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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Dec 12

What Kind of Gardener Are You?

Posted on December 12, 2014 at 8:48 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

There seems to be a rash of surveys on Facebook these days. For example, based on your answers, various surveys will identify what jewel you are, which animal best describes you, and what job you would have had in the ‘50s.

The surveys made me wonder what type of gardeners are out there? Are you a patient gardener or a perfectionist? Is everything in your garden symmetrical, or is it planted free-style? Do you prefer things to be always green and beautiful, or are you the type of gardener willing to sacrifice looks for the final outcome in the garden? Do you pass over deciduous plants in the nursery in the winter? Or will you pick up a clearance plant that is past its blooming season to give it a good home?

It is said that one person’s junk is another person's treasure. That describes the gardener in me to a T. Recently, a friend decided she was tired of housing her citrus inside her new home and asked if I wanted another tree. Our greenhouse was quickly filling up with the onset of cold temperatures, but how could anyone turn down a citrus? I had seen the beautiful lemon tree in her home a few months before.

What I didn't expect is that in my friend’s haste to remove the plant from her coveted container, the tree came to me in a plastic bag—bare root. In other words, sans dirt around the roots. It seems the citrus also spent several nights outside in temperatures that dropped below freezing. My treasure was looking more like a rescued puppy that had been barely surviving under a bridge somewhere!

 Stressed and happy lemon cropped
Stressed lemon tree next to happy lemon tree
Upon my return home with the battered plant, I prepared a pail of water with some B1 added to try revitalizing the roots before I planted up the dislodged tree. A 30-minute soaking can help! I trimmed back the broken roots but left frozen, tattered leaves intact. From experience, I know this plant will defoliate, but hopefully it will be strong enough to resprout new leaves and flower and fruit once again. From past experience, I also know the process can be slow.

During the early ‘70s Marin County experienced a December snow. No, it wasn't a machine that prefabricated the white stuff; it actually fell from the sky and managed to stick to the ground for a short duration. Sunset Zone 15-17 plants were in trouble. The Robertson navel orange planted in our yard went into shock. When it defoliated, I was told to rip it out. I was told that it was dead. But the green of the cambium layer under the bark told a different story. For over a year, this sad, once-treasured plant stood leafless. And then buds began to form. Buds turned into leaves and stems formed. In the mid ‘80s we sold our home to another family. By that time the orange tree was beautiful and bearing delicious fruit once again.

I don't have survey questions to determine what category you might fall into as a gardener. You know that answer! For me, the reward of being a patient gardener is seeing plants recover from a stressful situation, or watching a plant take root for a year before blooming. But the type of gardener doesn't matter. The outcome of a beautiful garden is the real treasure for all of us.

To keep the garden looking beautiful, please protect your tender plants with a heavy layer of mulch. Spray them with Wilt-Pruf to prevent the cold air from dehydrating the exposed leaves, and place a tent-like structure over those plants susceptible to freezing when the temperature plummets.

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