Now And Then: Summertime Conversations

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me, those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."

— Henry James

One of the residual pleasures of being a lifelong gardener is meeting fellow gardeners in and about Laguna. From the checkout lines at Ralph's mini-mart (has anyone been fooled to think the aisles are wider by the smaller shopping carts?) to a stool at the Mar Bar, rather than recounting tales of travel to Paris or critiquing Cindy Frazier's performance in "Damn Yankees," conversations invariably move toward the ethics of dealing with a view blocking tree or exchanging lies on the quantity and quality of tomatoes harvested.

It's not that we're struck solely by the lure of horticulture; the lore is equally important.

I find myself frequently walking on a favorite pathway with Buster in Heisler Park. The beauty of the landscape is matched by the sound of crashing waves below the rugged cliffs. While I appreciate the occasional early morning solitude of a singular walk, I enjoy the company of fellow dog lovers and other walkers.

I observe the people milling around the park. I wish I were more than bilingual, as I imagine there are as many languages being spoken at any moment here as during a session at the United Nations. This is how a world-class park should be enjoyed: picnicking, posing for photos, and lazing on verdant lawns.

In the background, our city workers scoop up seaweed, empty the trashcans, and keep the lawns green. The pathways and restrooms are immaculate, and well-placed water fountains keep people and pets hydrated. Rather than taking all of this for granted, the next time you see a public works gardener caring for our park, please take the time to thank him!

The calendar indicates that we are in the midst of the "dog days of summer," although the anticipated warm and clear days have been inconsistently shrouded in a marine layer.

There is, however, plenty to do for avid and aspiring gardeners throughout the summer, although you may only find suggestions here. Tops on my gardening list include watering trees and shrubs as deeply and infrequently as possible, and feeding all vegetables, shrubs, and lawns with a complete fertilizer. And pests, such as weeds, insects, and diseases, should be dealt with responsibly (as with anything).

By filling your garden with a multitude of any and all flowers that please you, it will look fabulous all summer. Keep your flowerbeds and containers well filled and neat by removing spent or dead flowers and foliage, and your entire garden will appear as trim and well tended as my 'lil surfer girl.

The summer and its possibilities seem endless even with the onset of August. And while I'm more likely to pass through Perris before I make it to Paris, the joy of paddle boarding and hiking in Laguna is a vacation in itself. Not to be forgotten, those in the know will tell you that I grow the reddest tomatoes in town. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani is a local and plant guy, and he always will be. He can be contacted at (949) 497-8168 or

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