Waterwise a day at a time

Pretty and colorful landscaping doesn’t have to be thirsty to look good
By: Gloria Young Gold Country News Service
-A +A
Is it possible to have a beautiful garden without using a lot of water? The Placer County Master Gardeners’ calendar for 2009 puts a big emphasis on yes. Themed “Waterwise Gardening – Saving Water has never been Prettier,” the calendar tells how to do it in 13 monthly topics and one in-depth article. Master gardeners Pauline Sakai and Peggy Peterson headed the project, coordinating the efforts of numerous contributors. “One of the things we really wanted to highlight is to help people get over preconceived notions that waterwise gardens are ugly – that they have to be cactus or something like that,” Peterson said recently. “Waterwise gardens can be beautiful and full of color.” Among the topics covered are color under oaks, native bulbs to plant in autumn, spring- blooming shrubs, cutting gardens, soil health, mulch, microclimates and irrigation. The theme article, written by master gardener Judith Myrick, is on color in the water-wise landscape. Another article discusses rethinking the lawn. “Turf grasses are very thirsty plants,” Sakai said. “We talk about water-wise replacement and list some water-wise plants.” Among those are coyote bush (baccharis pilularis) – a low ground cover – and wild lilac (ceanothus), a California native that blooms with blue (and some white) flowers in the spring. “These are articles that teach people about the sort of things you need to think about when you’re planting,” Peterson said. The calendar includes color photographs of many of the plants discussed in its pages. There are also many tips of what should be done in the garden at a particular time of the month. “Did you know” boxes offer even more informational hints. The Master Gardener hot line number is listed, as well as the Web site for University of California pest notes and a list of references and additional resources. “The calendar is full of interesting information you can use year after year,” Sakai said. Sakai has worked on the calendar since the 2002 edition and Peterson since 2003 for the 2004 edition. Both are avid gardeners. Sakai’s garden at her Roseville home was featured on last year’s Mother’s Day tour, an annual fundraiser for the Placer County Master Gardeners. “It has a little bit of everything – cottage garden, koi pond in the back yard, ornamental fruit trees,” she said. Peterson’s Granite Bay garden takes advantage of her treed surroundings. “It is a wildland garden,” she said. “I live in an oak and gray pine area. I love fruit-producing trees and perennials. I like to graft trees, so I have a lot of fruit. But I have a little bit of everything, too.” Sakai and Peterson stress the educational aspect of the Master Gardener calendars. “That’s what’s fun about gardening,” Peterson said. “No matter how much you know, it is only a tiny fraction of what there is to know.” The calendar’s popularity extends beyond Placer County. “Some other counties have discovered we put together the calendar,” Sakai said. “We’ve had people from Butte, Marin and Lake counties inspired by seeing ours and wanting to do their own.” Sakai and Peterson also entered the calendar into the statewide Search for Excellence contest. “Two years ago we were told we came in fourth place,” Sakai said. “Sadly we did not win the “Search for Excellence” award from the state-wide Master Gardeners’ conference,” Sakai wrote in an e-mail this week. “ On the good side, our sister-county, Nevada, won.” The Placer County Master Gardeners’ calendar is available beginning this month at numerous vendors throughout Nevada, Placer and El Dorado counties. – The 2009 calendar Master Gardener will be available at the Master Gardener booth at local fairs and festivals and at the UCCE Placer County Master Gardener office, Building 306 in the DeWitt Center, 11477 E Ave. in Auburn. Calendars will also be available at participating shops, nurseries and other garden-related locations. Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (530) 889-7388 for a complete list.