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Green Thumb Nursery
February 23rd, 2012 Newsletter

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Place potatoes in a four-inch-deep trench dug well with compost, and cover the cut-and-calloused pieces or small whole tubers with more compost to the original soil level. Water lightly, just to settle the soil close to the seed pieces. Too much will rot them.

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by Liz Forsyth

As gardeners, we appreciate all manner of plants.  This gardener is enamored with old-fashioned English cottage gardens.  But not all of us live in a zone where the typical cottage plants may thrive.  Especially in southern California, we are forced by dry climate, water shortage, and different soil conditions to use our imaginations in choosing plants that will give us the look we want, but are idoneous for drought-tolerant gardens. 


Sometimes breaking the “rules” makes for an extremely creative take on a garden.  We all know the ‘big threes’ – never plant just one plant, plant three for a small grouping effect: plant a border, with mid-height plants in the middle, framed by taller backdrop plants.  But why not take a plant, such as a bush that will grow to 2 ½ feet in height with a spread of 3 feet, and fill your garden area with as many as you can!  Toss in a compact, rounded growth habit, a strong disease resistance, a commonality in sun and water requirements, and a predilection for butterflies, and you have ease of care, beauty, and built-in weed control.  (Weeds need sunlight to grow, remember!)

Just what is this miraculous new hybrid?  It is Monrovia’s new Heatwave series of sage bushes.

  • Heatwave Blast Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Heatwave Blast’): One of the series recently introduced in Australia, the Blast features salmon pink flowers, lasting from spring until frost in the cooler climes, but in our area year-round bloomers.  Cold hardy from zone 6 to zone 9, this evergreen shrub, like the rest of the Heatwave newcomers, loves full sun.  Along with the above planting suggestion, the Blast is also recommended for container planting and firescape gardens.

  • Heatwave Glimmer Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Heatwave Glimmer’):  This beauty has a longer bloom time, and a quick re-bloom habit from spring until frost; again, this may be a year-round bloomer for the lucky gardener.  The florescence is a rich cream in color.  As with all of the new sages, once they are established, they only require occasional watering, but all do prefer a well-draining soil.  Use for borders and container planting, and be prepared for the butterflies and hummingbirds that will visit.

  • Heatwave Glitter™ Sage (Salvia greggii 'Heatwave Glitter'):  The green foliage of ‘Glitter’ is off-set by potently purple flowers that have been bred for a long lifetime.  Especially in a water-wise garden, this sage deserves to be prominently displayed.  With some judicious clipping, the ‘Glitter’ can be effective as a low informal hedge; it can even function in a perennial border, or as a single specimen in a container.

  • Heatwave Sparkle Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Heatwave Sparkle’):  This Monrovia has hot pink blossoms that will serve the other new varietals well with its contrast in color.  As with the rest, it has been bred to bloom for a long time, is disease-resistant, and attracts our garden favorites, the butterflies and hummingbirds. 

In each plant’s first growing season, water regularly so that a deep, extensive root system may be established.  Come spring, do a hard cut and feed with a general purpose fertilizer prior to new growth appearing; we recommend Kellogg’s All Purpose Fertilizer.  And as always, deadhead to encourage a continuous bloom. 

This is a superior plant series from Monrovia.  Mark your calendars for April when our first shipment arrives. 

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by Liz Forsyth


Buzz words are the “it” factor that may get you that coveted job, or topple the client on the fence to your side.  Put enough of them in your resume and you can spin a light CV into the next must-have employee.  In the ever-increasing marketplace, with so many variations on a theme clamoring for your dollar, branding has become a business all unto itself.

But what exactly is branding?  It is a compilation of attributes, symbolized in a trademark name, which in and of itself lends the promise of the delivery of quality.

Why do we purchase certain plants over others?  Well, in the case of Monrovia and Proven Winners, through many years of scientific research and development, they have shown themselves to be reliable growers of plants.  They have departments devoted to designing plants suited for a particular demographic.  They have the resources to put time, money and great effort into the development and testing of a particular varietal, and then they have another department come up with the sure-fire name that will attract the gardener who has had previously successful experiences with these companies’ products.

Using these two companies as our core example, they seldom offer a single new plant, rather offering a selection of hybrids that are meant to be planted with others of their kind.  Rather a clever idea, and one that makes gardening easier.  Even the seasoned gardener has purchased a single plant simply because it was so very attractively displayed that it was impossible to pass up.  But when it is placed in its new home, it may not blend in because its particular sun requirements force the gardener to place it amongst plants that do not complement each other. 

So, too, does that garden center or nursery have a brand.  Their brand is created partially through the selection they offer, but also through the service that is proffered by their staff.  Working at a garden center is not a job for the lazy.  The hours are long, the work is hard, but the bottom line is that you are helping people create beauty, and to literally get in touch with Nature.  Here at Green Thumb we emphasize customer relationships.  If you know that you’re going to be met by knowledgeable, friendly staff who exist to help you realize the garden vision that you have, you will be a repeat customer, and a happy gardener.  Both please us.

So, as always, we encourage all gardeners, no matter how experienced or new-to-the-game they are, to embrace branding, while not allowing themselves to become slaves to it.  Keep a garden journal so that a second year plant that certainly did not perform to expectations in the first year, but is suddenly the showpiece of its area of the garden, has a name and place of purchase – you can then easily buy more for a spectacular grouping.  If you are new to gardening, Monrovia and Proven Winners plants are reliable growers.  And don’t be afraid to add that one unknown yet spectacular-looking plant to your garden – just always have your gardens pictured in your mind, and when you are at the garden center, have a plan.  Whether it’s to extend your flowering season, or to fill in your yellow-based garden, or to simply get inspiration, come ask our experts for advice.  Just as you may remember a particularly helpful employee, that same employee may remember your garden needs/wants from season to season. 

And that’s the lesson of branding; moving on from the “name” to the individual, who will provide informative suggestions that will aid you in creating your own personalized haven.  That is our goal here at Green Thumb; the customer is not just a sale, they are a garden growing.



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by Liz Forsyth

Just as cooking is 75% chopping, gardening is 75% weeding.  This gardener tends at times to see the weeding that needs to be done rather than the plants that have thrived.  Often referred to as “plants that are unwanted”, weeds can attract the wrong pests, and they can choke the plants that we want in our gardens and rob them of needed nutrients.  They can start out looking like pretty groundcovers, all the while developing an underground root system that makes eradication a difficult and involved process. 

As with most things, educating yourself about weeds is the first line of defense.  Follow Sun Tzu’s admonition to “Know your enemy.”  The basic types of weeds are annual, perennial, broadleaf, and grassy.  Let’s examine each one:

  • Annual weeds complete a life cycle in one year.  They live, and then die.  Unfortunately, they may produce several generations in a single year, so it feels as if they stick around forever.  The seeds are capable of lying dormant in soil from 4 to 40 years.  And when you till your soil in preparation of planting those wanted plants, you may disturb these dormant seeds, setting them into their life cycle.  Examples are chickweed, crabgrass, lamb’s-quarters and yellow oxalis.
  • Perennial weeds live for two or more years, all the while spreading roots that produce more offspring.  Examples include creeping Charlie, curly dock, dandelions and plantain.
  • Broadleaf weeds are just that; broad, flat leaves that are easiest to kill or remove when young.  Examples include chickweed, clover, dandelion and henbit.
  • Grassy weeds are tricky; they look and grow just like grass, and are extremely difficult to remove.  If you attempt to hand-weed them, roots that you can’t get to will re-sprout, stronger than ever.  Because they grow alongside the lawn that you labored so hard to produce, you must be careful not to use a herbicide that will also kill your lawn.  They include Bermuda grass, crabgrass, giant foxtail, goose grass, and quack grass.

So, next we examine the methods of ridding ourselves of these unwanted plants. 

Herbicides are chemicals used to eradicate weeds.  A non-selective herbicide will kill any growing plant, weed or not.  We recommend you avoid this one as much as possible, as our goal is to bring you towards a healthy, happy, beautiful garden.

Selective herbicides are geared towards killing specific plants.  For example, one may target broadleaf weeds but not grassy plants, rendering it safe to spray on weeds in a lawn without damage to your grass.  Read the packaging carefully to know where you can safely apply.

Pre-emergent herbicides prevent seeds from germinating before the seedlings emerge from the soil; be sure to apply prior to weed seed germination.
If you missed your window of opportunity, consider using a post-emergent herbicide that will kill actively growing weeds.  Contact post-emergents only kill the part of the plant touched by the chemical.  Use on annual weeds and perennial weed seedlings.  Systemic post-emergents are absorbed by the leaves and move through the stems and roots of a weed, affecting every part.  Choose this to spray your driveway to kill back the dandelions that have grown through the cracks.

A few of the worst noxious weeds in southern California are:

  • Yellow star thistle
  • Purple loosestrife
  • Bull thistle
  • Weedy spurges
  • Mediterranean sage

Please feel free to visit us where our garden experts will assist you in choosing which herbicides will take care of your toughest weeds.

We will be re-visiting this topic as the growing season gears up.  There are many smart methods of eradication that do not necessarily involve the use of chemicals. 

See you next week!

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This is a fast and very healthy meal.  The prep time can be sizeable, so plan to rinse and chop your ingredients ahead of time.  Place each in a small bowl or ramekin, and cover with cling wrap until ready to assemble.  Use your culinary sense when adding each ingredient; the first ones take a little bit longer to cook, while the last will cook very quickly.  You will want the vegetables to maintain their crispness.

What you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Three (3) large, skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • Two (2) cups of baby carrots, cut in half length-wise
  • Three (3) garlic cloves, pressed
  • ½ bottle of teriyaki stir fry sauce
  • One (1) cup of small red potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • Sesame seeds
  • One (1) sweet (preferably Vidalia) onion, chopped
  • One (1) large crown of broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • One (1) cup orange or white cauliflower, cut into small pieces
  • Two (2) cups fresh green beans, cut into inch-long pieces
  • Two (2) cups fresh asparagus, cut into inch-long pieces
  • ½ green pepper, cut into long thin strips
  • ½ red pepper, cut into long thin strips
  • Three (3) stalks of celery, chopped
  • Slivered almonds

Step by Step:

  • Put olive oil in your sauté pan and turn the burners to medium high heat.  When oil is ready, add the chicken, stirring frequently, until cooked.  Lightly salt and pepper (coarse grind is best). 
  • When the meat has completely cooked to a white color, add the carrots.
  • This is a good time to add the garlic, using a press.  Stir well so that the meat takes in the garlic. 
  • Cook for about 30 seconds and then drizzle the teriyaki stir fry sauce over the meat.  This will keep the food from sticking, as in stir fry the point is to cook over high heat.
  • Add the potatoes and with a wooden spoon or tongs, stir well, covering the potatoes with the sauce. 
  • Next add the sesame seeds.
  • Once the potatoes have begun to cook through, add the remaining ingredients, cooking each for only a short time.  We have listed the ingredients in the order in which they should be added. 
  • Occasionally drizzle more teriyaki sauce over the ingredients, using the tongs to cover well.  Continue stirring throughout the cooking process.  Sprinkle the slivered almonds liberally.
  • When the veggies appear nearly cooked to a tasty crispiness, cover the sauté pan to ensure that everything is the same hot temperature.  In only about 15-30 seconds, your stir fry is ready to serve into individual bowls.

We recommend chopsticks, but cutlery is perfectly acceptable. 

Serves four


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