- Author: JoEllen P Myslik
This past year I was involved with a process in Vallejo called “Participatory Budgeting”. A mouthful which basically means, we citizens got to participate in how a small portion of the City’s budget is spent. Specifically, this small portion is a percentage of the larger Measure B tax that we voted on a few years ago – we voted to tax ourselves, 1¢ of every $1 spent. What a good idea that we get to have a say in how at least part of it is spent!
And one project that was proposed for some of this money to be spent on, voted on by citizens and approved by the City, was enhancing current community gardens and creating new ones. Does everyone know about this? As citizens of Vallejo you absolutely should! As citizens of Solano County it would be nice if you did, even though it doesn’t necessarily impact you directly.
But as Master Gardeners, we should ALL be aware of this great accomplishment – getting funds directed toward enhancing and creating more gardens in the community! However, the challenge now is, how does this get implemented? That will be a long and somewhat tedious process no doubt and every garden that will be enhanced or created will be a wonderful thing.
However, my original thought when I first heard about this project was putting these gardens in schools. Not only would it teach children very valuable lessons, but if the gardens could grow to have a significant yield, they could provide food for school lunches! There are a variety of benefits that could come from creating gardens in schools, but it always comes down to funding.
I didn’t write this with a grand plan in mind, nor do I expect some major change to occur. But if a few of us ponder this idea, perhaps we can think of creative ways to help this happen in our schools, no matter where those schools reside. Anyone even remotely interested in gardening could help make these ideas reality. After all, one of the best lessons that children can learn is that great-tasting food can come from something they planted with their own two hands. Not sure if this is a real quote, but it’s similar to the one about fish …. “If you give a man a vegetable you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to garden you feed him for a lifetime”
- Author: Bud Veliquette
On May 19th I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the eight gardens listed in the 2013 Vallejo Garden Tour. My focus was on intimate gardens, places where one could do some quiet reflection or meditation or to talk quietly with an intimate other.
Of course, there is an ornamental and utilitarian (such as veggies and cut flowers) side to gardens, and there was plenty to be seen along those lines. But looking at gardens from the “quiet reflection” point of view gave me purpose and a framework from which to look, not to mention inspiration for creating my own. And I found plenty of what I was looking for.
Many of the gardens had special places, some sun-drenched, and some inviting filtered light, and often with the sound backdrop of a wonderful fountain, with a seemingly unlimited array of styles and sounds. In fact,
I found many interesting water features, including a waterfall in one corner of a small backyard garden, cascading down a 6-foot slope. At that same location, creeping fig (Ficus pumila) nicely covered what might otherwise be an unsightly wall of concrete block.
What inspired me was the combined plantings of perennials and annuals often as an understory of larger shrubs and trees. There were countless Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum), one of my favorites for color and form. And clumps of geraniums (Pelargonium), meticulously placed for their shady or sunny locations, often with lush splashes of ferns.
And interspersed among the foliage and color were interesting statuary and other “garden art objects”, too many to detail here, but very fitting with the intimacy of each location.
A favorite ground cover was Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis), which can take sun and fill in nicely between pavers, adding to the feel of a softly carpeted area.
All in all, it was a gorgeous day, and I came away inspired to use much of what I saw as ideas to create my own quiet garden space.
- Author: Betty Homer
During my teenage years, the head lifeguard at the pool that I volunteered at, used to bring a group of us teenagers to picnic and swim at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek each summer. As such, I have always associated Heather Farm with those memories, not realizing that Heather Farm also included a beautiful 6-acre garden, which I had the pleasure of visiting recently.
Like The Ruth Bancroft Garden that I blogged about recently (also in Walnut Creek, just minutes from The Gardens at Heather Farm), Heather Farm Park and The Gardens at Heather Farm were named after the original ranch located on the very site, and fancifully, the ranch owners' prized race horse, King Heather. There are 20+ gardens of varying sizes and themes in all, managed completely without the use of pesticides. To give you an idea as to what you should expect to see and experience, the following is a list of gardens/plots on site: The Ruth Howard Entrance Garden, Native Plant Garden, Diablo Ascent Garden, Tree Grove, Ash Tree Alley, Stroll Garden, Meadow Garden, Heritage Garden, Mother’s Garden, Black Pine Garden, Ward Garden, Cowden Rose Garden, Waterfall Garden, Rockery, Butterfly Garden, Mural Garden, Children’s Garden, Riparian Garden, Water Conservation Garden, Sensory Garden, and the Blue Star Memorial Garden.
Some highlights of The Gardens include the very beautiful and showy Cowden Rose Garden that takes center stage the moment you enter The Gardens (Tip: now is a great time when everything is in bloom!). Equally beautiful, but more understated, is the shade garden. There is a section for California native plants, a tree grove, and a small patch which integrates edible plants with ornamentals—always one of my perennial favorites.
With how beautiful and well-maintained The Gardens is, it is hard to believe that the grounds are managed by a volunteer-based nonprofit employing a small part-time staff. It would seem that an army would be necessary to maintain the site as well as they do.
Now is a wonderful time to visit as most everything appears to be in bloom. So on one of those warm afternoons where you are at a loss for ideas of what to do, where to go, consider packing a picnic lunch and visiting The Gardens at Heather located at 1540 Marchbanks Drive, Walnut Creek, California. For more information, see http://gardenshf.org/.
- Author: Janet Snyder
If you knew my family, you'd know that we are big fans of all things Disney. Recently, we took a trip down to Disneyland for a short family vacation. We love the rides, the atmosphere, the music, and the characters. But…my absolute favorite reason to go is to soak up the gardens!
We spent more than a fair amount of time in lines this trip, which is fine with me as it gives me more time to study the gardens. For example, while waiting for the Buzz Lightyear ride, I was able to enjoy the herb garden planted in a small raised bed. Rows of thyme, sage, basil, rosemary, and oregano. The Haunted Mansion gardens are planted with a variety of dark-colored grasses, annuals, and perennials. Pansy, Sweet William, iris, tulips, and cosmos are just some of the flowers in black, dark purple, chocolate, or burgundy that they use. Take a ride on Storybook Land and you'll find an entire garden in miniature. They even have a "quilt" done entirely in succulents. Disney parks gardens are planted in masses, rows, groups. Nothing is random.
Who hasn't gone there and noticed the huge hanging baskets of flowers? The animal topiaries around It's A Small World? Even the riot of flora and fauna along the Jungle Cruise ride is carefully planned, planted, maintained, and changed. After you start paying attention, you realize just how much detail has been tended to. Visit any other amusement park, but you will not find any with gardens that can hold a candle to those at Disney parks. Probably one of the most well-known family photo spots is the iconic Mickey Mouse head of flowers as you enter the park. That one particular icon alone requires 24,000 annuals a year!* Disney has 650 horticulturists tending the gardens of Disneyland and Disney World.* You would be surprised at how many impressive garden and landscape statistics are available that people visiting don't even consider. I own a number of books (mostly gifts!) on the gardens of Disney. They provide me with inspiration when I need it.
Someday, one of the things on my own personal "bucket list" is to visit the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival held in Florida every spring. Until then, our family and I will continue to make the drive to Disneyland and enjoy the gardens.
*Markey, Kevin. Secrets of Disney's Glorious Gardens. New York: Disney Editions, 2006. Print.
- Author: Trisha Rose
Greetings, I spent this past Sunday as a docent for the annual Vallejo Garden Tour. I spent the day at an historic bungalow on Napa Street. The owner has converted her wrap around front and side yards into a successful edible garden. She and her "rent a husband" removed about a foot and a half of the existing clay soil and brought in garden soil. They built up mounds for raised beds and brought in many half barrels to house a variety of greens, herbs and vegetables of all sorts. Two existing trees, an ancient willow and a palm, were removed after failing simultaneously. Now citrus and fruit trees have found a place in this bountiful garden. The owner adds her compost to the soil twice a year and has established an elegant drip system that takes care to supply just enough water directly to each plant. This organic garden is maintained by feeding the soil rather than the plants. What a refreshingly beautiful result. It doesn't hurt that original art appears in the inner courtyard among the tall (yes already in May) stalks of corn and exuberant Yellow Fin Potatoes.
This home is located in a neighborhood of graceful homes mostly built in the 1800's. The overall garden isn't that large, but what this urban gardener has accomplished is truly inspiring with her wrap around space.
What I have found over the past three years viewing the many gardens on the Vallejo Garden Tour is a real sense of artistic endeavor coupled with ingenuity and effort to make a place of accomplishment. These results have expressed a desire to grow a healthy community and share a spirit of joy to all that care to take a look.
Next time you have a chance, spend some time in your local community gardens, you won't be disappointed.