PHGSC Events 2007
to 2008 events, 2006 events, 2005 events and 2004 and earlier events
December 15th Members tour
Golden State Bonsai Collection-North at Lake Merritt in Oakland.... pictures by Peter Johnsen

December 11th Membership Meeting
Holiday Potluck Dinner and Evening Program,
Kathy Echols, "Propagation Pointers"
.... pictures

   Departing from musical entertainment this year, we enjoyed a holiday program geared to gardeners. Our “Santa Claus” present… er, presenter… was the ever-popular Kathy Echols, instructor and plant sale coordinator in the Horticulture Department at DVC.
   A teacher of propagation and plant production, Kathy’s gift to us was tips on starting the new year by starting plants for ourselves and for our sale in May. ... and a gift of numerous seed packets as well. Kathy’s down-to-earth approach included use of plant material to help explain some of her information. Besides propagation by cuttings, Kathy discussed starting plants from seed.
   Having Kathy join us in December was a great way to round out our 2007 program year.
   At this this meeting we also donated potted houseplants to homebound people served by hospice groups. Each December, members attending our December meeting are invited to bring potted houseplants that will be given as holiday cheer to homebound people. Our donations are taken to two hospice organizations that deliver the heartwarming plants to patients confined to their homes during this festive season. Tucked into each plant is a holiday label that identifies our club as the donor. Jan Egan prepared the labels; delivery to the hospice groups will be handled by Gail Sutherland and Carol Nelsen. Special thanks go to these women and to everyone who brings a plant for donation
Background Music … While we enjoyed our potluck, we enjoyed piano melodies performed by Pete Banwell.

Seeds and Cuttings – Plant Propagation Pointers ...from Kathy Echol's presentation...
(as extracted from PHGSC's January Flower Press)
If variety is your propagation goal, seeds are great, but for Kathy Echols cuttings are more fun.
“I look at every plant for its cuttings potential,” admitted Kathy..
She combined basic instruction on cuttings propagation with bits of information and insight. For instance:
* Most cuttings need a rooting hormone. Kathy said powders don’t work as well as Dip ’N Grow, a liquid sold at Orchard Nursery in Lafayette.
*  Many plants root well in perlite. Kathy likes to mix it with peat moss.
*  Some plants root fine in water, but can suffer transplantation shock when placed in soil. The reason is that water has no air, and soil does.
*  Allow succulent cuttings to air out so the edges become a little calloused before rooting them.
*  Choose cuttings from young plant material because it roots faster.
*  Make your cuttings small and with few leaves, so most of their energy can go into making roots.
*  When striping leaves, don’t tear away a stem’s cambium – the thin layer of outer skin.
*  But, when rooting woody plants, use a potato peeler to strip the cambium off one side so the hormone can enter the stem.
*  Make cuttings of camellias in June, begonias in mid summer, roses in August and September.
*  If cuttings of a particular plant don’t work in one season, try another. Chart your result.
*  Sharpen your cutting shears often; thoroughly clean and oil them once a year.
*  And a final thought on seeds: they need warmth to germinate. A good place to get them going is on top of your refrigerator.

November 6th Membership Meeting  -
Lighting Up Your Garden for Delight and Practicality .... pictures
Georgia Madden, Feyerabend & Madden and Jeff Calhoun, FX Luninaire
   We’re lucky to have a climate that allows us to be outside much of the year – so it makes sense to light up our gardens at night to extend their usefulness and enjoyment. Georgia Madden started with that premise when she spoke in November on garden lighting, one of her areas of expertise at Feyerabend & Madden Landscape Design, Emeryville.
   “Effect is more important than the fixture,” Georgia emphasized. Be sure to have the wattage and beam spread you really need, and invest in durable equipment. “You always need more light than you think you will,” she cautioned. Effective landscape lighting usually calls for a lot of fixtures, strategically placed for comprehensive results. Daytime vistas change dramatically
at night, when focal points can be emphasized and fill lighting can add accent, Georgia said.
She advocated blending esthetics with other lighting purposes, such as security, pathway and stairs visibility, and illumination of tasks such as grilling.
   A low-voltage system is more flexible than a 120-volt box, Georgia said, adding that all electrical concerns should be handled by an electrician. If children or pets are likely to run and trip over wires laid on the ground, run them through PVC pipes placed slightly underground, Georgia advised.
   Besides exhibiting various fixtures and discussing their effects, Georgia brought along Jeff Calhoun from FX Luminaire, who set up several lighting displays in the park outside our meeting room.

   Georgia Madden is co-founder and a principal at Feyerabend & Madden Landscape Design, Emeryville.
  Jeff Calhoun, FX Luminaire representative (e-mail: and web at FX products are available through the Urban Farmer Store and Ewing Irrigation (wholesale for contractors).

October 2, 2007 - Membership meeting - "
An Introduction to Bonsai" pictures
A presentation by Bob Gould

  A great deal of attention, knowhow, and especially patience are part of the package if you want to grow bonsai plants successfully.    Bob Gould alluded to those qualities in his bonsai presentation at our October meeting.
   Bonsai is a form of horticulture in which a normally larger tree or bush is forced to become a miniature plant by confining it in a small pot and regularly pruning the crown and root.
   “It takes constant trimming back – almost every week to 10 days,” Bob said. “If my plant grows five new leaves, I cut it back to one or two.”
   Bonsai plants are grown in very coarse soil and watered often. “Fine soil would rot the roots, and root rot
is the biggest problem with bonsai,” Bob said. “Fertilize like crazy” without burning the plant, Bob advised. He favors a 5-5-5 fertilizer mix, applied every month or three weeks during the growing season.
   Bob named trees and shrubs most suited to bonsai, and he discussed esthetics, such as trunk taper balanced by branch direction. Wires are used for two or three years to achieve a desired shape, he noted.
   It takes many years to grow a bonsai to maturity, and then it can last for decades, and sometimes centuries, Bob indicate.d
   Why do bonsai plants live so long? The question prompted a passionate answer: “Because they are taken care
of so carefully.”
   To begin growing bonsai, Bob recommended Sunset's “Bonsai” book.
   Bob volunteers several days a week at the Golden State Bonsai Collection – North, located in Oakland’s Lakeside Park, in the gardens near Lake Merritt. It is the largest public bonsai collection in northern California. For more information, check out its website:

September 4, 2007 - Membership meeting --

"Autumn: The Season Begins for Organic Gardening"
A presentation to the PHGSC on Sept. 4, 2007 by Wendy Krupnick*.... pictures

Introductory points:
• Fall is the easiest, most productive time to grow a garden.
• Warm season vegetables have a 4-month window for production, while cool season veggie gardens can have up to six months of harvest, and also enjoy the benefits of fewer pests and less need to irrigate.
• Thanksgiving to January is the “dark period” when most things in our climate stop maturing – except for cabbage, cauliflower and related plants.
• Remember that the “days to maturity” schedule usually refers to a warm weather/extended- sunlight growing season. Expect and plan for longer maturity cycles.

• Plant cool season vegetables early enough so they are near to maturity in the dark period.
• Plant more (especially leafy) vegetables than you would in the summer because harvesting is less likely to result in replacement growth due to cooler temperatures and less sun.
• Plant different varieties at the same time so they mature at different times.

• The only way to know exactly what works in your garden is to keep records that note the plant variety, planting dates, first harvest and last harvest. Do this for three years; the weather may change, but not the day length, which is the most important variable.
• Reverse watering wisdom and water cool-season vegetables mid to late afternoon in order to create a micro climate for the plant, especially new young plants in the fall when the temps are still high. Watering them in the late afternoon/evening helps to “de-stress” the plants because cool season plants do not like the heat. Warm season crops are better watered in the morning, as late water will cool them further in our cool summer evenings.
• During the rainy season, mulch in your garden paths with straw or other available mulch to reduce erosion, compaction and keep mud down if paths aren’t already paved.
• Cool season vegetables are frost tolerant, but you can keep them a little warmer, and protect more tender plants, by using floating row covers. They can keep insects and the birds out as well.

Some plant specifics:
• Carrot and beet seeds should get into the ground by early September.
• Snap peas are best as you get to eat both seed and pod – and be sure to wait until the seed is mature inside the pod.
Savoy cabbage is not only tasty, but also a pretty plant.
• All cabbage close relatives are shallow-rooted, heavy feeders that should be transplanted deep, with soil built up around the base.
• Plant lettuce in the spaces between cabbage or cauliflower plants. It will be harvested before the cabbage fills in. Spinach seeds can be sown regularly from early September to early October, but be alert to harvest them when they’re ready because they’ll go to flower quickly as the winter days lengthen.
• Escarole and endive are sweet and at their flavorful best in winter.
• Spicy greens are good for salads as baby plants, and good for cooking when mature.
• Alfalfa hay mulch on garlic plants will add needed nitrogen and contains no weed seed.

Soil basics:
• Soil is “alive.” It has macro-organisms such as worms, and thousands of micro-organisms that have complex and beneficial interactions with roots.
• Chemical fertilizers don’t allow the natural soil organism to do their job; this results in weakened plants and the need for more pest control, which then requires more fertilizer; it’s a nasty cycle.
• It is better to feed compost to these soil organisms, which then feed the plants and build up immunity to pests.

Soil suggestions:
• Autumn is the best time to have your soil lab-tested (better than home test kits), because this is also the best time of year to add any nutrients shown to be needed by the test.
• Loosen the soil by inserting a garden fork and moving it slightly. This allows for better drainage and gives soil organisms a better chance to do their job.
• After you finally dig up those tomato and pepper plants, protect the soil by planting nutrient-rich cover crops (such as clover) or by mulching (even with newspaper or cardboard covered with manure, etc).
• Don’t mulch vegetable gardens with uncomposted wood chips because they take too long to decompose and steal nitrogen.

*Wendy Krupnick, an organic gardener for 30+ years, teaches Master Gardener vegetable classes for Sonoma County and coordinated the market garden at Santa Rosa Junior College, where she’s an adjunct faculty member. She previously worked as senior horticultural advisor for Shepherd’s Garden Seed Company.


More on this topic was also published in the PHGSC’s March 2007 Flower Press. You can also find a Master Gardener planting calendar and recommended vegetables for planting in interior Contra Costa County at

August 7, 2007 - Membership meeting -- "Growing Heirlooms"
... pictures
   Following our Summer Potluck, our August speaker, Dave Stockdale enlighted us on "why grow heirlooms" – and which ones are best adapted to our area. By growing and buying heirloom fruits, vegetables, and flowers, we perpetuate the biodiversity passed along by generations before us.
   Dave is executive director of the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), which sponsors the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
   Heirlooms – open-pollinated plants that are generally at least 50 years old – have adapted to specific growing conditions and can be more resilient than modern varieties, said Dave. Typically, heirloom vegetables and fruits have better flavor, color, and texture than their supermarket counterparts, which are usually hybrids (the offspring of two different parent plants) developed primarily for uniformity and ease of transport.
   Dave stressed buying produce locally for maximum nutrition value. Purchase only as much as you can consume in two to three days. Following his talk, Dave gave everyone a chance to taste four varieties of heirloom tomatoes and vote on their favorites. Surprisingly, there was no clear winner; each type had its own qualities and fans.

July 28, 2007 -- Annual Members Garden Tour
... pictures
PHGSC members tour the gardens of members Steve Morse, Mary Lu and Bob Buchard, and Dianne and Peter Johnsen on a warm Saturday in late July.

June 5, 2007 --- Membership meeting and tour of Ruth Bancroft Garden ...

May 24, 2007 - ... and the Diablo Foothill District Annual Award Winners are....
Steve_award1.jpg Kathy_award.jpg JPress_award2.jpg
Congratulations to three of our members who won awards at the May 24 Diablo Foothills District meeting:
Steve Morse (left) was named Propagator of the Year, Kathy Mendenhall (center) was first runner up for Gardener of the Year, Janice Press (right), also a member of the Concord Garden Club, was named Floral Arranger of the Year. (Karen Mahshi presenting awards to Steve and Janice; Buzz Bertolero of Navlet's presenting Kathy her award.)

May 12, 2007
- PHGSC's Annual Plant Sale ... pictures

May 1, 2007 Membership Meeting

Bob Hornback: “Fantastic Foliage”... pictures
Why be interested in variegated plants? Bob Hornback had several answers when he spoke at our May meeting.
“Variegated plants are ornate,” Bob said. They’re more fascinating than their monotoned relatives, and in shady places, the lighter colors in the variegates provide a sense of  brightness, he added.
Many plants have a variegated version, Bob pointed out. There’s even a variegated-leaf oleander with a variegated flower – an unusual combination. Variegation is usually a mutation, which calls for propagation by cuttings or divisions. Seeds of such plants generally do not produce variegated offspring, Bob said.
He warned that variegated plants often grow shoots that revert to green. “Pluck them, or they will take over,” advised Bob.
He said a few plants are naturally variegated, such as aloe variegata, Of course, even it can be mutated to produce aloe variegata variegata. Most variegated plants are not sick, but about 10 percent are, Bob noted.
Whether from a virus, air pockets, or just plain mutation, variegated plants have less chlorophyll and may be less hardy. Their eye-appeal, however, certainly makes up for their delicacy, in Bob’s opinion.
   A popular instructor in the Bay area, Hornback has taught classes at DVC, Heather Farm, Merritt College and UC Berkeley extension. He is currently teaching at DVC and College of Marin.
   Hornback lives and works out of Occidental, where he operates Muchas Grasses (tel: 707-874-1871; see also but it was still under construction when last viewed), offering ornamental plant brokerage, consultation and design services.

April 2007 PHGSC Display at CCC Central Library, Pleasant Hill
For the past several years, PHGSC has had a month-long Club information display in the lobby at the PH Library. This year's lobby display, as in the past several years, was primarily the result of the work of  Mary Eisenhour and Reta Jennings. The head librarian said it was one of the most attractive displays all year! Inside the library were plant arrangements by Reta, Phil Greig, Carol Nelsen and Gail Sutherland. Thanks to all.

Pictures of the April 2007 PHGSC Display at PH Library

lobby cabinet display

Membership info

Flyers for the Plant Sale

PHGSC President Marc Kiefer in front of cabinet
with Phil Grieg's arrangement

More PHGSC arrangements
on display

April 3, 2007 Membership Meeting
Kathy Echols,  DVC Horticulture, Garden Myths
Px497c.JPG   We do things in the garden out of habit, belief, or because we were taught that way. Are they practical, efficient or useful?
   In an entertaining presentation at our April meeting, Kathy Echols dispelled a lot of useless or senseless garden myths, i.e. bareroot season buying, use of Vitamin B1, what really is in manure, not using specialty fertilizers, etc..
   As many of our members already know, Kathy is a driving force in the Horticulture Department at DVC, where she’s been teaching for 16 years. Kathy is in charge of DVC’s plant sales, and she teaches classes in propagation, plant production, greenhouse and nursery practices, and the identification of plants new to the trade each season. In addition to plant propagation, Kathy’s chief specialties are drought tolerant and Australian plants.   
   Trying to be “nice” to our plants can be useless or worse. 
   For example, when planting bare root fruit trees, many people add vitamin B1 and redwood mulch. However, the tree pores are too small for B1 molecules to enter (although a zinc additive in the vitamin can help a little), she said.
   And backfilling the hole with removed soil is better than mulch, which inhibits roots from establishing themselves deeply, said Kathy. “It’s better for your plants to try hard to get into the regular soil.” She cautioned against tilling for that reason, but did advise composting.
   Also, it’s not good to stake trees tightly, she noted, since they’ll grow stronger if they sway in the wind.
   Back to wood mulches… they steal nitrogen from your plants, so add fertilizer if needed. “Nitrogenated” mulch is misleading because it has only a whiff of nitrogen, Kathy said.
   The cheapest source of nitrogen is urea, Kathy indicated. A byproduct of petroleum refining, it is organic and good for soil – but don’t get it on your plants.
   Lawn clippings or alfalfa pellets are a fine way to add nitrogen to wood chips, Kathy said, adding that roses like alfalfa’s nitrogen, too.
   She also advised nitrogen and not bone meal for bulbs, to encourage season after season of lovely flowers.
   A good fertilizer with nitrogen (in the form of urea) is chicken manure, but use it sparingly, Kathy said. Steer
manure contains salt and probably should be avoided, she noted.
   Her final advice: go beyond what you hear from retailers, try new things, and use the Internet for answers
March 6, 2007  Membership Meeting
“Water in the Garden: Focal Pieces; Cooling Places”  Bobbi
Bobbi_s.JPG   An intimate Mediterranean garden can feel very lush with a small fountain to add charm and humidity.
   So said Bobbi Feyerabend, the landscape designer who has worked with several of our members and given us previous – and splendid – presentations on other topics.
   Bobbi talked about why water is an asset to a garden, and her slide show provided examples of how water can be worked into various garden settings.
   Fountains of all types may be purchased, of course, but Bobbi will also give some ideas on how individuals can build their own attractive water feature.
   A principal at Feyerabend & Madden Landscape Design, Emeryville, Bobbi’s entire career has been in the field of landscape horticulture.
   Recently, two of her firm’s residential designs in Walnut Creek won prestigious awards. The company’s garden designs have also appeared on television and in printed publications. Examples of her firm's work can be seen on her web
P34_s.JPG P37_s.JPG P40_s.JPG
 Table decorations for the March membership meeting... thanks to Reta Jennings and Mary Eisenhour
March 4, 2007  Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings Workshop .... pictures

What:             We learned a simple and inexpensive way to get new plants for your garden, to share with your friends, but most importantly, for our annual plant sale on May 12, 2007           

Who:               Members of the PHGSC

When:             Sunday March 4th      1PM – 4PM

Where:            Lynn & Rocco Grassano’s residence... more details on workhsop... 

February 25th,
Members "Trip" to Robert Ehrhart's Camellia Garden in Walnut Creek    ... pictures

   It was camellia season, and new member Bob Ehrhart invited us to visit his garden of 2000+ camellias while many of them are in bloom.  Bob has been growing camellias for 40 years. He is past president of the American Camellia Society and active in the Northern California chapter. The Chapter's Annual Show was held at the PH Community Center on March 10 and 11.
   We were graciously hosted by Bob and his wife.. and we met the "real" Bob... a man enthusiastically devoted to his camellias. We saw 700+ camellia varieties, all in pots, on a hillside acre in Walnut Creek spanning his "backyard" and portions of 3 of his neighbors.
   We learned about camellia propagation grafting, seedlings & cuttings; and numerous insights on culture, potting and pruning.
    A very enjoyable afternoon by all... Thank you Bob.

February 6, 2007 Membership Meeting
 “Creating your own Garden Paradise
 Aerin Moore of Magic Gardens, Berkeley 
Garden Paradise Begins with Logical Steps, Proper Care of Plants........ (from Flower Press)
P1060132.JPG   Think ahead before creating the garden of your dreams, advised Aerin Moore at our February meeting.
   Start with pictures of the look you’re seeking, he said. And then:
      Plan your plantings – know your plants’ bloom or foliage colors and the seasons they will be colorful, how tall
your seedlings will grow, what plants will need sun or shade, and which plants to group together for watering.
      Ready the site – remove unwanted growth; thin trees for dappled light.
      Grade properly – good drainage is absolutely essential.
      Move earth effectively – build mounds from earth displaced by grading.
      Add inviting hardscape – it will be very visible when plants are dormant.
      Regulate irrigation – have enough separate water lines to satisfy the differing thirst needs of your plants.
      Prepare the soil – amend clay with compost and gritty material.
      Start planting – dig a hole 1 1/2 times the width of the container, but not too deep; the plant’s crown should be
           two inches above the grade.
      Mulch – use a nutritive mulch that will decompose into the soil.
   Among Moore’s additional tips for delightful gardening were these:
      • Curves and mounds in your garden path will add interest.
      • Mounds create micro-climates:  plants needing better drainage go on top; those needing more water,
         at the base.
      • Feel free to move plants around until you get the look you want.

   For more information on Moore and his work, go to his business website,

... above... members and guests present for the February meeting for Aerin Moore presentation......

January 2, 2007 Membership Meeting
“Our Mediterranean Climate”

Sean O’Hara
P1060024%20(WinCE).JPG   Only about 2 percent of the earth’s surface has a Mediterranean climate – the mild temperatures, rainy winters and sunny summers that we experience, according to Seán O’Hara, our January program presenter.

   This weather pattern allows people to enjoy an agreeable indoor/outdoor lifestyle, O’Hara said, while plants adapt in a variety of ways. They “mound” to trap air and water. They have evergreen, leathery foliage that saves energy (no need to produce new leaves every year) or gray foliage that reflects light. They go to seed or go dormant when the hot weather arrives.

mgs-big.gif O’Hara admitted that most Mediterranean gardeners, especially in California, cling to the use of some water during dry summers, but he knows of one man who relies entirely upon the weather and has a garden of hardy plants as a result.

   “In most Mediterranean climates, water is treasured and respected because it’s a precious item,” O’Hara observed, adding: “Lawns are probably the most water-wasteful, resource-wasteful thing you can plant.”   

   He advocated avoiding most chemicals most of the time by bringing your garden into balance.  And he advised: “Demand more Mediterranean plants from your nurseries.”

Seán O’Hara has a landscape consulting practice in Berkeley and is active in the Mediterranean Garden Society