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Garden Tips November 2014

Garden Tips November 2014

I am a late bloomer.  I didn’t know Gary Snyder had gone to Kyoto until just this morning.  I also didn’t start collecting unique plants until a couple of years ago.  I never appreciated Rothko or Pollock until a few years ago when a girl friend said it would be good to know about these guys.  I went to the new Anderson collection over at Stanford last week and was amazed.  The landscape is nothing to write home about but for the Goldsworthy sculpture on the Palm drive side of the Cantor Museum.  Be careful as you approach, you could fall into it.

Gary Snyder wrote about observations like how trees were cut in Japan just like here. How people are in ways like they have always been.  And how they can wake up.  For me, finding new plants to cultivate in my small forest container garden on my deck is as exciting as the estates around the bay area that I walk through for my work.  Size really doesn’t matter.  Attention does. And when it comes to art, in the museum or in the garden, the beauty is only partially in the object itself.  How we look at it is so important.  The questions we ask when we meet a new (to us) design or creation can take us many places we never new existed.  This months garden tips will be some of my observations.  If they inspire you to ask questions of your own, then I have done my job.

  1. I have noticed that depth in art and in a landscape is quite important.  To notice the contour of the ground where there is a berm adjacent to a swale, while subtle makes a big difference in the quality of the design.
  2. Layers of paint on a canvas make one think differently than if it is all on one plane.  The same goes for how plantings are placed, even in a small bed near a window. Windows are to be looked out more than in.  They also provide a frame for the view.
  3. Color contrasts and compliments create movement even when everything is still. To study color theory even just a little, we learn that placing secondary colors like orange, green and purple next to primary colors Red, Yellow and Blue causes a vibration. It reads as more alive.
  4. Pink Camellia sasanqua are one of few fragrant Camellias.  Because of that, for me, the fragrance is all the more special.
  5. It is important to have comfortable furniture in your garden.
  6. Over watering creates the same symptoms as under watering.  Knowing how much to give your plants demonstrates how much you care.
  7. Shopping for plants is different than buying plants. Try leaving the check book in the car. Loving without wanting is heaven, wanting without loving is hell.
  8. Walking in a garden with someone else shows us a different garden.  Depending on the person we are walking with, we can have a life changing experience.
  9. Everything can be explained mathematically.  Not necessarily by me.
  10. My parents said, at least a thousand times “look it up”.  Now I find myself saying it all the time.  Look it up. Develop the skill of asking questions, then find the answers.

Good Gardening

Jack McKinnon worked in the Sunset Magazine gardens for 12 years and is now a Garden Coach.  He can be reached at 650-455-0687650-455-0687, or by email at visit his website at

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