Career Counseling

P71206This is not a sequel to my rant ‘Real Deal’ from yesterday. It is just another rant. I should write more such rants; and I am actually considering designating Wednesday, as the day for discussion of the various hooey in horticulture, from some of the many fads and gimmicks to the lack of professionalism in the horticultural industries. Wednesday is the day between my current gardening column articles and the gardening column articles that are recycled from last year. There is certainly no shortage of hooey to discuss. I have been mostly polite about it so far. I sometimes wonder why I should bother with politeness. I sort of think that some would prefer more honesty than such unfounded pleasantries. Well, I can give more thought to that later. There are still a few more pleasant topics that should be discussed as well. For now, I will continue:

Many years ago, while driving the delivery truck, I took a few orders to various jobs of a particularly annoying ‘landscape designer’ in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. His orders were never planned. He would come to the nursery and just pick out random plants that he thought were interesting, including many that happened to be on the side of the road waiting to be taken away for disposal. (Overgrown and disfigured rhododendrons that get junked often bloom better than plants of better quality because they are more mature.) His landscape design was planned in the same manner. He just planted things wherever he though they looked good. There was no thought to the preferences of the various cultivars, exposure, irrigation, the trees above . . . or anything. He landscaped right around whatever happened to be in the way, including dead trees, fences overwhelmed with ivy, and dilapidated carcases of old brick barbecue pits that were beyond repair. I really disliked being on his job sites.

During one such deliver, he explained to me that he had been a chiropractor. He got bored with his career, and decided to do something more fun, so decided to become a landscape designer. He enjoyed buying pretty blooming plants in nurseries and wearing khaki shorts and big straw hats to work like all the landscapers with something to prove do.

My comment to him was that my career as a horticulturist was so much hard work and so frustrating at times that maybe I should also consider a career change. Perhaps I should consider becoming a chiropractor. If someone without ANY education or experience in horticulture or design . . . or anything even remotely useful in the landscape design industry can become a landscape designer, than it should be just as easy to become a chiropractor, despite a lack in formal education or experience in the industry.

He did not like that comment.

Kitty City

P80124Los Gatos is named after bobcats. More specifically, it is named after an interchange that was named after bobcats; La Rinconada De Los Gatos. There are a few theories about how and why it was named after bobcats. The most popularly accepted theory involved the remarkably violent demise of everyone involved, leaving no one to document it as accurately is it has been repeated for generations. Don’t question it if you ever hear it. It is quite entertaining. I prefer to think that we do not need an elaborate excuse for naming our town after native wildlife. The bobcats were here. People noticed them. BINGO – La Rinconada De Los Gatos.

Regardless and contrary to what my colleague Brent would tell you, ‘Los Gatos’ does not mean ‘The Ghettos’ in Spanish.

Other towns in California have horticultural names. Some are named for horticultural commodities that were grown there. Others are named for native flora. Some are named after native flora that was harvested as a horticultural commodity!

Apple Valley, Citrus Heights, Greenfield, Lemon Grove, Orange, Orange Cove, Prunedale, Rosemead, Roseville and Wheatland might have been named after what was grown there commercially, although Orange was probably a recycled name from somewhere else. Calabasas is a Spanish name for pumpkins that were grown there. Hesperia is derived from citrus.

Del Rey Oaks, Live Oak, Oakdale, Oakland, Oakley and Thousand Oaks were probably named for the native oaks that grew there naturally. Paso Robles was named El Paso De Los Robles, and Roble is the Spanish name for the valley oak. Encino is the Spanish name for coast live oak, and a few small ones are Encinitas.

La Palma, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Palmdale and Twenty Nine Palms are obviously named for palms, both the native desert palm and exotic palms. Yucca Valley is of course named for the native specie of yucca. Cypress, Hawthorne, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Walnut, Walnut Creek, Willow Glen and Willows should be easy to figure out, although some are not as obvious as they would seem to be.

Redwood City was probably named for the mills that processed redwood lumber there, rather than the trees.; just like Mill Valley. Madera translates into wood; and Corte Madera is a place to cut wood. Palo Alto translates to something like ‘high stick’, but was really derived from a tired old redwood tree with a dead top. Fresno translates into ash tree.

Bell Gardens, Bellflowers, Cloverdale, Elk Grove, Ferndale, Garden Grove, Gardena, Grass Valley, Hawaiian Gardens, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Larkspur, Lawndale, Pacific Grove, Tulelake, Woodland, Woodlake and Woodside are open to interpretation. Then there is Weed. After all, this is California.

Arboriculture: Deep Space Nine

P71231The “Poly” in Cal Poly is for “Polytechnic”, as in there are multiple schools within “California Polytechnic State University” at San Luis Obispo. There were seven school when I was there between 1985 and 1990. I was a student of the “School of Agriculture”. “Horticulture” was my “Major”, or major realm of study within this school. Within this major, I selected “Floriculture and Nursery Production” as my “Concentration” of study. That certainly is a lot of quotation marks.

While majoring in horticulture at Cal Poly, I studied with students whose concentrations of study were within “Landscaping” or “Floral Design”. Withing the School of Agriculture, we studied with students who majored in “Crop Science” or “Animal Science” and so on. Like horticulture, each of those other majors was divided into other concentrations.

Then there were all those students of the other six schools, which I will not even get into because I am wearing out the quotation mark key.

In the summer of 1988, while many of my colleagues were going to Australia, New Zealand or South Africa for their internships, I stayed right here in California, and took a job with a Lee’s Tree Surgeons in Saratoga. My colleagues thought that was a bad idea. Not only was that sort of internship for those in the landscaping concentration, but it was for the lowliest among them. They climbed trees and used chain saws and ropes and such. They were primitive. They were barbaric. They were not like us.

As it turned out. I was not like them. Fortunately, they did not mind. They took very good care of me, and trained me as best they could about arboriculture in the three months I was with them. They realized pretty quickly that I was not a good candidate for the job they gave me, but made accommodations for me. Although I was never proficient at climbing, and was not really good for much at all during that summer, I later went back to work for some of them, and eventually became a somewhat proficient groundsman; but that is another story for another time.

In my fourth year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, after my internship with Lee’s Tree Surgeons, I relocated from my semi-rural home back into town, and lived in a big apartments with three roommates. We made a tradition of watching “Star Trek: the Next Generation” on television. One of the roommates, who is now a very respected professor at Cal Poly, made cornbread for the weekly event. Although I did not continue the tradition after we all graduated and went our separate ways, I did sometimes watch “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” when it came out a few years later. I really need to stop with the quotation marks.

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I liked the concept of so many different specie living together in an society in which it was very necessary to make accommodations for those who are different. Everyone needed to respect everyone else. Some even learned to appreciate the differences. Even the bad guys had redeeming and very often likeable traits.

In my career, I am primarily a nurseryman. That means I grow things. Other horticultural professionals might compare my people to the Vulcans. They think that we are too uptight, efficient and plain to be much fun. Factory growers (who work for the big corporate growers) would be more like Romulans, and and therefore less dedicated to what is right and logical if it is to their disadvantage. Some of the better artistic landscape designers are likened to the Bajorans. Unscrupulous maintenance gardeners who will do what they must to make a buck are comparable to the Ferengi. Some of them work for the larger and imperialistic Cardassian landscape corporations.

Arborists are the most excellent of all; or perhaps the second most excellent after Vulcan nurseryman. They are like the Klingons; honorable, noble, independent, passionate and boisterous! I can understand why my colleagues think of them as barbaric and primitive, but I also believe that my colleagues should be more accommodating. When I consider what arborists must have though of me what I did my internship, I realize that it must not have been easy for them to accommodate me. Yet, they did, and in the most excellent way. They still respect that I have my own career in my own world, but to this day, thirty light years later, they are still pleased to invite me to their world.