Smart & Sustainable, Green Garden Design, Coaching & Seasonal Maintenance

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Water-Wise in Sacramento

Correct me if I'm wrong (as if!), but all the water providers in our area have a free service in which they'll make a house call and assess your water useage in and out of your house.

my faucet head gets replaced ... how many gallons/day will that save?

Since it's the first step to applying for many of the water conservation rebates (more later), and since I plan to help others take advantage of these programs (more later ... when? don't know), I called and set up my appointment and met with my water agency rep a couple of weeks ago.

Jessica, my water conservation specialist!

I WAS FASCINATED! There are about 25 or so water agencies for our area. Each has its own billing, its own water sources ... some are public utilities, some, like mine (California American Water) are privately owned. My agency gets its water from wells! Where are these wells? Maybe in my own neighborhood. I'll tell you this, I'm on the lookout for some chainlink with wooden slats surrounding a tank and a sign that says "Keep Out" ... I think that's where I'll find the well. Because it's "ground water" the soil has percolated most impurities out, so the water doesn't need much treatment. It's hard water because of all these minerals it has to pass thru. I love knowing the whole picture.

One thing I don't have the whole picture on is the politics of water. While we've been dozing in our backyards, legislators and governmental agencies have been putting together laws and programs that will change how we use our water in our homes. Today I attended a workshop to get further information. I agree with a lot of these changes, but it's going to be a radical shift from the days when we turned on our faucets (sprinklers, showers, hot tubs) with little thought to where the water came from. In the meantime, there are these enticing rebates ... for turf removal, washing machines, rain gardens and, toilets.

toilets for sale
Jessica (my water conservation specialist) told me about how many gallons of water would be saved by changing my faucet head to the aerator (360 gallons/month for a 2 person household), or by changing to an approved toilet (3.5 gallons/flush) ... and I began the process of appreciating water as a commodity that can be wasted or spent wisely. While these indoor conservation efforts can result in an expected 15% savings of water, the real savings will be outside ... via reduced turf, improved irrigation efficiency and better choices of plant materials.

I'm not conservative by nature ... I'm a person who "wants it all." That's still my agenda, but now "all" also includes good for me, good for my neighbors and good for my rivers and waterways. Not such a burden when you think of it that way.

There's still plenty of fun to be had, call me if you want some help!

Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Who Likes Natives? Sac & Co!

What better garden for a California native then a garden of the same. My ancestors arrived here from Ireland 100+ years ago, settling in San Francisco. I think I got my "farmer genes" from my dad's family; my music, dancing, party-girl genes from my mom's. Works for me!

Here's the video of yesterday's visit with Channel 10's Sac and Co:

Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fall is for Planting ... California Natives (The TV Show)

Toyon (Heteromeles arbuitfolia) 

The best laid plans of mice and men, oft go astray Robert Burns

Well, as promised, here are the details from today's TV appearance on Channel 10's Sac and Co. These appearances seem to have a life of their own. (and as an aside, did you know the above line was written by Burns after he ran over a wee mousie's house with his tractor?). So, too, today's show. It was great fun and I loved bringing the plants ... just didn't get to showcase them in enough detail. Lucky for me I have a blog!!!

More about Why Fall is for Planting ...

First I want to say a bit more about why "Fall is for Planting". Getting a plant established in the garden is sort of like getting the baby off the bottle. Until a plant puts its roots into the surrounding soil, it depends on us for it's water and nutrients. Well, we want to get it off that bottle!

How do we do this? The roots have to grow ... the further the better. This takes cell division, and that doesn't happen when it's uber hot or cold. That's why the milder weather in fall and spring is a good time to plant.

Planting in rain-sodden ground isn't good, either, because plants can't take up oxygen when water's taking up all the spaces, and plants need oxygen so they can breathe. Rain fall is iffy in the spring, that's why I say fall is numero uno. You have a few months that are usually light on rain, when the soil's warm and the weather's mild. I find that fascinating, but I'll shut up now. :)

Today's CA Natives

(My thanks to Windmill Nursery in Carmichael for lending us the plants!)

Abutilon palmeri, Superstition Mallow
Lovely yellow cup-shaped flowers bloom throughout the year. Grey-green soft fuzzy leaves, drought tolerant, full sun to partial shade.

Heteromeles arbutifolia, Toyon
Can be kept to 6 - 8' with pruning, and up to 20' with regular water. White flowers in the summer, red berries in the winter (that songbirds love). Hollywood got its name from this So Cal shrub. Very hardy!

Muhlenbergia rigens, California Deer Grass
Showy native grass whose long spikes move with the breeze. Easy to grow, takes abuse!

Penstemon heterophyllus, Margarita BOP
Penstemon heterophyllus 'Margarita BOP', Foothill Penstemon
This photo is horrid, but the colors are real...gorgeous, gorgeous blue flowers tinged with pinks and white. Drought tolerant. Hummingbirds and butterflies.

Arctostaphylos, 'Emerald Carpet' Manzanita
Healthy attractive drought tolerant ground cover, grows 1' x up to 6'

Salvia apiana

Salvia apiana, White Sage
This plant just smells like the desert. I hear it's used for "smudging" to chase evil spirits away! Very hardy, drought tolerant.

Lassoing filaginifolia var. californica
Lassoing filaginifolia var. californica 'Silver Carpet', California Aster
Another great ground cover, growing 1' to about 4' wide.

Juncus patens
Juncus patens, 'Elk Blue', California Rush
I would love to use a mass planting of this, a swathe of blue green stems that look great close up.

Artemisia pycnocephala
Artemisia pycnocephala 'David's Choice', Beach Sandwort
This artemisia looks much like the popular "Powis Castle". Soft and grey-green mounds with funky yellow flower shoots!

Ceanothus, 'Julia Phelps', Julia Phelps Ceanothus (California Lilac)
Any ceanothus is a treasure, especially when it's in bloom. This one gets up to 8' so it would be quite impressive covered in early spring with its indigo blue blooms! Drought tolerant.

Calliandra californica
Calliandra californica, Baja Fairy Duster
Too cute for words with its fine textured leaves and it's plumed wand-like flowers. This evergreen grows up to 6'. Hummingbird favorite.

Mimulus 'Jack'
Mimulus 'Jack', Scarlet Monkey Flower
This unusual monkey flower needs more water and a bit more shade than other monkeys. But, it blooms throughout the year and hummingbirds love it's wine-colored flowers.

Salvia clevelandii
Salvia clevelandii 'Allen Chickering', Cleveland Sage
This shrub is a must. Comes in several sizes, with some variation in flower color, but all great! The flowers grow in whorls on upright stems and look good long after they've lost their color. If you drive Greenback near I-80 you'll see them in the median strip. Proud as can be!

Also mentioned in the segment: Tulbaghia violacea, Society Garlic; Lavender; Stachys byzantina, Lamb's Ears, Mediterranean plants that share our growing conditions. A wonderful mix with our CA natives!

Where to Learn More About California Native Plants

Upcoming workshop at Windmill Nursery; Sept 18

California Native Plant Society Sale; Sept. 25 & 25, McKinley Park; 10 - 2

UC Davis Arboretum Sale; Sept 25, UC Davis; 9 - 11 members only; 11-1, public

Demonstration Garden at the Old City Cemetery, Sacramento

Local Nurseries: Windmill and Cornflower Farms are the best providers of CA Natives in our area !

A few of the wonderful on-line purveyors of great info and some mail order ...I'm sure there are more:
Theodore Payne Foundation (mail order seeds, anyone?), Las Pilitas, Annie's Annuals

And, me... I'm really a beginner in this field, but I'm enthusiastic!

Catching the Fairy Dust seed at the Theodore Payne Fdn.

Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Fall is for Planting ...California Natives!

Channel 10 TV appearance tomorrow (Wed.),sometime between 9 & 10 .
Streaming live at

my favorite CA native, the California Poppy

I have a choice, go to bed and get a good night's sleep,
or, stay up and do my blog post on tomorrow's t.v. appearance

... sleep? ... blog post? ... sleep? ... blog post?

I'm very excited that I'll be on Channel 10 with the fun folk at Sac & Co tomorrow. We'll be talking about why fall is such a perfect time to plant most everything, and, I have some cool California Natives to show.
But, nothing's fun when you haven't had enough sleep. Now, is it!?!


I'm off to bed. Tomorrow after the show I'll post pictures and info about all the plants. Plus there are some native plant sales and workshops coming up and great native resources to pass along...
So come on back, ya hear? 

Note: I'm not an expert, but I play one on TV!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

About L.A. Town with Geno's Garden

I just got back from L.A., and, except for the worst return trip ever (in 110 degree weather, my car overheats and I have to turn off the A/C!), I had a great time visiting my daughters and exploring the city. L.A.,'s a city I think I should hate, but which I find invigorating and full of surprises! Here's one neighborhood you'll love: Sunset Junction.
Sunset Junction
Sunset Junction in Silverlake is  fun and funky ... about 3 blocks with plenty of good food and interesting shops.

The Wall by Arnaud
At one end, a vertical garden at the Natural Mind Beauty Salon. It was fun checking it out. Some plants have fared well in one spot, but not so well in another...probably uneven irrigation. There were even a few weeds (!), just like "real" gardens!

The plants are irrigated with the gray water from the salon . Here's a close-up of the underbase materials. The installation was inspired by the vertical garden master, Patrick Blanc.

Across the street, the Casbah Cafe, eat inside or out at the bistro tables. Great food, and a little shop in the back.I dream about their food when I'm in Sacramento!

a cup of coffee from the Intellegencia?

This is my daughter, Liesel, she is a receptionist at the Silverlake Music Conservatory. When she moved to L.A., it was mostly because of this neighborhood. And, now, she's part of it! Tres chic-y groovy!

The Conservatory has great noise. When Liesel was a kid she sang in the children's chorus at Auburn's Music & More. I used to sit in the lobby and drink in all the discordant sounds coming from the practice rooms. Magic. This Conservatory is also a non-profit, raising money for music lessons for children that can't afford it.

 a hip outdoor restaurant,

and a deliciously stinky cheese shop!

Gilly's Flowers & Events has a boldness to it. I'm not too familiar with modern-style gardens but am drawn to them. Simple and clean like these arrangements...

phormium leaves
I would never have thought of phormium (New Zealand Flax) leaves, or the canna,

or stems of papyrus in a vase....

or, a bouquet of kale for a centerpiece, and  I'm encouraged to create some surprises of my own! Yes I am!

In this neighborhood there are all colors of houses (really bold yellows and magentas and greens), styles from Spanish to Greek to Mid-Century Modern ... not too many ranches (we have them all!). Lush gardens. They all seem to get along with each other just fine! I'm inspired to mix it up, become freer,  break away from conservative, safe choices. To have fun!

Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email