Thursday, April 23, 2015

David Monn, Paula Pryke, and the Most Beautiful Flowers

We went to see David Monn speak at the De Young last week - he is the uber-talented event planner (and that does not even begin to cover what he can do) and flower arranger, and he brought some photos of his events.  Stunning.  And they will probably never be published; his clients are apparently rich, famous, and very private.  He did not name drop, but some of the parties he did are in someone's book... alas we were not allowed to photograph the power point.  

He made luscious arrangements, moving so fast he was a blur:

and then he set the table.  I think I need...well, everything.  Bolder linens, more dishes, whimsical stemware...and little gold chairs.  
 If he doesn't give you inspiration for your next party, there is no hope for you.
He did one huge all-foliage arrangement on a ladder...

I think I'm gonna need a bigger house...

...and maybe a minion or two.

An East Coast friend tells the story of the most over-the-top wedding ever: "He gave her an unlimited budget...and she exceeded it."  David says his clients tell him the same thing.  I wonder if he did that wedding?

Paula Pryke was there too, and what with her shop, her seventeen books, her international lectures, her collecting honors from the Queen via Prince William (and making him laugh) and her whirlwind arrangements, we all felt we should be doing just a bit more...
Love her style...
And yet right here at Chez Panisse I found flowers just as evocative, just as lovely...
And more my style.  Love the looseness.  We live in such a wonderful part of the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hot Tomato

okay, so I write an advice column for a garden club newsletter, and I had a woman corner me at a meeting and insist she should not have to rotate her tomatoes, because the were in the only sunny spot in her garden, and should be allowed to stay there, free of disease, no matter the laws of nature.

I didn't have the heart to tell her she's not that special.  Actually I tried, but she was on broadcast, not receive.  But if she reads this, maybe she'll get the idea...or maybe not.  A friend once told me you can write the most outrageous, egregious things your friends have done; as long as you change their names they won't recognize themselves.  So far I have kept that urge in check, but I'm thinking about breaking out.

So here is my advice to that Hot Tomato.  And stay tuned: more advice columns to come.

Sage Advice  May 2015
by Mary A. Gardener

Dear Mary:  
I am getting ready to plant my tomatoes, and I am being told that I can’t plant them in the same place as last year!   That can’t be right; it’s the only sunny spot in my garden!  This is an old wives’ tale, right?

Hot Tomato

Dear Hot Tomato:
Alas, it is not.  Old wives get blamed for a lot of things, but they are not responsible for your tomatoes.

Tomatoes are susceptible to a whole host of diseases - fusarium wilt, causing the plant to yellow and then collapse; verticillium wilt, causing the plant to wilt, yellow, and then collapse - are you seeing a trend here?  And some other really colorful things like cottony leak, sour rot, and spotted wilt.   May you never make their acquaintance.  

Unfortunately, these diseases are not swayed by your argument that you have only one sunny spot in your garden so should be allowed to plant your tomatoes there every year with impunity.  You may avoid the diseases for years, but once you get them, they will stay.  And stay.  Like distant unwelcome relatives at the holidays, the are very hard to get rid of - although, unlike relatives they can be controlled.  By rotating their location - more on that later.  Come to think of it, if you rotate your location, maybe the relatives won’t be able to find you?   

Mary’s sister had huge healthy tomato plants, the envy of the neighborhood (and Mary), until one day they just keeled over, all six-plus feet of them, and died.  Loaded with green tomatoes.  Heartbreaking.

Mary’s sister tried growing her tomatoes in pots, in raised beds with fresh soil, and they always looked great at the beginning of the season (hope springs eternal; so do tomatoes), but just as Mary's sister was buying the mozzarella and snipping the basil for her salad, the tomatoes would keel over and die.  Again.  And again.  

So what do you do?  First, don’t plant any of the solanums (that’s the tomato family, and includes potatoes, peppers, eggplant and tobacco, ornamental and otherwise) in the same bed more than once every four years.  Yes, you heard me right - four years.  And if you have - or suspect - a problem, take out the plants, bag them securely and put them in the trash.  Not on the compost.  Trash.

And sterilize your tools! this includes shovels, trowels, pruners, and gloves.  And hands.  Clorox wipes (I know, I know) are handy, but a dilute bleach solution in a spray bottle works too.  A shovel is how, we think, Mary’s sister’s garden got so badly infested.  Eventually she moved to Seattle.  If you rotate your tomatoes, you should be able to stay in your home and enjoy your tomatoes - and Garden Club - for many years.

Happy Gardening - Mary

Thursday, April 2, 2015

To Do In April

So just in case you have some spare time this weekend - bwaa ha ha - here, courtesy of Sloat Nursery in Danville, CA, is what to do in your garden now.  If you live in California.  In the north.  

If you are still shivering under a blanket of snow, may I recommend a Caribbean vacation?  Or a realtor?


  • Prune back herbaceous perennials (example: salvia), to promote plant bushiness.
  • Grow your own food this summer! Now is the time to plant edibles like lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, zucchini and berries. Consider a soaker hose to conserve water in your vegetable garden.
  • Prevent powdery mildew and rust on roses and other plants with Bonide Neem Oil. Already have a powdery mildew problem? Treat with Actinovate or Serenade.
  • Aphids are beginning to appear. Stop them early with Bonide Neem Oil.
  • Tomatoes: choose a large cage — your plants will surely grow larger!
  • Plant a tree, shrub, flower or edible for Earth Day or Arbor Day.
  • Stake perennials like Delphinium, Foxglove, peony, coreopsis, garden phlox, hollyhock, centranthus, and Shasta daisy.
  • Start planting summer annuals like lobelia, begonia, marigolds, cosmos, petunias, snapdragon and alyssum. Use Sure Start fertilizer for new plantings to establish them quickly.
  • Apply a lawn fertilizer such as E.B. Stone Nature’s Green to green up your grass gently.
  • Stock up on a season’s-worth of top quality, plant-specific fertilizers from E.B. Stone.The “Naturals” and “Organics” lines are environmentally friendly.
  • Snails and slugs are hatching in your garden right now. Non-toxic Sluggo can help.
  • Mulch vegetable and flower beds with Sloat Forest Mulch Plus.
  • Release ladybugs, praying mantis, and other beneficial insects to help control aphids, mites, whiteflies, and other garden pests. If you release beneficial insects, please don’t spray for garden pests.
  • Work cover crops into the soil before they seed.
  • Say yes to summer bulbs! Plant gladiolus, dahlias & lilies.  Put stakes in place at the time of planting.
  • Shop for clematis and other spring bloomers.
  • It’s also time to start choosing and planting summer perennials: Penstemon, Salvia, Argyranthemum...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

The old mirror from our dining room sat in the hall, propped against the wall, for a very long time.  We had bought it because a stager said we needed a mirror in the living room to sell our old house.  The house sold, but the mirror was a bit of an orphan; it never really fit in.  Cheesy plastic frame, fake - um, I mean faux - oak leaves.  You get the picture.  Not pretty.  

The mirror over the fireplace is our new house has always been too small. 
Ordered from a catalogue (in my more timid days) shipped from England in a huge wooden crate.  By the time I got the crate open I had destroyed the crate - no way to send it back.  Plus the shipping was almost the same as the cost of the mirror.  So we lived with it.   
But although it was beautiful, and beautifully made, it was never right.

Walking by the plastic mirror one day, I got an idea.  Always a dangerous thing.  
So I got out my tape and measured.  Then I got out the sizing and the gold leaf, and I went to work.
Our Italian class helped me turn it on its side so I could finish leafing all the the edges.  Image Framing came and hung it above the mantle on a French clip (look it up).  And...still not right.  
It needed to be taller, to have more of a finish at the top.

So I went on line.  Overdoors.  I ordered two.  One was cheesy gold plastic; I gold leafed it.  
One looked like wood.  With a chicken.  

Wally loves the chicken.  I love the swoopy gold crown, and the way the mirror now fills the space.   
And now, finally, it is right.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

"Spring has sprung, the grass has riz
I wonder where the flowers is?"

It's a family tradition to recite that poem in spring, the origin of the tradition and the author of the poem lost in time.  And what a spring this is!  Cool overcast mornings, perfect for a cup of tea and a trip around the garden to collect a bouquet.  Warm afternoons when I swear you can actually see the flowers opening.  Cool evenings, the hummingbirds dive-bombing and the acorn woodpeckers squabbling on the feeders.

 So for my friends who are shivering under a blanket of snow, here's what's blooming in my garden now. 

Crabapples are at their peak, the hot pink buds opening into the most delicate white flowers,
 Elizabeth, the yellow magnolia, her flowers brilliant against the blue sky (unless you get up too early as I did and the sky is still grey ...)
Pink jasmine coats the fence, and perfumes my bedroom.
Lemons spill their sweet scent, the trees covered with fruit and flowers at the same time.  Go figure.
 The last of the narcissus are nodding near the birdbath,
their yellow made stronger by the contrast of the Spanish bluebells.

 Ian's peach tree is full of promise.  If we get any water, I predict a bumper crop.  Big if.
Chinodoxa have spread into a low blue carpet,
 Primrose and forget-me-nots have happily seeded together
 The white wisteria on the side of the garage smells like the Orient - sweet, sandalwoody, exotic.
Heuchera and forget-me-nots carpet the shade,
 and there are so many blooms on the loropetalum it's almost boring...almost.
And the weird red cones of the melianthus major stand out against its toothed grey leaves.  You would think something that looks this butch would be tough, and deer resistant.  

You would be wrong.

I know I'll be sad when it's baking hot and there is no water, and I will think with envy of those friends who garden where it rains in summer.   But right now?  Right now it's glorious, and I am so happy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fish Face

Whenever Wally takes my picture I look like a manatee.  Or as Marco said, ready for rehab.  It's been a little hard on my self esteem.  

So it was great to learn from Monika Olsen in our digital photography class (at Acalanes Adult Education) why I look like a manatee - and that it's an artifact of the camera, not a personal failing, or a reason to schedule plastic surgery.

This is Carolyn's deliciously steaming fish without the zoom, just getting close with the camera.
Note the fish-eye effect? (pun intended)
Here is the same shot but standing back a little and using the zoom: 
Magic!  And the manatee face explained.  

We learned a lot of other stuff too - mostly what I learned is except for the zoom there is nothing a point-and-shoot camera can do that the iphone can't do better. 

So I am now the proud owner of a Nikon P530 with a 42x optical zoom.  Oh and I also learned to turn off the digital zoom.  It does nothing that you can't do better on your computer later.

I chose the Nikon because it's light and relatively small.  Will my photos improve?  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What To Do In March

Here, courtesy of the lovely folks at Sloat Garden Center, is what to do in your garden in March.  Don't forget to thank them, preferably by shopping there! 

What To Do In March

  • Wake up the garden by feeding it. We recommend:
    • Maxsea fertilizer is ideal for feeding container plants. Houseplants will enjoy a feeding with Maxsea 16-16-16 as will your over-wintered containers and baskets
    • E.B. Stone Sure Start fertilizer for new plantings to establish them quickly.
    • Fertilize your garden with E.B. Stone Organics All Purpose.
    • Stock up on top quality, plant-specific fertilizers like: E.B. Stone Organics Rose & Flower, Tomato & Vegetable, and Citrus & Fruit.  All E.B. Stone fertilizers promote healthy plants and the soil beneath them because of mycorrhizae.
    • Continue to prepare planting beds for spring. Test your soil for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and add the appropriate fertilizer or supplement. We recommend amending your soil with Sloat Loam Builder, Sloat Forest Mulch Plus or Sloat Planting Mix. Also, add E.B Stone’s Agricultural Lime or Grow MoreMaxi-Cal to soil to provide needed calcium for vegetables & fruit to prevent blossom end rot.
    • Rhododendrons and azaleas are budding and blooming. Now is the best time to choose new plants.  Feed plants with EB Stone Organics Azalea Camellia and Gardenia Food after flowering
  • It’s Vegetable Planting Time! Organic vegetable starts & seeds are in our stores so you can grow your own food.
  • Water wise tip: For new plantings, consider using water holding polymers such as Soil Moist. The non-toxic granules hold water longer than soil alone, thus minimizing moisture loss due to evaporation.
  • Apply mulches such as Micro Bark or Forest Mulch Plus to established and new plantings.
  • Plant your favorite annuals for spring. Petunias, begonias, alyssum, marigolds, cosmos, and lobelia are budding and blooming.
  • Check out impatiens alternatives: We carry a vast array of shade plants that will provide flowers and foliage in shaded spaces: begonias, heucheras, bounce impatiens, and New Guinea impatiens.
  • Say yes to summer bulbs! Plant gladiolus and dahlias for summer color.
  • Prune freeze damaged plants now (if you haven’t already). But, wait to prune spring blooming shrubs until after flowering.
  • Snails and slugs are hatching in your garden right now. Non-toxic Sluggo can help keep them out. If earwigs, sowbugs, and cutworms are also a problem, use Sluggo Plus with spinosad. Edge containers and beds with copper tape.
  • Aphids are beginning to appear. Stop them early with Bonide Neem Oil, Bonide Rose Rx 3 in 1 or Monterey Take Down Spray — safe for organic gardening. The best time to spray is at the end of the day after the bees have stopped foraging. Use on roses and all your plants.
  • Consider planting companion plants such as Yarrow, Erigeron and Marigold to provide an environment that welcomes beneficial insects.
  • Use Serenade bacteria-based fungicide to prevent and cure spring rust and mildew. (OMRI listed)
  • Water early in the morning to prevent wet foliage at night. Wet foliage attracts snails and fungal diseases.
  • Don't forget to shop at Sloat!