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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The 10-Minute Gardner: Up on the Roof!

Sometimes you have to grab a few minutes in the garden when you can, even when the activity isn't directly related to gardening.

Although we are till early in the Fall to expect it, the weather report called for rain later this week. If we do it get, it would be the earliest rain in my memory over our 21 years in California. My calendar shows the first rains usually occurring late in October -- Halloween night, in one case. Nevertheless, if rain was coming, it was time to get all the leaves off the roof. Regular readers will know that our property, urban as it is, is surrounded by mature trees. By necessity, these drop a lot of leaves on the roof. In order to protect it from damage, someone has to go up and sweep them off, hopefully before the first rain arrives.

This year, my wife, Rosanne, elected herself to do the deed. I was thankful, as pulling myself up onto the roof was never quite one of my favorite things. Of course, my nine-year-old son thinks it would be great, but I think we need to wait a few more year before putting him to work up there -- and maybe a sturdy safety harness. (SMILE)

Working alone, while the boy was at school, we were able to clean everything up in about 30 minutes. I am so glad we got this done today, as the rest of the week is booked with computer consulting and next week I will lose several days to the Podcast and New Media Expo happening in nearby Ontario, California.

While we may all love our gardens, there are certain tasks that are required, if not enjoyed. I am sure I will be very happy, though, when I see the rain rolling off the roof unimpeded, instead of backing up and causing potential leaks.

What maintenance do you need to do before Winter arrives? Doing it now is certainly more pleasant then waiting until the snow flies. If you are like me, you will appreciate a task well done when others are struggling in the rain and cold.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book Review: Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

Backyard GiantsBackyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

There are some that say gardening contains all the drama of human life -- happiness and sadness, triumph and defeat, jealousy, hatred, life and death. Of course, there are some elements of gardening that contain all this and more. Such is the world of those hearty gardeners who attempt to grow the biggest pumpkin in the world.

I received a review copy of Backyard Giants a few weeks ago, thinking that I might try it after finishing some other weightier business tomes. I wasn't sure what to expect from the title, but soon found myself immersed in a world I only vaguely knew. Sure, I had seen growers on television and in magazines, touting their humungous, over-grown "pumpkins", but I had never realized what goes on behind the scenes -- in the garden and in the clubhouses of gardening clubs -- across the country.

Author Susan Warren hooked me from the first chapter as she introduces Ron and Dick Wallace, giant pumpkin growers from Rhode Island, the focus of the book. I immediately felt like I knew these men and were overhearing their conversations instead of reading them on the page. Warren puts the reader right their beside them as they create a new pumpkin patch, chose their seedlings and start another, summer-long, attempt at a world record pumpkin. Along the way we get to know their fellow growers, both local, national and, in the case of one Canadian grower, international.

Throughout the book we look on as they pick, chose, change their minds, wonder and worry. Were they doing everything they can? Were they doing too much? Too little? Growing giants is a worrisome task and can lead to strained marriages and sleepless nights. We feel each triumph and each defeat as weather, wildlife and worry take their toll on both the gardeners and their charges.

I didn't linger over Backyard Giants. I devoured it. I found myself pulled through the pages, wanting to know what happened to this grower or that. Would the Wallace's achieve their long-desired goals, or would their dreams be left to rot in the garden? I am sure others will think it odd that I find such drama in a gardening story, but at its very heart, this is a story of people. People who dare to dream Cinderella dreams of coach-sized pumpkins that earn the title -- the biggest pumpkin in the world.

Highly Recommended.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Event: Cultivating L.A. Japanese-Style Garden Tour - Sept 30

Cultivating L.A. Japanese-Style Garden Tour

Date: September 30, 2007
Time: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Location: Locations vary and are provided with ticket
Address: Tickets available from L.A. Conservancy , Los Angeles

Region: Downtown LA
Phone: (213) 623-2489

Admission: $30 general public; $25 for members of presenting organizations
Website: www.laconservancy.org

Description: Explore the beauty and history of Japanese-style gardens in L.A.! This special, one-day tour offers a rare glimpse at five sites that reflect the rich Japanese influence on our Southern California landscape.

Sites include the private Storrier-Stearns Garden in Pasadena, spanning nearly two acres and designed by master Japanese landscape designer Kinzuchi Fujii; the richly symbolic James Irvine Japanese Garden in Little Tokyo, designed by acclaimed landscape architect Takeo Uesugi, who is now overseeing its exciting redesign; Roosevelt High School’s Garden of Peace, designed by the school’s Japanese Club in the 1930s, neglected and destroyed after the entire Japanese-American student population was interned during World War II, and forgotten for fifty years, until Latino students discovered its story in the 1990s and rebuilt the garden as a tribute; San Gabriel Nursery & Florist, a third-generation Japanese American business specializing in rare plants including bonsai (bonsai demonstrations throughout tour day!); and the residential gardens of Norton Avenue, a cluster of modest homes fronted by beautiful Japanese-style gardens maintained by gardeners who have lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.

The gardens are beautiful, the stories behind them amazing. Co-presented by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Japanese American National Museum, the California Garden and Landscape History Society, and the Garden Conservancy.

Walking Tour

Los Angeles Conservancy

From ExperienceLA.com...

Monday, September 10, 2007

The unkindest cut -- Thousand Oaks man accused of having trimmer chop down neighbor's tree

While I have issues with my neighbors over trees and fences and such, nothing like this has ever occurred. When I read the first reports of this story, I immediately suspected a neighbor. It is the type of thing that happens quite often.

I have had requests to cut some of the trees on my property, if which I have many, but while I will prune them to assist with any issues, removing them is simply not an option. I have sure that my cooling bills would jump dramatically during the summer, should I remove the mature elm or smaller, but still important camphor and elm that line the driveway. When you include the aesthetic nature of these trees, it make removal a non-starter.

Thank goodness our troublesome neighbor hasn't thought of the same ideas as this homeowner's neighbor.

LA Daily News - Thousand Oaks man accused of having trimmer chop down neighbor's tree

THOUSAND OAKS - A 53-year-old postman has turned himself in for allegedly cutting down his neighbor's 50-foot pepper tree, authorities said this morning.

Jeffrey Ross of Thousand Oaks was arrested Friday on suspicion of felony vandalism and felony grand theft after surrendering to Ventura County sheriff's deputies, Detective Eric Buschow said.

His alleged crime: hiring a tree trimmer to remove his neighbor's tree while she was on vacation, then refusing to pay the contractor for his work, Buschow said.


(Via LA Daily News.)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Why topping hurts trees

Sad topped tree
Originally uploaded by qousqous
I often try to explain why it is better to take proper care of your trees, rather than simply hack them up. This page gives a great point-by-point overview. I might just print this out to have on hand for the neighbors. (SMILE)

Why Topping Hurts Trees

Topping is perhaps the most harmful tree pruning practice known. Yet, despite more than 25 years of literature and seminars explaining its harmful effects, topping remains a common practice. This brochure explains why topping is not an acceptable pruning technique and offers better alternatives.


(Via Trees Are Good.com.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Introduction to Cottage Gardens - VideoJug.com

I have often contemplated a cottage garden retrofit to my garden and this video offers some great insight.

VideoJug: An Introduction To Cottage Gardens

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pooktre Tree Shapers

Pooktre Tree Shapers

Imagine growing your furniture instead of building it. Sound odd -- not to the folks at Pooktre Tree Shapers. They grow trees into precise shapes to make living furniture, or they harvest the trees once they reach their final shape and finish them into beautiful indoor furniture pieces.

Link: Pooktre Tree Shapers

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Book: Outside the Not So Big House

I am a big fan of all of the "Not-So-Big House" books written by Sarah Susanka, along with a variety of co-writers.

This book is unique in the series, as it focuses entirely on the outdie of the house -- the gardens, the patios, the decks, etc. This is a great addition to the series and gives gardeners and landscapers an introduction into the "Not So Big House" philosophy.

As always, there are lots of great ideas on how to make the most of your house, even if it is relatively small in size. Even better, it shows how a bigger house might not be the best house for you.

Additional Books by Sarah Susanka

Requested from the Los Angeles Public Library

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