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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

London Plane, a colorful Sacramento tree

It's time for a walk in the park.

Look up and there are leaves turning and perhaps a seed ball or two...

... look down to see the ones that have been first to fall.

The bark of the tree peels off as it ages to reveal the new tender pale, smooth bark beneath.

City boulevards in San Francisco and Paris are lined with pollarded London Planes. This shot is from our own Sacramento County Courthouse!

I jumped out of my car today to take a few pictures of the trees in my nearby park. While not the blazing color of some of our fall favorites, like the maple, pistache or tupelo, it's like the theater, someone has to stand in the chorus, and, the London Plane is doing this rather nicely! If you'd like to find out more about this tree, visit Gardening in the Sacramento Valley.

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 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: the Desert Botanical Garden!

this bug is 7 feet tall and long, 3 feet high
Lady Bug Sculpture


We're in Phoenix visiting the Desert Botanical Garden. For this California girl, it's like being on the moon...

Map of the Sonoran Desert

All manner of cactus and other desert plants ...
Yucca brevifolia, Joshua Treeso many cacti, what are these!?
Stenocereus thurberi, Organ Pipe Cactus Cylindropuntia fulgida - rumour has it the Jumping Cholla attacks unsuspecting hikers who venture too near

...and. of course, the Saguaro (which I finally learned how to pronounce!),

good signage

This Carnegiea gigantea has arms and crested growth ... Saguaros usually only have armsThe Akimel and Tohono O’odham have harvested Saguara fruit for centuries and still do today

25' long ants invade the Saguaro forestI love simple educational signs

There's even a monarch butterfly exhibit. (But we Californians have our own overwintering spot at Pacific Grove. It's the best! Go California!)

Monarch butterfly visits a Tecoma stans (Yellow Bells)

Time to leave ...
this dragon fly is 17' long and wide, 1' in diameter
Dragon Fly Sculpture

Good Bye!

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 14, 2011

Wrapping up the Cal State Home and Garden Show

the morning commute

It's 7 am and I'm leaving Los Angeles, heading back to Sacramento. The Cal State Home and Garden Show opens tomorrow at noon. I've never been a vendor before, and this booth and my presence is being thrown together! Sherry Larson, owner of the show, has a spot for me if I want it. I want it! Sherry has been so encouraging and supportive of me (and, of course, totally willing to throw me in over my head!). While this is my first vendor outing, I've done display gardens at her last two Cal State Flower, Food and Garden Shows at Cal Expo. This should be easy, compared to those undertakings!

After a hot drive up the 5, I stop in at Cornflower Farms in Elk Grove to pick up plants for my booth. I spot this beautiful maiden grass, load up my car and my friend, Jenn (The Vegetable Garden Coach)'s, truck  and head for the Sacramento Convention Center.
Miscanthus sinensis

The Show - we all agree the show is slow, competing events, attendance is down, it's not bustling, but there are many, many good things. Farmer Fred does 3 killer workshops (he's the only one I hear cuz he's just around the corner from me). I discover 3 vendors that I think my clients will love and I meet some great people who I think will be great clients!

The Plants (all provided by Cornflower Farms, super source for CA natives and drought tolerant plants. Visit them on their open public 2nd Saturdays in October and November, and at the California Native Plant Society sale at McKinley Park, September 24th and 25th from 9 - 3)
Agastache, Achillea, Cleveland Sage - and grasses
  • Panicum virgatum 'Haense Herns'
    Red Switch Grass
    U.S. Native grass
    full sun to light shade
    any amount of water
  • Scabiosus 'Butterfly Blue'
    Pincushion Flower
  • Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues'
  • Little Bluestem 2 - 4 'tall x 1-2' wide U.S. Native reg water, sun
  • Salvia clevelandii 'Allen Chickering
    Allen Chickering Sage
    CA Native
    3 - 5 ' tall x 5 - 8'
  • Populus fremontii
    Cottonwood, CA Poplar (same species as Quaking Aspen)
    Sunset Western Garden says, get yourself a male Poplar, if you don't want to be dispensing the cottony seeds all over your neighborhood (ahem)
    Populus fremontii
  • Rhamnus californica
    CA Coffee Berry
    4-8' tall x same
    Evergreen, upright growth habit, birds love its berries
  • Miscanthus sinensis 'Arabesque'
    Arabesque Maiden Grass
  • Miscanthus transmorrisorensis
    Evergreen Maiden Grass
    2.5 - 3.5'tall x 3=4' wide, 5-7' tall with blooms
  • Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence
    Provence Lavender
    2 x 3
    Good Hedge
  • Penstemon x gloxinioidies 'Firebird'
    Border Penstemon/Bearded Tongue
  • Penstemon 'Firebird' with ornamental grass, Panicum virgatum
  • Agastache barberi 'Tutti Fruitti'
    Mexican Hyssop
    moderate water
  • Bulbine frutisens 'Yellow Form"
    Caoe Balsam
    little to regular water
    South Aftrican Native
    Full sun to part shade
    10-20" x 3'
  • Erigeron karvinskianus
    Santa Barbara Daisy
    great evergreen groundcover, blooms year-round
  • Achilea 'Salmon Beauty'
    Salmon Yarrow
  • Rosemarinus offinialis 'Mozart'
    Dwarf Mozart Rsemary
  • Lupinus albifrons
    Silver Bush Lupine
    Evergreen (ever gray-green?) with pretty blue spikes in the spring.
    Full Sun
(Also along for the ride, a Toyon and a Garrya from my house. What was I to do, they begged to come along!)

Other Vendors - I was particularly interested in ... MiJardin, here's their window-box like planter filled with my plants,
Schroeder Patio and Garden, great hardwood and synthetic tables and chairs for eating, loungers for, well, lounging,
dropleaf patio table
...and, Northern California Grills - source for professional barbecue islands.

All great products at reasonable prices. I'll certainly be recommending them to my friends and clients.

Well, guess I'm done. and, like they say, (do they really?), "That's a wrap!"

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

Friday, September 02, 2011

It's September ... Time to Plant Something!

Red Maple Leaf
flickr photo by Tigerzeye

Every fall I write the same thing .... plant now ... plants can settle in before the winter dormancy sets in ... get a head start over plants that don't go in til spring. Mother Nature wrote the rule book and some things don't change! Here are the links to those posts:

Me:  I'm off to LA Land, for some R 'n R. Got me some tunes, our new convertible PT Cruiser, and it's I-5 all the way. When I get back, I'm gonna be calling you!

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 16, 2011

Gardening with Kids

Kids in the garden are all different: some will like the bugs, some will ooh and aah over the flowers, some want to run the paths. (All would probably like to ride on a tractor!!!)

Ben's Salamander 

My mom was a dance teacher, my dad was a backyard farmer. Guess what a couple of my favorite activities are??? When you love something, you want to pass that interest on to your kids. It doesn't always happen immediately, sometimes, never, and that's ok, too. Maybe that seed (groan) will germinate at a later date.

Cherry tomatoes ripen in MY garden

Last month I got the opportunity to hang out with Guy and Jodie  from Channel 10's, Sac and Co. From their website: "Garden designer and owner of Geno's Garden Design and Coaching, Jeannie Hanson, shares some tips with hosts Guy and Jodie on how to create beautiful flowers and memories with your kids:"

Remember: keep it simple, be relaxed and expect surprises!

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

I was born on my dad's birthday. So, that made it mine, too. The night before I was born my parents had dinner with friends. The hostess served a birthday cake. They only ate the part that had "day" on it, leaving "Happy Birth..." intact. The next morning I was born. It was our birthday. It was our cake.

Last year I wrote a bit about my dad the gardener,  Remembering Dad. This year I wanted to include a silly story. My dad could be grumpy. But I could charm him out of it. I was his twin. One of my ways of doing this was to play the piano ... especially, Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody, made popular by Al Jolson in the days of the black-face and the talkies. My dad would arise out of his bad mood, come over by the piano and go down on one knee... "...rockabye your baby with a Dixie melody, when you croon, croon a tune, from the heart of Dixie..." Love you dad, this is for you!

Happy Father's Day Everyone!

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Have you killed a plant lately? Join the club!

Oftentimes people say things like, "I don't have a green thumb", and then describe how they have trouble keeping plants alive. Well ... every gardener I know has killed many a plant. So, get over it. So, you killed a plant. That's one of the ways you learn about plants! Here's a real example:

Heteromeles arbutifolia

I have been fascinated with Heteromeles arbutifolia, aka Toyon, ever since I found out it was the inspiration for the name of the place we know as "Hollywood" (Toyons are native to the Hollywood area, and have holly-like berries in the winter). I determined to have one, but, to date I have killed 2, neither of which ever got in the ground. They died in their can. Both were purchased at Windmill Nursery. Was I watering too often, too little, were they finicky? I asked Windmill how they keep their toyons alive. "No big deal, we water them daily." Above is the one I bought in early May. Dead.

Heteromeles arbutifolia

This one is it's replacement. They're probably the same age. Difference? Probably more consistent watering. Label says that "once acclimated, toyon is quite drought tolerant." I think I ignored that "once acclimated" part. So, I'm trying again. Also the owner of Windmill advises customers to only buy what they can plant now, because the sooner the plant gets into the ground, the better its chances of making it. I sometimes have a problem with this, because I love the promise that a new plant holds, and am willing to overbuy and pretend that I have a little nursery of my own. Or pretend that I'm doing research trials: which plant can take the most neglect! I end up having really rugged plants that survive and a graveyard for the rest. My kill rate is rather embarrassing.

Another example:

Salvia guaranitica
Still alive!

This is another I've had trouble with, Salvia guaranitica, Black and Blue Salvia. I saw it in full-blown glory in the WPA Rock Garden (William Land Park) several years ago. And, wanted it! Well, seems like every year I purchase one, mistreat it, and again, it dies in the can. I still want it, and so far, this one is still looking good. Salvias tend to be low water requiring plants, but until it's established in the garden it does need to be watered regularly. A few times I've neglected it and it starts drooping, but I've caught it before I caused permanent damage to its leaves (leaves dry up, no more energy production = dead). I also have it in a partially shady area, which it will prefer once I get it planted as well.

So... rather than quit when you kill a plant and label yourself a "Black Thumb", find out what you did wrong and keep at it. And, realize, you've "Joined the Club"

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

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Inside the Garden Designer's "Brain"

I quote the word "brain" because I don't really believe it's taking place in there ... how 'bout you? Do you create in that meaty space? Ha! Ah well, I digress...let's get on with it. Back to business! I recently turned in my last project for my C.A.D. (computer-aided design) landscape design class at American River College. We putzed along for awhile this semester doing little tutorials, and then, Bang! A big job... designing a big space on campus for the president of the college.

ARC president shows horticulture CAD students the mock-up for the front entry

We met our "client" over by the music/theater buildings and took a look at the space he wanted us to transform. It's at the back of the music building. Approximately 8,000 square feet of nothing, except 2 walkways and a large back-flow prevention device. While he talked, my concept started to take shape. My daughter received her AA degree in theater at AR, my sister and I sang in the Jazz Vocal group. I know the hallways, the teachers, the students. I knew what they wanted .... to perform!!!

The next class meeting consisted of site measurements. We buzzed around with our measuring tapes. That was a drag. Four million measurements, what the heck? But my friend, Darlene, and I bonded over the hectic confusion, and met again to re-take them in a calmer moment. Eventually I realized I didn't need most of the measurements ... I wasn't keeping those walkways, or much of anything else.

ARC CAD students taking measurements
25 students with tape measures and notebooks

I dare you to make sense of this!
we all contribute to the measurements on the board

Eventually my vision arrived on paper ... an amphitheater where students could rehearse, children's theater productions could be staged, impromtu performances could spring to life. Also, a place to hang out and do homework, a classy place for theater patrons to wait for showtime and spend intermission ... a place that would celebrate the arts, and the artist. That's the beauty of design ... the imagination of what's the very best that might happen here.

I added a feature I saw in a demonstration garden at Green Acres in Sacramento ... a raised bed with beautiful stonework and a rill at the base, fed by copper tubes. I think everyone should have one of these!

Green Acres retaining wall with rill

The rill was my favorite part of this garden, the three rivers stone was also gorgeous, and, the raised bed - it created a lovely enclosed space. Kudos to the designer!!!

Green Acres nursery demonstration garden
another picture of this demonstration garden from Green Acres

The deadline was approaching and I wasn't ready! I had been busy creating a display garden for the CA state Flower, Food and Garden Show, and missed a few classes (ahem). But was able to finally get my design done, and the color rendering figured out, albeit a bit late (ahem), and turned in to the president before spring break. I'm proud of my design and think it perfect for the setting ... functional and polished enough to do credit to the college, but with the exhuberance of a renaissance faire, to match the spirit of these arts students.

color rendering of my conceptual design for a new ARC Fine Arts amphitheater patio

I learned how to do CAD design. Not perfectly, but that was never the expectation. The expectation was that we'd achieve a professional-level competency that could then be improved upon. I feel like we're all off to a great start! Thanks as always to Paul MacGowan, head of the Hort program, for his humor and guidance.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Folsom Garden Club ... Going Strong for over 67 Years!

One of the CA Natives shown at the FGC meeting, Heteromeles arbutifolia

I just finished off a series of spring garden club talks a couple of weeks ago with a presentation at  the Folsom Garden Club. It's a lively club. Lots of active members, goooooood snacks, a lending library ... and me! This club was started in 1934 and at my table was one of the original  members. I was there to talk about curb appeal in the 21st century. Had a slick PowerPoint presentation. But, in this learn-as-you-go-world, found the presentation fell a bit flat, due to the many windows letting light stream with no window coverings ... well, you can imagine. Luckily, they were good sports, and so was I (... it  helped that I had brought some great show and tell Ca natives, loaned for the occasion by Windmill Nursery in Carmichael.) Here's the info that would-a been seen on the screen if it could-a been seen:

Garrya elliptica “James Roof”
Coast Silktassle

Garrya elliptica

 I first spied this tree at the WPA Rock Garden in William Land Park. It had these amazing drooping things that looked like they'd been macramed. Daisy Mah told me it was a Coast Silktassle and the decorative things were male catkins! Oh, my ...
  • Evergreen shrub to small tree with 10” yellowish male catkins in the spring
  • Best with moderate water and part shade until established
  • Can become drought tolerant, but do best with water every 2 weeks or on the edge of a garden. Generally not the choice of deer.
  • Grows multi-stemmed from base arching to 8 – 12’ tall and wide, or can be pruned to resemble a tree as in picture below.
(Suggestion: don't stand in parking lot taking pictures while ignoring the cars or you, too, may get a little surprise bump from a car backing out!)

Calliandra californica
Baja Fairy Duster

Calliandra californica
Isn't this the sweetest? Who would guess this could become a 4' tall, drought tolerant plant?
  • Open, architectural evergreen shrub grown for its gray foliage, wonderful red fairy duster flowers, and zigzag patterned stems.
  • Can become a rounded shrub to 4’ tall and wide in hot locations.
  • Zones 10 - 24
Calliandra californica
 (a nylon stocking catches fairy duster seed at the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sunland, CA)

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita B.O.P.’
Foothill Penstemon
Penstemon heterophyllus, Magarita B.O.P.
The color on this penstemon is truly lovely.
  • Evergreen, grows to 1.5 - 2’ x 2’
  • Garden tolerant and resistive to disease
  • No summer water, disease resistant, cold hardy, deer resistant.
  • Hummingbirds and butterflies
  • UCD All-Star

Escholtzia Californica ‘Mission Bells’

Escholtzia Californica
this is our regular CA poppy with Blue Pimpernell
  • Attracts birds, deer resistant, needs little water.
  • Self-seeds and flowers again, year after year, withstanding drought.
  • Full sun, thrives where warm and dry.
  • Grows 1’ tall

Heteromeles arbutifolia
Hollywood sign by Mr. Littlehand
Hollywood sign, a photo by Mr. Littlehand on Flickr.
  • 8’ evergreen shrub
  • Large dark green leaves, red berries in winter (food for birds)
  • Sun/light shade, most soils, drought tolerant
  • Hardy to 20 degrees
  • Hoo-ray for Hollywood! Why Hollywood? Because this native was there in abundance in the early naming days, It has berries. They called it, "Hollywood"! The rest is history.

Malacothamnus palmeri ‘Hanging Basket’
  • Evergreen shrub to 6’
  • Full sun, well-drained soil, hardy to 15 degrees, drought tolerant
  • Use on banks, in dry borders or for naturalizing.

Ribes speciosum
Fuchsia Flowering Gooseberry
    Ribes speciosum
    (picture courtesy of Windmill Nursery)
  • Bush Mallow from Monterey County with gray leaves and congested heads of pink flowers in summer.
  • 4’ nearly evergreen shrub, fuchsia-like flowers Jan. – May
  • Spiny stems and fruits with glossy green leaves
  • Morning sun, high shade, good drainage, tolerates clay
  • Hummingbird plant
Heterotheca villosa ‘San Bruno Mountain”
California Golden Aster

Heterotheca villosa
(picture courtesy of Windmill Nursery)
  • This low growing perennial of the aster family makes a dense mat of trailing stems.
  • Begins to bloom in the late spring, and if occasionally irrigated and sheared, will continue to the fall.
  • Sun or light shade, moderate to occasional water, cold hardy
  • Leave old flower seed heads for the birds

Heuchera ‘Canyon Delight’
Alum Root/Coral Bells
  • Non-invasive, “half- native” result from crossing CA mountain coral bells and the vivid red coral bells of Arizona.
  • Needs part shade here and moderately drought tolerant.
  • Lovely massed around native oaks.
  • Foot long sprays of flowers above a tight mound of green foliage
Salvia microphylla ‘Berzerkeley’
  • Clouds of deep rose pink flowers
  • Dense compact 2’ tall by 6’wide
  • Sun to mostly shade
  • Blooms spring to late fall
  • hummingbirds
The Folsom Garden Club just finished its annual spring tour. I've been invited for a private tour of two of these gardens, so I'll be posting more pictures from this great group soon. Stay tuned. And, if you have a hankering to hang out with other garden loving people, perhaps meet some new friends with whom you can swap seeds and go to gardening events with, consider joining a neighborhood club.

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