Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall gardening tips for gay gardeners born without green thumbs

Fall gardening tips for gay gardeners  born without green thumbs.

Looking for a place to stalk the Great Pumpkin? Try

“I believe in God, only I spell it N A T U R E.”

—Frank Lloyd Wright, architect

Ah … fall is in the air. The mad hustle of the holidays is nearly upon us as our non-existent summer fades away. The light is changing and the mornings are darker and sleepier. There’s something exceptionally beautiful about fall. It’s one of the rare times in San Diego when you can actually see the seasons starting to change—green leaves take on warm hues and crunch beneath our feet; evenings are chillier and a misty fog blankets our seaside town.

I love to stroll my neighborhood at dusk, just after the sun has set. Little cottages and their gardens begin to take on a new appearance and everything seems to have a seasonal orange glow. Gourds are perched on shadowy porches and Halloween pirates and skeletons keep guard over picket fences. Plants are moist with dew and occasionally, when we’re lucky, there is the smell of rain. Glancing in windows you can see friends and lovers sharing a meal or huddling over tables preparing crafts and costumes. Fall signals a change and mixes things up for us a bit. Unlike the spring, where it’s all about renewal and growth, the fall is more about introspection. It’s a quieter time for us to enjoy being inside and a chance for us to tend to our homes and gardens.

Walking through our gayberhood I’m often struck by how beautiful some of the yards and gardens are—even in the fall. From exotic succulents to seasonal flowers, there are quite a few of us who have obviously been gifted with the gay green thumb. My partner David and I have not been so fortunate. We attempt to “garden,” but for us the endeavor should really be called “death prevention.” We usually have our standard quibble over whether to hire a gardener or just do it ourselves. I succumb to the theory that it’s meditative, and that by doing the work myself I am reconnecting with nature. But let’s be clear: There is a difference between enjoying a hike in the woods and fishing thousands of palm tree seedlings from your Buddha fountain. I’ve taken to naming certain plants and will often whisper sweet nothings to them, pet them and beg them not to die. We do a fair job pruning and wrestling with unruly vines. Sometimes it works out and other times it looks as if our trees have been struck by lightning. Occasionally I’ll call one of my more Martha-inclined friends for a gardening intervention, in which he or she helps me pull David and his electric chainsaw out of the trees.

Fortunately, for those of us less gifted in the garden there are plenty of local experts in our community who can offer advice on how to keep a garden fresh and tame this fall. Landscape designers Joel Berlin and James Kressley of Anandascapes have some professional tips on how to keep the lightning strikes at bay. “In the fall a clean-up is usually necessary for salvias and ornamental grasses. Many of these plants will get ‘leggy’ or simply turn brown by the end of the summer. When I see leaves sprouting from the bottom blades or stalks, I often cut them down, leaving the new sprouts to begin the cycle again.” Kressley said.

Kressley assured me that planting options are bountiful in the fall. “I always encourage edibles in your garden,” he said. “Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, collards, kale, greens, peas, spinach, beets, carrots, turnips, garlic, onions and lettuces are all great vegetables you can grow in the cooler months here in San Diego.”

Kressley also stressed the importance of knowing what plants are in your yard. “If you have Australian plants like the Anigozanthos or Kangaroo Paw they are used to wet summers and dry winters. You can either adjust the water amount for them or plant a complementing specimen along with it—one which likes winter water, like a succulent. The plants will actually “share” the water through the seasons.

In the spirit of the season I asked James where we might be able to source great pumpkins. “If you don’t have the space to grow your own pumpkins this season (and they do take a lot of space), I would suggest going to one of our local Pumpkin Station locations ( There’s even fun activities for children. The Rancho Bernardo location even has a 6-foot tall corn field maze,” Kressley said.

Special thanks to James Kressley for the seasonal tips. He and Berlin can be seen on HGTV’s “Ground Force.” You can reach them via their website at or at (619) 701-9875 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (619) 701-9875 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

— Jimmy Sullivan holds a B.A. in architecture and is the owner of CitiZen Design Studio, a design firm located in Hillcrest. Write to Jimmy at or visit his website at

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Acknowledgements: Jimmy Sullivan

Rancho Bernardo and neighborhood boundariesImage via Wikipedia
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