Sunday, September 30, 2012

Introduction to Gardening with Maples

On Saturday, 15 people attended Wildwood Farm’s introductory class on gardening with maples.  The class surveyed different types of maples and discussed how to plant and care for them.

Roots and watering were major topics.  One goal of the class was having people visualize the root system of a tree as it develops from somara to a tree.  One tip is to use the width of the foliage as a measuring stick for the size of the root system.  This is also a cue about where to water the plant.

A tree grown in a container, especially a large tree, has a much smaller root system.  The watering schedule for a newly planted container tree is much different than one grown from seed.  Watering is much more frequent, for shorter durations, and done closer to the trunk.  As new foliage leafs out, this signals that the watering circumference can be widened from the original container diameter.

Large trees will need frequent watering for many [5+] summers before their roots are large enough to withstand hot days on their own.  Maples have many fine feeder roots so a circular spray attachment on a hose or irrigation system is best.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Starting a Family Nursery Business in the 1930's

My father was born in Europe.  He was the oldest of nine brothers and sisters.  He had a scholarship to go to a major university.  His parents told him to go to America to earn money to bring the rest of the family to America.

During the 1930’s, my father worked in an iron smelter in Tormey, CA.  It was a company town.  The family was allowed to live on the right side of the tracks because my mother looked Italian.  In fact, she was Mexican.  I was born in the mid 30’s.  My father had already started a nursery in Berkeley, CA.  Talk about guts.

My mother ran the Berkeley place until she could not handle everything – two little children, answering customer’s questions, and stocking new plants.  She had dropped out of school at thirteen and started working.  The money was needed to support her father and his large family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ground Breaking Work

Today, an all-star cast of gardeners broke ground on the new perennial display planned for Wildwood Farm’s highway frontage. 

The new display will stretch along 200 feet of the property that faces Highway 12 in Kenwood.  The planting design aims to create a year round show of color.  A combination of bulbs, flowering shrubs, and perennials should provide interest through the seasons. 

Ric and I planted 150 Aster frikartii ‘Moench’ in two separate drifts between the Wildwood Farm sign and the entrance to the property.  This Aster is highly regarded in the gardening community.  For starters, it is a hybrid between an Aster from Italy and one from the Himalayans.  So, it’s tough.  It blooms for five months, from May to October.  To round it all off, ‘Moench’ is deer resistant and drought tolerant.  We’re putting it to the test in an area that gets over eight hours of direct sun in the summer.  We think it will pass with flying [lavender blue & yellow] colors.

Of course, we didn’t just roll out of bed and decide to plant 150 perennials today.  As the project unfolds, we’ll share the inspiration, preparation, and ideas that led up to today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ginkgoes go O to Sunset in October

In June, the Sunset garden editors snapped pictures from all angles of our dwarf Ginkgoes at the Celebration Weekend.  They liked them so much that they squeezed them into the most recent magazine.  They're easy to squeeze into your garden too.

Names like Gnome, Troll, and Munchkin hint at their diminutive size.  Everything about Munchkin, from the leaves to the size of the plant, is tiny.  It is best in a raised setting or in a container so one can appreciate the small stature.  Gnome and Troll have leaves that are much closer to the size of a tree Ginkgo.  The outline of the leaf is much more pleasing than a common Ginkgo as it is evenly rounded and balanced on both sides.  The rate of growth on both plants is faster than Munchkin.

It will take many moons for young dwarfs to add volume to their branching structure though.  Since they are just beginning to enter retail channels, most gardeners should expect to watch their young Ginkgoes grow with the seasons.  We're certainly excited to have them at Wildwood Farm.

As we build our collection, we'll let you know about other outstanding Ginkgo varieties.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Author's Note

Ric submitted an article and I told him it needed a better title - that people often decide to read something based on the title.  He said the article was a bit of history.  I thought it needed to be more specific and/or eye catching.  No response.

So, I read the article and asked him if it was about the unsung heroes of the plant world.  He said 'yeah'  and went on to describe visiting them at their homes and the types of plants they were growing.  Imagine seeing a knockout Sinogrande Rhododendron with huge leaves and bright flowers for the first time - because it wasn't available to the public yet...  I asked him why he didn't put that in the article.

He said, "I have my own style.  I'll write more about them later."  I asked, "why not just write about one person now and others in following articles".  Nope.

Have you ever had this type of conversation with someone about what to plant and where it should go?!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unsung Heroes of the Plant World

The plant person in the early years of the 20th Century was a self-motivated person.  They loved plants and wanted to share them with other people.  Their work was not a money making endeavor.  Many of them operated out of their homes, in the evening, after finishing their day job.
  • §      Howard Kerrigan was the Azalea king, out of Hayward, CA.
  • §      Louis Gavello from Richmond, CA hybridized many dwarf Escallonias and Hebes.  He never received credit for them.  He sold his patents to the big growers and they celebrated the great discoveries as their own.
  • §     Demoto Nursery in Hayward, CA was owned by an outstanding plant person.
  • §     Peter Shelts was widely known for his magnificent tuberous begonias.
After World War II, many Japanese people emerged as leaders in the plant world.  One example is Frank Ogawa, a major wholesale plant supplier in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He went on to become the mayor of Oakland, CA.

Friday, September 14, 2012

History Tells Us

Recently, California Garden & Landscape History Society members stopped by to tour and hear a presentation about Don McLaren’s [son of John McLaren, designer of SF’s Golden Gate Park] blueprint for Wildwood Farm

Often times, we study the past to gain a better understanding of current events.  While reflecting is important, building something new can be much more rewarding.

Studying books and looking at glossy pictures is fine.  Sooner or later, the shovel is going to have to hit the soil.  And things don't have to get much more complicated than digging.

Just remember to water your plants!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Where am I? I am running down a gravel path.  It is twilight - there is a slight drizzle and I am getting wet.  Where could I be? I brush past soft foliage - some tall and some small.

What is ahead? Do I see something or is it my imagination?  I run into a small pond.  Is it mine or am I lost? Gradually, I begin to recognize things - this is my backyard - the pond, the large stones and the collection of Japanese Maples.  What am I doing out here?

Abruptly, I sit up - my eyes wide open.  Cow-a-bunga and are staring at me.  Their tails wagging - this is a game to them, but it is certainly not to me.  What is going on?

I get up from the bed and walk to a window.  It is dark and drizzling - I peer outside but no me is evident - just my vast collection of Japanese Maples.  I sigh with relief.  Nothing to worry about.  Everything is alright or is it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Spotlight on the Shadows

For some time now, Wildwood Farm has been in the shadows of the Valley of the Moon.  As Wildwood emerges from the shadows and unfurls itself, there promises to be plenty of gardening anecdotes and stories.  Ric and Joe will be writing about much more than the number of petals on the ‘flower of the week’. 

This is as much about life as it is about plants.  You can expect to hear about how plants make us feel, how they impact the landscape, and how we experience the outdoors.  It’s about laughter, anticipation, and remembering.  It’s about things that are at the limits of our control. 

It’s about places and feelings that are still a little wild.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where it all started

For years, plants have kept this place a closely guarded secret.  Only the maintenance guy knew about the plant kingdom that ruled from Wildwood Farm.  One day, the maintenance guy took his kid to work.  The kid had lots of fun.  And the kid started telling the maintenance guy how to make Wildwood more exciting.  The plants were indifferent at first, plus the maintenance guy kinda liked the peace and quiet.  Eventually, the plants got bored and told the maintenance guy they needed to spice things up.  75-0-0 wouldn’t do it.  Neither would designer containers.  @birds had told the plants about a new world.  The plants wanted to rule that world too.  So the plants got the kid to connect them to the new world.  Now, the maintenance guy is working double duty in the garden and on the blog.  The blog is a work in progress and the kid’s having lots of fun…