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Dec 2           Membership Meeting & Holiday Potluck... pictures from the meeting
               "Biodiversity of the Sierra: Art and Science" with John Muir Laws

book    A holiday treat was in store for us following our potluck dinner.
John Muir Laws, naturalist, educator, author and artist, will give us a slide show talk on the flora and fauna of the Sierra.
   Jack, as he is commonly called, backpacked the Sierra Nevada for six years to research and illustrate The Laws Guide to the Sierra Nevada.
   The pocket-sized field guide references more than 1,700 species and contains more than 2,700 of his original watercolor paintings. It is organized with similar-looking species next to each other for ease in figuring out what is being seen in nature.
   Members were able to buy the book at the meeting
   A wildlife biologist, and an associate of the California Academy of Sciences, Jack has worked as an environmental educator for over 25 years in California, Wyoming, and Alaska. He teaches   classes on natural history, conservation biology, scientific illustration, and field sketching. He is also a regular contributor to Bay Nature magazine with his “Naturalist’s Notebook” column.
    Jack is neither a descendent of, nor named after, the historical John Muir. But Jack’s ancestors do include a John and a Muir, after whom he was named. His parents, however, were quite aware of how his name came together, since both were avid naturalists.
    Jack has certainly followed in their footsteps, and gave us a great program and plenty to think about and do.

Nov 4           Membership Meeting: ... pictures from the meeting

Plant of the Month: Symphoricarpus alba (Snowberry)
Program:  Rainwater & Graywater Systems -- Drought-Proofing the Garden
John Russell of
Water conservation is a growing necessity as our state continues to experience dry conditions and heavy demands on the Delta and our reservoirs.
It was therefore no surprise that John Russell, our November speaker, has seen an explosion of interest in rainwater and graywater catchment systems.
A landscape contractor and owner of Oakland-based WaterSprout, John has pioneered in creating water efficient gardens throughout the Bay Area. In fact, he constructed California’s first residential wetland in a space of just 5 x 10 feet.
John’s slide presentation will show some methods of catching rainwater and graywater, as well as examples of actual projects.
While his focus was on systems that might be a bit too complex for the do-it-yourselfer, he also discussed simple measures that most people could implement.
John holds a B.S. from UC Davis in evolution and ecology, and a M.S. from the San Francisco Institute of Architecture in ecological design.

Oct 7        Membership Meeting ....
pictures from the meeting
                     Plant of the Month - Vitis californica 'Rogers Red'
              Program:   Salvias and Lavenders for the Garden

 Rose Loveall-Sale of Morningsun Herb Farm & Nursery 
 Hundreds of lavender varieties and salvia species make these hardy perennials a great source of gardening delight in our area. Rose Loveall-Sale, our October speaker, provided sound information on both, including the tidbits mentioned here.
Known for their fragrance, lavenders also have medicinal applications (Crusaders used lavender to staunch blood) and culinary uses that are coming back into vogue.
Although distasteful to gophers and deer, bees are attracted to lavender.
Since lavenders like it hot and dry, plant them on a mound in well-draining soil. Fall, when the soil is still warm, is a good time to establish them in the garden.
To keep lavenders looking nice, prune them after each bloom (usually twice a year), and cut away the top 1/3 of the wood.
Rose fertilizes most of her lavenders in the fall with fish emulsion and liquid kelp.
Hummingbirds love salvias, which are easy to grow and range from 12 inches to 12 feet in height.
Salvias come in many colors: an array of purples, as well as pinks, reds and oranges.
Prune salvias in late February or early March. Cut to the ground your herbaceous (soft-stemmed) salvias, and cut by 1/3 your woody-stemmed ones.
October is the best time, and tip cuttings are the best method of salvia propagation.

Sep 2        Membership Meeting - ... pictures from the meeting

Plant o' the Month...
from Mary Lu Burchard, Master Gardener
Verbena lilacina "De La Mina 1 from SBBG Verbena lilacina "De La Mina 2 from SBBG
California Native Plants for the Garden
Program by Troy McGregor of Garden Natives
Troy McGregor brought his expertise and some of his plants to our September meeting.
   Troy is propagation coordinator at CREEC (Carquinez Regional Environmental Education Center), which some of us toured in May. He also is a Master Gardener, sells natives at the Markham Arboretum Saturday sales, and has a part-time business aptly titled Garden Natives.
   Native plants that grow well in our area – including in our heavy clay soil – was the focus of Troy’s presentation.  
   Troy began his presentation with these tips on how to contend with our clay soil:
> Select plants that are natural to this area.
> Amend with pumice or lava rock to break up the clay and improve drainage.
> Drip irrigate; water deeply, infrequently.
> Avoid the clay with berms, raised beds or containers filled with planting soil.
   Troy identified plants that grow well in this area. Those that tolerate clay are followed with an asterisk (*) in this summary:
> Trees – valley oak*, blue oak, California buckeye and toyon.
> Perennials – Yarrow, milkweed (purple, narrow-leaf and showy), sacred datura*,
> California fucshia, sticky gumplant, bush monkey flower, yampah, California bee plant, California blue-eyed grass*.
> Grasses – brome, fescue, needlegrass.
> Bulbs – single-leaf onion*, harvest brodiaea, soap plant, blue dicks, ithuriels spear.
> Annuals – elegant clarkia*, collinsia (Chinese houses), nemophila (five spot), tansy leaf phacelia.
   In his talk, Troy also pointed out which plants attract which butterflies and insects.
   For more information about CREEC, go to
  You can see the slides from Troy's presentation by going to his web site,,  clicking on the "Presentations" button on the left column and then clicking on  "Pleasant Hill Garden Club - September 2008" for the slide show.

Aug 5       Membership Meeting - Summer Potluck and Program....
pictures from the meeting
The Gardens of New Zealand and Australia

Jan Coyle, Pacific Pathways Travel,
Garden travel tour guide specializing in New Zealand and Australia.
   New Zealand lies about 4,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, 1,200 miles east of Australia, and near to the hearts of gardeners.
   Some of the country’s most delightful gardens came alive during Jan Coyle’s slide show following our August potluck gathering.
   A native of New Zealand, Jan operates a travel agency that specializes in tours to her homeland, plus Australia and nearby islands.
   Jan said the climate in New Zealand is similar to ours, but it gets much more rain, which is fantastic for flora.
   “People are amazed at how large the plants are,” Jan said, referring specifically to camellias and rhododendrons.
   A few gardens on her tour are in public parks, but most are on private land “ out in nowhere,” Jan said.
   Tour gardens reflect the personalities of their owners – from a perfectionist’s tidy and formal showcase to a chatty host’s floral woodland.
   New Zealand’s most renowned private garden is near Auckland. Originally a farm, the owner has transformed it into an awesome display of plants, ponds and lawns.
   In Wellington tourists can take a cable car to a hilltop garden and stroll through it as they walk back down to town.
   Jan’s tour guests also usually enjoy two overnight adventures: one on a boat ride up a fjord, the other on a sheep or dairy farm.
   Jan’s company website is:

No meeting or activities in July... time to enjoy the "fruits" of your garden

June 21    Annual Member's Garden Tour.... 3 Member's Gardens.... all gardens' pictures
                Smith Garden.... straight to Smith Garden pictures
                Bradford Garden.... straight to Bradford Garden pictures
                Whitney Garden.... straight to Whitney Garden pictures
                .... note... if you get lost viewing the pictures... hit home button bottom left and come back again... or Album Index too...

June  3      Membership Meeting - Birds in the Garden... pictures

         Jenny Papka and Diana Granados, Curators, Native Bird Connections 

Gardeners can help birds in urban areas
Fascinating facts about birds – plus a chance to meet two of them – made our June meeting special. Besides noting how our gardens can be more bird-friendly, two speakers from Native Bird Connections gave us a lot of basic information.
“Gardeners can provide safe places for birds to hide from predators,” said Diana Granados, executive director of the nonprofit that cares for injured birds of prey.
“Birds need water, especially during the heat of summer. If they aren’t using your birdbath, move it,” said Jenny Papka, curator.
Placing marbles at the bottom of a birdbath will help birds judge the water’s depth, she added.
Jenny and Diana also said:
• Many birds nest in cavities, which make birdhouses attractive to them.
• Ravens are increasing in number and causing concern because they are carnivorous and kill smaller birds.
• Ravens can be identified by their pointed tails; crows have square tails.
• California has the world’s largest population of Golden Eagles; they live near the Altamont Pass windmills.
• Young birds are more likely than adults to try unfamiliar foods.
For more:

May 17    Members tour CREEC in Crockett.

May  9 & 10 PHGSC Annual Plant Sale
.. pictures.

Plant Sale Reflections... excerpted from June08 Flower Press.
The plant sale team met recently to review what worked well this year and what else can be done in the future to make our annual fundraiser operate even more smoothly.
If you have suggestions, please pass them along to Eileen Housfeld,, or 944-4898. Meanwhile, here are some of the most positive highlights:
Excellent outcome – proceeds of $4,838.
Right prices – prompting shoppers to snap up bargains.
Hearty plants – our “product” was of good quality.
Good organization – everything came together.
Friday preparation – plant deliveries, pricing, placing.
Parking control – made it easy for shoppers.
Table display – specialty items attracted customers.
Plant expertise – knowledgeable members aided buyers.
Fine participation – people worked beyond their shifts.
Willing cooperation – folks helped out where needed.
Speedy clean-up – many people pitched in.
Enough canopies – whew!

May  6   Membership Meeting
              "Secrets to Growing Beautiful Dahlias".... pictures
              Deborah Dietz, Dahlia Society of California

   (excerpted from June 08 Flower Press)
Since 1926, the dahlia has been the city flower of San Francisco, and there has been a dahlia garden in Golden Gate Park since 1917.
With that introduction, Deborah Dietz launched into a detailed dahlia discussion at our May meeting.
Dahlias have 15 recognized colors, 19 bloom forms, and come in all sizes, she said.
The usual style of propagation is to divide the tubers every year, and no more than every two or three years, Deborah said.
It’s important to make sure each tuber intended for germination has an eye, as well as a neck that’s not broken, said Deborah.
The best way to do that, she said, is to dig up tuber clumps and store them – dirt and all – in a cool (not cold) place over the winter.
In the spring, spray off the dirt, and the eyes will have sprouted. Deborah said tubers may be planted indoors in early spring and put in the ground between April 15 and May 30.
Loose soil, good drainage, and in the Diablo Valley, morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal conditions, said Deborah.
Dahlias prefer minimal water before germination, then heavy watering, followed by no water until the plants droop, Deborah said.
Once buds form, drip irrigation is best.
To fertilize, Deborah starts with an even formula, such as 16-16-16 and then boosts blooms with something like a 5-50-17. Potted dahlias require regular fertilization, she noted.
Be brave and pinch off the first buds to get a showy plant later, Deborah concluded.

April 26    di Rosa Art & Nature Reserve Trip... members only

The di Rosa Art & Nature Preservenear Napa is a natural  wildlife preserve with a wide variety of native plants artfully interspersed with sculptures. 
The historic winery-turned-residence houses hundreds of works by California artists. Pictures and updated description forthcoming.

April 19         PHGSC Succulent Propagation Workshop ... pictures

   Our succulent focus this month included a demonstration workshop on how to propagate these hardy, water-retaining plants.
   Kaye Rosso, a long-time PHGSC member and head propagator at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, led a workshop showing us how to make those babies grow.
   The fastest way to root a succulent cutting, according to Kaye Rosso, is to put the stem in a jar with a little water – but not enough to touch the stem.
   Before that, though, it’s essential to let the cutting dry out for three days or longer, Kaye said.
   She offered a wealth of tips and techniques at the succulent propagation workshop she presented April 19 and hosted by Lynn and Rocco Grassano.
   Because succulents store water, they hate being too cold or too wet, Kaye emphasized.
   She prefers to plant succulents in the ground, but favors pots for frost- tender varieties that should be moved to a more sheltered area in winter.
   When potting, Kaye likes to use a 60-40 mixture of potting soil and pumice. Sand, she said, tends to pack and hamper drainage, while pebbles can get hot and burn roots.
   To keep bugs out and soil in, Kaye lines the bottom of her pots with fine screen. She fertilizes sparingly with a 0-10-10 formula because it has no nitrogen, which would make succulents grow too fast and alter their basic shape.
   A newly potted succulent should be placed in filtered sun and not be watered until it shows new growth, Kaye advised.

   Succulent roots grow sideways as well as down, so put a potted succulent inside a somewhat larger pot to help protect the roots from heat, Kaye said.
   She also recommended repotting every year to give succulents continued room to grow.

April  1
        Membership Meeting

      Gardening with Succulents for Bold Year Round Color
                     Ernesto Sandoval, Curator, UC Davis Botanical Conservatory
                     (there is a picture of Ernesto and Ted on WWW page above; Ernesto is on left...)

   Succulents that grow well in the ground – even in clay soils – were part of a lively, energetic presentation by Ernesto Sandoval, our speaker for the April meeting.
   He became interested in succulents when he started college at UC-Davis in 1991 and began working in its Botanical Conservatory. He is now the curator there.  
   Ernesto favors succulents because they are drought tolerant and have year-round interest.
   His talk covered how to grow succulents in pots and directly in your garden, the requirements for light and moisture, and the types of succulents to consider.
   Ernesto’s slide show provided many great ideas.
   For those who were inspired, he sold succulents and other bulbs and plants that were propagated at the UC-Davis Botanical Conservatory. All proceeds will go to the conservatory

March 29       PHGSC Workshop
.... pictures
                        Shell Gardens

A morning workshop learning to make these small shell gardens... both for the Plant Sale and your garden.    

With the careful planning of Lisa Robinson and the guidance and coaching of Phil Greig, we had a successful workshop March 29th to create abalone shell gardens using rooted succulents, along with decorative rocks, small shells, and other items.
The goal was to sell our arrangements at this year’s plant sale.
Lisa Robinson donated the shells, thanks to a friend who dives for them. Shells not sold at the Plant Sale will be available to workshop participants.
The Workshop was hosted by Julie Schnur & Phil Greig.... thank you Julie & Phil.
The Club supplied the shells (thanks again, Lisa), soil, and used Phil’s expertise as leader.
Thanks again to Lisa and Phil (and Julie) for an enjoyable morning.

March 5th Membership Meeting

Composting for Everybody

Presentation by Todd Sutton, Composting Guru,

100_1412.jpgWe hear it from our speakers all the time: the best way to amend our soil is to add compost, compost, compost.
At our March meeting we got the “nitty gritty” from Todd Sutton, Master Composter, Master Gardener, and consultant/owner/operator of
   Sutton’s motto is “everything rots,” and his theory is that anybody can set up a compost system. He’ll showed us ways that are easy on our budgets and our backs.
   Sutton’s gave us a bin full of tips, including his “recipe” for successful composting, plus using water to help along the process, avoiding unwanted pests, eliminating odors, and knowing when the product is finished and ready to use.
   Composting is good for the earth, said Sutton, since we recycle much of our yard waste rather than send it to the dump, and we fertilize less with petrochemicals.
   Whether you were an experienced composter or just starting out, Sutton’s presentation wasn't a waste!
   Sutton’s consulting business specializes in waste prevention, reuse and recycling. He previously served 14 years as a program manager with, an Alameda County waste management agency. He is currently working to debut a television show on Discovery TV’s new channel, Planet Green.

February 5th Membership Meeting

Life After Lawn: Toward the New Naturalism --
Focus on Form, Texture
--.... pictures

Presentation by Anthony Garza, Jr., Supervisor, Horticulture and Grounds,
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden 

  Anthony Garza gravitates toward gardens of grasses, rushes and interesting accents.
  This “new naturalism” is a European movement that is slowly taking hold in the U.S., according to Garza, our February speaker.
  He designed and manages a great example of new naturalism at the public entrance to the
UC-Berkeley Botanical Garden, where Garza is supervisor of horticulture and grounds.
  Garza defined new naturalism as:
    Dense plantings, with random repetition of elements for design cohesion.
  Heavy reliance on natural species and/or nonhybrid plants.
  Extensive use of plants that evoke a heightened sense of nature, i.e. grasses and
    grass-like plants.
Use of plants that look good year-round, even when dormant or deciduous, i.e. grasses
    and umbellifers.
  Regionalism: the engagement, rather than coercion, of nature and her processes.
   New naturalism plants that Garza displayed in his slide show included varieties of Restio,
Muhlenbergia, Astelia, Libertia, and Carex.
  Many of these are now in nurseries, said Garza, or they can be bought at plant sales
such as the ones held at the Botanical Garden.
  Grassy and strapped-leafed plants may be accented by palms, cycads and Agaves, Garza said.
 Garza’s presentation included images from his personal garden in Oakland that was featured, along with an article he wrote, in the fall 2006 issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine.

January 8th Membership Meeting 

Aesthetic Pruning...Prune with Intention and Attention
Presentation by Michael Alliger, Professional Pruner and Pruning Instructor,  Merritt College

   Aesthetic pruning – shaping a small tree or woody bush – takes a little forethought, as well as stepping back frequently to see how it’s going.
   Begin, said Michael Alliger, our January speaker, with a clear idea or purpose for your pruning project.
   It may be to cut back overgrowth, show off the plant in its full natural expression, or correct earlier pruning mistakes.
   Before cutting, look at the plant from all angles to decide where and what shaping is needed, Alliger said.
   Often, it’s best to start at the back and bottom, and even from the inside out, Alliger advised. With branches in hand, he demonstrated:
   Thinning – to reduce density and allow light and air to penetrate.
   Re-leadering – to reduce height and width by creating a smaller side branch as the new leader. It takes a good eye and may take 2 to 5 years to reduce a woody plant properly.
   Heading or tipping – to shorten long shoots and counteract legginess.
   “Think of your plants as letting you into their space,” when you are ready to prune, Alliger said. “Remember, your plants are alive and they can’t run away.”


Michael Alliger is on a mission to demystify pruning for the home gardener. As our January speaker, he aimed to make the fundamentals of pruning accessible to everyone. His presentation empowered pruners with a few basic skills and provided a proven approach to aesthetic pruning.
   Michael is a full-time professional aesthetic pruner and pruning instructor at Merritt College in Oakland. He discovered his love of plants when a major career change inspired him to study horticulture at Merritt College. He had found his true calling, and  studied plants and pruning with a passion. At Merritt, he met Dennis Makishima, master pruner and bonsai enthusiast. Michael was impressed with Dennis’s innovative approach to pruning, which seeks to bring out the essence and form of the plant.
   Michael apprenticed under Dennis for six years and then started his own pruning company in the East Bay in 1986. He later moved his business to Sebastapol, where he currently lives.
   Michael’s focus is on woody plants that hold their form. They allow us to anticipate seasonal changes and refine their shape over the years, unlike plants that are essentially cut to the ground each season.
   Michael’s presentation covered common landscaping shrubs and small trees, and he demonstrated aesthetic pruning techniques on plant material he’ll brought to the meeting.
   Although he specializes in Japanese garden plants, Michael sees pruning as an art form that can be appreciated by all gardeners.
   Further information on his type of pruning can be found at