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Gail's Gardens - April 2015


Gail's Gardens - April 2015

by Gail Fanning

If you are enjoying the flowers as much as I am this spring, you will probably want to bring some into the house to enjoy.  Flower arranging is one of my favorite pastimes: try these simple ideas for informal beauty direct from your own garden!  First, pick your favorite flowers early in the day, cutting the stems as long as possible, and put them immediately into tepid water. Don’t be afraid to mix colors and different types of flowers: go with what is attractive to you.  Then look around the garden for greens: just about any shrub will provide attractive foliage to set off your flowers: cut these stems as long as the flowers, and put them into water also.  I often use rosemary, heavenly bamboo (Nandina), myrtle, fern, or abelia for my greenery.

Then take your treasures into your working area where you can arrange and cut as needed.  I like to pick a vase whose color harmonizes with the flowers I am using: and remember, you can use bowls, glasses, pitchers, or baskets to hold flowers as well.  I have a couple cupboards full of containers of all shapes, sizes and colors that I use again and again.  Unless you are a professional, you’ll probably want to avoid the clear glass florist’s vases:  a tangle of stems can be very unattractive. When you have selected an attractive container that is not taller than half the length of your flower stems, clean it well, and fill with tepid water plus the flower preservative of your choice. 

Next, place a “nest” of foliage into the container, to serve as a backdrop and support for your colorful flowers; fill the vase well with greens.  Then add your flowers, with the tallest in the center, graduating down to the shortest at the sides.  Don’t be afraid to move things around until you are pleased with the results.  Left over flowers?  Make a mini bouquet for your bathroom or hall table! Enjoy!

If your travel plans include a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, be sure to visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, just north of Hilo. Slowly developed from the original jungle over many years by its founder Dan Lutkenhouse (a San Francisco transplant to Hawaii), the Garden is a museum of living plants with over 2,000 species represented. The 40-acre valley is a natural greenhouse, whose trails meander through tropical rainforest, crossing bubbling streams and waterfalls,  and ending at the ocean.  The flowers are astonishing (see the photo). Gingers, bromeliads, and orchids are everywhere, hanging from trees, growing in the ground, and in pots!

Now a 501(c)(3)al Scientific and Educationnon-profit, The Garden’s mission is to serve as a nature preserve, a living seed bank, and a study center.  At a time when rainforest plants are disappearing at an alarming rate, the Garden is working to preserve as many species as possible for the benefit of future generations.  Be sure to stop and visit, and see what one very determined man can do with a jungle garden!

Coming soon! Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is a great opportunity to see private gardens which have made the transition to low water use and native planting: mark your calendars for Sunday, May 3 for a day of inspirational garden visits in the East Bay.

Want to save more water in your garden?  Check out the excellent Mow no Mo'! (“How to remove your lawn”) workshops being offered this spring in the East Bay:  Sunday, April 19, Livermore
 and Saturday, May 30, Pleasant Hill.
 The cost is $30, the time is10:00–3:00; register at   You'll learn how to remove your lawn, select native plants, and design a water-conserving, pesticide-free garden that attracts wildlife. Most importantly, you’ll have the hands-on experience of sheet-mulching a lawn, and you’ll depart confident that you can do this at home.


Need advice on your garden?  Send me an e-mail with your questions: