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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gail’s Garden - June 2011

Mary Ann in Sebastopol asks me: ” Why won’t my crepe myrtle bloom?  It is well established and looks healthy.” 

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) is one of my favorite trees: not too big, drought tolerant, and what wonderful blooms in the fall!  In general, it is easy to grow, but like all plants it does have certain minimum requirements:
1.     Full sun: that means at least 6 hours a day, 8 hours is better
2.     Heat: they really like a hot summer
3.     Good drainage: wet feet can lead to root rot and death
4.     Balanced fertilizer: too much nitrogen can inhibit flowering

Other possible problems include aphid infestation, fungal diseases like powdery mildew, or improper spring pruning which removes the  new growth on which flowers are produced.

After talking further with Mary Ann, I think her problem is most likely with the heat requirement.  She lives out in the “fog zone” south of Sebastopol, like I do, and I’ve noticed that many crape myrtles don’t flower well here.  The only way to counteract our cool summer weather would be to try planting in the hottest spot available to you: perhaps the south-facing wall of a building with a concrete patio which absorbs and concentrates heat. There are miniature crape myrtles available which could be grown in a pot on a hot patio to maximize  their heat exposure. For more good info in crape myrtles check out , the website of the  U.S.  National Arboretum.

If you have gardening questions, send them to me at
I’ll be happy to answer them in the column or by e-mail! 

We were lucky to have a good rain in May, but don’t forget to get your irrigation systems up and running now! Did you know that your community may have money and water saving programs available for you?  Check out the various programs available at . There are cities that will pay you to remove your lawn and install drip irrigation, and the city of Petaluma will bring you mulch (see their Mulch Madness program).  Be sure to read the fine print when signing up for these programs: many require a on-site visit before you become eligible to participate.

As you may have heard, Tony Bassignani  of Bassignani’s Nursery has sold the business and is moving on to a well-deserved retirement.  The nursery has been purchased by Sebastopol locals Carol and Clark Mitchel who have renovated the building and grounds: they are now open under the new name of Grow Gardens: come by and check out the new digs soon!  The nursery is located at the corner of Hwy 116 and Bloomfield Road, south of Sebastopol.

Pro-bono or charitable gardening: I know we are all busy in our own gardens just now, but it’s a good time to think about how you can help other gardeners, too.  I’ve just finished  doing a free garden design for a school in Hayward: it was not a big job for me, but this design of tough shrubs and perennials will give new life to a formerly ugly concrete and brick quad, and provide the children and teachers involved with pride in their accomplishments. Is there a place for you to use your gardening skills to benefit the community at a school, a church, or a public garden?  Or perhaps an elderly neighbor would appreciate a little help ?  Working for the greater good is always a karmic blessing, with rewards far greater than the sacrifice we make.  

Planning a garden party?  I can help you get your garden looking it’s best for the big event: call me at least a month ahead of the date for a coaching session:
707-829-2455 .

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