Sombreuil Climbing Rose 1850

Friday, July 11, 2014

What's In Season, A Tribute to Wayne Matthews

Dear Ones

Baker Nursery devotees 
Fellow Master Gardeners and
especially Fruit and Rose Lovers

It is with bittersweet sadness, gratitude and delight that I write to you about the passing of Wayne Matthews.  Sunday evening I received a call from his Baker co-worker, Master Gardener Carolyn Hills, that Wayne had been found collapsed beside his car outside of his gym.  No one was able to revive him.  Since we were out of town we were not able to access our contact list to let you all know.  Here is some of what we have learned from him  All of what we have learned going forward.  Following  is the obituary  link.

Wayne had an effervescent personality, always a smile as big and warm as the Sun we often spoke under.  We first got to know Wayne while haunting what we called  "the annual bare root rose fest at Baker Nursery".  We bonded immediately when he learned that we,  like he had in California, grow and sell fragrant roses.  To Wayne and us, why buy no fragrance when there are so many lovely looking and fragrant choices.  He though was also adept at growing roses in pots here in the Valley of the Sun, a skill we have yet to learn.  In addition to working at Baker Nursery Wayne was caring for and living with his parents and often spoke of the 100+ roses he tended at their home in pots!  

One hot day at Baker's he asked if we'd still be at the nursery in 30 minutes. We answered , "Yes!".  We laughed that Baker Nursery was a second home.  When he returned from lunch, it was with  large icey cold tea  for us.  So touched by this gesture.  Bought while he was out for his lunch break.  Thank you, Wayne.

While we have been known to accompany people on rose buying trips, we knew we could recommend friends and clients to him and know that they would get a grand tour and education to find the perfect rose.  Thank you again, Wayne! 

A year and a half ago when we were unable to prune the roses due to injuries in a car accident. Wayne came on his vacation to help get the work done.  It was not easy work, but 2/3 of it was done by the time his back prevented him from finishing.  Thank you again, Wayne.

His knowledgable enthusiasm didn't stop at roses.  No!  Tomatoes were also big on his list.  So during what we called "the annual tomato fest at Baker Nursery" he also provided suggestions of various varieties that he was familiar with.  We told Wayne that we had discovered how to pronounce, the tomato "Stupice", formerly known as [stu-peace].  The "Stupice" tomato now known as  [stu-peach-ka].   Wayne greeted us during tomato season with a loud call, of "Stu-peach-ka!" fist  thrust into the air, a tomato war cry.  His joy and enthusiasm was contagious and so we returned in kind with the same "tomato war cry".  Thank you again, Wayne!  

Tomatoes and roses were not our only shared love - fruit trees -  purchased from what we called "the annual fruit tree fest at Baker Nursery".  Those of you who have been to Tre Soli know that we have about 4 dozen fruit trees and over 200 rose bushes and rose trees.  Many of those fruit trees were suggestions from Wayne of fruit that he believed you "have to have".  Right now the one that is most distinct in my memory is his waxing poetic for the "Peter's Honey Fig".  Unlike the more common "Brown Turkey" and "Black Mission" figs, "Peter's Honey" turns yellow when it ripens.  Our three fig trees are now in their fourth summer in the Tre Soli gardens.  As it would happen to my bittersweet delight the"Peter's Honey Fig" has just really started to ripen this week when we returned after Wayne's death.  After four years they have finally come into a prolific season.  They are so sweet and unexpectedly juicy.  Much like seeing Wayne at Baker's.  The figs are in but Wayne is not.   I would love to share them with him.  While it takes many hands, our garden is sweet in no small part because of you, Wayne.  Thank you so much.

Friday we will be attending the celebration of Wayne's life, otherwise our Front Door Honor Market would have been open to sell these lovely figs.  Instead we will be harvesting to share with Wayne's friends and family.  If you too were a beneficiary of Wayne's vast knowledge and big grin we may see you there.  Come share a hug.  His absence leaves a big hole in our and in the gardening community's hearts.

With Gratitude

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How To Tell If You Are ...

...A Dedicted Gardener

Your smart phone has photos of ideas  from other people's gardens like this...

Or your smart phone is full of photos of your garden fruit ripening like this... 

Or your smart phone is full of photos of your flowers like this...

Or you even find yourself taking photos of a bucket of dead headed roses like this…

Or your car has passengers that look like this...

Or your cargo area continually has loads that look like this...

Or you find yourself needing to become a space puzzle master because of loads like this...


…and this...

And your purse looks like this!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Good Morning Sunshine!

A vase, bottle, jar, or dish of these by the bed or the bathroom sink perhaps on the breakfast table.  Ahhh.  Good Morning Sunshine.
"If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need."
What is it that makes you feel you have everything you need?
Your children, beloved, you dog (s), cat (s)?
Your faith, freedom, family?
How simple can your life be and feel like more?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sometimes A Gardener Needs A Little...

 bite of this

and that. 

The dinner bell is ringing!


Always a thrill to get a jump on the birds!  While poking around in the fruit trees checking on the figs we noticed a lot of bird chatter in the peach next door.  Horrified (yes, horrified) that we might miss out on all the ripe peaches, investigation was necessary!  Fortunately only one was ripe and none have been pecked…yet.  It will take twice daily vigilance to protect our peaches so that the farmers get their fair share.

   It was tiny but sweet and juicy.

You see birds chattering in ripening fruit trees could mean a picnic for them!  My 20 something friends & I had a tradition in the 70's midwest to have an "ice cream social" when the peaches were ripe.  It was so "old fashioned" to do that & we liked "old fashioned".  That meant lots of home made ice-cream topped with peaches and whatever berries were also ripe, while swinging or rocking on the wrap around porch with a glass of hibiscus sun tea.   It's been my dream to do that here with our own home grown peaches but the birds usually get so many peaches that it's always a very small intimate party for 2 or 4.  This year we want a larger party! 

And!   It is artichoke season!  We had a lot of them bolt last year so we let them flower.  There are photos of them on earlier posts.   Now we have about a dozen volunteer  "arties" this year.  They have been especially meaty with extra large hearts, the best part.   On the ground near the top of the photo is  where it looks like corn meal -  Palo Verde blossoms on the ground.  

Sorry we've eaten all of the asparagus in the garden before thinking to get some pix.   It never even makes it to the kitchen before being devoured.   If we have any more spears we'll try to remember to photo before eating.  Don't count on it, no promises about that.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Runaway Bunny On The Book Shelf and Runaway Bunny Carrot In The Garden

Did someone read The Runaway Bunny to you...100 times?  Have You read The Runaway Bunny to others - children, grand children, students, nieces , nephews and the children you babysat -1,000 times? We too have read that precious story of unconditional steadfast love... many times.  

Bunny Carrot Ears
(Lepus carota auris)
Today we saw carrot greens in a peculiar place up against the wall of the built in grill, yards and yards from the veggies beds.  Mind you the grill also serves as potting bench, prep table for harvest and currently has grape vines awaiting their crafters to come and get them.  

Look carefully on the ground in the lower left corner to see the carrot top

But why the one lone carrot?!  This is what I love about gardening, there's always a surprise somewhere.  We may sleep or go to work or take a vacation but Mother Nature is always out there playing in our dirt.


So the carrot…evidently decided to bloom where it was planted.  Part of the curiosity is who planted that bunny carrot?!  The wind?  A bird, cat or dog?  Or perhaps... it ran away!  Who knows.

Runaway Bunny Carrot on the run again

Where it is off to is anyone's guess.  If you see our Runaway Bunny Carrot or it's cousins, let us know, please.  And if your mom read The Runaway Bunny to you as a child be sure to thank her for her steadfast love today,  tomorrow and on Mothers Day (Hint it's on May 11 this year.  Now you have 2 weeks notice so no excuses).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Confused About "ORGANIC" Bunky?!

You're not alone; many people are confused and hopefully I won't add to your brain puzzle over the term "organic".  Why am I devoting all of this time to this subject?  I have heard disappointment come out of the mouths of people who went to their first famers market, bought "organic" and found the food to be flavorless.  They have said it was a not worth the money or the bother to buy "organic" and decided not to return to any famers markets.

As backyard farmers who even grow ornamentals using organic methods, I think that organic = flavor unfortunate is an example of misinformation.   1 eager but misinformed eater + 1 misinformed or misrepresenting seller (restauranteur, farmer, etc) = disappointment.  I hope to have a positive impact on that disappointment and bring the joy of shopping, preparing and eating back into confused consumers' lives.  Spring markets will soon be in full swing and I don't want you to miss out on any delicious foods because of misunderstanding.

Strictly speaking organic food is produced without using harmful or toxic pesticides, sewage sludge or petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from not-cloned animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.   For further clarification of this take a look at this poster:


In another nutshell "organic" refers to how a plant is grown.  In the USA the USDA regulates the right to say who is an organic grower, what has been "organically" grown and which foods may carry the "organic" label.  The USDA has third parties who may certify, like CCOF.  Only farmers whose lands have been certified (or are legally exempt ) may use the term "organic".  If the term "organic" is used you should feel free to ask for clarification.  When a grower has been certified organic they must prominently post such for their customers to see.  If you are interested in a local certified organic grower check out Maya's Farm at http://www.mayasfarm.com  Maya is a CCOF certified organic grower of vegetables, herb ad flowers.  Her food is organic and delicious.  She has a CSA for those who love to eat organic but don't grow it themselves.

If a plant has not been certified to be "organic", it might be "conventionally" grown and it might not.  There are the many small scale and backyard farmers who are exempt and may not use conventional methods and do use organic methods but have not been certified as an organic grower.   They may have flavorful, nutritional food with little to no chemicals touching their soil or plants.

Many growers fall somewhere in between the USDA Certified Organic and the "conventional.  Can they use terms like "almost organic"or "have applied for organic certification".  No, that is considered misleading.   Or how about "better than organic".   No,...what does "better" mean anyway?  At this point in time the USDA does not consider "organic" to be a "better" product just a different product from conventionally grown.

The assumption made at the beginning of this post was that all organic food means more flavor.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

These onions we grew last year were sweet and never made anyone cry.  Not hot, no bite just sweet onion flavor.  And we happen to use organic methods and we are exempt but we do not call our foods "organic" but that is not the whole story to  the Tre Soli goodness.  Nutrition and flavor can be enhanced by both organic and conventional methods.  These characteristics are due to many things such as weather, soil, genetics and water, as well as nearby plants.  We can alter the weather's impact even though we can't impact the actual weather.  Did you know that Carrots Love Tomatoes?  Yes they do flavor and nutrition can be improved by planting the right plants together and it's a book too!   So if you want to know more about companion planting seek out that book by Louise Riotte.  Planting things with their companions can enhance flavor, yield and disease resistance.

Soil can be enhanced to provide more flavor, yield and disease resistance while using organic methods.  Genetics is up to the big guys, but it too can impact all of the characteristics noted.  Here at Tre Soli we never knowingly plant genetically modified seeds or plants.  Water can also be impacted by additions to and/or filtering of the water.  This too can be done using organic methods as we do at Tre Soli.  Knowing your farmer's growing methods  will tell you much more that any label.

And since tomato season is just around the bend for us in the desert, 
here's to your best flavored tomatoes ever grown or purchased!

PS  From the Mayo Clinic we have a nice tidy summary of some of the key differences between organic and conventional growing.

Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray synthetic insecticides to reduce pests and disease.Spray pesticides from natural sources; use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use synthetic herbicides to manage weeds.Use environmentally-generated plant-killing compounds; rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth.Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Sometimes they can be the sweetest part of our lives.  Some of the volunteers under one of our Palo Verde trees include Oenothera caespitosa / fragrant evening primrose, Penstmon superbus and in a fence pole bermuda grass!

Oenothera!  Oh my!  It's been years we've planted it by seed and transplant trying to find the perfect spot. Finally it loves the Eastern side of the Palo Verde tree.  It is known to be fragrant, hence the common name.  And we had sniffed a blossom or two along the way.  But to have a whole mound!  It's like walking into a kitchen of lemon sugar cookies.  Now who wouldn't love that fragrance.  It turns out we've even smelled a cologne with that same scent.  This photo is of the largest mound whose fragrance can be enjoyed from a standing position.  There are mounds scattered all about.  and look how nice plump  and round they are.  Prune happy neat-nics should be able to sit back and relax with their naturally round shape. We love their blossom shape - like a large white  4 leaf clover.  And there is a lovely blush tinge to the white.  The leaves are serated, in a way that makes them look like a "weed".  Weed is in the eye of the beholder.  So the plan now is to help the volunteers by drafting some more and plant them bordering a path so they can be enjoyed while moving.  Mmm volunteers.

Penstemon superbus.   The name says it all.  They are big and sturdy and long lasting on the plant and in the vase.  No fragrance but they pack plenty of visual punch.  At Tre Soli they are the uber volunteer.  They just keep multiplying by seed.  In the photo below,  look to the top center - that little field of penstemon is from one plant  3 years ago.  In the foreground you see what came of one more plant.  What you can't see is all of the little new volunteers scattered around.  Wouldn't these be stunning in big pots?  I wonder if they could do well.  Another research project.  And in the front of Tre Soli we have Penstemon superbus  growing from seed.  Another fleshy, deeper green penstemon.  And then the scarce Penstemon Palmeri, a large, fragrant, pale pink beauty.  When they bloom we'll try to remember to put those photos here too.  Who says the desert is just about cactus and thorns?!  Not me.

 "Hope Springs Eternal."  That's what came to mind when this was grass topped post was spied about 7' in the air.  How in the world?!  Amazing.

Now go out and volunteer yourself.  Be the hope that springs eternal.  Amaze yourself.

Monday, April 21, 2014


You've heard the whining about the gophers destroying roses, artichokes and asparagus.  Evidently one sweet dog heard the whining too.  So she got to work to remove the subjects of the whining.
Our oldest family member, Belle the Beautiful Black Dog, was born born in March of 1996.  We guessed she is part retriever and part Italian greyhound.  The Humane Society said she'd be a large dog…NOT.  This is Belle on her way from the "East 40" three years ago when she was 15 years old in "people years".   I wasn't sure what she had but I knew I had to get the camera out.
This is her proudly bringing her prize, a gopher. Amazing what a soft mouth she had.  You go girl!

One year after this photo was taken Belle chased coyotes (3) away from the formal back yard, out of the horse corrals and back onto the trails at the ripe old people age of 16 years.  Too bad the weapon of choice was a nearby rake and not a camera.

Sign of a dedicated gardener?  Dirt under the nails (toes and fingers).  In Belle's case it was ring around the nose, in addition to the dirt under her nails… front and back, all 20 of them.  Who knew a dog with retriever heritage would be such an asset to farmers by being the hunter?!  She was always on gopher patrol…digging and digging.

Now just another two years later we have laid Belle the Beautiful Black Dog to rest after her 18th birthday.  Sydney misses watching TV with her while eating popcorn .

Layla misses snuggling, napping and sleeping with her Belle.

We all miss our best four legged gardener.  The artichokes are flourishing this year. The first of the season to be eaten tonight, thanks to our gopher getter, Belle.  The gardens won't be the same without their guardian.   To paraphrase…"If you have a library and a garden…and a dog…you have everything."  We won't be the same without Belle the Beautiful Black Dog.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If You Want Bees, Butters & Hummers...

then plant some of these

And these

And these

And especially these

And these too


These and many more work well in our gardens and they will for you too.  

Besides being such a delight to watch the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds land on the flowers for rest or forage, the pollinators take pollen from plant to plant fertilizing as they go. 
And that means more fruit and veggies for you to forage.  

What's that saying?  Oh yeah..."Nobody doesn't like butterflies!"  Now you know how to get the hummers without mixing solution and filling bottles….  Lay a spread of their favorite foods and they'll come.  
For more information go to  http://www.pollinator.org