Posts Tagged ‘Orange County’

Another in a series of posts to bring you interesting garden-related stories. This week we have links to a few articles we think you’ll like and news about events in Southern California.

A Plan to Turn Brooklyn’s Unused Acres Green: This article is about a truly great idea that a group of Brooklyn gardeners called 596 Acres (the total of unused public acres in Brooklyn) had to find and cultivate all the unused lots that dot the city. LOVE this idea!

Humans aren’t the only ones making things grow. Apparently the male Bowerbird, who builds elaborate bowers to attract a mate, is responsible for a lot of new plant life.

Here’s a lovely tribute to a lovely woman and an amazing gardener, Bea Grow. I had the pleasure of meeting her and visiting her beautiful garden a couple of years ago. Bea died last December and is sorely missed by the O.C. gardening community.

Click the link for a round-up of all the O.C. garden tours. Should have gotten this link to you sooner for all the April tours, but there are plenty on the list for May. One I highly recommend is the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour. It’s free (donations encouraged) and it’s fabulous — this weekend, May 5 – 6.

There will be a workshop on Edible Gardening in Small Spaces by my fellow Master Gardeners at the Orange County Great Park this Saturday. Here’s the description: Limited space? Master Gardeners are here to show you the ins and outs of getting a great yield from little places. Choose your favorite vegetables and learn how to make the most of them.

And finally a few words about a great event that I was a part of last weekend at the Orange County Great Park; the Artisan Food and Arts Festival. It was an all-day celebration of artisan food, sustainable gardening and art.

Chef Linda Elbert (of The Basement Table) and I collaborated on Seed to Plate: Cooking from the Garden, a presentation about growing your own vegetables and preparing them. I really enjoyed sharing organic growing tips with our audience.

Afterwards, I was able to spend time taking in the other chefs’ demos, the restaurant booths, sampling the food from the food trucks and seeing the art exhibits. Some of the art is still up. I highly recommend that you go see Tom Lamb’s exhibit of aerial photography called Marks on the Land: The View From Here.

The entire event was so much fun — kudos to my friend Maya Dunn and the Great Park staff for a fabulous job of pulling it off in grand style. Let’s hope that it comes back next year!


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Last week our tips focused on pruning hybrid tea and floribunda roses in coastal Southern California. Today we’ll finish up with tips for pruning Old Garden Roses, shrub roses, standard or tree roses, and climbers. Don’t forget to clean and sharpen your tools before you start —  a clean cut is important.

Let’s start with standard or tree roses. If I’d had any sense I would have included this category in last week’s post because the most common type is a hybrid tea or a floribunda grafted on top of a long cane. Growers take a rootstock like Dr. Huey (the rootstock most commonly used on grafted roses) with one strong, straight cane and graft a another rose on top of it.

Prune standards just like you would a regular rose of its type. For a standard that’s been grafted with a hybrid tea, remove the leaves, choose 3 -5 of the strongest canes to keep, prune out crossing, old or diseased canes, and spindly, twiggy growth, always cutting just above an outward-facing budeye. You want to open up the middle and create a vase shape, but keep an eye on the overall shape of the head; it should be rounded. Don’t cut back more than one-third to one-half of the top growth. Whatever you do don’t cut below the graft point except to remove any shoots or suckers growing from the main stem near the ground.

Remove (clip off) leaves, clean up under the plants, and spray with a dormant spray.

Old Garden Roses include Gallica, Damask, Moss, Alba, and Centifolia roses. These roses bloom one time in the spring so they should be pruned right after the bloom period, usually early summer, and not in the winter. Repeat bloomers like Portland, Bourbon, Hybrid Perpetual, Perpetual Damask, and Perpetual Moss should be pruned as you would a hybrid tea.

Shrub roses and species roses should be lightly pruned by shortening flowering shoots a few inches. Remove any diseased, damaged, or dead canes.

Climbers are a different story altogether because of how they grow and flower. Climbing roses produce growth hormones in their growing tips. This hormone will inhibit flower formation along the cane unless the tip is horizontal, in which case the cane will flower at each budeye along the cane. So instead of just a cluster of blooms at the tip of an upright cane, a cane that’s been trained into a horizontal position, will produce many, many blossoms.

The goal in pruning climbers is to create a symmetrical shape and to force a dormant period which renews the plants and brings more flowers in the spring. If your climber is young, you may not need to do much, if any, pruning at all. Let it grow and become established, but if some of the growth is very spindly and weak, shorten or remove it.

For established climbers remove spindly, twiggy growth, remove any leafless shoots, and prune out any dead, damaged or diseased growth. Tip prune to the first outer facing bud to encourage lateral growth. I have climbers that are tied to a fence and sometimes a cane or a sucker will grow straight out at a right angle. I take these off at the point of origin throughout the year.

Remove (clip off) all the leaves, clean up under and around the plants and spray with dormant spray to get rid of overwintering pests and diseases. Be sure to spray in the early morning or late afternoon when the bees and other beneficials won’t be affected.

Wait to fertilize until you see the first new growth in the spring (usually in March).

P.S. Don’t prune Lady Banks roses now! These roses (and some other varieties) bloom once in the spring. If you do prune them now, you won’t get any blossoms this year. I learned this the hard way.

If you have a type of rose that isn’t mentioned in this or last week’s post, or if you’re unsure of what you have, ask your local nursery for advice.

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Durango, Colorado



Irvine, California










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I know, I know, strawberry season is over for most folks, but one of the big perks of living in Southern California is that we enjoy fresh fruit almost year round — even strawberries. The development of the newer day-neutral varieties means that strawberry season has been extended well into the fall in warmer climates such as ours. (Click here for more info on California strawberry varieties and seasons.)

I made a small batch of strawberry jam yesterday and though it sometimes seems like a lot of mess for so few jars — 4 full half pints + 1 almost-full jar, small batch preserving is a great way to do a little experimenting.

Also, keep in mind that just because the season is over that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up some jam if you have a craving. You can always pull some frozen fruit out of your freezer if you’ve stored some of your summer bounty there, or get yourself down to the frozen food section your local grocery and buy some unsweetened frozen berries.

I needed to find a recipe that didn’t use pectin, not because I have anything against it, but because I didn’t have any in the pantry and I was too lazy to go get some. I had strawberries, sugar and lemons. That was it and that was going to have to do. I also wanted to use less sugar than is normally called for.

Since strawberries are low in acid and in pectin you can’t just use the fruit and sugar and call it a day. This why many recipes tell you that you have to use pectin to get the mixture to jell. This is simply not true. So far this season I haven’t used any pectin, only lemon juice which contains a fair amount of pectin and I haven’t had any problems getting my preserves to set. (Another thing you should know is that your preserves will thicken up a bit in the jar.)

Not using pectin does mean that the mixture will need to cook for longer to set, which unfortunately results in cooking out some of the flavor. But I found a great blog post by Stephanie Rosenbaum of Bay Area Bites to help me solve that problem. She suggests cooking the fruit, sugar, lemon juice mixture for a bit then removing the fruit and cooking down only the liquid. It worked like a charm!

Even so, I didn’t follow her recipe exactly. Her’s calls for letting the fruit sit for long periods of time and I wanted to just get it over with. So I compressed some of the steps.

But I do have to add a caveat here. Because I used less sugar (a preservative), I can’t say that this strawberry jam will last as long on your shelf as traditional strawberry jam. As I said this is an experiment, but with the small batch method it doesn’t really matter — this jam will be gone in a flash.

Another important thing to note is that with less sugar in the recipe, I was extra careful to make sure that my jars were sterile, boiling them in water for 10 minutes and keeping them hot until I ladled the jam into them. I’ve used the dishwasher to “sterilize” my jars before, but I don’t think you can be sure that works. Better to be safe than sorry.

Next time I’m going try adding some vanilla bean and using honey as a sweetener. And don’t just use your jam as a spread; add it to yogurt, or use it as a filling in cakes, cookies, or bars. It’s part of the fun of preserving.

Strawberry Jam

4 – 5 pint boxes of strawberries

3 cups of sugar

5 tbs of lemon juice

5 – 6 half-pint jars, lid, and rings – this recipe made a little more than 2 pints.

  1. Wash jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Place clean jars in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Keep them hot while you prepare the jam.
  2. Simmer the lids until ready to use (for Ball lids, otherwise follow package directions). Set clean rings aside.
  3. Put 3 small plates in the freezer. You’ll use these to help you determine if the jam is properly thickened.
  4. Rinse, drain and hull strawberries. Cut them in half.
  5. Place in a non-reactive bowl with 1 cup of the sugar. Mash them up a bit leaving about half of the pieces whole. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Put the strawberries in a low, wide pan (this type of pan help cook off the liquid quicker) with the rest of the sugar and lemon juice.
  7. Boil over medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes until the liquid is released, skimming off foam.
  8. Either scoop out the fruit pieces or put a colander in a bowl and drain the liquid — be careful, it’s hot! Put the liquid back into the pan.

    Liquid looks like this at first.

  9. Cook at a boil over medium heat until it begins to get thick — about 10 – 15 minutes.
  10. When the jam has started to thicken, put the fruit back in the pan and cook a little while longer until it begins to get thick and glossy looking.
  11. From this point on you will need to PAY ATTENTION! Keep stirring to prevent it from seizing.

    When it bubbles thick and glossy like this it's time to test it.

  12. As jam thickens, test by taking one of the plates out of the freezer and putting a teaspoon of the liquid on the plate. Take the jam off the heat to prevent it from overcooking and put the plate back in the freezer for 3 minutes.
  13. Take the plate out and draw your finger through the middle of the jam puddle. If the liquid runs together, cook for a few more minutes and test again. If the sides don’t flow back together, you’re almost done.
  14. Reheat to boiling and ladle into the hot jars. Draw a knife through the jar to release any big air bubbles. Wipe rims and threads to remove any traces of jam, place lids and rings on and tighten with fingertips. Don’t over tighten or any air trapped in the jars won’t be able to escape in the processing.
  15. Boil in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (more if you’re at a higher elevation — 5 minutes for every 1,000 ft above sea level).
  16. Remove from water, place on a towel or rack and leave undisturbed for 24 hours.
  17. Remove rings, check seal and store. If your seal didn’t take, you can store the jar in the fridge for 2 – 3 weeks.

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Barbara: Yesterday my Master Gardener class went to the amazing Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. Growers of an incredible collection of California native plants and located on 30 acres at the edge of Caspers Regional Park, this magnificent piece of land is filled with California native gardens, growing fields, straw bale houses and, of course, many, many gorgeous plants. Owner Mike Evans took us for a behind-the-scenes tour of the operation. It was fascinating. And, boy, do they do it right — from the mycorrihzae that they produce themselves and add to their planting mix, to the Sonoran Desert plant collection they’ve added to help keep the pollinators happy enough to stick around in the summer when our native plants aren’t blossoming.

I tried. I really, really tried not to buy any plants. I found one book I just had to have. That was IT I told myself. But then I saw this beauty beaming a million watts of color straight into my lizard brain. “Must have this plant!” it said. And I obeyed.

Blood Flower Milkweed

Besides, it’s highly attractive to Monarch butterflies and it’ll take part shade, which is pretty much all I’ve got. So I took two!

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