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Gail's Garden - April 2016


Gail's Garden - April 2016

by Gail Fanning

Are you enjoying our wet and wild spring? Everything at my place is blooming early, and then being knocked back by the wind and rain. One of the spring colors I always look forward to are the pink oak trees: have you noticed them on the hills? Our native California black oak, Quercus kelloggii, develops new leaves in the spring that are pink, due to a lack of chorophyll in the new growth. I love to see their spreading pink mounds contrasting with the spring green leaves of other trees at this time of year: Sonoma County is so beautiful! 

One of my favorite local nurseries is Russian River Rose Company: amazing display gardens so fragrant and colorful for a stroll on a warm day! They are beginning their free gardening demos in April: learn about Earth Friendly Rose Gardening on April 2 & 3, and Glorious Irises of Spring on April 9 & 10. See the website for details on these and more events and classes through April and May.

Another useful Australian is beginning to take its place in our gardens: have you seen Lomandra longifolia (Matt Rush)? This is a grass-like plant that is extremely tough and drought resistant, and forms a graceful 2 to 3 foot clump that is evergreen and low maintenance. Planted in masses, it is a useful groundcover that grows well in sun or shade, and it even grows under eucalyptus! It bears very small yellow or white flowers in spring and is hardy to 15 degrees. Deer don’t like it, although I suspect the gophers might! It will grow in salty coastal conditions or with recycled water. Several varieties are available locally at Emerisa Nursery: look for it on your next visit. 

If you are a fan of succulents you should know about the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek: this amazing garden is the life’s work of a passionate lady who loved succulents of all shapes and sizes and wanted to explore how they could be used in the garden. Started by Ruth in the 1970s, the garden was later protected by the Garden Conservancy and opened to the public in the early 1990s.

Today, The Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and is protected by a conservation easement, which ensures that the property will always be a garden and will be preserved in the spirit of its founder. The Garden is an outstanding example of a water-conserving garden, appropriate for our Mediterranean climate. It also houses important collections of aloes, agaves, yuccas, and echeverias.

Their website is full of good information and tips for growing and caring for succulents, and includes a link to their YouTube site with some great videos: including how to control mealy bugs, aphids, and scale on succulents! The Garden also offers a full roster of educational classes, including:

Lawn to Garden Conversion on April 9

Aloes & Agaves on May 14

Living Wall Demonstration on June 25

Next time you are in the East Bay try to stop in for a visit!

Time to get moving on your vegetable garden prep: my husband just finished the cleanup of the greenhouse (in the rain!), and is prepping his trays for early seed sowing. Since nights are still chilly, it’s too early for tomatoes, cucumbers and the like, but cabbages, radishes, cauliflower and broccoli can be started now in preparation for transplanting to the garden in a month or so.

Have a gardening question you would like answered? Send me an e-mail at