All posts by Rebecca Flanegan

Free Class for Adults & Kids on April 9: Learn About Walnut Creek’s Waterways

They don’t call it Walnut Creek for nothing! From nourishing plants and residents to protecting wildlife to shaping the land, water systems in our area have made a huge impact on happenings here for over a century.

On Saturday, April 9 at 10 a.m., we kick of our free family educational series “Getting to Know Our Local Creeks, Ponds & Waterways” with a lecture for adults on the geography and history of Walnut Creek’s watershed, and kid-oriented activities about where water goes when it rains.

In the adult portion of the program, instructor Mike Carlson, Asst. Public Works Director, Contra Costa Flood Control & Water Conservation District, take you back to the 19th century and move forward into modern day, discussing the water around us and how we have changed this creek system. We will discuss past and current challenges related to maintaining our local watershed, flood control, the impacts of El Nino and long range plans for the future.

For the young attendees, our Youth Education team will lead a “mapping our watershed” activity, as well as teach kids to make a model of an aquifer to help them better understand what happens to water as it soaks into the ground.

This program is presented in partnership with the City of Walnut Creek’s Clean Water Program. Photo courtesy of the Walnut Creek Historical Society.

Please Register in Advance for this Free Class
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Stock Your Garden with Plants! Our Spring Sale is April 9.

The rains have been softening and nourishing the ground, and the temperatures are slowly on the rise, which means it’s the perfect time to start filling up your garden with new plants! On Saturday, April 9 from 8am to 12pm, join us for another lovely morning at The Gardens and walk away with some fantastic plants, great deals, and perhaps a little more knowledge about the art of gardening!

If you’ve checked the local garden retailer ads, however, you might be a little nervous about paying so much for sprucing up your yards — but never fear! Our plants cultivated by our in-house propagation team are being sold for much less than regular retail price. Gallon pots are only $6.50; everything smaller is only $4.50!

Featuring over 300 unique plant species and varieties available including:

California Natives
Shrubs
Groundcovers
Perennials
Grasses
Ferns
Annuals
Drought-tolerant Varieties

Garden Manager, Brian Larsen and a crew of garden volunteers will be on hand to share tips and answer questions.

All proceeds benefit the ongoing maintenance of our free public garden and our education programs for children and adults.

ADMISSION IS FREE — RAIN OR SHINE!

Get to Know Our Local Creeks, Ponds & Waterways!

Just Announced: This spring, The Gardens invites you and your kids to join us for a fun and informative series of FREE classes about our local watershed and preserving our environmental resources. Featuring six expert instructors and our own teaching staff, the series, “Getting to Know Our Local Creeks, Ponds and Waterways,” invites both adults and children to participate, with topics of interest to grown-ups, as well as interactive, hands-on activities specifically designed to engage younger audiences. In addition to classes held at The Gardens, the program also features several local field trips to be enjoyed by all ages.

Adults will learn about the challenges of maintaining our local watershed and how best to manage floods during “El Nino” weather, and kids will investigate where water goes when it rains. The whole family will enjoy discovering the plants and wildlife that live in our nearby creeks and ponds, taking a family hike along the trails of a nature preserve, and learning about warm-weather vegetable gardening and the path our food takes on its journey from field to table. Adults will pick up tips on how to avoid contaminating sensitive water ecosystems with pesticides, while kids can learn how to make garden-friendly pest control potions and bring beneficial bugs to your backyard.

All classes in this series are FREE, but registration is required for all participants.

Check Out the Full Series of Free Classes
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The Roots of Spring Planting

Spring has sprung! For many of us, this is a breath of fresh air. Time to put away the down jackets, release some winter tension and begin enjoying our gardens again. When you get out in the backyard, you might find your garden needs a “fresh face” for the season, and a great way to do that is by putting in some new plants.

Fortunately, all of the major nurseries are bringing in fresh stock. However, too much information and too many choices can make plant shopping overwhelming. Here are some tips to find success with your garden refresh.

Bigger isn’t always better: Don’t fall victim to one of the biggest mistakes shoppers make when purchasing plants in a container. An overly-large specimen may mean it has sat in its container for an extra season (or longer). This can be a major flaw, especially in woody plants. You will be hard pressed to find plants in a plastic container in nature. They’re meant to be growing in the ground, and should only be in pots for a short time.

Get down to the roots: Potted plants often bring with them serious root defects that could derail your planting success. When searching for the right plant, I recommend looking at plants from the bottom up. Don’t focus on the height or number of leaves; pull off the pot and inspect the root system. The roots are the key to a plant’s survival. If you find seriously bound roots (all knotted up together and filling the pot) or stem girdling roots (circling around the base of the plant), put that plant back and grab another.

Root issues likely won’t make a difference for a few seasons, but they can cause serious damage down the road. At that point, it can become both costly and painstaking to deal with the problems. Shop smart, shop early, and continue to enjoy your plants for the totality of their lifespan.

Get more tips on selecting plants for your garden at our Spring Plant Sale on April 9th from 8am-12pm.

Brian Larsen
GHF Garden Manager

Go Ahead, Hack Away: Rose Pruning with Confidence

The dead of winter can often leave you wondering just what to do out there in your backyard garden. Trees are bare, many of your favorite plants have gone dormant, and the atmosphere resembles a barren wasteland. Fortunately, there are a bevy of activities to keep your gardening skills in shape during the break between blooms.

Many gardeners in the Bay Area have adorned their gardens with a variety of different rose types — floribunda, hybrid-tea, David Austen, the list goes on and on. Now is the prime time to prune your roses and maximize their “flower power” for the upcoming season. The number one mistake gardeners make when pruning roses is a reluctance to remove enough of the plant. Go to the “dark side” and get serious about removal! It’s far better to cut your roses back hard. Doing so will leave you with a smaller, but much more full and attractive shrub in the spring. Brevior est melius (shorter is better).

The key is to clean out the middle of the shrub, then prune the remaining canes back to an outward-facing dormant bud (the dormant buds can be found around the horizontal lines that appear in an alternating pattern on the canes). The cuts should be made at a 45-degree angle sloping upwards toward the bud. Dead branches should be removed and “suckers,” or shoots sprouting from the rootstock, taken off, as well.

Don’t worry about making mistakes. Your roses can take it. Be decisive. If you’re still feeling shy and would like to practice on someone else’s roses first, you are always welcome to join us at 9am each Wednesday at The Gardens at Heather Farm to hone your skills. We have a well-trained crew of rosarians, and you’re bound to learn a thing or two while working away!

Brian Larsen
GHF Garden Manager

Sponsor a tree in the new Camellia Grove!

AdobeStock_96852685With Xmas only a few days away, there’s no time to lose when choosing an extra-special gift for an extra-special person in your life, and we’ve got something truly unique for you this year: Sponsor a tree in our new Camellia Grove, and we’ll plant a Camellia in the garden with a customized tag in honor of someone you love. Surprise your spouse, delight your child or grandchild, or commemorate the spirit of someone who has passed.

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