Thursday, April 30, 2015

May To Do In The Garden

Once again, thanks to those lovely and oh-so-knowledgeable folks at Sloat, here is what needs doing in the garden in May.  If you live in Northern Ca.  Of course since we have a miserable drought and scorching hot weather (90 in April...really!) I recommend mixing yourself a gin and tonic.  It won't alleviate the drought, but it makes watching your garden wilt a little easier to take.  Just a little.  


  • Plant annuals like petunias, marigolds, begonias, lobelia, salvia and zinnia.
  • Re-seed radishes, carrots and beets.
  • Plant late summer edibles like pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, peppers, basil and melons.
  • Select garden-ready dahlias, perennials, hydrangeas, and hanging baskets.
  • Fertilize rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with E.B. Stone Organics Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Food.
  • Give vegetables a boost with E.B. Stone Organics Tomato and Vegetable Food.
  • Feed containers and hanging baskets with Maxsea All Purpose fertilizer.
  • Plant new containers with E.B. Stone Formula 420 to provide the best moisture holding capacity.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs after bloom is past. Prune spring flowering Clematis to control size and shape.
  • Mulch vegetable and flower beds with Sloat Forest Mulch Plus to control weeds and conserve moisture.
  • Freshen up containers and replace spent annuals with colorful 4-inch perennials such as verbena, calibrachoa, coleus, bacopa and ipomoea.
  • Don’t forget mom on Mother’s Day! We have blooming flowers, gift cards, and hanging baskets.
  • Check out our selection of specialty hand tools, gloves and sun protective hats.
  • Release ladybugs and other beneficial insects to help control aphids, mites, whiteflies, and other garden pests.
  • The spittle bugs have returned!  Learn more. >
  • Stake tall perennials such as Dahlias.
  • Use beneficial nematodes to manage grubs in your lawn
  • Deadhead spring bulbs but leave the foliage until it turns yellow.
  • Pinch back late summer and fall perennials to promote better flowering, especially mums and asters.
  • Check your hose fittings for spent washers and leaks. Ensure your hose has a shut off valve or other water conserving feature. Consider a soaker hose to conserve water in your vegetable garden.

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...