Dancing with daffodils
by Susan Schenk
“And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.”
This pretty much sums up my feelings about gardening. As a kid, I happily planted succulents donated by neighbors thinning their beds, and bought more with my allowance. I planted vegetables and pulled up a carrot or radish each day to see if they were big enough to eat (needless to say, the eventual harvest was small!).
Many years later, when I moved to Claremont in 1982, the first thing I did was look for a garden club to join. Alas, there was none. For the last 30 years, I’ve wished there was one, and now there is! Thanks to a group of enthusiastic volunteers, the Sustainable Claremont Garden Club emerged from the soil, as it were, in September. At the first meeting, more than 60 people from Claremont and the surrounding area came to hear Bob Perry talk about designing waterwise residential gardens. This is a topic near and dear to my heart.
If we are to have sustainable gardens, we need to reduce water use, but there is no reason that a waterwise garden has to be covered in gravel or include only local native plants (although I like these very much). Creative planning can let us “have our cake and eat it, too.” However, for most people, some help from experts and other gardening enthusiasts is needed to do it well and this is the intent of Garden Club talks. We are also arranging field trips. Our first was to 2 waterwise gardens, and the second was to the seed bank and nursery at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Both of these were lots of fun, informative and very well-attended.
So, how about feeding the daffodils referenced above? Have you ever wondered why civilization isn’t buried in dead and dying plant matter? Why it doesn’t just accumulate and suffocate us all? Fortunately for us, a host of organisms breaks down dead stuff and recycles the goodies, replenishing the soil. Most people rake and prune and weed and toss all this organic matter in the trash, but it’s pretty easy to decompose this stuff on site and use it as a natural fertilizer in your garden.
Although composting can seem like magic to the uninitiated, we plan to “demystify” it at the November 14 Garden Club meeting. You can learn how to get the most out of your kitchen and garden waste, including how to use worms to do the heavy lifting for you—or share your expertise if you are already a dab hand at converting waste into garden gold! We’ll take a trip to some working compost and vermiculture setups later in the month.
Man does not live by daffodils alone, though, so future topics will cover pruning, vegetable gardening, irrigation, local native plants and more. We hope the Garden Club will provide all kinds of help and a place for gardeners to meet and schmooze and exchange information, as well as swap plants. Judging by the number of questions at the first 2 meetings, this is definitely a niche needing to be filled.
There is a talk followed by a Q and A and a break for refreshments (such as yummy acorn-shaped cookies), followed by time for members to ask each other for information on various and sundry topics: last meeting these included a request for information about good landscape installers, suggestions for a drought-tolerant hedge plant that would go with blue hibiscus, and what, if anything, to do about a plethora of spiders in the garden. Then there’s time to chat in small groups and peruse the offerings on the swap table, which have ranged from packets of squash seeds to strawberry sets to a 2-gallon Toyon.
The Garden Club is free and open to everyone with an interest in any kind of gardening, from food to ornamental. Meetings are at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of most months at the Napier Center, 660 Avery Rd., in Pilgrim Place. Field trips are usually on the last weekend of the month. You are cordially and enthusiastically invited to join us (and to bring offerings for the swap table if you have any).
Information about the club and meetings, along with useful information about gardening, can be found by visiting www.sustainableclaremont.org. If you’d like to be on our email list or have suggestions for talks, trips or fundraisers, or want to help, drop us a note at garden firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the time to plant daffodils!