- Author: Kathy Low
A year ago I was sitting at home looking through the community calendar in the local monthly penny saver when I saw the application deadline for the Solano Master Gardener program. Curious about the program, I went to the website to read more about it which sounded interesting. Not considering myself to be a “real” gardener, since my experience was limited to annually growing a summer vegetable garden, it looked like a great opportunity to learn more about gardening. I never took a horticulture class, or even took the time to read any gardening books, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to fill out the application for the program. I never imagined a year later I would be writing this blog post as a Master Gardener.
The initial knowledge, background, and experiences of individuals in each new class of Master Gardeners is different. We each journey through the program for different reasons. But upon graduation, we share a common knowledge, and a common goal of providing research based home horticulture information to the community.
Are you a potential future Master Gardener? Can you answer “yes” to any of these questions?
- Do you like gardening?
- Do you like helping others?
- Do you like learning new things?
- Do you like growing your own fruits and vegetables with little or no use of pesticides?
- Do you care about sustaining the land and the environment?
- Do you enjoy the company of like minded people?
- Are you interested in helping your community?
- Are you looking for a fun, meaningful volunteer opportunity?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then consider applying for the 2014 Master Gardener class. There’s still time to apply before the October 31st deadline.
The benefits of being a Master Gardener are numerous. First, you’ll receive 16 weeks of horticultural education covering topics ranging from turf and landscape trees to weeds, water management, and entomology. The classes are taught by University of California and other local faculty, providing you with first class instruction. You’ll receive a copy of the 700 page California Master Gardener Handbook and a copy of the book Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs. On an ongoing basis you’ll receive information about upcoming horticulture related talks, workshops, webinars and other opportunities to expand your knowledge. And you’ll have access to UC research on horticultural topics of interest to home gardeners.
The Master Gardener program is a volunteer program so as a Master Gardener, you are required to provide a minimum number of approved volunteer hours in the community on an annual basis. But until I became a Master Gardener, I had no idea of the scope of the volunteer opportunities available. They are bountiful and the best part is you have the opportunity to choose only those that interest you. For example volunteer opportunities include providing gardening information to school children at special events, or working with children during library events presented by Master Gardeners, answering gardening questions at local farmers markets, providing training on composting, presenting a gardening talk at the library or other venue, helping maintain the Children’s Memorial garden, gardening with juvenile detainees at the New Foundations Juvenile Hall garden, or writing for the blog or newsletter. These are just some of the many community volunteer opportunities available to you as a Master Gardener.
If you’re interested in joining the camaraderie of over 100 Master Gardeners in Solano County, be sure to submit your application for the class of 2014 before the October 31st deadline. The application is accessible at http://cesolano.ucanr.edu.
If you have any questions about the application process or program, contact the Program Coordinator Jennifer Baumbach at (707) 784-1321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
Several years ago, Karen Metz, brought two Bunny Tails plants (Lagurus ovatus) to the Children’s Garden. She thought they would not only be interesting and fun to have at the garden, but something the children would enjoy touching. If you are not familiar with these small, compact grasses, just picture white, fluffy rabbit tails on a stem. Adorable!
In researching the information on this plant, it states it’s an excellent border plant and suggests planting it along walkways so it will tickle your legs as you walk pass. It’s drought tolerant once established. You can also grow Bunny Tails in containers as an accent plant. Blooms are 1 to 2 inches wide and the plant grows one to two feet tall. In the fall, the fluffy white tails turn tan and can be cut to add to dry flower arrangements.
Two years ago, it was suspected that a groundsman sprayed one of our Bunny tails with an herbicide. They do look similar to a weed when they are “tail-less”. Our remedy for the next one we planted was to place a small cage around it with a stake that denoted it was a PLANT and not a WEED. Well, the Bunny Tail grasses are not surviving in the little garden, despite our best efforts. I have decided they are not an easy grass to propagate or grow in an area you cannot keep under constant observation.
- Author: JoEllen P Myslik
Unfortunately Carmen’s Garden isn’t a place you’ll be able to visit now that the Vallejo Garden Tour is over, but I’ll share some of my pictures and insights with you so hopefully you won’t feel too sad that you missed out on it in person. Although this is “old news” now since the Vallejo Garden Tour was on May 19th, my new friend Carmen deserves to have her beautiful garden bragged about!
As a Master Gardener “newbie” (Graduation: May 10th, 2012!), I was a bit nervous about being a docent for the Tour, but was relieved to share my duties with a seasoned veteran, Trishae Rose. And once I saw Carmen’s beautiful garden, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to talk to anyone about its beauty!
Carmen and her family have a lovely 1920’s home situated in the historic Bay Terrace neighborhood of Vallejo. One of the unique aspects of the garden is that it is comprised of approximately 5 different levels, each with its own interest and different types of plantings. Perhaps the most remarkable part of the story is that Carmen, with the help of her daughter, transformed this area in the span of only two months when she was approached by the organizers of the Garden Tour to participate! Because of this detail, I thought it was imperative to show “before” and “after” pictures so visitors could really appreciate the transformation. So I printed Carmen’s “before” pictures and posted them on two different sandwich boards for visitors to see the comparisons.
When visitors arrived at Carmen’s lovely home, no doubt they were impressed by the interesting architecture of the home and peaceful fountain at the front entryway. Guests then made their way around the house, along a narrow & somewhat uneven brick pathway and as they entered the back gate, they stepped into the magical world of Carmen’s Garden!
The back patio is set up for a relaxing yet upscale outdoor dining experience, including a Spanish-style candle-lighted chandelier, plus beautiful plants in the border garden beds and in patio planter pots as well, including a variety of succulents. Throughout all the levels of the backyard garden, which also boasts a hot tub(!), there are a variety of beautiful plants – Plectranthus, Lavatera assurgentaflora (Tree Mallow), Gunnera tinctora, Hydrangeas -- most of which Carmen included just because she liked them. In fact, she didn’t know much about plants at all, but purchased/placed the ones in her garden simply because she thought they were nice and they suited her taste.
I should note that Carmen has been an Interior Designer for many years – the inside of her home is evidence of her amazing talent – but it was clear that she really has a knack for being an ‘exterior’ designer as well! However, amazing talent aside, one very important rule Carmen abided by to help her choose her plants wisely, was to choose plants that fit the right location: full sun, shade, wide growth area, in pots, etc., plus the majority of her choices are evergreen and perennials so they will maintain a level of beauty year-round. So whether you have a knack for design, you’re a Master Gardener, or just a plant enthusiast, Carmen’s Garden is a wonderful example that we can all create a beautiful garden in our own backyard if we do a little research first!
- Author: JoEllen P Myslik
Succulents, ahhh succulents … the subject of my final presentation for my Master Gardener certification. It seemed like such a simple straight-forward topic. But once my ‘presentation partner’ and I started delving into details, it became quite clear that it is a very HUGE and broad topic! So then our task became, “how do we narrow this down to focus on something informative and interesting?”
So after much research, including nearly every book about the broad subject of succulents (or at least it felt that way!), we decided to provide an overview of the 3 types and then show examples of each type – focusing on one in particular, the seemingly ‘most popular’ or certainly prevalent in this area, the stonecrop family.
I will begin by quoting from a document provided by the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek:
Succulents. Almost everyone is familiar with the term. Yet questions such as “is that Aloe a member of the succulent family?” reveal basic misconceptions on the part of many people as to just what a succulent is. The core of the problem here is that the term “succulent” is merely a descriptive term and not a scientific classification. Thus any plant that has evolved swollen water-storing tissues as a protection against desiccation is succulent by definition, regardless of what family it belongs to. A few families, such as the Crassulaceae (the stonecrop family, which includes plants such as the Hen-and-Chicks and jade trees) are composed entirely of succulents. But in many other cases, succulence occurs only in certain groups of a family of largely non-succulent plants.
The three types of succulents are leaf, stem and root, and as you might surmise from above (or perhaps already know), the plants store water in each of these areas, and in some cases two areas. An example of this is the jade tree, which is both a leaf succulent and a root succulent. And as you can see in the picture above, succulents come in all shapes and colors, which can add a lot of beauty to your garden or landscape.
I think one of the biggest lessons that we learned in researching this topic is that succulents are extremely forgiving and are therefore a great choice for any gardener … beginning gardeners will love the ease of planting them (break off a piece from your neighbor’s beautiful plant — with their permission of course! — and just put that right into the ground), and seasoned gardeners will appreciate their beauty and variety. Plus in these times of water-wise landscaping everyone will appreciate the fact they don’t require a lot of water very often. So, whether around your property or in pots, my research shows that succulents are nearly a perfect planting option!
Oh, but a word of caution, don’t be fooled by these beauties below as I almost was …. the invasive Ice Plant of the Aizoaceae Family. This plant offers a variety of beautiful flowers, tolerates blazing sun and spreads quickly, but the latter is exactly why you should avoid it! It will take over your entire yard, so buyers beware!
- Author: Kathy Low
One of the many pleasures of studying to become a Master Gardener is spending time in the company of other people who share a passion for gardening. Besides being great company, they each possess a varying range of gardening experience and knowledge. Through casual conversations I’ve picked up so many helpful gardening tips while becoming acquainted with a wonderful new group of individuals.
There’s a camaraderie among gardeners unparalleled to any other avocation. Perhaps it’s because gardeners are natural nurturers. The care and attention they give to encouraging plants to grow and flourish they extend to people as well.
If you love gardening and enjoy the company of fellow gardeners, consider applying to the 2014 Master Gardener program when the application becomes available in the fall. You’ll get a wonderful education as well as an opportunity to network with fellow gardeners. Or if you don’t have the time to pursue the program at the moment, think about joining a local gardening club. Solano County is fortunate to have several local general and specialty gardening clubs. Here are just a few examples.
Horticulture Club at Solano Community College
Membership is open to any community member. You do not need to be a student at the college. The club meets the third Monday of each month. For information, contact Ken Williams at (707) 975-6856.
Vallejo Garden Club
Meets the 3rd Saturday of each month. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society
More information can be found on their website at http://cnpsjepson.dreamhosters.com/
Geranium City Garden Club
Meets the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Fairfield Senior Center.
These are just a sample of the many garden clubs in Solano County. Check out the California Garden Clubs website at www.californiagardenclubs.com for information on additional garden clubs in the area.