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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

About Town with Geno's Garden: Parks, Fairs and Nurseries

My husband and I have been to a lot of gardeny, picture-worthy places this last week! Yea for us! (And, especially yea for him for going along with all my plans!)
Sunflowers at the State Fair
Last night's vegetable and flower beds at the fair were spectacularly healthy! But, I get ahead of myself...

Saturday morning, breakfast at High Hand Nursery Cafe. We go here frequently ... great food and great everything else as well (nursery plus the old fruit packing shed now houses an art gallery, a floral shop ... rugs, pottery, sculpture, ironworks, vintage textiles ... it's all just plain lovely!

Bellamcanda chinensis
This plant caught my eye because of its orange flower, but its seeds are what give it its common name, "Blackberry Lily" . They look just like blackberries!

Vizsla Pointers with owner and breeder out for a day at the nursery
Everything is nice at High Hand, including these beautiful dogs!

Afterwards we had a little stop-off at the Harley shop in Folsom. So, as you can see, it wasn't "all about me!", thank you!

Sunday, we took the doggies to a couple of parks. Squid, our little black dog, got car sick. On me! Pets are just like kids, aren't they!?! Well, it wasn't so bad.
Pippi and Squid

We went to the WPA Rock Garden in William Land Park and saw some beautiful CA natives ...
Eriogonum giganteum
St. Catherine's Lace, a wild buckwheat, is stately and impressive!

Romneya coulteri
The Matilija Poppy flower (also known as the "fried egg plant") can be up to  9", the entire shrub, 6 -8'!

Zauachneria californica
The California Fuchsia is a hummingbird favorite.

Next we headed for the Capitol Park. We got some coffee at the Capitol Garage and then went to study the trees, like this gnarly Cork Oak,
Quercus suber
... but it was hot and we were all thirsty, so tree study wasn't very satisfying.

The treat was the new "We Garden" site created by students and First Lady, Maria Shriver.
Wayne, Pippi and Squid at State Capitol veggie patch
In the center of the state capitol grounds, on a hot Sacramento day in the middle of July, the charm of a vegetable garden.

Last night we went to the State Fair. The Farm was my favorite! (and the chickens and bunnies and the baby pigs...)
Lots of crops, looking really good!

Water-wise demonstration gardens with drought tolerant beauties,

and, a clump of sleeping piglets!

Most of us live such citified lives. We're far removed from wide open spaces and farm animals and tractors and dirt between our toes. I've lived in the suburbs or the city all of my life, but in my heart I'm a farm girl.
I'm really proud of our state's agricultural prowess and the fact that we produce and supply about 1/3 of the nation's food supply. California has been the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years. There are problems with being such hot stuff, however, that need to be intelligently understood and handled. As a state we're facing issues of illegal immigrant labor, environmental questions regarding insect and disease controls and what kind of fertilizers to use. And then, of course, there's the problem of water!
I think these questions are best understood by people who are connected with the earth, who once in awhile get out of town (!). The beauty of it is, what's not to love about a trip to the country!

Chew on these facts I found online at Beach California (ahem):

  • More than half the nation's fruit, nuts, and vegetables come from here.
  • California is the nation's number one dairy state.
  • California's leading commodity is milk and cream. Grapes are second.
  • California's leading export crop is almonds.
  • Nationally, products exclusively grown (99% or more) in California include almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.
  • From 70 to 80% of all ripe olives are grown in California. 
  • California is the nation's leading producer of strawberries, averaging 1.4 billion pounds of strawberries or 83% of the country's total fresh and frozen strawberry production. Approximately 12% of the crop is exported to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan primarily. The value of the California strawberry crop is approximately $700 million with related employment of more than 48,000 people.
  • California produces 25% of the nation's onions and 43% of the nation's green onions. 

new little calf born at the California State Fair 2010

Have a Great Time at the Fair!

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

About Town with Geno's Garden: a McKinley Park Garden

an (almost) no-lawn landscape ...

How fun for me, an invitation to meet another gardener and her garden! Patty has been creating this garden in McKinley Park for the last 15 years. The first thing I notice is the generous flagstone path. Wide paths have a way of making you feel welcome, don't you think?
dry-laid flagstone path

Her sun border has some great perennials, like this Bee Balm. Hummingbirds love it!
Monarda didyma

Ferns in containers are a great way to garden under a large shade tree, especially one with gnarly surface roots like a magnolia!
shade plants under the Magnolia grandiflora

More perennials ... this one looks to me to be the tall spiky Liatris, with another hummingbird favorite, California Fuchsia,
Liatris spicata and Zauschneria californica

and a Black and Blue Salvia. Salvias attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Do we see a trend here?
Salvia guaranitica, Black and Blue

Away to the back yard for more horticultural bounty! Here we have a nice mix of tomatoes and other veg in containers,
veggies in the backyard

and, some member of the squash family with a variety of annuals and perennials.
(Rosalind Creasy would be proud!)
veggies mix with annuals and perennials

Did I mention the bamboo? Of course there's bamboo! I love the sophistication of these colors and and the variety of shapes.

The bamboo grove extends to 5 neighboring yards and was here before Pat bought the house. She's created a pathway so she can get in there and control it.
backyard bamboo grove

What's a garden without some funky homemade art projects? Boring!
grapevine wreath with tin cans filled with portulaca

... a closer look. I love rusty tin things, and this would be a project any of us could do!
close up of grapevine wreath with portulaca

The next project is tackling the remaining front yard lawn, a small skimpy grass having trouble doing anything in the shade and roots of the magnolia. Most likely it will go to be replaced by another lovely border and some paths. Then she's an official "No-Lawn Gardener". No lawn, no mower, no edger for her! Patty says her spring garden bursts with tulips ... I'll be looking forward to seeing that! Thanks to Chris, a Facebook Fan, for inviting me to visit her mom's garden. I really enjoyed it.
Patty & Chris

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

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Plant I.D. Nerium Oleander

Nerium oleander - Oleander
(Plant Profile Saturday)
an oleander hedge
Oleander is a native Mediterranean shrub that grows ubiquitously here in Sacramento, especially on freeways and median strips. Here are some of its characteristics:

Size: This is a large evergreen shrub. The species grows rapidly, 4 - 6"/year, until it reaches a height of 18 - 20' and a width of 12 - 15'. There are cultivars, such as Petite Pink, that are much smaller, with a height of 3 - 6'.

strip mall oleander

Pruning: Because it is so tolerant of pruning, it is frequently seem as a 6' hedge, a lollypop, or a multi-stemmed tree. It may be too top-heavy until its trunk has some girth, so will require some staking. If it has become ugly or too leggy, it can be cut to the ground before new growth in the spring and it will come back. If it is "skirted up" to create a tree form, it will continue to produce basal growth, so you will need to continue that pruning or you could wind up with an oleander bustle at its base.

oleander bustle

Poisonous: yes, all parts if eaten. Can cause severe irritation if its smoke is inhaled, so don't burn trimings.

Care: Oleanders like regular water, but are drought tolerant ... can take sun or shade, acidic to alkaline soils. In other words, everything!

Propagation: by seed.

Leaf & Flower: long narrow leaves are 5 - 10", 3 leaves at each node. Red, white and pink flowers bloom from spring to fall (newer cultivars provide additional colors).

The GF (Green Factor): most commonly, "right plant for the right place" is violated with this shrub due to the extra pruning, extra green waste, and, yes, extra work! It is a useful landscape shrub and can provide great background color, but the ultimate size should be considered before planting.

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

Monday, July 05, 2010

About Town with Geno's Garden: Orange you glad I'm so spectacular?

Today's subject: the color orange. I like my orange-bloomers (ahem) but lately find my attention being drawn to orange houses. In Sacramento's McKinley Park, that's not difficult, orange seems to be the hot color trend. Sometimes it's bold, sometimes subdued, oftentimes Mediterranean, but, never boring. Here's my first ever YouTube video (excuse the photo quality) of my orange flowers and some of the houses I spotted today.

To watch Garden Gate Magazine's slide show on using orange in your garden, Click Here!

I find orange to be up to the task of enlivening our heat stressed gardens in the middle of summer when everything starts looking bleached out. Then, too, for some reason they seem to flower in summer and fall, which makes it convenient. Here are a few other orange bloomers (ahem) you might try: persimmon, canna tropicana, hibiscus, crocrosmia, cape honeysuckle, tiger lily, ca poppies, aesclepius, chasmanthe.

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

Friday, July 02, 2010

Bradshaw Animal Center Rain Garden

a real time look at a demonstration rain garden

I'm designing a rain garden for myself and have one on the books for a client, so I went out to Sacramento County's Animal Care Facility on Bradshaw Road for a look at their demo garden.

Chilopsis linearis (Desert Willow), roses and phormium overlook the rain garden

Rain falls onto roofs and pavements...


Fresh rain water drains into the rain garden...

water enters the rain garden here

...where it is used by the plants and absorbed into the ground.

I'm not sure how this drain fits into the picture. Where does it go????

Rain gardens help make our environment healthy. A rain garden is a shallow man-made depression that collects rain water from roof tops. A rain garden benefits our environment in several ways,
  • Collects rain water and allows it to be absorbed into the ground.
  • An average-sized rain garden in Sacramento can potentially retain thousands of gallons of water every year.
  • Protects creeks and rivers from pollutants carried by rain water
  • Produces beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees.
  • Provides habitat for birds and butterflies.

all quotes come from this rain garden plaque

California and Mediterranean natives are great choices for rain gardens, just make sure you pick plants that don't mind getting a bit soggy when it rains!

Showy Milkweed, Monarch butterfly food

Sticky Monkey Flower, a California native

If a picture paints a thousand words, then what happens when you see it in person? Take a trip out to the shelter. It's lovely, has a big dog park, great examples of drought tolerant plantings

For more about rain gardens and some great links, check out The Great Rain Garden Adventure.

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