Garden News

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  • 19 Dec 2018 10:09 AM | Anonymous

    Registration deadline: Monday January 21, 2019 Deadline extended to Wednesday, January 23!

    Are you interested in gardening? Do you enjoy meeting new people and volunteering in your community? If so, we hope you’ll join our Volunteer Garden Steward training program! We are seeking community members who can assist with the leadership of our 2-hour volunteer gardening sessions on Saturday mornings. With support from our experienced garden leaders, Garden Stewards will help guide small groups of volunteers in the care of Central Park Gardens. Our volunteers typically include many UC Davis students seeking volunteer service opportunities, UC Master Gardeners, and community members from a wide range of ages and backgrounds.

    Join the Garden Steward training program to be held from 9 am to 1pm on Saturdays—January 26, February 2, and February 9.  Training will be led by experienced horticulturists and educators Emily Griswold, Taylor Lewis, and Stacey Parker. Hands-on gardening training topics will include pruning, planting, weed identification and control, mulching, and perennial and grass care. Trainees will also learn background information about Central Park Gardens as well as leadership skills and tips for engaging volunteers in the garden. After completion of the training, Garden Stewards will be asked to commit to assisting with Saturday morning volunteer gardening sessions at least once a month for a year. We are requesting a $30 training fee to cover materials, and scholarships are available.

    Central Park Gardens is located on B Street between Third and Fourth Streets in downtown Davis. We are a completely volunteer developed and run organization. Volunteers work to create our inspiring demonstration gardens and engaging educational programs. These community resources aim to motivate home gardeners in the region to adopt more sustainable gardening practices. Our dedicated volunteers come together to care for the gardens and in the process have lots of fun, meet like-minded people, learn more about gardening, and have the joy of contributing to a community treasure.

    Register today! Click here to sign up for the Garden Steward training.

    Our 2017 Garden Steward Training participants said...

    "Excellent training. Really enjoyable with a comfortable learning atmosphere."

    "I learned so much in the training, and I can't wait to use and share my new skills."

    "This training and everyone involved was fantastic - very uplifting!"

  • 29 Aug 2018 8:38 PM | Anonymous

    Amaranthus hypochondriacus

    Amaranthus hypochondriacus is the beautiful annual that you see in our gardens from July until late fall when it dies back because of frost.  Prince’s-feather and Prince-of-Wales feather are also common names for this plant.

    The plant is known to have been a staple food of the Aztecs and used in their rituals.  There is some evidence that early Native Americans grew it as a crop.

    The leaves of the plant and the seeds are a food source and a red pigment derived from the plant has been used as a food coloring.

    Enjoy this lovely ornamental but beware –it is a vigorous self-seeder!

    Source:  Encyclopedia of Life and Plants for a Future

  • 28 Aug 2018 9:45 PM | Anonymous

    Plant lovers take note -- Central Park Gardens of Davis is starting Seasonal Theme Tours at the gardens on Sunday afternoons. The first tour will be Sunday, September 9, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. The tour is free, but a reservation is required and can be made at Space is limited.

    What to expect -- This first tour will emphasize fall planting and attractive water-wise fall plants. The tour will be led by volunteer docents from the UC Master Gardener program who are well-versed in the history, design, plants, and special features of each of the seven themed gardens that make up Central Park Gardens. Participants will gather for an introduction to the gardens at the entrance to the Rose and Flower Garden. The tour will proceed through the gardens, and finish at the starting point for lemonade and cookies and a question-and-answer session.

    Ultimate goal -- Quarterly Seasonal Theme Tours will also be held on a Sunday afternoon in winter, spring, and summer. These seasonal docent-led tours are being offered as a community resource to both visitors to Davis and local residents. Their purpose is to educate the public about sustainable gardening practices and plants that do well in this area through the changing seasons.

    Location – The gardens are located in Central Park in Davis. The main entrance is at the corner of Third and B Streets, adjacent to the Davis Bicycle Museum. The gardens celebrated its tenth anniversary in April, 2017, and the docents look forward to sharing the history of its success with the tour participants. The gardens are managed and maintained by community and student volunteers. As a 501(c) (3) nonprofit public benefit corporation, Central Park Gardens depends upon donations and membership in a Friends program for plants, equipment, and other garden needs.

    Join in the fun -- There are many incredible plants and art objects in the gardens. Come and see their fantastic qualities and join the docent volunteers in an interesting afternoon of garden education and delight! Make your reservation soon. Click here to register.

  • 26 Aug 2018 10:51 AM | Anonymous

    by Jan Bower, UC Master Gardener

    In 2013, a dedicated group of volunteers designed and installed a dry stream bed in the Waterwise Garden of Central Park Gardens. Dry stream beds have become popular as part of the environmental effort to transform lawns into drought-tolerant landscape. A dry stream bed mimics a natural watercourse and provides an artful landscape design feature. Stones and boulders are placed in and along a meandering channel or gully to look as if the force of water put them there. Along the edges are planted ferns, ornamental grasses, sedges, and small shrubs that give the stream a natural look and a cooling effect as they blow in a breeze. Although stepping stones, waterfalls, and even bridges can be incorporated into the design, the dry stream bed in Central Park Gardens is quite simple, with a couple of meandering curves running diagonally through the Waterwise Garden. The dry steam bed serves as a valuable educational tool for UC Master Gardeners to use when they give on-site community workshops on xeriscaping and Mediterranean gardening.

    Why would you build a dry stream bed?
    If you have an area of your landscape that is soggy, dry, hot, too shady, too sunny, or the soil is unfavorable, a dry stream bed may solve your problem. It can reduce topsoil erosion in areas where there is a lot of runoff from heavy rains, correct a seasonal drainage problem, or funnel excess water flow to a stormwater outlet or pond. With water becoming a scarce commodity and water rates increasing, reduced water use is being encouraged. A dry stream bed is an ideal replacement for a thirsty lawn or plants because it uses rocks, which add a natural looking element to your landscape. During the rainy season, the channel will fill with water, and you will have a real stream in your yard – but alas, no fish! Besides the practical aspect, dry creek beds can be attractive. In fact, some gardeners with absolutely no landscape problems build dry creek beds just because they like their decorative look.

    Where would you build a dry stream bed?

    Before creating a dry stream bed, look at some natural creek beds and observe the positions of the rocks and the overall scale of the beds. Notice how natural streams widen on the bends, and how boulders remain in the middle of the stream, while smaller rocks wash to the sides. If you have a slope or a drainage pipe, this is the place to begin your dry stream bed. A dry stream bed looks best if it follows an existing slope or a change in elevation, even if it’s not a natural feature of the landscape. It should also follow a meandering or curving path rather than a straight line. If there is a large landmark that you want to use as a focal point, build the mouth of the dry stream bed there, or have the headwaters appear to come from behind a large boulder or group of plants. Also keep in mind that natural creek beds are usually wider than they are deep. A ratio of 2:1 should look about right. For example, if you want a dry stream bed to be about four feet wide, make it about one foot deep in the center.

    How would you build a dry stream bed?

    First, determine how much area you want to use for your dry stream bed. For some, just a few feet will be ideal; others may want to cover an entire area. Define the shape of the dry stream bed by laying it out with a hose or a rope and mark the edges with landscaper’s paint. Remove any grass, weeds, roots, or other vegetation, and dig the channel along your mark as deep as you like, maintaining about a 2:1 ratio as described above. A rototiller can help dig the trench. Move the excavated soil to other parts of the landscape or mound it up along the sides of the channel to create planting banks. Tamp down the excavated soil with a tamping tool. Some landscapers like to line the channel with landscape fabric to prevent weeds from popping up; others prefer not to do this because the fabric can become exposed over time, particularly with a heavy rain. If you use landscape fabric, tack it down with fabric pins or garden staples and cover it with a layer of sand, gravel, or river rock. If the stream bed will carry water, the bed needs to be reinforced with stiff wire netting, and the rocks installed into the netting with at at least 2 inches of mortar to hold them in place. Fibreglass can also be used to hold rocks in a stream bed, but this is an expensive and more complicated process, and should probably be done by a professional. The advantage of using fibreglass is that the stream bed will last longer – probably a lifetime!

    Choosing rocks

    Choose rocks, stones, and gravel in a variety of shapes and different sizes, combining smooth river rocks with small water-washed boulders to make it look natural. Usually the rocks are in tones of grey and tan and mix well, but some colorful pebbles can also be added for decoration. Rocks should be in scale with the size of your yard and stream bed. For example, a small stream bed should not be overwhelmed with huge boulders. Place rounded small and medium-sized river rocks along the center of the channel to create the effect of rapids or ripples, but avoid organizing the rocks in any pattern. Add some larger rocks or boulders along both edges and in the middle of the stream to create an appearance of their being too heavy for the current to move. Put large boulders at the bends in the stream and to disguise the headwaters. For a more natural appearance, put some rocks on top of each other or partially bury them. Move the stones around to get the look you want and to showcase the rock’s best side. Fill any spaces with more river rocks. Spread fine gravel at the lower end of the dry stream bed to create the appearance of naturally-deposited sediment.

    Adding plants:
    After you build a dry stream bed, you can dress it up a bit. For instance, plants, such as lomandras and dianellas, will soften the edges, while small palms, dwarf clumping bamboo, and birch trees, leaning over the stream bed, create a very pretty picture. The use of native California plants adds to the natural appearance of the dry stream bed and reduces maintenance. To further enhance the bed, add a piece of driftwood, a gnome, or a moss-covered log. If you want to grow moss on any of the rocks, spray them with buttermilk and place them in a moist, shady area. Aquatic plants work well if you have dug a sinkhole or hollow somewhere in the creek bed channel, and it fills with water.

    What You Will Need:
    Landscaper’s paint
    Landscape fabric
    Fabric pins or garden staples
    River rocks and boulders
    Wheelbarrow for mixing the mortar
    Tamping tool
    Drought-tolerant plants

  • 12 May 2018 3:21 PM | Anonymous

    Spring Butterfly Excitement!
    By Judy Hecomovich

    On April 14th, volunteer gardeners were lucky to witness one of nature’s amazing events.  We spotted a Monarch butterfly on the milkweed in the Meadow Garden. 

    “Big deal,” you might say.  But it was early for one to be out and about.  And the milkweed sprouts were only about 6 inches tall. And there was more . . .

    Our interest grew as she stayed and visited one milkweed sprout after another.  We felt lucky that she stayed and we got to observe her for so long.  And it gets better . . .

    Finally we noticed that she was doing something at each sprout – her abdomen touched down on the stem or leaf. At last we realized she had left something there -AN EGG!

    Being transparent, each egg was hard to see at first, but with time, each one became more opaque and yellowish. Some of us realized that we had seen eggs last year on the milkweed but mistook them for aphids or other insects.  But now we knew they were eggs and not to be disturbed! We were watching the next generation of Monarchs getting started!

    You may have missed this amazing event in April, but don’t despair. This particular Monarch was early and there should be many more to come this spring.

  • 12 May 2018 3:13 PM | Anonymous

    A rainbow of colors!

    This beautiful flower is native to South America, hence its common name Peruvian lily or lily of the Incas.  The plant was named after the Swedish naturalist, Baron Clas von AlstrÖmer, by his close friend and mentor, Carl Linnaeus.  Linnaeus was the Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist who formalized the modern system of naming organisms. 

    Extensive hybridization between multiple Chilean and Brazilian species has resulted in the availability of flowers with a wide variety of markings and colors.  Named hybrids also range in height from one to four feet and have been selected for evergreen foliage that looks good year-round. Some cultivated hybrids are quite vigorous and can rapidly invade small gardens, so careful research is critical when choosing a variety to plant at home.

    This is a very popular flower for bouquets and flower arrangements where the plant is appreciated for remaining attractive in a vase for a long period of time. When harvesting the flowers in your garden, pulling the flower stem directly out of the ground – rather than cutting it – has been found to stimulate more new growth and flowering.

    Most cultivars available for the home gardener will bloom in late spring and early summer.  The plants require at least six hours of sunlight and need regular water and well-drained soil to thrive.

    Alstroemeria can be found growing in the Rose and Flower Garden, Meadow, and Waterwise Garden.
  • 24 Apr 2018 9:07 PM | Anonymous

    Eschscholzia californica

    Ever since 1903, this has been the official State Flower of California. In case you missed it, April 6 is California Poppy Day. Don't forget to mark your calendar for this annual state holiday.

    Common names for the plant also include flame flower, la amapola, and copa de oro (cup of gold).  The California poppy grows wild throughout the state.

    It is easy to grow, drought tolerant, and reseeds so readily that it can become weedy.  In natural conditions, it blooms most heavily from March to May. This bloom period can be extended with supplemental water. When the spring flowers subside, poppies can be cut back hard, and they will resprout and continue blooming through the summer.

    The plant is named after Dr. J.F. Eschscholtz who lived from 1793 to 1831. He was the surgeon and naturalist with Russian expeditions to the Pacific coast from 1815 to 1818.

    If you want to grow California poppies, plant seeds in the fall, since this plant does not transplant well.  The native bees and bumble bees will thank you.  They really enjoy this colorful native plant.

    Source:  WILDFLOWER Newsletter of the National Wildflower Research Center (now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas Austin)  July/August 1988

  • 24 Apr 2018 7:15 PM | Anonymous

    Q and A with Peg Smith, UC Master Gardener, Central Park Gardens Board Member, and vegetable gardener extraordinaire

    What are you planting in the garden right now?

    April and May are a great time to plant warm season crops. Here are some of the plants we are putting in right now:

    • Tomatoes (several varieties to demonstrate determinate, indeterminate, heirloom, hybrid, slicing, paste and cherry)
    • Eggplant (two globe varieties, one long)
    • Squash (summer and winter)
    • Beans (green and purple pod varieties)
    • Jerusalem artichokes - for fun and to attract the bees.
    • Peppers (5 varieties)
    • Pumpkin
    • Melon
    • Corn
    • Okra
    • Soybeans
    • Basil 

    We are developing educational signage for these vegetable plantings so that any visitor to the garden can gain information to help in their home gardening.

    Why is there a vegetable garden in Central Park Gardens? 

    Central Park Gardens' renovation, begun in 2006, was designed to deliver horticultural and gardening education to the public while providing an attractive and pleasant place to be. Encouraging home growing of vegetables in a garden or containers nicely fits with this educational focus. 

    Central Park Gardens has a small vegetable area but it is designed for as much educational punch as we can get. The area is divided into 4 beds which allows us to demonstrate the local seasonal year round planting schedule.

    There are several educational goals for the vegetable beds:

    -  to demonstrate what vegetables can be seasonally planted in our area

    -  to identify and educate about any pests or diseases on the plantings as well as least toxic methods to manage them (IPM)

    -  to educate about the observed beneficial insects and native pollinators of our area.

    -  to teach methods of soil conservation/renewal with 'green manure' plantings and crop rotation.

    Who gets to eat the vegetables? 

    We do get some 'public grazing' but any produce we harvest is donated to the Community Meals group in Davis that provides several free meals a week to any in the community who are in need. We recently harvested and delivered a load of radishes and spring onions.

  • 18 Mar 2018 6:10 PM | Anonymous

    Left to right: Steve Stombler, Linda Parsons, Paul Parsons, Bill Larson, Amanda Larson, Emily Griswold, Kerry Daane Loux

    The newly installed rose arbors were designed by Kerry Daane Loux, a trained landscape architect, who volunteered her time to help us complete the final element of the long planned design for Central Park Gardens. Kerry had the innovative idea to use cut metal panels on each side for their beauty and safety –she was careful to consider the size of the tiny fingers that might just want to climb the arbors!  The Central Park Gardens Steering Committee agreed that the ideal artist to fabricate Kerry’s design concept was Amanda Larson.  Amanda worked as an apprentice with Donna Billick and is a certified welder.  Both technically accomplished and a gifted artist, Amanda created the beautiful twining rose design for the cut metal panels. Her many skills were required to fabricate our beautiful rose arbors. There was even a special bonus - her father, Bill Larson, is a structural engineer who did the engineering for the footings of the arbor to make sure it would meet building codes.  Local landscape contractor Steve Stombler prepared the massive footings and worked with Amanda to install the arbors.

    Ten years ago, the Central Park Gardens Steering Committee submitted a master plan to the City Council for the renovation of gardens, and the arbors were the last piece of that plan. The arbors were made possible by a very generous donation from long-time garden volunteers Linda and Paul Parsons and were unveiled in spring 2017 at the ten-year anniversary celebration.

  • 28 Feb 2018 6:07 PM | Anonymous

    The plant labels in the gardens haven’t been updated for three years, and as you can imagine the labels began to degrade over time and the landscape changes. Thanks to a mini-grant from Thrivent, we were able to purchase materials for new plant labels that are UV resistant. Education is an important aspect of the gardens, and plant labels add so much; and, as an additional feature, we have added QR codes to the labels of the Arboretum All-Stars, so our visitors can find even more information about these plants.

    As a volunteer-operated garden, we rallied volunteers for a label party one Saturday afternoon, making 300+ new plant labels—we typed, printed, cut, and laminated-- while eating yummy food and listening to jazzy music. All the work to inventory, fabricate, and install the labels was done by volunteers.

    If you’re ever curious about the identity of a plant in Central Park Gardens but don’t see a label, snap a phone photo and email it to us at or post it to our Davis Central Park Gardens Facebook page.

    How Does a QR Code Work?

    A QR code, or Quick Response Code, is a 2-dimensional bar code made out of a pattern of squares. The codes are designed to be scanned by a cell phone camera and to quickly transmit information, such as a web address. If your phone doesn’t already have a QR Code reader, you can download a free app to add that functionality to your phone.

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