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

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


  1. I giggled when I read this! You are pretty notorious for leaving plants in their pots! I love the graveyard bit, too funny!

  2. You have such a way with words!