Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Plant Spacing

We are in constant contact with nature monitoring conditions on the ground during this raging global pandemic.

Please maintain 3.14159 feet between all your trees.  With certain trees, like redwoods and magnolias, it may be necessary to maintain 19.8 feet between trees.  Large trees have extensive root systems and can lift up foundations, walkways and sidewalks.  A middle ground, of say 5 feet, is adequate for fences where the tree is able to grow up and over an obstacle.

Smaller trees like dogwoods and maples can be be grouped in odd numbers.  Please limit groupings of these trees to a forest or smaller.  In a formal or linear grouping, even pairs are ok.  It may be necessary to provide ongoing care for pairs of trees so they maintain a uniform shape.

NOTE: Shipments of bulbs from affected areas like China or Italy can be moved out of quarantine warehouses and opened in your garden.  Take a few of the bulbs to an edible schoolyard near you.  Kindergarteners will return from break to perform tests.  They are trained to move the bulbs to random locations and see how the ecosystem responds.  There is limited cause for concern at this point and no need to divert resources from USDA facilities studying the effects of roundup.

Due to the fluid nature of evolution we will have an update for you April 1 2120.  In the meantime, hug a tree.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Changes in the Valley

After more than 30 years, Quarryhill Botanic Garden has a new executive director.

The name Scot Medbury may be unfamiliar, but you may recognize some of his past accomplishments.  The Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park underwent a major restoration 20 years ago.  Mr. Medbury spearheaded the fundraising effort to create that budget.  Soon after, he accepted an offer to become president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Everything, from the visitor center to the gardens, saw a Medbury improvement.

Now, he is at the helm of Quarryhill and there is a sense of anticipation in the valley.  The announcement alone nine months ago created quite a buzz.  People who had not seen him in 15 years stopped into the nursery to say they were excited about his return.  If you're a curious plant person, a visit to Quarryhill might be worthwhile.  Remember, members of botanic gardens get 10% off plant purchases at Wildwood.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Garden Improv

So you had a plan.  Then the gophers showed up.  Or the mercury hit 70 in February.

Sticking to a rigid plan with gardening can be dangerous.  Historical data is informative but should never drown out what we see and hear in a garden.  Looking for cues from plants is the best way to proceed with gardening tasks.

Make it rain. Or turn on your irrigation system for half a day to simulate a rainstorm.  Antsy to start your frost tender plants now?  What will you do if there's a cold snap in April?

Gardening is one of the few professions where experts often try to eliminate change [see hedges in Webster].  Course-correcting nature requires constant adjustments because nature constantly changes. 

Improvising will produce its share of comedic moments.  Hopefully some unexpected and beautiful ones as well.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Powering Through 2020

Plants rely on the sun.  People rely on PG&E.  People should be smarter.

Thankfully there are groups like Silicon Valley Clean Energy & Powerhouse that are building a healthier more resilient energy ecosystem.  Gridshift Hackathon was part of that effort.  Teams presented apps that display billing data intuitively and take the guesswork out of saving energy/money.

In layman’s terms, pricing signals are as antiquated as PGE’s grid infrastructure.  Intelligent use of computing power and smart devices would reduce spikes in demand.  Storing power in the growing fleet of electric vehicles could capture renewable [solar] energy as it is created. Note: a battery in a Tesla Model 3 could power a dryer [the most power thirsty residential appliance] for 20 cycles.

Supporting Sonoma Valley Clean Power and paying more attention to how you use power is the best way to create a safe and smart energy system.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Dreaming of Tropical Trees

Croton: real or a dream?
When the bright holiday lights fade and spring still seems years away, visions of palm fronds swaying in the warm tropical breeze enter our minds.

Jacaranda is an example of a tropical tree at the edge of its natural range here in Northern California.  Perhaps best suited as a multi-trunk tree, the fern like foliage softens the overall effect of a wide canopy.  The most striking characteristic of the tree is the purple blue flower that appears in summer.  True blue is a very rare color in the landscape and Jacaranda comes very close.

Crotons are over-the-top displays of color that squeal at the slightest temperature drop.  In their native habitat of Asia, they form oversized bushes that could be confused as trees if they stood alone.  The magenta and yellow leaves are the land equivalent of tropical fish.  The best we can do in the SF Bay Area is grow them indoors.

Your garden will forgive you if the weeds start to pop up while you're dreaming of a tropical escape.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Salesforce Park & The High Line: a study in redevelopment

The High Line Railway in New York City was a true diamond in the rough.  Its redevelopment galvanized a larger movement in cities to reclaim underutilized infrastructure and reimagine them as public space.  This ‘High Line Network’ includes projects throughout the US.  Unfortunately, Salesforce Park is not on the list. 

At its core, the Salesforce Park is a reimagining of the top of an old transit center.  Designers saw an opportunity to transform a turnstile for buses into a lush green oasis in the heart of SF.  With lofty ambitions comes high expectations.  Examining how people interact with the space will ultimately tell the story of the park.

Nothing is more important to using a park, then getting to it.  Salesforce Park has two main elevators at either end, two main escalators, and a gondola.  No stairs.  Stairs level the playing field for everyone.  People can pause on stairs, meet on stairs, go at their own pace.  The High Line has wide stairways that accommodate the thousands of people that visit it every year.  At Salesforce Park, machines throttle the flow of people.  One rarely hears “let’s get in the elevator” and “let’s go to the park” in the same sentence.  Machines are great for security and keeping out the homeless but bad for access.

Access is hot topic for green spaces and redevelopment in general.  Ideally, all walks of life are encouraged to use parks and enjoy nature equally.  To that end, The Friends of The High Line operates the NYC park.  The name just sounds happy and fluffy, like a wagging Newfoundland. Sure, Friends of The High Line has received its share of criticism about park programming.  That’s New York and that’s healthy.  Biederman Redevelopment Ventures operates Salesforce Park.  They transformed New York's Bryant Park into a safe vibrant place.  They’re organizing a whole host of free activities in the park. Let’s see how they do.
Ned Kahn's dormant water feature

In the name of art, a 1,000 ft water sculpture lines one edge of Salesforce Park.  The designers built a 5’ deep bed for drought tolerant plants alongside the fountain.  They shield the plants from view [and excess water] with 5’ tall plexiglass panels.  Moms encourage their kids to stay out of the fountain zone so they don’t get wet.  That’s 10,000 square feet of space where space is at a premium.

There is more to the park than the fountain.  Lots of no mow, low water grass with signs to stay off.  Lots of domes – a la the California Academy of Sciences – where people are off limits.  The planting is similar to museum exhibits; groupings of plants with master signs and big railings to keep viewers back.

Salesforce Park feels like a museum that opened a long time ago.  Like a place that has the Hope Diamond on display, with security cameras, people queuing up to get in, and VIP receptions.  Except New York has the real crown jewel of raised parks.

Monday, December 9, 2019

A 2019 Highlight

Our Spring collaboration with Karl The Store in Sausalito was a big undertaking for Wildwood.

The opportunity to design indoor and outdoor spaces with a midcentury modern flair was a huge draw.  Moving from the wide open vistas in Sonoma to a small store footprint was an exercise in curating a plant palette.  We brought the Wildwood philosophy to Sausalito – showcasing rare and unusual plants that love California.

People responded. We heard “this reminds me of LA” and “you should open in France” more than once! Everyone loved the bonsai collection.   Look for us on the Champs-Elysees next year;)

We left with so many insights.  The warmer climate expanded possibilities for plant combinations.  Table top displays are great conversation starters with beginning gardeners.  Pedestrians appreciate the detail in sidewalk curb appeal versus our ‘loud’ display for drivers at highway speeds on Route 12. 

Keep pushing your gardening boundaries in 2020!