I have been neglecting my blog for quite some time! I was off to a good start then “life stuff” decided to butt in for a while. The interruption started around April of 2018, just when my pruning business was really kicking into high gear. My pruning calendar was completely booked every Saturday and Sunday from early February through mid-May. Sometimes three locations in a weekend!
Then in mid-April, I was pruning a tall privet hedge, my ladder squeezed between a climbing fig covered fence and the back of the privet. Thick, decades old roots underfoot. I stepped off my ladder and wouldn’t you know it? POP! I felt a pop in my hip that I later found out to be the labrum in my hip! I did suck it up and finish out my spring pruning clients, but I was in terrible pain and limping all throughout the next eight months or so.
From there, sadly my mother suffered a stroke, and then another, before passing away two months later. She turned 80 the day before her stroke and died the Saturday before Thanksgiving. All I can say is that it was a horrible two months.
After settling her estate in the first months of 2019, I had no energy to manage anything but my day job. I was a couch potato and numb. But time flew by and my hip was starting to get stronger (thanks Pilates!). I did a few minor fall/winter pruning jobs for a couple favorite Master Gardener friends and started getting excited again about pruning and gardening in early 2020. Then guess who came to town?!?!
I spent the spring in fear and summer dedicated to my vegetable garden and didn’t prune again until December. But happily, I started January off by reconnecting with my friends at Shinzen and pruned my three lovely ladies for the first time in two years. It was a lovely start to 2021! Fresh pictures to follow.
Since COVID-19 will likely consume most of this year, I decided I needed to jump into a new gardening adventure. I’m very excited to say that I am starting the Floret Flower Workshop this month! I’m so incredibly excited to dive into the world of cut flowers! Amid all the virus fears and crazy news, I feel so energized that I get to learn and get drunk on gorgeous flowers at the same time! I hope to post more about my flower journey — here and on Instagram @greenlilydesign. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
I have the pleasure of giving a talk again at this year’s Spring Home & Garden Show, Sunday, March 8th, 2020. I’ll load you up on all sorts of great info in my talk “Landscape Make-Over: Tips for moving to sustainable landscaping” — just in time for spring planting! I’ll be at the Master Gardener’s education pavilion, talk starts at 11:00. See you there!
Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve changed the URL of this website. It is now:
And my email has changed to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll be sending out individual email to my clients and collaborators directly.
I’m also working on new content, including exciting new topics to discuss and client work to share. Stay tuned!
Shinzen Friendship Garden, Fresno, CA
I was out pruning on Saturday at the Shinzen Friendship Garden as part of their volunteer work day. For the past couple years I’ve taken care of three red Acer dissectum there, also referred to as “the three red ladies”. They were planted very close together many moons ago and have a few issues, but they still put on a lot of growth throughout the year. It is hard to take good before and after pics of these but this will give you an idea. I’ll have to hunt for a pic of when they are all leafed out… that’ll have to come later.
But for now, here they are, as well as some shots around the garden.
Before: They get pretty bushy. You can see the new growth is bright red.
After: Thinned out quite a bit, but need to leave more cover up top to protect from sun burn. Fresno is quite hot in the summer.
After: One of the three ladies, from the side.
A nice vignette to the left of the entry gates.
As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t made it out to my vegetable garden very often this season. I did take a big, BIG bunch of greens up for a dinner with friends in Berkeley a couple weekends back, and snipped some lettuces and arugula here and there for my dinner. But this weekend I inspected another box and noticed this beauty! She’s already a bit overgrown, but boy is she pretty… and tasty!
Lately I’ve been roasting cauliflower in a hot oven after I’ve tossed it in a combo of olive oil, maple syrup and a good squeeze of Sriracha. Oh my is that good, something I spotted on Pinterest. Look it up!
Direct from my winter garden, can you believe it?! Red leaf lettuce and arugula, freshly picked and washed in the morning before work, then onto my dinner plate crisp and cold in the evening. Life is good in the Central Valley.
Red leaf lettuce and arugula.
Seems like a lot of work, but to be honest, I planted my winter garden back in late fall and completely forgot about it. It was doing it’s thing through the holidays (aided by a faithful irrigation timer) and I was doing mine until I ventured back there about mid-January…. et voila! I’ve got greens bursting out of three of my four raised beds; three varieties of mustard greens, three kinds of kale, bok choy, cabbage (both red and green), of course chard, and the onions and garlic are finally starting to push. Winter gardens are great since there are few pests to deal with – and thank goodness the squirrels aren’t interested in this stuff!
And “what’s in the fourth box?” you might ask? Well I used that box last summer for eggplant, all kinds of peppers and fennel (forgetting that fennel is a winter vegetable). So now the fennel is big and beautiful and mine is amazingly mild eaten raw. Something I’ve been enjoying as well. I’ve left the eggplant and peppers in the ground to see if they’ll come back – I’ll cut ’em back a bit here pretty soon. Fingers crossed as they were tasty and so prolific.
Anyway, I’m starting to add Kitchen Garden Design and Maintenance to my repertoire of services. I’m in the idea phase on the design of a formal kitchen garden with one of my pruning clients, hoping to get that potential project off the ground in time for spring planting. Will keep you posted…
I was pruning at the Roque Garden recently where the landscape is very formal up close to the residence. There are layers of plantings starting with low, clipped boxwoods framing the beds, then stunning mature azaleas set off by beautiful tall privet hedges that act as a lush backdrop. It was time to prune the privets of their bushy summer growth.
As an Aesthetic Pruner, I rely on my hand tools — hand pruners and various sized hand saws. In an estate garden you just can’t buzz through these formal hedges with power tools. The power clippers tear through leaves and leave woody branches and stems poking out. Also, when the fall leaves pile up on these big shrubs, they weigh down and lean forward. So buzzing through with power tools can sheer off branches that simply need to be lighted up to naturally bounce back to their upright positions. Those power clippers in the hands of hurried landscape crews often leave formal hedges chewed up and patchy, not looking like the lush, healthy backdrops they are meant to be.
So I typically start at the top, shaking branches to get fallen leaves out, then thin out the thicker stems, cutting the bushy new growth of each branch back to just in front of a leaf node (so you see only leaves facing out, no stems or branches poking through). That thinning will lighten up the branch and you’ll see it bounce up naturally. No need to buzz it off. That’s how you get a nice healthy, stunning hedge.
I took these pictures mid-way through. You can see the left side is still bushy and the right is clipped tightly with plenty of air circulation possible which allows light inside as well. I finished the front of that lovely hedge and will clip the top at about 8-9 ft or so next visit.
It’s such a lovely garden! This is just one tiny spot in it.
Right side has been pruned, left side still bushy. Note, the client is thinking to replace the ill-pruned Magnolias in this area. Unfortunately, the look of that tree is often what happens when landscape crews “prune” specimen trees.
View from the pruned side. You can see how that unpruned side is leaning forward from the weight of new growth and fall leaves.
A couple weeks ago I was honored to give the Fruit Tree Pruning Seminar at Belmont Nursery. Danielle and Lynne were great support in getting me up to speed on their event and all set up on the day. And Jon, the owner, was very encouraging as well. I’m guessing there were about 50 people attending, which is a great size group for such a talk. So many people had questions about their mature fruit trees, fewer had questions about planting or maintaining younger trees. After the talk, the Belmont folks took participants out to do some hands-on pruning.
Thanks so much to Belmont Nursery for the opportunity!
P.S. Also, thanks to Margie Reiz who allowed me to take some cuttings from her home orchard to use in my pruning demonstration. You can see all the branches strapped to the top of my car that morning!