Horridculture – Arborists Are . . . Unique.

80221thumbThere are many different types of horticulturists. We are all unique, both individually as well as collectively within our respective professional group classifications. For some of us, individuality interferes with conformity to the collective generalizations that are so commonly associated with our collective groups. For some of us, the stereotypes are a perfect fit.
‘Primarily’, I am a nurseryman. We are the intellectual ones. Well, at least we get most of the credit for being the intellectual ones. Most of us really are quite intellectual. Most of us are rather humble about it.
My excuse for nonconformity to the latter is that I am ‘secondarily’ an arborist. Arboriculture is something that I have never been able to get away from. I did an internship with the most excellent arborists in the entire universe in the summer of 1988. After all these years of mostly growing horticultural commodities, I still sometimes conduct inspections and compile reports for trees that other arborists and their clients are concerned about.
You see, arborists are the passionate ones. One might say that we are enthusiastic, fanatical and zealous. Nurseryman might say that we lack restraint and cultural refinement. It is not such a simple task to distinguish between exuberant dedication and primitive efficiency. Regardless, most arborists do not like to write reports. It is easier to get a nurseryman to do it.
In fact, arborists do not like to write much of anything. There are several elaborate blogs that are written by nurserymen; but blogs written by arborists are rare, with brief and infrequently posted articles.
The irony of this is that it is more important for arborists to express professionalism with clients than it is for nurserymen. Arborists are out in the real world, working directly with clients. Nurserymen work on the farm, isolated from those who purchase the horticultural commodities that are grown there.
Arborists are horticulturists who specialize in the horticulture of trees. The best are just as educated and experienced as nurserymen are. In fact, much of my education was derived from arborists. Yet, arborists are so often regarded as mere gardeners who go up trees.
That is where I get offended. Yes, I am aware that there are hackers out there. I am also aware of what clearance pruning of utility cables entails. I also know how serious my arborist colleagues are about their profession. They are not to be compared to gardeners.
There are many gardeners who are just as educated, experienced and proficient with horticulture as arborists and nurserymen. However, the majority of gardeners are not. I will not elaborate on this presently. It will be the subject of other rants. I have written articles about my professional experience with gardeners already, and none of them go well. (I lack experience with good gardeners simply because they have no need for my expertise.)
The picture above is an example of a sycamore that is pollarded in the traditional English style. The work is exemplary, and is repeated annually every winter. It is no simple task. I certainly would not want to do it. I can not think of any other nurseryman who would know how to do it properly. It is the work of a very skilled and very experienced arborist.

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The Great Pumpkin

P81007The Third Day of Creation was when it all started. Plant life was created just two days after Heaven and Earth, and Night and Day. It must have been a pretty big deal. Humans were not created until three whole days later!
After all this time since Creation, the flora of the World is still just as important as it has always been. Vegans can survive without the consumption of animal products, but no one can survive without the consumption of plants, or the consumption of animals who were sustained by plants. We breath oxygen generated by plants. We live in homes made of wood. We wear clothes made of cotton. Until relatively recent history, wood was the primary fuel for cooking and warmth through winter. Even modern fossil fuels that have replaced wood are derived partly from fossilized plants. There seems to be no end to the long list of what plants do for us.
As if all that were not enough, plants provide pleasure. Some are dazzling desert wildflowers. Some are majestic forest trees. Most are something in between. Many are invited to inhabit our gardens, landscapes and even our homes and offices. Some are bred to do what they do even better than they did originally.
David Paul, in the picture above, made a career of cabinetry, which involved all sorts of fancy and exotic woods. Most of these woods were derived from genetically unimproved trees that would have been found growing in the wild. Most were from eastern North America. Some were from other continents. Some of the favorite maple burls were specifically from New England and the Pacific Northwest. David Paul was no horticulturist, but he knew quite a bit about the flora that produced the fancy woods that he worked with.
The pumpkin is another story. David Paul grew giant pumpkins for several years in Colorado Springs merely because he enjoyed doing so. It required serious dedication throughout the entire long growing season. Yet, the pumpkins were grown only for the fun of competition. As huge as they were, they were not to be eaten. That is the epitome of growing something merely for the fun of it. This is such an excellent picture of that epic pumpkin that it was the illustration for the obituary of David Paul.

Gilley’s

P80930Immediately after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, nothing was open for business downtown on North Santa Cruz Avenue south of Bean Avenue. As buildings were inspected for safety and cleaned up, sections of cyclone fence that had kept everyone out were slowly and systematically moved out so that businesses on the east side could open for business. The same slow process was repeated on the west side, moving south from the corner at Bean Avenue, but did not get very far. The old Los Gatos Cinema, as well as the several other building between it and the seemingly destroyed old La Canada Building on the southern corner of the block, were too badly damaged for the fence to be removed.
Right there next door to the Cinema where the fence stopped moving, Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe happened to be one of the fortunate businesses that was able to open for business again, and serve breakfast and lunch to those so diligently reconstructing downtown. It had always been there, longer than anyone can remember. Older people knew it as the ‘Sweet Shoppe’, a soda fountain that was very popular with those who cruised North Santa Cruz Avenue. It was the last of the first business that that moved into the old Cannery Building when it was converted to retail stores. Gilley converted it to more of a coffee shoppe and named it after himself in the 1970s. While everything in Los Gatos changed around it, Gilley’s remained about the same. Everyone knows Gilley’s.
I had not gone there more than a few times prior to the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I was away at school for the second half of the 1980s, and just did not go downtown much while in high school or earlier. I stopped by on the way to work early one autumn morning in 1990 because it was the only restaurant that was open in the recovering downtown neighborhood It instantly became my place to go for breakfast, and sometimes for lunch. It was nothing fancy, but it was what I wanted.
For the past twenty eight years, Gilley’s was where many of my work days started. I used their tables to sketch out irrigation systems and small sections of landscapes. I met clients there rather than at my home office. Back when I was able to write about local gardening events in my gardening column, I conducted interviews there. Readers sometimes brought me pieces of plants for identification, or for diagnoses of a disease. When Gilley’s sold and was prettied up a slight bit in the early 1990s, I procured small potted bromeliads, and later, cut flowers for the tables. Before permanent succulent were installed into the big pots flanking the door, I cycled flowering annuals for a little bit of color out front. A whole lot of horticulture went on at Gilley’s.
Sadly, nothing is permanent. Los Gatos is always changing, just like it has always done. By the time you read this, after 3:00 on September 30, 2018, Gilley’s will have closed for the last time.

Fiercely Local

P80624There are two terms that I avoid using within the context of my writing:

1. SILICON VALLEY – The name of the main newspaper group that I had been writing for since 1998, almost twenty years ago, is the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers. As much as I enjoyed writing for the small local newspapers of the group, I hate the name. I find the term ‘Silicon Valley’ to be offensive. It exemplifies that which destroyed the idyllic culture and lifestyle of the Santa Clara Valley, which is also known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight. I have never written the term until now.

2. BLOG – It is the contraction of ‘web log’. The ‘log’ in ‘blog’ is not what bother me. It implies a chronological journal, perhaps documenting experiences that are relevant to a designated topic. It is the ‘b’, or more specifically, the ‘web’ in ‘blog’ that is the problem. It implies that information posted on a ‘blog’ gets shared on the World Wide Web. The reason that I avoided sharing my gardening article on the World Wide Web for so long is that they are written very specifically for the Santa Clara Valley. Although some of them are rather universal to gardening, and some are relevant to regions with similar climates and soils, some are not relevant and perhaps inaccurate for other regions.

My gardening column started with the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, which at that time was ‘fiercely local’. I always thought that was an odd term, but it makes sense. It means that each of the local newspapers features news that is relevant to their specified local communities. Los Gatos Weekly Times was for the news of Los Gatos. Saratoga News was for the news of Saratoga, and so on. When I started writing my gardening column, I wrote about gardening within our local climate and local soils. I could write about local gardening events and even the weather it it happened to be particularly relevant to gardening at the time.

As the gardening column was added to other newspapers in other regions, I was no longer able to write about local events or weather. I was very fortunate early on that all of the newspapers that used the column happened to be within the same climate zones. However, when it was added to the Canyon News of Beverly Hills (in the region of Los Angeles), and a bit later to the related San Francisco News, it became necessary to modify some of the articles to accommodate for differences of climate. Articles that were universally applicable needed no modification. However, those that were too specific to our local climate needed to be edited for the other two climates. For example, when writing about bare root fruit trees, I deleted discussion of apple and pear trees from the copy of the article that was sent to the Canyon News, and replaced it with discussion of bare root plants that are popular and appropriate in that particular region.

Over the years, I realized that my articles became too available online. Not only were they posted within the context of the online versions of the newspapers that had access to it, but they could be inadvertently opened from other related online newspaper . . . or just about anywhere. Someone in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Australia or anywhere in the World could click onto one of my articles just as easily as a local article, and could do so without knowing that it was written for a completely different climate or hemisphere!

I explain in my ‘About’ section that the articles are written for the Santa Clara Valley, but I doubt that means much to those who find the articled without seeing that explanation. I will continue to write my article for the newspapers that still use them, and will continue to post those articles, as well as ‘elaborations’ articles on my ‘blog’. Like so many other gardening articles that are out there nowadays, they will be inaccurate for some regions. Those reading them will need to use their own discretion.

What is sad about all this is that I started writing my garden column precisely because I was so frustrated with what was being published in the San Jose Mercury News at the time. It was typically written quite well, and by professional writers, but was very often very inaccurate because those writing it were either writing for other regions, or simply knew nothing about horticulture. I was so pleased with the opportunity to write accurate information about gardening for our region. Yet, after all these years, I feel like I am now doing exactly what I found to be so frustrating twenty years ago.

Upgrade

P80624.jpgThis autumn, it would have been twenty years that I have been writing my weekly gardening column for the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, affectionately known as SVCN. It would have been excellent if it had lasted that long, but it was discontinued a few months ago. There was no warning, although we all know the direction that such media is going nowadays, and that such changes are abrupt. Nothing is like it was nearly twenty years ago.

My weekly gardening columns will continue for the other newspapers that still use it, even if they do not use it for their print versions. Again, due to the way such media operates nowadays, I have no idea of which newspapers who have access to it actually use it, or if they use it for their print versions or merely their online versions.

I could elaborate on the history of my garden column and its inclusion into the various other newspapers that continue to use it, but that can just as easily be another topic for another time. Perhaps I will merely put a bit of that information in my ‘About’ section if I ever get around to updating it. I have another topic to discuss now.

I would like to upgrade this blog. I would like to make it as fancy and user-friendly as some of the other blogs that are out there. I know that the last thing I need right now is more work, but I also want to maintain this as an venue for my weekly gardening column, particularly if other newspapers are likely to discontinue using it in the future.

Upgrading will include selling add space, or at least making add space available to advertisers who can use it. Newspapers pay very minimally for my weekly gardening column, and the newspaper group that payed the most for it no longer uses it. Advertisements might help to justify the work that goes into writing a new gardening article weekly. Hopefully, no one will be to bothered by these changes. I have enjoyed writing my weekly gardening column for almost twenty years, and would like to be able to continue doing so for a while longer.

 

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.