Spring Forth!

by Hadley Louden, Jungle of Monticello

Spring is a time of rebirth, and nothing shows us this more than our gardens: buds bursting out everywhere, flowers singing forth, leaves waving hello, bugs and birds abounding, many making a joyful noise. In my garden, spring is also a time of constant dilemmas as I confront many baby plants needing new homes, such as self-seeded volunteers, off-shoots, and cuttings. My garden brims with happy breeders. Rather than simply weed these out mercilessly as most seasoned gardeners would, I am the sort of bleeding heart who tries to find a new home for as many as possible. It pains me to destroy perfectly good plants. Much of this column deals with what to do with these baby spring plants.

First, you can pick up free recycled plastic containers in many sizes at the corner of California and Ada next to Berkeley Horticultural Nursery in North Berkeley (http://www.berkeleyhort.com/). Berkeley Hort recycles them from local gardeners but is happy to let anyone take them for free prior. And while you're at Berkeley Hort (founded in 1922), check out one of the best-stocked nurseries (and its well-educated staff) anywhere in the Bay Area, albeit not the cheapest. It seems the Big Box retailers drove out all the good old nurseries in our area (and now those same stores are radically cutting back on their nursery departments). Know of good or interesting nursery/garden supply sources closer to the Laurel? Please email me at: Hadley\@MusicToCelebrateLife.com.'

To fill your new pots, don't forget about the substantially discounted compost bins from Alameda County: http://www.stopwaste.org. (they're great) and free manure at Piedmont Stables, 6525 Redwood Road, 336-0850.

If you don't know where to put all your new babies, consider a garden swap. It's easy to find one at http://plantexchange.wordpress.com/, or you can do what I do each year: throw your own! It's a wonderful way to connect with neighbors while beautifying your environment. Put up a sign in your front yard or post your own listing on the Laurel Village community Eboard: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/laurelvillage/.

Subversive Suggestion:

Go out and plant flowers in the world! I know that may not sound too radical, but once you start planting flowers in neighbors' yards with their permission, or better yet in ugly public spaces, things get a little more exciting and you're helping beautify our environment. Many neighbors have unloved garden space in front of their homes, like those little parking strips next to the street. If you're able and have some gumption, why not offer to put in a little flower spot at no cost or trouble to them? I've done that with several neighbors in Maxwell Park, nothing big, just little flower patches. Some of them liked it so much that they got interested in gardening again and started their own gardens. I've also done unauthorized gardening in ugly public spaces that I was tired of staring at. Why not look out at beautiful plants and flowers every day instead of some neglected bunch of weeds? Where you may not be able to follow up your planting with ongoing watering, native wildflowers and other hardy, drought-resistant flowers, such as lupines, California poppies (in all those groovy new colors), rose campions (Lychnis coronaria), scabiosa, succulents, and many bulbs are solutions that need little maintenance.

Ed. note: Welcome to our guest columnist.