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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Great Tree for Sacramento Landscapes

Koelreuteria paniculata, California Rain Tree
Origin: China, Japan
Character: slightly open structure, with a broad, dome-shaped canopy.
Growth Habit: moderate fast, grows to 35' by 30 - 35'
Uses: accent, lawn tree, shade tree, street tree
Description: eliptically shaped leaves are pinately compound, with leaflets approx 1 - 2" and entire leaf, 12". The compound leaves are alternately arranged on branches. The margins are coarsely serrated. Medium dark leaves turn yellow-orange in the fall. Large showy yellow panicles in the early to midsummer are followed by red - buff papery seed capsules in the fall.
Environmental Preferences: Prefers moist soil, and partial/filtered  to full sun.. Can take drought once established, smog, heat, wind and seacoast conditions.
Cold Hardiness: hardy, Sunset zones 2 - 21
Propagation: seed, semi-hardwood cuttings
Comments: deep roots make this a good choice for planting in a lawn or as a street tree, while fall color and showy flowers make it a great accent tree. This tree is available thru the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Plant Profile: Cyclamen

Question: Whose root looks like a beet, goes dormant (i.e., looks dead) in summer and produces colorful blooms thru the winter?
cyclamen for sale at High Hand Nursery in Loomis, CA
Answer: It's the plant of the week, Cyclamen!

Cyclamens are welcome in the winter garden, bringing a lot of color, especially when densely planted. They're easy to clean up if you've got a mind for it. Just give a tug to the spent flowers and, voila, they'll look like this cyclamen bowl I tidied up just before snapping the shot.
a closeup of cyclamen at Home Depot
I created a partial shade, evergreen border once that I was particularly fond of ... cyclamen mixed with maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) and the smaller, low-growing azaleas ('Gumpo' series). Also put in some Heuchera sanguinea, the old-fashioned coral bells with their rosy flowers nodding atop upright stems.

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Review: The New Book of Salvias; Sages for Every Garden by Betsy Clebsch

"Clebsch is the Salvia Queen ... If you love salvias, this is the book for you." - Seattle Times
The New Book of Salvias

I was first introduced to Betsy Clebsch at the Perennial Plant Association annual meeting held in Sacramento in 2004. It was obvious by her reception by this professional group of horticulturists, that she was, “The Salvia Expert”. I was there on an academic scholarship. I was presented with a plaque and written up in the newspaper (ahem). What a thrill it was to rub elbows with book editors, nursery owners and cell tissue plant propagators. I thought everyone was an expert, and they probably were.

Fast forward to 2010 ... I have fallen in love with salvias, but the relationship hasn’t always been successful. I’ve killed off a few of my beaus, some more than once (sorry Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'). I’m ready to learn.

The book is divided into 3 sections, opening with Betsy's essay on salvias ... her personal experiences growing salvias in her own gardens and a broad view that will give the motivated student a good practical base of information.
“Gardening has been a thread pulled tight throughout my life, a steady interest that binds the pages that follow. I have made and tended five gardens, the first in Virginia, the second in Texas, the following three in California. In my second California garden the handsome evergreen foliage and striking foliage of many distinctly different salvias led me to grow them. This garden was a country retreat, and several weeks would frequently pass between visits. Plants had to be sturdy and plants had to be able to survive with irregular care and water.
In selecting plants to be described in this book, I have chosen those that are, in my experience, both beautiful and interesting garden subjects. Each salvia I describe can be grown well if you have some practical cultural information, and they will thrive for some time if you nurture them. Obviously, some salvias are not appropriate  for specific gardens because of temperature range, light patterns, or soil conditions.”
The majority of this book (283 pages out of the total 344) is then devoted to describing the characteristics and requirements of each of the 150 featured species, with additional recommendations on companion planting and bits of plant gossip … which hummingbirds frequent this or that plant, which are bee magnets and which are simply, fussy. These descriptions are augmented with color photos and sketches.

The closing charts are wonderfully practical ... the seasonal bloomers, the drought tolerant species, which salvias tolerate shade, those that can handle humidity and of huge interest to this Californian, which are native to my home state and which are water-wise.

This is a book that will be referred to often. As Betsy says, "Salvias have such diverse expectations, this is the book one needs to be successful."

The New Book of Salvias: Sages for Every Garden by Betsy Clebsch (Timber Press; 2nd edition - April 15, 2008)

Some of my favorite salvias are the ones that bloom in late fall. Gotta love a plant that brightens the November garden! Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Re-Discovering Yourself At Rancho La Puerta

sunset at Rancho La Puerta
This September I spent a week at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. My sister, Julie, had been there numerous times and always raved about it. I had never been to a spa, I was curious, but somehow had an attitude … it would be a week of self-indulgence, not really my thing. But, she invited me to go with her and I went, and found myself touched in profound ways. In addition to lovely food, dance, art and cooking classes (and those spa treatments!), I walked and walked and walked. I looked at the plants and the sky and the hills. And, I breathed. On the Rancho La Puerta website, it says, “We provide space – that which is most lacking in today’s life. Space to breathe freely amidst nature. To relax. To renew, reflect and redirect one's longer-living life. To explore the possibilities of changing course in one's life.”

One of my favorite classes was with visiting artist, Erin Galfill, of Big Sur, CA.

(you might also like this earlier post about Erin's class, Te Recuerdo, Rancho La Puerta)

I think the success of the Ranch is that guests come to discover themselves newly. What makes them happy, who they are when they’re happy. We’re all unique, so this experience is unique as well. Me, I discovered space and the smell of sage. I also re-discovered the joy of moving to music in a hardwood-floored, sunlight-steaming-in-thru-the-windows dance studio or salsa-ing the night away on Friday night with the marvelous Rancho La Puerta band.

Want to create some cheer for our darker season with some cool season bedding plants? How 'bout putting some daffodils underground so they will be brightening your February garden as only they can? Holiday gifts from the garden or for your favorite gardener ... good idea, but what???? Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email