its age, but considering its size and how slow growing these trees are, it must be close to a century old. This tree literally stops traffic when it goes gold, which should be right about now.
Ginkgos, also known as maidenhair trees, are considered living fossils. In fact, fossils of the ginkgo’s distinctive fan-shaped leaves have been found that date back to 270 million years ago. The trees were long thought to be extinct in the wild, but are now native to two small areas in China.
If you’re interested in planting one — ginkgos do well in our zones — be aware of the sex of the tree you choose. According to the UC Integrated Pest Management website, “Male trees are better as female trees produce messy, smelly fruit. Trees prefer areas with full sun. Plant in loose, well-drained soil, and provide moderate to regular amounts of water. Established trees only need occasional water.” (Check for more information on the few problems ginkgos face: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/PLANTS/maidenhair.html)
Of course, one thing leads to another with all this lovely color. The season is called “fall” for a reason.