The Coastal Gardener: Two weeks of gardening education

Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.

Chinese proverb

If one wants to create a great garden and then sustain it, there are really only two options.

Option 1: Start planting whatever appeals to you. As things fail, replace them with a different plant, another one that appeals to you. Keep doing this earnestly. Eventually, perhaps at the end of a very long life, you will have a great garden.

Option 2: Learn how to grow and sustain a great garden, especially from other experts (including those who chose Option 1 and who are very, very old). This learning might be in person, working alongside them or more often through their writings and other communications.

For those of you who prefer Option 1, thank you; you keep our nurseries busy. But for those who prefer the second approach, the next two weekends will offer some of the best learning opportunities of the year.

Sept. 23 to 26 – Pasadena: Gardening Under Mediterranean Skies

This is the eighth version of this popular symposium dedicated to those wanting to garden in harmony with our Mediterranean climate. This year's event, appropriately subtitled Style & Whimsy in the Sustainable Garden, will focus on the lighthearted side of gardening in our wonderful and unique climate. The symposium will feature a remarkable variety of garden tours, lectures by some of the West's leading experts, workshops and panel discussions.

Co-sponsored by the Pacific Horticulture Society and the Mediterranean Garden Society, Sept. 23 offers all-day garden bus tours, a panel discussion and dinner. On each of the next three days, nine expert speakers will show how to increase the fun and style in your garden. As it should be, lunch each day will be alfresco, and each day will also include visits to three exceptional and beautiful private gardens (different each day) that demonstrate sustainable garden practices.

The symposium will be in the fascinating Pasadena area. Register for individual days or the entire symposium. For more information or to register go to and click Education/Events. Hurry: it's nearly sold out.

Sept. 25 – Huntington Beach: Eighth annual Master Gardener Gardening Seminar

For the past seven years the Master Gardeners of Orange County have presented what may be the best one-day educational gardening program in Orange County, and this year will be no different.

Ten great speakers comprise a who's-who of local gardening: Nan Sterman, Kay Havens, Kevin Marini, Pat Welsh, Rick Harlow, Darren Haver, John Kabashima, Tom Spellman, Diane Weber and Annie Hall — wow. One of the popular features of this event is attendees' ability to customize their day by choosing the specific topics and presentations that suit them most, creating their own custom learning menu during the day long event.

Seminar titles on this year's menu include: "Incredible! Edible, Beautiful and Water Wise"; "Smart Gardening Practices"; "Backyard Composting Made Simple"; "Plant and Grow Bulbs the Easy Way"; "Save Room for Vegetables: Southern California Style"; "Water – More Or Less"; "Got a (Pest) Problem?"; "Backyard Orchard Culture"; "One Foot in the Kitchen, One in the Garden"; and the popular "Boot Camp for Gardeners."

The program will be at the Huntington Beach Central Library from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but registration is required and tickets are selling quickly. For more information or to register, visit

RON VANDERHOFF is the Nursery Manager at Roger's Gardens, Corona del Mar.

Ask Ron


How do I know when the fruit are ripe on my avocado tree?

Julie, Newport Beach


Avocadoes produce a unique fruit, called climacteric; bananas are another. These fruit mature on the tree, but only ripen off the tree. Avocados must be mature to ripen properly. Avocados that fall off the tree will ripen on the ground, but you don't need to wait that long. Once you believe the fruit has reached full size and maturity, pick a couple and bring them indoors to a shady kitchen counter, not the refrigerator. Mature fruit will soften within five to eight days. If the fruit don't soften, they're probably not mature, so try again in a couple more weeks. In many cases, avocados can be left on the tree for several months, with no loss in flavor. But if the fruit remains unpicked for too long, it will fall to the ground.

ASK RON your toughest gardening questions, and the expert nursery staff at Roger's Gardens will come up with an answer. Please include your name, phone number and city, and limit queries to 30 words or fewer. E-mail, or write to Plant Talk at Roger's Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, CA 92625.

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