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A different style of teaching and learning

Traditionally in horticulture classes
we emphasize three ways of learning:
one is to listen to the teacher and read the assigned materials
two is to chat with your classmates, share and learn from one another
and three is to observe and work with the plants
all three are important if you are going to become a plant person

In old-time learning
we followed a structure that would help you get through life in a nice way
the main lessons were:
one – show up, be present, be accountable, be on time, help clean up at the end
two – do the work – mental or physical – this is on you as an individual person
three – work well together with others
respect yourself, respect others, respect mother nature
work safe, be strong and healthy
that is what it comes down to

These days, we are learning through the computer
this has been coming down the pipes for a long time now
administrations, managers, bosses, governments
all are going online, switching over to all tech, flipping the switch on all electronic digital
this has resulted in
a change in the lifestyle of education, coupled with changes in society
and our interactions with one another
this is what I have learned so far with regards to
adapting to technology as a school teacher
and watching students’ learning processes

Well youtube is great, you can learn any number of things from watching people’s videos
you may miss details due to the camera work,
and sometimes you need prior knowledge to understand what is going on
on occasion, it goes by too fast –
when you try to back it up or pause it, still no comprende amigo
nevertheless, the good graphics and visuals explain things well,
and it’s all right there at your fingertips
super entertaining, easy to access
amazing stuff!

Heard some teachers now they just show videos all day in class
why not? the folks in the boxes know way more than me, kids are used to the screen
kids like the screen, stay calm with the screen, been pavlovved with the screen since birth
I’ll just click my mouse, play video games on my phone, while they watch videos
later, I’ll take the role and do the grades, easy paycheck

Some folks say there is a plan to get rid of the teachers all together
whether at the college level or the high school level
I guess I do see a bit of that trend
why not? if the grading of tests is automatic,
if the curriculum is all written out and standardized,
really, who needs a teacher?!
pay the fee, do the online work on my own time, then
give me the diploma already!
give me my license!
give me my permit!
That has been the way of driving school
of hunter education
of the arborist exam
of qualified applicator license
and so on
no teacher necessary in the process
technicians yes, teachers nope
the train is on the tracks
so you better figure out the route to success, and get on the road!
cheaper, faster, and more convenient schooling
do it whenever you want to, no set hours to attend
works for me!

For the past year and a half, we have been doing this style of teaching called zoom
every student shows up as a box
the communication lags cause only one person speaks at a time
not everyones got high-speed internet, not everyone wants to show their face
the fact is, most people don’t want to show their faces
maybe for privacy reasons
maybe cause they are doing something else, not paying attention
not there in class 100%, I have no idea
so you are talking to a bunch of dark boxes with a name
you are not sure they are really there, not sure they can participate in the conversation
still, I do the lecture like always, record it so anybody can watch me later, at their leisure

I am missing a lot of information in this style of teaching
in class, I would be able to notice the
empty glances, under-the-lip remarks, a knitted brow
I’d try to respond, maybe present the material in an alternate fashion
give another relevant example
a hand would be raised; somebody would tell a funny distracting joke
another person would ask a tangent of a question about a related plant issue
there would be a nice natural flow and rhythm to the class
zoom way –
I get a lot less feedback,
oftentimes, no human interaction, no cues or clues
I feel – nothing
so then I drone on and on in my teacher spiel
flat, really no better than a video
it’s awkward and one sided, sad

If all I was communicating as a teacher was information
this would be fine, but I’d like to think that we are imparting more than that
more than just the facts
what might that be?

what I value about an education
is that it gives a broad view of the whole situation
a perspective this is often missing when you start working working
where they tell you what to do
you do it
you get paid
you see a tiny part of the whole, but don’t think, just do
again, it’s easy
It’s alright, work is good,
but when you see the bigger picture
of how plants and nature and people interact and help one another
it gives you an appreciation for the importance of gardens
it helps you to make in-the-field decisions based on common sense and science
and allows you to dream, innovate, and make changes
rather than stay in the same corner pocket hole, drilling
or go around in circles, pacing
yep, you see the light
and the connections that tie us all together
hopefully, an education does that

There is a tendency in the industry
to jump on board with whatever is fashionable
when you are in the thick of it
it’s sell, sell, sell
play up the positives ignore the negatives
in other words ‘lie’ ‘spin’ and ‘cheat’ whatever it takes
then walk away when you have made your buck smiling
always more money to be made
there is not much of a sense of history, or of how nature works, or ‘why are we doing this?’
kind of a blind maniacal leader way of doing things
let somebody else come and clean up the mess, later

Well in horticulture, that cleanup person is the gardener
we are on the ground, in the thick of green leaves and thorny spines
and we notice when things are not going right
cause we are in nature day after day
what is different in horticulture
is that you are dealing with living creatures
that respond to water light air and soil
they will give you feedback about their health
and whether or not you are doing things correctly
that is number three in our learning process
learning from the plants themselves
you cannot learn from plants online, you can only learn from plants in person
you cannot learn from plants right away right now, it takes time to see the changes –
like when a seed germinates and spreads its cotyledons, that is something to see!
or when you cut a large limb, it falls and goes thunk on the ground, accomplishment!
okay, batters up
swings and misses
thats one strike for online instruction!
no plant – human interface

A cool thing happens when you gather a bunch of plant students together
a whole green world opens up
students share their experiments, their difficulties, and their secrets
they try to outdo one another, they compete, they are on a quest
‘who knows the name of that plant?’
‘what family does it belong to?’
‘how many Anthurium species do you have?’
and so on
later, this same spirit of networking and cooperation
enables the building of partnerships between newly licensed contractors and arborists
jump starts a system of referrals and “I know somebody…”
allows specialists and generalists to thrive in the horticulture community

For the most part, the students seem to be motivated by –
okay, not really a scientific word –
seem motivated by love and joy
okay I said it
What this means though in terms of learning is that you see a person unfold their petals
and their flower of the mind blooms
yes that is what happens when you have that camaraderie friendship rooted in the garden
when people are working together towards a common goal
folks become grounded and part of the earth
that is why old time subsistence agriculture led to a fantastic leap in human evolution
people worked together
there is so much work in the garden that needs to be done,
it is only possible with many peoples’ hands
it is not an individualistic endeavor, no way possible,
it needs everybody
so team building, horticulture style, is the act of planting and pruning
no, you don’t get to sit in a mountain acreage,
at a retreat sipping tea, eating healthy vegetarian food, in a circle talking
no, you don’t get to express your gripes or make snide comments and troll people
in some dark web or a hidden room or secret chamber
it is not that kinda team
it’s all out in the open under the sun and the rain
the garden is manual labor and work, pure and simple
people working together
afterward, stuck with sticky sweat, groaning aches, and scraped skins
you are in a garden, you see what you have done, and that is the cheerful reward
online, you don’t have to work together,
online, you are by yourself in a dimly lit room
you can do whatever you want, but you miss out on the whole experience
this is number two, in our learning process
2 out of 3, shut down
the grade is already an F at
minus 66%

Number one on our list:
the brainy mental aspect of
lectures, readings, homework assignments
this part does lend itself well to the online format
the beauty of the internet
is having access to all those scientific papers, county extension reports, amateur videos, countless market goods, etc.
all related to horticulture and plants
super sick, crazy mad cornucopia
sometimes the problem is the overload, the sheer abundance of it all
and the inability to discern truth and fact from made-up stories or outright advertising
that is, in and of itself, a skill that ought to be taught to kids from a young age,
by an impartial teacher

Part of the fun
of this sort of catch-all, international, bright lights flashing, internet approach
is that you find out that the universe is infinite
knowledge is infinite
and you will never reach the end even if you had forty life times
you will never grow all the species of orchids in the world
you will merely skim the surface of the botany of the amazon jungle
there are more cultivars and species of roses to cut and groom than I can count
you can either be frustrated by this
or be humbled
then get back to planting some poppies
digging up more bur clover
and watching the sun set and moon rise

As a teacher forced to go online
I have been making videos, writing blog essays,
and making new appropriate assignments for at home learners
all the curriculum is out there and online
for anyone to peruse, critique, and disseminate
forget about buying those 300 dollar new edition textbooks every year
yippee, no more of that racket
the administration and forces that be
have been pressing an online agenda now for a number of years
covid made the final push and made it a reality

Thus far,
I learned that you have to compress videos to upload them easier to youtube
I learned that when the zoom screen goes black, you have to restart the computer and that it takes about 8 minutes to get back to the virtual classroom
I learned that no matter how many times you click the box that says “Don’t show this again”, the box keeps coming back
I learned that HEIC is not a file format that our online software uploads well
and a whole lot more
I’ve been clicking, clicking, clicking clicking
staring, staring, staring, staring
in many ways its not more efficient, just more tedious and numbing
never thought I would sit in one place for so long as part of work
feels like I got constipation of the brain and glutes just thinking about it

What is neat is the thought that now, anybody could learn this information
using our accumulated knowledge, experience, and notes
its all out there, all free, in the sea of information
what is not so cool is the creepy thought that once we put it all online,
they will say bye bye to the teacher and you will be out of a job
‘I got your curriculum, I got your quizzes and tests, hahahah, heres the exit door’
so it is a leap of faith, a belief in humanity, and basic survival as a college
theres no other way forward at this point,
and this fish (myself) is not a salmon bout to go in the opposite direction upstream
as Joey the Roo says about surfing Ocean Beach on a hectic ten foot day with nobody out in the water
“when in doubt, paddle out”
what choice do we have? Go!!!

The thing that is important, knowledge wise,
with regards to horticulture
is that it is grounded in a specific place,
and in constant interaction with the forces of nature;
it is also in flux with regards to our cultural perceptions of what nature is and ought to be
the garden is not solely conceptual, it is not a bunch of abstract ideas,
it is not an install then walk away, a buy it and return it kinda object
it is real, it cant go anywhere
its going to grow and morph with time
and the gardens are different wherever you go
cause the climate differs, the elevation changes, the weather is moody
and the plants grow different, even if they are clones of one another
its not a cookie cutter, one size fits all, cheapest bid, generic product we are engaged in
its a garden – a happy place of nature communion
that is why local knowledge is of foremost authority
that is why you need people with “boots on the ground” in military speak
that is why you need trained gardeners to take care of the garden

Math, you can go to Poland or China or Germany or wherever
I imagine that math is the same math
English, you might have English with an Indian accent, or an Aussie accent
but y’all still reading Shakespeare or Moby Dick or Angelou or Allende
English is English
in horticulture we teach basic principles and structures
but then you gotta go out to the landscape and verify them, use em, adapt them to fit
to the local surroundings
its just a wee bit different everywhere you go
you gotta
find out what flowers grow well in the western part of town but not so well in the east
figure out what plants favor the sandy soils, what cultivar of apples doesn’t get root rot
you learn stuff like this –
endless pertinent variable sometimes ambiguous information like this –
learn it from a teacher, from being in the field
its not all in books, nor all online…
yeah its really fun, if you like flowers and trees and stuff like that

So as far as the learning process is concerned
if you have access to a computer, with reasonable wifi or high-speed internet
the computer is a good friend, online is nice
we could actually be real productive online,
if we didn’t have to deal with viruses, ads, spam and group emails, software glitches, hacks, bad connections, messed up backs, muscular and joint pains, and other complications of a digitized modern world
it’s like we traded one set of challenges for a whole new array of contorted specialized problems
alright, for the sheer cerebral aspect of learning, I give online systems an A
out of three ways of learning, one out of three works good, the other two work not so well
for horticulture,
in the end, my grade is closer to an F than an A
would like to improve
sorry students

As for character building, human civility, and respect for the community
there were also three criteria
for the first – general accountability of students
online learning gets a a half way mark
take a screen shot of zoom session
end of discussion
compared that to a buzzing herd or flock of students in the classroom
no comparison
the energy, the feeling, the excitement
yes some students are on time, present for the whole session, active participants
but most of them, you are not sure what is happening
you hope for the best
outcome: 50%

For the second – doing the work itself independently
online learning scores in the mid range again
if you do the quizzes, the homework, the field trip reports
upload them, this is good
if you did the quizzes, the homework, the field trip reports
but never used your pruners or your loppers or hand saw
or fixed an irrigation leak
then your understanding is all theoretical and basically worthless
because nobody is going to pay you to answer true-false questions in the garden
they are paying you to do the work
that is why, this sections scores a regal

For the last, number three, working with others
online learning earns a zip nada
some skills you have to learn in person –
how to maneuver around diverse peoples
how to ask for tools or help politely
how to say sorry or thank you or let’s go
how to make plant friends
its the human interaction, that over time,
rubs off the rough edges and makes you more well rounded
plus it brings a smile to your face
being together turns the sometimes ho hum repetitive boring work of the garden
into a joyful task
so nothing for round three, zero
in total overall, given equal weight to all sections
taking into account techno fear, techno illiteracy, techno overload
I scored around 33 out of 100%
Still failing
grrrr….. doesn’t feel good

Like I said,
this has been slowly gurgling down the pipes for a while now
the diminishing of plant education throughout our range
and the move from analog to the digital age
there is a general lack of understanding stemming from the higher-ups,
for what is required to become a practiced horticulturist
the gardener has increasingly become viewed and used as an
unskilled laborer
an outdoor cleaner for the outdoor living room; an outdoor custodian
and a come and go, disposable, hire-off-the-street phenomenon
nearby down the peninsula, the College of San Mateo horticulture program shut down about ten years back or so
across the bay at Diablo Valley Community College, a big part of their funding is their own plant sales and hard work, barely holding onto survival
we (CCSF) are one of the last such places that still teaches plant identification, horticultural machines, and how to sow seeds, for miles around
and we have had numerous close-call near shutdowns for the last decade or so

Thinking about this…
if you have an app and a phone that identifies everything by name, why do you need plant ID?
if you can buy a new machine for cheap off so and so online website every time one breaks down, why learn how to fix ’em?
and why sow seeds for the future, when the future is far away and filled with uncertainty?
when the future is one that is forecasted as being one of
planetary ecological doom and annihilation,
climate burning up with global hellfire,
people being robot-like slaves mentally chained by a corrupt elite,
and other such really dreary scenarios
scenarios coming from people who guide culture but don’t know nature
these are the best reason to be opening seed packets,
and lightly tamping fine black seeds into the soil

What use is horticulture in-person in our modern-day world?
if roses are grown in Ecuador greenhouses
plants are mail ordered from Oregon
mow and blow gardeners are from border south
park and recreation bosses are suits and ties from back east
community college administration are corporate managers and not public educators
and you don’t have to know plants for any reason at all
it’s true
you don’t need a homegrown anything,
whether that be a pepper, a tomato, or a sprig of canna and amaryllis
you don’t need
an in-person student versed in the language of flowers who lives and works here
we are all rootless, ungrounded, non-photosynthetic, un mycorrhizal, top of the chain consumers
we are always hungry and taking, never giving back
this is the end result of a people no longer bound by survival to remember and respect nature
this is the product of reliance on bit, ram, and byte mechanisms of control,
this is why horticulture has been slowly fading into the background of our consciousness and day to day living
its sad,
the hardness and lack of appreciation for natural beauty
the constriction upon the human psyche and imagination
it’s sad

not trying to convince anybody of anything here
just expressing and finding an outlet for thoughts
in teacher fashion
will get ready to close out in multiple choice fashion
there will be five questions
each is worth five seconds of reflection
there is no time limit
you will know your grade when your eyes sparkle like that of a child
here we go:

When I hike in the forest, I want to:
A look up at the sky beyond the canopy of the trees
B find a mushroom
C smell the cedar mixed with pine
D follow the creek upstream
E identify the cone laying on the ground
F focus 100% of my visual attention on my iPad

When I walk in the woods, I want to:
A climb a tree
B say hi to the squirrels
C listen to the crinkle of leaves under my feet
D sniff the dampness of an impending storm
E gather some acorns to plant later
F move my finger left to right repeatedly on a flat plastic surface that is 14.36 cm long by 7.09 cm wide

When I take a walk around town, in my neighborhood, I like to observe the
A architecture and the variety of plants
B the infrastructure and methods of construction for all manners of things
C diversity of people and dogs
D signs of urban wildlife like coyotes, raccoons, and ravens
E species of weeds that survive in the cracks and are host to butterflies
F latest updates that happened on my software operating system that fixed glitches and bugs

If things go bad, and we go into crisis disaster mode, it would be nice to:
A identify what wild plants are edible and what plants are not
B know how to turn off and turn on valves, fix leaks, and have access to clean water
C be able to work together to help each other to survive
D understand rot, decay, decomposition, disease; and how to keep them at bay
E have the knowledge of how to grow food and animals
F charge my phone so that I can keep playing games

When i am on my death bed, passing over into another place, I will remember:
A the goodness and kindness of family and friends
B the beauty and miracle that is this world
C a few happy moments
D some turbulent events that were hard hills to climb
E to brush my teeth and floss before going to sleep
F check my email one more time for new messages and notifications

That’s it. Test is over. Turn the paper over
wait in your seat until the proctor picks up the exam

Was chatting with friends
some on the left, some on the right
politically speaking
its true that education has changed over time
is it getting better or worse?
public education that is
not the private schools that got warm swimming pools, the latest computers, airplane class trips to exotic locations, and a guaranteed pass to elite universities
public schools
I remember the times when there was shop class, metal and wood arts, welding auto shop
a buddy remembers when they used to do the custodial duties and it was acceptable for students to clean the toilets
when it was not a bad, looked-down-upon thing, to engage in basic maintenance activities
another friend reminisces about home economics
and raising and slaughtering your own chickens and sheep at school with a bunch of cohorts
and everyone remembers the erosion of the classes like art or music or foreign language
yeah all those wholesome, cross cultural, body mind spirit engaging classes
bleh, who needs those!?
many classes have gone the way of dinosaurs in a public education
so what are we teaching the youth of today?
education or indoctrination, simplification or complication?
or, on the other hand, what are they learning on their own?
from videos, social media, music lyrics, and each other?
have priorities and basic life processes changed? that much?!

Not sure, that is a broad topic for another day
for now, gonna stick with the plants
and try to hold off the disembodied,
unconnected to anything,
do what you want, anytime you want,
no seasonal cycles,
don’t acknowledge mother earth ,
ideal fantasy show kinda world view
back to the slugs, weeds,
and moss tickling my toes

oink oink

A big part of garden design
revolves around the flat functional space that is paved or decked
this is the hardscape that is used for tables and seats, and for walking to and fro
this is our topic today
both the hardscape edge where it meets dirt, plants, and the earth
as well as the surface itself, and the patterns you cajole out of wood and stone

We live in this time some folks call the postmodern age
all the spinning spirals, ornate branches, and random frilly mischief
all the dense complex weavings and tight repeating details
have been taken out of design
we have reduced our life to the pleasing simple geometric forms
stacked boxes, and an occasional perfect circle
clean and efficient, no nonsense and uncluttered
no busyness
we have materials that are
easy to build off the shelf, sometimes already made as a module
easy to install, piece by piece, don’t need much skilled labor nor crafts-person-ship
easy to maintain, just hose it or blow it or pressure wash it

Time wise, this design and build process is relatively fast
labor wise, its minimal, compared to old times
this is the post modern age
peoples lives are busy enough, they dont want more of that in the garden
we want a nature that is simple, easy, and well controlled
we dont want a nature that is complex, difficult, and in charge

Well those two visions of nature collide in the garden
and the role of the designer is to find the balance and complement one another
in texture, in form, in flow, in time
really, dont you get, just a tiny bit bored, of the rectangular slab of concrete and uniform chips?
theres is no design or meaning there –
oh yeah, that is the meaning of the post modern age…
you are living in a godless, spiritless, rational, reasonable, non magico world where:
plants should behave like a static piece of furniture
they should not shed or grow or heavens forbid get sick and die
people should be always-on robots
working or charging, devoid of emotion and doubt
and wild nature is something far away in a dark continent, not… in my backyard

There is a little leeway and room
to bring some of those ancient design patterns
back into our lives
not like they have ever gone away
we just thought that the garden would look better without them
but then we realized,
that if you apply the same aesthetic to the outdoors as you do to the indoors
you will just have another living room, one that is a lot less comfortable
then, whats the point at all?

But, if you do want to have a GARDEN –
a place of seasonal fragrant scents
a site of intermittent colors
a home for visiting aliens like kingfisher or sparrow
and a cosmic center to commune with the universe
then you will have to be observant and take your time to learn nature’s patterns
we can start with the edge and then delve into rock and fiber later

Look for edges of design
they are all around us
some edges are functional
like the fattened outward curving lip of a bowl that manages not to chip as easily
or the thinned lip of a tea pot spout that makes sure you dont get the drip drips
Other edges are ornamental cosmetic
a scalloped bend, a splash of neon, or a wee bit of gold trim
they create that dynamic tension that pulls us out of a monosyllabic worldview
these edge features dont necessarily take a lot of extra time or money to build
but they do require a good conceptual idea streaming through the plan
and the ability to recognize and repeat the motif until a song emerges out of the landscape

there are edges everywhere –
the frame of a painting or a window
the top of a bus stop
the curb, yes the curb that lies between the road and the sidewalk
now you see them and can add them to your design repertoire
you dont need a ton of it, a subtle touch will do
its all there in the outline of a subject
sometimes its barely noticeable, but it makes a difference
a little inlay of red pebbles on the border
a thin slab of redwood on top of the post
the slight bend of an arch that mimics the wisteria behind
work the edge, that is where the energies are pronounced and you define the spaces
you want to accent and border the uniqueness, specialness
and one of a kind nature of a garden dream
the garden that is grounded in the present, in your presence

Forget the edge now
and go towards the center
the center of the patio, the middle of the deck
walk down the acorus lined path
what do you see?
is it all one color, one material?
all flat and spaced one foot on center?
regular, consistent, unchanging?
or are there flecks, smattering, tidbits, unspoken remnants of –
dots, stars, webs, waves, streaks
unusual hardscape patterns that somehow
lie in symmetry with
are congruent to
share parallel qualities with
the tubed fuchsia blooms with a floral formula of 4 4 8 4
the methodical dotted runway petals of alstroemerias
and the symbolic gesture of a lotus rising out of the round leaf mud flats
tie it all together
the hard and the soft…
unity, that is a design principle!

Again, you do not have to replicate the entire jungles cacophonic symphony on the stone paving
just tuck a little of it into your design
or at least consider it; it really is not that foreign of an idea
no you dont have to use tear drop shaped brick
nor do you have to commission laser cut drizzles of intricate stainless steel
keep it simple and elegant, we are not going baroquian victorian azteckian chinoise
those epic periods have come and gone, only way is forward in time

Similar to the using of edging detail, a little can go a long way
maybe use a few pavers that are a different color (!?)
trace a few lines that go diagonal, go across, or skip a beat like a dotted line (?!)
do a few layers of the hardscape such that it is billowing out like a cloud, exploding like a lupine seed pod, or reflecting the form of the surrounding statuary
you would still have a postmodern garden,
with clean, efficiently made, and functional hardscape
but, it would be endowed and imbued with the designs of

summer caterpillars munching uneven holes in leaves
a trail of falling autumn leaves
the radiant calm of a snow field
and the happy stirrings of flowers in the spring
all of this
in the celebration of the covenant of life
and the creation of hallowed ground that allows this interaction to take place
this is the joy of garden design
thats the job, get to it!!!

Edges everywhere: lines and colors. Follow the outlines as they rise and fall, swell and constrict.

Patterns on flat surfaces. Keep an eye on the edges borders, and the interior. Yes some of these patterns are old time not fashionable anymore…

Do these need an edge? Does the transition seem fluid?

Do concrete sidewalks have to be 4′ x 4′ squares?

Match your hardscapes and tie it all together? Repeating patterns and materials?

Is the edge ‘functional’?


SHORT DAY LENGTH PLANT = long night plant
Needs a long night to start flowering

In the wilds of southern Mexico
In the wet and dry tropical forests
The rainy season is May through October
During the hurricane season

With all that moisture, and Mexican sun
It is a good time to grow leaves and stems
Grow vegetatively

Around November, the dry season begins
Poinsettia starts to flower, it keeps flowering onwards into the spring
It flowers as the day length becomes shorter and shorter
Nights longer and longer
And insects are flying around looking for flowers, nectar and pollen

“If the days are long, and the sun is shining, I’m gonna get big and grow all the leaves I can.
When the days start getting shorter, its time to bloom; time to make fruit and seeds for dispersal and survival.”

LONG DAY LENGTH PLANT = short night plant
Needs a short night to start flowering

Its late fall and early winter in California
November December and onwards
Its the rainy season
Storms outa the northwest and Aleuts
Nights are on the long side, about 13, 14 hours of night
Days are short, about 11, 10 hours of daylight
California poppy sprouts with the rains
It grows those thin dissected leaves, and a juicy taproot

It is March, April and May in Cali
Its spring time
The length of a day goes from 11 to 12 to 13 hours a day
The nights shorten from 13 to 12 to 11 hours a day
And the California poppy blooms
Cause its done with its vegetative stage
The earth is warming up
And the insects are going crazy
Its a perfect time to showcase colorful petals
If you want to make some seeds, you better do so before the summer dry spell hits
And reserves run low
This is a short night plant

Don’t care much either way
They don’t care about long days long nights
They don’t care about short days short nights
They gonna do their thing, no matters what
As soon as they have enough energy stored up to go, they go
They bloom, makes seeds, then bloom some more
Just go!
Until they run out or run dry
Hopefully they finish in time before winter snow, or the summer drought
Humble dandelion comes to mind
As does that dinky cannabis with the name ruderalis

As a nursery person or greenhouse grower
You can manipulate day length with lights, or with curtains that keep it dark
You can make it seem like the darkness of winter is coming,
and force a chrysanthemum to start blooming
You can force a plant to grow grow grow like crazy
By turning on the lights for sixteen, eighteen, twenty hours a day
As if the plant was growing in Alaska
Super short growing season, super intense
Grow like your life depends on it
As the grower, you control light and photosynthesis
This way you can
Ramp up production all year round
Supply pretty plants when nature cannot
And have plant merchandise in the stores just in time for Christmas

I am always reminded by growers
That a poinsettia blooms because of the changes in DAY LENGTH
It does not bloom because of water needs or the dry seasons arrival
I agree, but don’t actually see how the two can be divorced from one another –
Light and water
Just try growing the poinsettia crop without water, and see what happens to the blooms or lack thereof
My guess is that in nature
If the rains stop early, and it goes dry, say in July or August
Theres gonna be a few individuals that just go for it
Irregardless of the day length, even if the nights are still short
You are stressed, you may die, you may try to bloom, even a little bit
Evolution of these plants in a particular habitat is not a discrete entity based only on light
It is a combination of factors that work together to create the patterns that we observe
Light, water, soils, wind
Elevation, temperature, humidity
Fungus, bacteria, and so on
The basics for planetary survival


County Meaning or gist and origin

Where the Spaniards rode their horses along the coast to establish missions, lots of places received the names of saints:
San Francisco: Saint Francis
San Benito: Saint Benedict
Santa Clara: Saint Clare
San Mateo: Saint Matthew
San Luis Obispo: Saint Louis Bishop
Santa Barbara: Saint Barbara
San Bernardino: Saint Bernard
San Joaquin: Saint Joachim
San Diego: Saint Diego

Some counties got named for people:
Kern: Named for Edward Kern, artist, explorer and map maker
Lassen: Named for Peter Lassen, rancher and prospector
Humboldt: Named for Alexander Von Humboldt, epic scientist
Glenn: Named for Hugh J. Glenn, big time wheat farmer
Stanislaus: Named for the baptized name of native chief Estanislao
Marin: Named for the baptized name of Chief Huicmuse – of the sea
Mendocino: Named for Antonio de Mendoza, first ruler of New Spain colony
Solano: Named for the Catholic Father Francisco Solano and the native
chief who was baptized with the same name

A bunch of counties got names of objects; words in Spanish, English, Galician, or native languages:
Santa Cruz: Holy cross
Nevada: Snow capped
Mariposa: Butterfly
El Dorado: Gold
Sacramento: Sacrament or Lord’s Supper
Calaveras: Skull
Plumas: Feathers
Orange: Orange
Monterey: Mountain king
Trinity: The Christian Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Madera: Wood
Imperial: The empire, relating to
Los Angeles: Angels
Ventura: Good luck and fortune
Kings: Kings
Placer: Deposit of precious minerals
Inyo: Place of great spirits
Tulare: Sedge and reeds
Alameda: Public walkway and promenade
Fresno: Ash tree
Merced: Mercy and grace
Amador: Lover
Sutter: Shoe maker or cobbler
Napa: Fairy valley
Yuba: Maidu village named by the Spanish for the abundant grapes ubas

These counties are named for their geography:
Contra Costa: Opposite coast
Lake: Lake
Alpine: Of the high mountains
Riverside: By the river
Del Norte: Of the north
Sierra: Chain of mountains, like a saw
Butte: A hill with a flat top and steep sides off by itself

A few counties are the names of native peoples who inhabit the area:
Modoc: Folks from Northwest California and Southwest Oregon
Shasta: Folks from Northern California by the big tall volcanic mountain
Colusa: Colus is the name of a native tribe living on the west side of the
Sacramento River, of the Wintun peoples
Mono: Native Paiute people who live by Mono to Owen Lake

Lastly, some county names are ultimately mystery and lost to history:
Tehama: Land of shallow rivers, salmon and floods?
Siskiyou: Bob-tailed horse or six stones???
Sonoma: Moon or nose???
Tuolumne: Many stone houses or straight up steep or ???
Yolo: Full of rushes or the name of a chief???

Well got tapped to do a talk out at San Francisco Botanical Garden

they wanted to hear about the ethnobotany of old time peoples before there was a california

a time when there was just a bunch of mountains and deserts and winding rivers through swampy grasslands

what plants did people eat?

how did they get by without metal tools and lighters?

what was their relationship with the land and all them animals?

To be honest, I really dont know much about the subject

so gonna just wing it

hopefully you do better than me –

go on a walkabout on the plateau

come easy off the mesa scooting on rocky slides

do this for a dozen years or more and the earth will come alive and you can talk to her

ask her yourself what it means to be native and grounded

by this time, the plants will all want to chime in also

they a talkative bunch

and you can listen to their sunlit chatter giggles too

just dont get kingfisher and mockingbird started,

otherwise you’ll be there day and night day and night

While you are present and in active observation

take some notes, write a scientific paper for posterity

then twist a basket full of agave rope

and play a billowy tune on the elderberry flute

Wish I could tell you more but like I said

I’m a beginner too

still learning the difference between a tar weed and a gum weed

still making uneven splits of back and forth roots


this is as far as I’ve got, enjoy!

This is the pictorial part of the OH53 Maintenance class ‘tool, equipment and supplies final’ for the spring semester. It is grouped by the topics we covered in class. Please refer to the written exam questions in order to answer with correct responses. Thank you.

Fences & hedges

  1. Two kinds of hedgers:

2. Pruning and hedging hand tools:

3. Polypropylene line and posts

Grasses & turf care

4. Sean and power tool

5. Ulu-like hand tool:

6. Turf and sidewalk

7. Lawn care tool

8. Half mowed lawn

9. Mower blades

10. Weeding tool

11. Cutting implement under the mower

12. Tools to collect grass clippings

Two versus four cycle

13. Symbol next to broken fuel cap

14. 2 cycle oil and gas cans

15. An orange switch and some symbols

16. A fuel cap with a symbol and letters on it

17. A fuel cap with letters on it


18. Three kinds of hand tools for digging


19. A rectangular and a round plastic container

20. A large plastic rectangular bucket

21. A green plastic can with a spout

Unions, connections, and intersections

22. The round white piece inside one end of the hose

23. The connection between plastic parts

24. A hose bib with multiple connections

25. Where the pressure treated lumber meets the concrete

26. The black membrane/cloth between the soil and the pressure treated lumber

27. Between the concrete pavers on top and the soil underneath

Valves & irrigation

28. The two white PVC pipes underneath the remote control valve

29. The brass piece threaded onto the hose bib

30. The valve inside an irrigation box

31. The round knob with a green circle on the left, the round knob with xxxx markings on the right

32. The pipe and the hose bib

33. The plastic pipe connected to the hose bib

34. Remote control valves in a series

35. Hose bib

37. The connection between the wires

37. The connection between the hose and the quick coupler

38. A Hunter I-20 sprinkler

39. Some valves in a cage

40. A metal T shaped tool and a box that says SFPUC

41. Different styles of valves

42. Two irrigation boxes

43. The white bucket at the upper left corner mounted on the electric power pole

44. A broke piece of plastic inside a brass hose bib

45. The brass pieces between the hose bib and the hose

46. A meter to measure PSI

47. A white plastic PVC fitting

Mammal and bird pests

48. A green trap made of metal

49. Metal mesh wire on the ground

50. Metal mesh wire on a lawn slope

51. Rat and mouse poison

52. Rat trap

Herbicides & fungicides

53. Round plastic container with tubing

54. Trinater herbicide

55. Weedrot herbicide

56. Axxe herbicide

57. Crabgrass and broadleaf weed killer

58. Sarai the working supervisor doing weed control

Rhododendrons and camellias

59. Two kinds of loppers


60. P265/70R16

61. DOT M3JC KC9X 4614


62. Rectangular metal pieces stuck in the top of the hardwood handle of the ball peen hammer

63. Using a straight piece of metal to twist a metal post into the soil

64. Two kinds of handles

65. A hunk of steel bolted to the metal table

Planting & selection

66. Sideview of two metal hand tools

67. Trees with plastic collars wrapped with fabric and rope

68. Three kinds of shovels

69. Putting in a new copper water pipe next to a tree

Ladders & pole tools

70. Two kinds of ladders

71. Pole pruners with poles made of two different kinds of material

72. Battery of an electric pole saw

73. An electric pole saw (chainsaw on a stick)

Safety & injury

74. Poo, bentonite clay, albuterol, tangle foot, daddi long leg bird be gone bird deterrent

75. Epinephrine, hypodermic needle, poisonous and injurious plants, stinging insects, dust, pollen, rodent feces

76. Epi pen

77. Map of San Francisco, personal protective equipment, mink oil

78. T shaped metal tool

79. Students’ favorite tool

This is a visual snap shot of our field trip to see Filoli Garden in Woodside, California. Thank you to Kate Nowell, Horticulture Production Manager, for hosting us. Thank you to Jim Salyards, Director of Horticulture, for welcoming us, and also thank you to all the field horticulture staff who shared their knowledge of the gardens with us.

Filoli is a historic estate garden that is now a public garden managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There are many distinct gardens and styles within. If you were to classify it, you could call it something like European formal meets oak woodlands, weathered in the California-casual rancho grassland heat.

Geometry and symmetry are primary in a formal garden. You want to acknowledge that the universe is ordered and structured and as such, the garden and its shapes are a reflection of this.

An important element in this world built with squares, rectangles and crosses are the axis of view lines that stretch straight across the entire garden. You want to be in a high place, survey and see the distant edge of your territories. As if you were the sun that traversed the sky.

From one garden room to the next, there is the transition that is a portal to the next mystery. The gates, the arches, the vines and steps all serve to ornament and shroud the junction. The doorways and walls bridge distinct and disparate spaces into a whole.

The lines and colors are simple and minimal. Clean, not fuzzy. This is exemplified in flat expanses of mowed green lawn coupled with well-trimmed upright point-to-the-sky yew trees, framed with horizontal hedges laser cut in their perfection.

The borders are accentuated and patterned. The edges divide the walking path from the beds; the low fences separate the humans from the plants. Again, there is the emphasis on where different elements meet and come together.

Inside the boxwood frames, roses and annual colors are featured at Filoli. Their care and maintenance encompass ground preparation, planting, weeding, pruning, and pest control. Plus, there is the switching out of blooms for spring summer and fall as hyacinth leaves fade to yellow and tulip petals drop and start to form fruits.

The formal garden of intricately winding hedges comes to us from the elaborate and embellished worlds of sixteen seventeen eighteen century Italy France England and thereabouts. Its as if you are touring a manor or a castle or the palace grounds and all of a sudden you get woven into a renaissance tapestry.

At the center of a formal garden, there is often a water feature. This can be a pond or a fountain. Water is the source of life. No water – no garden, no people.

Age and antiquity are a part of this garden. Truth be told it is hard to find well cared for old plants in California gardens. Filoli has some wonderful old oaks, as well as thick and nicely pruned wisterias that have been trained up the brick walls. Patience, time and commitment is what makes a great garden.

There is a woodland garden that is a respite from the heat. Here you will find the understory plants of ferns and mosses, as well as the larger woody plants that were brought from China Japan and India to Scotland Wales and Ireland at the turn of the 19th century by explorers named George Forrest and Ernest Wilson. The plants are rhododendrons, camellias, maples, and azaleas.

As a nod and hark to the agricultural past, Filoli is not only about formal ornamentals. The staff also do cut flowers, and are working on a vegetable garden. In a sense, we have come full circle. For a while there, the attitude was – ‘Who wants to see a bunch of potatoes and cabbages? I just want a pretty display’. Now, the attitude is – ‘Lets showcase and appreciate all of it!’. This encompasses food crops, as well as lessor known native plants and sometimes forgotten pollinator plants.

A number of perennials are featured, providing plentiful nectar and pollen for the local bumble, solitary, and honey bee. They add diversity and charm to an already over the top garden scene.

A nice mediterranean crop is olives, for oil and for fruit. These trees are hard pruned; and in this process will slowly return to being a production orchard. Sun drenched and well cared for trees will make good fruit, not gangly trees that are shading each other out.

For space consideration, it is useful to make the most of whatever space you got. Hence espaliered fruit trees running along a fence or a wire. This is an old old idea that goes back to the time of pharaohs and Sumerian dynasties. The apples and pears were barely forming on the day of our visit, but that is another reason to come back again in the summer and fall!

Well, thats about all for a quick look. This ain’t nothing compared to actually seeing the garden in person. If you get the chance to visit, GO!!! Pay attention to the work involved, and all of the details in the designs.

Some stats: Sixteen acres of formal gardens, twelve horticulture staff. High maintenance. Most plant production is all done onsite – growing annuals from seeds, potting up and dividing, making floral arrangements, composting, etc. Theres opportunities for summer internships and jobs. Check their website! Get involved!

And in the fenced orchard on the side was this lil fellow, going into a hole. ( It is a gopher snake). Until the next trip!

Hanging out in the duff beneath a yew tree, doing push ups at the edge of the pasture. A garden is bliss.

City College of San Francisco
why I love thee
an ode to a Community College

In the state of California
we got three tiers of ‘higher education’ in the public sector
at the tops is the UC, University of California – four year schools
in the middle is the State University – four year schools
at the bottom is the Community College – two year schools

Academically speaking,
UCs are for the 3.8, 3.9 to 5.0 GPAs kids with a bunch of extras
the State Universities are for students in the A’s and B’s range
and the Community Colleges, well, anybody can go there

I went to two UCs for my undergraduate education
the best part of both of them was their proximity to the ocean
one was close to Black’s Beach
the other was close to Steamers Lane
that is where I got my education
during dawn patrol
and afternoon glass off
in the sea
I took classes in ecology evolution and conservation
but we never did any walkabouts around the neighborhood
or picked up garbage on the beach
or worked in a park or went after poachers
class was a lot of theories, graphs, statistics, and verbose language
things I did not understand, things I still do not understand
I also took some art classes at the UC
again, I have forgotten the content, but remember well
a kind black lady with colorful clothes named Faith Ringgold
and images of wild yam cults and ashanti stools
in a lecture room of three hundred people

For graduate school, I went to a State University
to be exact – San Francisco State University
the best part of the curriculum were the field trips
excursions to the icy-morning mountains, to the shot-up road sign deserts,
overnights to the wet-tent-at-night woodlands, to the sweat-up-your-neck foothills
voyages with professors named Patterson, Hafernik, Desjardin, Parker, and Blair
so vivid were the blooms, and so colorful the fruits! And the animals!!
this is how I fell in love with the flora and fauna
of a valley, of a grassland, of a washed out gully in the sands
I was happy to wander around with classmates, observe and see things as they are

For work, I have taught at a Community College for the past sixteen years
I teach horticulture, which is gardening, landscaping, tree and nursery work
the ambiance is real different from the other two institutions
the students are of a different sort, and the teaching is much more applied
it is not much of a social and hang out recreational place; it is not the ‘college experience’
theres nobody laying around on manicured lawns
theres no ragers at a frat house
theres limited ra-ra-ra at sports stadiums with everyone wearing matching colors
but, it is a place of learning – a place that prepares you for working in the world
it is more to my liking as a person; it fits
I appreciate the diversity of the students, I like their sincerity of being

Now, you might be thinking or saying
‘community college is for the dummies that couldn’t get into…’ or
‘community college is for a poor kid that can’t afford…’ or
‘community college is just a stepping stone so that you can transfer to a…’
well…maybe you are correct

From my view, the students are a lot smarter, and wiser
at the community college
maybe not always test taking smart or sit still smart
the kinda young person know-everything-whipper-snapper-smart
caume laud this or honor that smart
but the students are hand smart, experience smart, tactile skills smart
smart in the ways of the world smart
wise in the ways of good and evil wise
this is so, because there are all kinds of different people
who attend our community college
so that in the end, you are not gaming for a piece of diploma paper
with a similar cohort of peers
instead, you are actively and closely engaged with people
of varying backgrounds and strengths
in understanding the world and finding your place in it

Who wants to learn about flowers? And trees? Well,
we got high end well educated professionals like my dentist,
the doctor from the free clinic, and the patent law lawyer
there’s an army scout who knows the weight of an abrams tank,
a twenty year Navy pilot, and the electrical engineer on an aircraft carrier
we got machinists and diesel mechanics who have done time with heavy heavy equipment
as well as folks who’ve spent time in jail cells contemplating, reflecting
and, theres a lil’ bit ragged student who was dreaming while sleeping on the cold sidewalk
there’s bunches of nurses and medics who want to care for a living thing that doesn’t talk back
as well as a two or three master’s degrees therapist who is tired of the droning quality of human self pity and inaction
into the mix, throw in a retired chemist
add an architect discovering nature’s structures, and
stir in some manager supervisors of 10, 20, 100, 1000 subordinates
there is a whole generation of students who have been raised on computers, videos and screens, students who have never acknowledged the three dimensional sentient and conscious creatures on our planet, youth who ignore the blur of greenery all over the land
and, theres a whole lot of students with a bachelors degree and a student loan
students who for four years did not know what they were studying or why they were studying it, and now do not know what to do
to be gainfully employed – maybe you can do something with nature? something that brings joy to your heart? something to cultivate beauty in our society?
… try the horticulture and floristry department!

The rightful place of a Community College is –
at the center of the community, a college for folks young and old
a place that gathers everybody together and improves our day to day world
one seed, one sprout, one or two cotyledons at a time
there not a whole lotta other countries where such a place exists
everywhere else people are enamored with that kind of hierarchy that puts everybody in a slot on a ladder, and you can’t climb up cause you are stuck on your rung
this is America
we want a just and kind society that is a big ol pie
everybody anybody who puts in their best effort can come get a slice of
apple pie, cherry pie, maybe rhubarb pie

The community college is a great idea, a grand experiment,
it is a temple for lifelong learning and a roundhouse of civic in-person interaction
it would be a darn shame
if it were to be snuffed out, gutted, squeezed, and relegated to the chop chop ax by
uncaring people
theres no better place to learn to smilie with all of mother nature’s creation,
there’s no more worthwhile crew of students
than at
City College of San Francisco!!!


I like weeds because they are tough survivors
plus they are job security because I am a gardener
my favorite weed is the himalayan blackberry spread by birds eating the berries and dropping the seeds
blackberry seeds grow into huge thick canes and impassable thickets
tips touch the dirt, grow more roots, and up they go again arching into the sky
to remove them by hand
you need a good pair of gloves and a spade

Find the roots, they look like this
you want to get the whole nugget, not only cut the top
if you just cut the canes, it resprouts and hunkers down for the fight
so dig all around about eight ten inches deep
use the spade like a spear in a cutting motion
watch out for buried pipes and conduits
it is extra difficult when the blackberry root is tangled inside a tree root

When you pull the big root out of the earth it looks something like this

or this
try to get as much of the root as possible
that will slow it down over time
our goal is not total eradication, just management and some control
in localized place

if you tug on the small end of the vine
where a young stem touched down and rooted
the roots may be white and fibrous
these fine branching roots are usually pretty easy to pluck from moist soil
they havent yet grown that obstinate woody hunk of anchorage

if you are lucky and you pull out the whole vine
it is a happy and satisfying feeling
like you battled a small beast and won
bloody cuts on your arms
make sure you soap and clean it later
all the way up the forearms past the elbows

then its time to pack em up
you fold the vine back and forth
same as you would for a 100’ climbing rope or an outdoor extension cord

at the end of the vine I like to use the thin apical stem to tie it together in a neat manner
so bundle it across perpendicular to the bundle
the spines grab itself and holds it all tight for easy transport
you do this for a bit and pretty soon its a whole burlap full of the stuff

thats it!
I weed algerian ivy in the same way
make little packages of weeds

the ivy pulls easier than blackberry
but it is not as fun or as exciting
because ivy does not put up a fight as hard as good ol
Rubus discolor Rubus armeniacus
my favorite weed