We Say Goodbye

October 20th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.
    • Primroses and pansies will add instant color to pots and flower beds. Combine them with bulbs for an extended season of bloom.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper spray at Thanksgiving, New Years and Valentine’s Day to help protect trees from this damaging fungus disease.

We Say Goodbye

Thirty-six years ago my husband Dave and I moved to Willits from San Jose with our infant son, Michael. We bought a piece of property on Locust Street, moved into the house, and watched the rain pour down all that winter.

But the first of April, the rain magically stopped, and we opened Sanhedrin Nursery with plants in our front yard and a sales counter on our front porch.

Previously, I had owned a small nursery in San Jose for 6 years, where I had learned the nursery business. But Dave and I decided to leave the Bay Area and we came up to Willits when the local nursery, Fallen Leaf Nursery, went out of business.

So we started a little nursery here in Willits. Of course it was a very different climate from San Jose, so the learning curve was pretty steep. With a much shorter growing season and a lot more cold and rain in the winter, we became acquainted with the challenges of being a gardener in Willits.

As the farm advisor told us, “he didn’t know anything about diseases until he moved to Mendocino County.” So we had a lot to learn. Our library grew and grew and so did our knowledge.

Of course we took The Willits News and advertised our fledging business in it. At that time the newspaper ran a garden column by Rosa Rugosa. But 2 or 3 years later, she retired. So I contacted Claudia Smith, the editor at the time, and asked her if she would like me to write a garden column for the paper. She agreed, and thus began a new career for me as a garden writer.

I decided to call my column, “This Week in Your Garden.” I posted a few gardening tips each week, which were timely “things to do,” and then wrote an article on some subject that was relevant to the season, like fruit trees in January and rhododendrons in May.

Every Tuesday evening, I sat down — originally at my typewriter — and invited my muse to inspire me to write an interesting article. It was not always easy, but somehow I managed to find a good topic to share each week.

In the late 1980s, my sister, Geri Hulse-Stephens, and I decided to put together a garden calendar using my garden tips and her illustrations. It was the early days of using computers for layout so I had to learn a lot of new skills to create a calendar. The result was four years of beautiful “Gardening in Willits Calendars”.

Over the years I have received many compliments on my articles. Almost every week it seemed like someone would tell me that they enjoyed my garden column. Some even said that they cut out the articles and saved them! But you know how that goes…

So in the last few years I started thinking about compiling them into a book. I decided to use my sister’s lovely illustrations, and began work to create a small book that was informative as well as pleasing. I titled it, A Year in the Garden: Gardening in the Willits Area.

The format that I have chosen for the book is to present a selection of my articles in a month-by-month arrangement. My articles focus on the vegetable garden, the orchard, shade trees, flowering shrubs, perennials and bulbs, as well as insect and disease problems.

I see this book as a gift to the community. For 36 years our goal has been to help our customers become successful gardeners, and this book continues that intention. Copies are available at Sanhedrin Nursery.

As many of you know, Dave and I have decided to retire and close Sanhedrin Nursery. We have really enjoyed being part of this community, and it is bittersweet for us to close and move on. We leave behind a part of ourselves and we are glad that we have been able to serve this community for so long.

Putting the Garden to Bed

October 13th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Choose shade trees for fall color now and plant them while the soil is still warm.
    • Wildflower seed broadcast with the first rains will take root over the winter and burst into flower next spring.
    • Divide overgrown water lilies and irises. Repot using heavy soil with no organic matter or packaged Aquatic Planting Medium.
    • It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.

Putting the Garden to Bed

Fall is a glorious time of year to work in the yard. It is the ideal time to take stock of your perennial gardens and correct mistakes and problem areas, dig up, rearrange and divide existing plants, add new perennials and shrubs, and plant spring blooming bulbs. As fall winds down and this work is completed, you will turn to the task of putting your garden to bed. Completing a few simple tasks now will not only prepare your garden to withstand the winter but also help plan for next spring.

In the vegetable garden, remove any dead plants and place them in the compost pile. Then turn the soil and plant a winter-hardy green manure crop such as crimson clover, fava beans or annual rye grass. Another option is to turn the soil and then spread a thick layer of compost or shredded leaves on the bed. Both methods will protect and improve the soil over the winter. By preparing the beds in the fall, you can take advantage of the first available planting days in late winter and early spring to plant early peas, spinach, cabbage and lettuce.

Divide artichoke plants which have been in the ground for three or four years. Mulch established plants with steer manure. Garlic should be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring.

In your flower beds, wait until perennials have died back before cutting them back almost to ground level, and compost the cuttings that aren’t diseased. The rule of thumb is: “If it’s yellow or brown, cut it down, if it’s green, leave it alone.” Plants that remain green through the winter can be cut back in March when they begin to grow again.

Don’t cut ornamental grasses back until late winter or early spring. Wait until new growth is beginning to emerge from the base of the plant. The stems of perennials like black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum and grasses add winter interest to the garden, and their seeds provide food for wintering birds.

This is a good time to divide overgrown perennials. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties, and be sure to add some spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips.

Remove the leaves of hostas, daylilies and agapanthus as these tend to turn into a soggy mess by spring and provide shelter for slugs. Rake up fallen rose leaves and remove them from the garden area as they frequently have disease spores.

Dig up dahlia bulbs when they are finished blooming. Begonia bulbs should be lifted if they are in the ground. If they are in containers, you can cut back the foliage after frost and store the pots in a dry, frost-free area.

Preparing the garden for the winter ahead ensures that it gets off to a good start next season. Come the spring, when you have so much work to do, you will be glad that your garden is clean and ready for a new year.

The Four-Season Garden

September 30th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting. Make the most of the nice fall weather and plant trees, shrubs, ground covers and bulbs now during the fall planting season.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.
    • Replace tired petunias with bright pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock for garden color this fall and winter.
    • If your bearded iris blooms were sparse this year or the plants are more than 4 years old, now is the time to divide and replant them. Mix some bone meal into the soil, and plant the rhizomes just beneath the soil surface.
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.

The Four-Season Garden

Gardens can be beautiful in all four seasons, not just spring and summer. By choosing trees and shrubs with interesting fall and winter leaves and bark, you can make your landscape attractive year-round.

Seasonal change is vital to a four-season garden. Brilliant fall foliage and berries are just as important as stunning spring blossoms. Plants that offer an interesting aspect in more than one season are especially important in small gardens.

Japanese maple trees turn a variety of reds and burgundy shades in the fall. Their autumn foliage is a glowing contrast against evergreens and faded perennials. These trees are also attractive in winter with interesting branch patterns, and in some varieties, colorful bark.

Heavenly bamboo is another multi-season plant. It is upright and evergreen, lending a graceful texture to the garden. In the spring it has white flowers which turn to red berries that hang on through the winter and attract migrating birds. Its bright red fall foliage is a colorful accent.

Ornamental grasses add interest to a garden at any time of year. Fall foliage and colorful plumes, with fuzzy seed heads that rustle in the slightest breeze, provide an attractive contrast to evergreens and brightly-colored shrubs. Use them as accent plants where their golden foliage can shine in the winter months. Feather Reed Gras, with its tall, stately plumes, is particularly striking.

Colorful fruits and berries also brighten the colder months. There are many trees and shrubs to choose from. Cotoneaster, barberry, pyracantha and holly are outstanding shrubs. Strawberry tree produces bright red berries throughout the year. Crabapples, hawthorn trees and persimmons have colorful fruit that hangs on after the leaves have fallen.

Many trees have interesting bark. Birch and alder trees have white bark. The bark on Paper birch is chalk white. Sycamores have brown and white flaking bark, Trident maple has peeling bark in gray, orange and brown, while Paperbark maple has peeling cinnamon bark. Crape myrtle trees also have peeling, cinnamon-colored bark, and few trees have more beautiful bark than our native madrones.

‘Sango Kaku’ Japanese maple is striking in winter with coral-orange-red stems and redtwig dogwood has bright red branches. Willow trees have bright yellow branches that stand out in the winter landscape.

Some trees have attractive winter silhouettes. Dogwood trees have a layered branching pattern that is very decorative in winter. Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick has fantastically gnarled and twisted branches that are a real curiosity. Of course oak trees are some of the most wonderful trees to enjoy in the winter, with their picturesque, twisted branches.

Try to design your landscape with an artist’s eye, blending fall colors and contrasting patterns of leaves and branches to make yours a four-season garden.