Horridculture – Dust Bowl

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Cimarron County in 1940 or the road out back last Wednesday?

 

In a commotion that an Okie would flee from, the road out back got blown last week. What a mess! Dust was everywhere, and I mean, except for the road from which it was blown, it went ‘everywhere’. The engines of the two blowers at full throttle echoed loudly against pavement, the cinder block and metallic walls of the industrial buildings, and under the broad eaves above.

Fortunately, no one else was here to be bothered by it. Actually, no one would have been as bothered by it as we were by the crud that was on the road prior to getting blown. We know that blowing is sometimes necessary. There are only a few windows on the industrial buildings, and they were all closed. The few vehicles that happened to be parked nearby were already dirty.

Where I lived in town many years ago, the apartment buildings to the north and south were ‘maintained’ by so-called mow-blow-and-go ‘gardeners’. The building to the south lacked a lawn, but there was plenty of shrubbery there to be destroyed, even though the name of the technique does not rhyme with the rest of the routine. For both buildings, blowing dust was extreme.

There was no attempt to be tactful about it. The so-called ‘gardeners’ operated their blowers very loudly at full throttle, with no regard for where all the crud went from the pavement. Much of it went onto cars in the carports. Much went into the washrooms. Almost monthly, I needed to ignite the blown out pilot for the water heater in the washroom of the building to the north.

Both back corners of my garden were paved. There was a small paved laundry yard to the north, and a small paved trash yard to the south. The so-called ‘gardeners’ on both sides removed the kickboards from below the rear panels of those dreadful fences that I disliked so much, and blew the detritus from the neighboring properties into may back yard as if I would not notice.

When I replaced the kickboards, the so-called ‘gardeners’ broke pieces of them out, and continued with their technique. There was not much detritus from pavement that got blown weekly, but it was enough for me to collect and show to the property management of the adjacent apartments. It put the ‘go’ in ‘mow-blow-and-go’. It was the same technique only a few years apart.

As necessary as they are, and even though they can be used properly and tactfully, blowers still annoy me. The noise, the dust, and the seemingly innate disregard for others are not justified by their efficiency. I have used them, so I know that a practical degree of tact does not compromise efficiency. They exemplify the worst of what a formerly respectable industry has become.

Horticulture – It’s What I do.

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Rhody, . . . because everyone loves Rhody, . . . and this is not about horticulture anyway.

This is not a misspelling of a misspelling. There is no misspelling of “Horticulture” in the title this week. “Horridculture” is typical of my rants on Wednesday. It is not the only deviation from the norm here. I included the contraction of “It’s” in the title. I have been trying to relax my otherwise objectionably uptight writing style; but a contraction in the title still makes me cringe.

Horridculture – It Is What I Do Not Do.” would be consistent with my style, but silly, and not so relevant to the subject matter. I am a horticulturist, arborist and garden columnist. I enjoy what I do very much, which is why I made a career of it. It is demanding work though, and does not afford much time for blogging. The quality of my blogging is consequently compromised.

I still work as many as three days weekly at a job that was supposed to be temporary two years ago! It is so excellent that I can not bear to leave, although I must eventually do so. It entails the maintenance of many acres of landscapes and forest at a Christian Conference Center. We have been unable to work for the past month, so will be busier than typical as we resume work.

Mondays and Tuesdays are my days for writing my weekly gardening column. I should probably retire from this work, but enjoy it so much, and would prefer to instead expand it into other publications to fill in the gaps between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I do intend to simplify this writing, even if expanding it; so that I can do it all on Mondays like I used to not so long ago.

For more than the past two years, I have not inspected trees or landscapes for other arborists or landscape professions. There just is not sufficient time! I do miss that work, and composing reports for those who dislike writing. (Arborists and landscape professionals who enjoy their trees and landscapes innately dislike writing.) If I ever resume such work, it will be only rarely.

I intend to eventually return to the farm where I belong, and resume production of horticultural commodities. As much as I enjoy the rest of what I do, growing things is what I do naturally. It is why my ‘temporary’ job was supposed to be ‘temporary’ two years ago. It will involve even more demanding work than what I already can not keep up with, but it is what I need to do.

Therefore, I will have even less time to devote to blogging. I intend to continue to post my brief weekly gardening column in two parts on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as old articles from the same gardening column in two parts on Thursdays and Fridays. I would also like to continue with Six on Saturday and other brief posts for Saturdays at noon, Sundays and Wednesdays.

I write for my gardening column weekly regardless of the blog. Old articles from the column are already written. Only new posts for Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays need to be written separately; so some or all will be omitted if necessary. What I must discontinue now is my involvement with the many compelling blogs that I have been following for the past many months.

I will not stop following any of the blogs that I presently follow. I will just not be able to read all of the posts, or interact with them like I had been. For me, it will be quite a weird adjustment. I feel obligated to read much of what others post into blogs that I follow. If someone puts effort into positing it, then it must be important. I certainly enjoy how others interact with my blog.

I certainly do not want anyone to think that I lost interest in their respective blog. Many of them provide ideas for what I should write about within the context of my own weekly gardening column. Insight into horticulture in other climates, regions and even cultures has been fascinating. This is merely something that I must sacrifice in order to continue on with my own writing.

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.