- 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: Bud Veliquette
Earlier this month, my partner and I jumped into the car and took off to Healdsburg to the Russian River Rose Company, where we arrived just in time for their 10AM talk on “Having a Happy Rose Garden”. This is a rose and iris nursery in the middle of wine country, in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek area, with a view of lush green hills in the background from the recent rains. We had been there a few times before, but each time I always pick up some new piece of information or nuance on rose growing.
Included in the talk was a demonstration of how to plant a rose, most of which I already know the basics. Basically, the hole is dug, about twice the size of the container, and back filled with a half and half mixture of potting soil/compost and soil. On the surface, they use a 6 inch cover of mulch from Sonoma Compost in Petaluma (www.sonomacompost.com), which is free of weed seeds and pathogens due to the high temperatures generated in the composting process, which is something to see in itself.
One of the handouts included “A Year in the Rose Garden”, a month-by-month guideline for gardeners. What was interesting to me is that they plant winter annuals in January interspersed with the roses for early spring color. They choose Calendulas (Calendula officinalis), Johnny Jump Ups (Viola tricolor), and Leucanthemums (L. paludosum) because they are all snail and bug resistant.
They recommend dormant spray (copper sulfate) three times to ward off fungal spores: Once right after pruning, and a second and third when new growth is about one inch and three inches out, respectively.
Fertilizer applications are recommended for March and again in August, to “reawaken” the garden for fall bloom. Included is 2 cups of alfalfa pellets as well as the usual organics dug in around each rose.
They do not use pesticides, but use ladybugs for aphid control. After receiving a shipment, ladybugs are placed in the refrigerator, to slow them down. A few ladybugs from the bag are put out at the base of the rose bush in the evening, which will keep them from flying away. They will then crawl up the branches and stay until all the aphids are gone. Dwarf Scabiosa (S. atropurpurea) is said to be a good haven for ladybugs. They will breed in it.
For irrigation, they use two half gallon per hour emitters 18 inches apart, with the rose shrub in the center, to avoid root rot.
Their instruction for July: “Minimal attention….Leave town”. And for December: “Rest and dream about what roses you would like to add to your garden next year!”
Russian River Rose Company is open to the public every weekend during April and May, so there is still plenty of time to visit their beautiful gardens. For more information, check out their website at www.russian-river-rose.com.
- Author: Bud Veliquette
March is the last month for planting bare root roses (Rosa), so there is still time if you wanted to do that. We recently moved to a new home with a “blank slate” back yard, and by the end of January, I had 16 of them in the ground.
New garden aside, ordinarily each winter, I make it a point to rejuvenate my rose garden by adding “new blood”: Putting in a handful of newly developed bybrids for the current year, and replacing those that have not done so well with hardier, more disease resistant varieties, which I order from my favorite rose nursery (Garden Valley Ranch in Petaluma). My list included two in the ‘Eyeconic’ series--Rosa ’Eyeconic Melon Lemonade’, and R. ‘Bulls Eye’. Others included R. ‘New Zealand’, and R. ‘Dark Night’ (almost black red on the outer petals and creamy white inside). Plus some old favorites like R. ‘Brandy’, R. ‘Hot Cocoa’, and R. ‘Austrian Copper’. The latter 3 are musts if you are partial to striking orange blends!
And in the spirit of IPM, I try to pick roses which are the most disease resistant, keep them closely monitored, and use cultural methods for control of pests and fungus, as much as possible. One year I had a R. ‘Playboy’ that had such a bad case of rust, I ended up cutting it back, stripping off the leaves, and dousing it with a Neem Oil-based fungicide like Safer. The new growth came in beautifully, and lasted for the rest of the season. I’ve also learned to buy only Grade 1 roses, which are the best quality.
New bare root plants sometimes come bagged in wet sawdust or newspaper to keep the roots moist. Plants should be soaked in water overnight the day before planting, and any damaged canes or roots trimmed off before they go in the ground. Roses love compost-rich soil with a slightly acidic Ph. Once the hole is dug, I make a cone shaped mound inside the hole with potting soil or compost. I then place the fanned out roots on top and backfull the hole with a mix of potting and regular soil. The soil around the filled hole should be gently pressed, forming a shallow basin around the stem, arranging for it to come up about 2 inches above the surface.
For more details, see: ucanr.edu/sites/UC_Master_Gardeners/files/23467.pdf.
Also, check out the Rosa section in the New Sunset Western Garden Book, beginning on page 568, which provides extensive background information, as well as pointers on growing great roses.
- Author: Janet Snyder
So, I'm waiting. The holidays have passed, my decorations have been put away, and the Rose Parade has floated into memory. This is usually the time that I begin cleaning up my pruners and preparing to prune my roses. How can I think of pruning when yesterday's high temperature was just shy of 70 degrees?
I enjoy the holidays, and when I'm putting away all the decorations, I've got the idea in the back of my head that I can start to think about spring. By now, we've usually been wearing warm coats all day, watching the rains fall on our sleeping gardens, and spent many days shrouded under thick, dark, grey cloud cover. This season, not so much. Except for a few chilly nights on the town, my warm coats have collected dust in the closet. My kids go outside and play during the day in their t-shirts and flip flops! Can it really be January, when it feels more like October or March outside?
Back to my roses- I have 25 rose bushes in my garden. I love roses, a love passed on to me by my mom, who also loves roses. My ‘Iceberg’ rose (Rosa ‘Iceberg’) falling over in a windstorm is what started me on my path to becoming a Master Gardener. I look at it and my head tells me it is time to prune it, regardless of the beautiful blooms it is still producing. My heart tells me to wait, give it a few more days; maybe we'll plunge in to a real winter soon. In the meantime, I'll go outside and just enjoy the extended display of my beautiful roses.
- Author: Trisha Rose
By 2009 the one remaining lawn is the main lawn with the traditional "need to mow and water" grass from the front door to the sidewalk. We begin planting a little garden next to the house with a row of Erysimum below our living room window. They look very tidy. We add some Euphorbia characias and I find the beautiful yellow blooms against the grey-blue foliage enticing.
During the spring of 2009 I attended a workshop at Solano College given by the Solano County Master Gardeners on the subject of "Propagation". The MG's are friendly and very helpful as they explain some basic how-to's of plant propagation, I'm hooked and submit my application for the Solano Master Gardener's Program 2010 term. As I sit through the series of lectures, I realize there are many options for gardening and soon begin to think seriously about removing the main front lawn and putting in a garden that is more interesting to use, uses much less water and give us a chance to experiment with different plant materials. So it is now 2011 and the rains seem to continue on and on. Finally it is May and our son has relocated nearby. He agrees to remove the sod and we are on our way.