Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Alameda Business Association Wins Governor's Historic Preservation Award

We were so pleased to learn that the State of California presented The Alameda Business Association with its Governor's Historic Preservation Award for 2009 to recognize the Association's outstanding achievements in the field of historic preservation for The Alameda Business District and its project, The Alameda: A Plan for "The Beautiful Way". This project is particularly dear to our hearts, and we have been delighted to offer efforts to this project ourselves.
"For more than 200 years, The Alameda has been one of San José's premier gateways," said Mayor Chuck Reed. "The Alameda Business Association, through partnership with neighboring community members, has helped preserve this grand boulevard's historic identity, while also ensuring a vibrant place for residents and office workers to shop and dine."

The Governor's Award annually recognizes outstanding grassroots organizations, and private and public agencies that creatively preserve and present California's historic resources, and make meaningful historical contributions by increasing public awareness, appreciation, and support for historic preservation. This prestigious award was presented at a special ceremony on January 20 in Sacramento.

"I want to congratulate The Alameda Business Association on winning this prestigious award," said Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio. "It has taken many years of dedication from volunteers and funding from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency to be able to restore and strengthen this amazing area."

The Alameda Business Association, which is composed of neighborhood-serving businesses dedicated to the revitalization of the Alameda Neighborhood Business District, was recognized for several historic preservation projects. These efforts have included: publishing the historical book, The Alameda, the Beautiful Way, the first book to document the 200-year history of The Alameda, launching The History Festival on The Alameda, and creating The Rose, White and Blue 4th of July Parade whose origins can be traced back to 1896.

"The ongoing efforts of the Alameda Business Association, local residents and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency are now recognized and celebrated by the Governor's Historic Preservation Award," said Larry Clark, Treasurer, The Alameda Business Association. "We are currently making our own history by planning for the future of The Alameda thanks to our CalTrans sponsored Community-Based Transportation Planning project. If you liked where we have been, you'll love where we are going - here on The Alameda!"

In 2008, the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and The Alameda community were also awarded a $250,000 State Caltrans Community-Based Transportation Planning Grant to begin The Alameda: A Plan for "The Beautiful Way, a visioning process for The Alameda to become a transportation-oriented corridor. The project covers approximately 1.5 miles between Diridon Station and Interstate 880 and will focus on making a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment. Key elements of the project will include traffic calming, crosswalks, and the preservation of the area's historic elements. To learn more about the project, visit

As planning efforts proceed, improvements have already begun with the installation of the first of several historic gateways into the Shasta Hanchett neighborhood, just off the Alameda. We were so happy to join forces with the Alameda Business Association and the Shasta Hanchett Neighborhood Association (SHPNA) to develop this historic gateway. We volunteered the planting design and installation labor, working closely with Lorie Bird of SHPNA. This was a very rewarding project with many constraints, but we're so excited to see this installation in the spring, as the waves of color emerge. If you are in the neighborhood, do stop by. It is on the corner of The Alameda and Hanchett.

We are truly thankful to the many dedicated neighbors and neighborhood businesses who contribute their efforts to develop the beauty, comfort, and neighborliness of our dear neighborhood.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Plant Persona

When I’m in my garden, I surely talk to my plants. I refer to them as “he” or “she,” and I always inquire how they are “feeling.” When they are feeling unwell, I am pricked with the guilt of an inattentive caretaker, and I promise to be more attentive. In the presence of some plants, my heart races, others I find soothing. Old trees are wise, rambling vines are rascals who continually get out of control. And the Chinese Elm has always been a giraffe to me.

Many cultural tales speak of plants’ power to enchant, charm, or work miracles. Plants are believed to have spirits and souls, acting as metaphors for human feeling and behavior, and possessing powers of transformation when consumed or employed in specific ways.

For example, the ancient Greeks believed that the consumption of thyme brought bravery and life energy, while borage gave courage.

Native Americans have traditionally believed that yucca made into a hoop or hat can render the wearer invisible. Burdock, sorrel, and chamomile are thought to attract money.

In Medieval Europe, leeks were worn as protective amulets; and when bitten, leeks broke hexes. The Roman emperor, Nero, believed that leeks improved his voice, so he ate them before giving oratories.

The orchid, bamboo, pine, plum and chrysanthemum are considered by some Asian cultures to be lucky and virtuous. The plum is like a superior human being, undaunted and unobtrusive. The bamboo is gentle, hardy, flexible, straight and humble.

Orange blossoms recall the past. Cherry blossoms offer happiness and hope. An Oak is strong and enduring, an orchid infrangible.

Irises are said to free the soul from the body, and are thus popular in cemeteries.

Since the 19th century in Europe and North America, poppies have been associated with war and those who died in battle. This association was first documented in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo. Because poppy seeds sit dormant in the soil for years, and then sprout when the soil is disturbed, red poppies painted the bloody field of Flanders after the field was plowed. In Ireland and England poppies were believed to give headaches, earaches, nosebleeds and blindness.

In the language of roses, pink is simplicity and happy love; red is passion and desire; white is innocence and purity; yellow is jealousy and perfect achievement.

In my own garden, I have found that I rarely fall in love with plants for their flower color or masses of flowers. More often, it is the persona-- a striking profile, a delicate leaf, an arching or crooked stem, its texture or a bizarre flower-- that speaks the loudest to me.


Although many of us don't make it out into our gardens much this time of year, there is plenty to do. For a splendiferous Spring and Summer display, a bit of work now is well worth the effort. Or better yet, call us, and we'll do the fine gardening work for you!


_ When hard freezes are expected, protect tender plants from potential frost by tenting with burlap, a blanket, or Easy Gardener’s Plant and Seed Blanket. Be sure to keep the cover off of the foliage to minimize damage to branch tips and flowers. Cloudcover, a polymer that prevents desiccation during frost, protects plants to about 28°F. Pull potted plants under the eves of the house and if you expect a big freeze run an extension cord out into your citrus and put a 60 or 70 watt bulb under the cover. Be sure to remove the covers first thing in the morning as temperatures rise.
_ If you haven’t done so already, move your containerized tender and tropical plants close to the house during the cold months.

_ Apply dormant spray to deciduous trees and shrubs if aphids, scale or whiteflies have been a problem in previous seasons.
_ Apply tri-basic copper sulfate or lime sulfur for peach leaf curl now into mid- February.

_ As camellias begin blooming, you may notice brown splotching on petal margins of open flowers, partly open flowers and flower buds. These are characteristic symptoms of camellia petal blight, a fungus for which there is no cure. Sanitation is the key to reducing symptoms: Remove infected flowers and buds and try to not let infected petals hit the ground. If they do, gather and place them in the trash immediately - do not compost!
_ Azaela flower blight has similar symptoms as camellia petal blight, but it can be controlled with a fungicide applied before the buds begin to show color. Use Rose Pride (Fuginex) or Garden Disease Control (Daconil).

_ Harvest citrus. 'Eureka' lemon, mandarins, 'Washington' navel orange, and several other citrus trees are producing now, so pick while fruit is ripe. If you have more than you can use, we at Botany gladly collect surplus harvest and distribute it to families who will make good use of it or donate the excess to a food bank (for a list, visit You can also contact the non-profit Village Harvest (888/378-4841) to send a team of trained and equipped volunteers to harvest and donate the fruit for you.
_ Pick up fallen fruit, remove dried fruit on trees (“mummies”), and rake leaves, placing all debris in the trash. Do not compost! Fruits and leaves may harbor overwintering insect
pests and fungi. Removing both decreases the incidence and proliferation of pests and diseases the next growing season.


_ To keep fruit and shade trees, grapes, and berries shapely, prune them while they're
dormant. It is advisable to use pruning shears to make cuts up to ¾ inch in diameter, loppers for cuts ¾ to 1 inch in diameter, and a pruning saw for branches more than 1 inch in diameter.
_ Prune evergreen perennials such as Penstemon, Chrysanthemums, lavender and Salvias now, if you haven’t already. If they’re still in color, you can wait to cut back absolutely no later than Valentine’s Day. Pruning your evergreens keeps them compact and dense. New growth makes the plant appear fresher. DO NOT prune lavender all the way back into wood with no leaves. It will not recover.
_ Ornamental grasses should have been cut back by now. Some gardeners appreciate the ornamental effect of the dried seed heads through the winter months and those can be cut back as late as Valentine's Day but no later.
_ Time to prune garden hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla). This species blooms on new growth from one-year old wood -- aim your pruning cuts just above the largest pair of buds on this wood. Hydrangea bushes often need to be thinned out by removing some of the old gnarly stems right to the ground. Each year one-quarter to one-third of the stems should be removed to permit new ones to grow. All stems pencil size or smaller should be removed. If powdery mildew has been a problem during the summer months, spray them with Microcop or Liqui-Cop after pruning as a preventative; and during the summer spray with sulfur if mildew appears.
_ Wisteria should be pruned before it blooms; cut the new whippy, vegetative growth back to within two buds from the main stem. Be sure to leave the fat, elongated buds that will produce flowers.
_ Roses should also be pruned now. If you wait until later the plants have often started to
sprout out lots of new growth. The main purpose of this pruning is to clear away diseased material. Dead leaves should also be picked up and the ground covered with a fresh dose of mulch to seal in the fungal spores. As much of the introduction of the disease organisms to the plants comes from splashing raindrops, cleanliness matters for the more disease prone roses. Try to refrain from any pesticide or fungicide spraying unless the bugs are just too thick for the plants to survive.
_ Look for broken and torn branches on trees after storms. Prune to healthy tissue, using heading cuts if parts of branches have broken or torn and removing entire branches if needed. Consulting a simple, informative book such as Ortho’s All About Pruning will help you determine where to prune and how to make the proper cut. If severe damage is done to older, mature trees, we strongly encourage you to seek the services of a certified arborist. While you may pay more for their work than you would for a non-certified pruner or gardener, you can be assured that the health and longevity of your trees will not be compromised by poor practices such as topping and incorrect pruning cuts.

_ To intensify the blue or pink coloration of garden hydrangeas, apply aluminum sulphate (for blue) or Oyster shell lime (for pink) in December, January, February, and March. Use oyster shell lime, which contains calcium carbonate, an excellent addition to our soils. Dolomite lime, on the other hand, contains magnesium, of which we already have plenty in our native soils.


_ Consider planting cover crops in unused garden spaces. Cover crops keep soil from compacting during winter rains and add much needed nitrogen to the soil when turned into beds in the spring. Popular cover crops include fava beans, which are also edible, and strawberry or red clover. Winter Cover Crop Mix, available at garden centers, which includes bell beans, magnus peas and purple vetch is another good selection. You can also plant dwarf snap peas from cell packs about nine inches apart. The peas can be harvested and eaten and still provide all the soil benefits listed.

_ To find out how to compost in Santa Clara County contact the Master Gardeners of SantaClara County at (408) 282-3105 or online at


_ Clean and service lawnmowers.


_ Consider watering indoor plants with 2 tablespoons of vinegar per 1 gallon of water once a month to reduce salt-build-up and to lower pH.

_ Tune up your house plants a couple of times a year. Wash dust and dirt off the leaves,
check for bugs and flush the soil by running one or two quarts of water through the soil.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Prosper and Grow in the New Year

To Our Dear Clients and Friends,

As you'll note, much time has passed since our last posting; and as determined as we are to regularly update you all with our current events, the times does always seem to slip by... For now, here are some updates, and plans for the future. Please do keep in touch!

Well, 2009 has come to an end, and what great memories we have created together! We wanted to share with you, our lovely friends and clients, what we’ve accomplished together this past year, and to give you a glimpse into what we’re planning for the upcoming year. We’ve created healing gardens, we’ve expanded our xerophytic landscapes, we’ve created gorgeous gateways, we’ve struggled to bring parks to the neighborhood, and we’ve designed and installed a permeable space on our roadways. A downsized budget lead to a flourishing dry streambed garden with so much rhythm we gasp each time we see it. We’ve had so much fun creating container gardens, and we’re even working on a fantastic vertical garden.

Each year we feel so fortunate to have made so many new friends, and it is wonderful to be a part of your lives. Truly, each garden is a metaphor for the evolution of a life. We see it happen so many times to so many of our lovely friends and clients, and we are so happy to be on this journey with you. We thank you for this partnership, and we are eager to transform more lives, one garden at a time. In the upcoming year we plan to expand our planting installation services. When a garden has been designed and planted by Botany, we are always so pleased by the outcome. We also intend to do more fine gardening. We often have clients contact us when their beautiful new garden is struggling because of a maintenance disaster. Sometimes it takes a visit or two to bring back the beauty to the garden, and sometimes a little more work is needed, but it is always gratifying to etch out the beauty lying within the poorly maintained garden. Vertical gardens are all the rage, and we intend to do more—please do contact us to learn more about this striking and fun new twist on gardening. We’d also love to get more large pots into your gardens— we’ve never had a disappointed client after we convinced them to go with large pots! We’re working with a lot of new texture and form ideas; a garden with great texture and form calls you to come closer and experience the garden more intimately. Several new services are on the horizon, so keep your eyes open for these. Most importantly, we hope to keep adding beauty to the lives of our friends, old and new. If you or a friend might benefit from a lovely new garden, please contact us soon. This is the best time to plan for a beautiful new garden to enjoy in the spring or summer of this year. And if you already do have a beautiful new garden that we’ve designed for you, please get in touch with us and let us know how you and your garden are doing! Best wishes for the new year from your friends at Botany of Design!