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In about an hour I am visiting a friend’s garden in Newport Beach.

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I’ve never seen his garden, but after knowing him for a few years I certainly have a picture in my head of what I think it will be like.

My friend is a landscape water conservation expert, one of the tops in the West actually, and he invited me over to sit down for a few minutes and brainstorm some ways the city might encourage its residents toward even greater water conservation. But, he also invited me over simply to see his garden. I’m certainly looking forward to the visit.

But I’m not quite so sharing with my own garden.

Although I love my garden, I consider it “my” garden. The plants, the structure, the colors, everything – they’re what appeal to me. I’m a plant collector, a workaholic, a father, a nature fan, a businessman and like many of you, a cash strapped homeowner, doing my best to make a living. My garden is the outcome of all qualities and realities.

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Different people garden for different reasons. You might garden because you enjoy beautiful flowers, or perhaps to provide fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables for your family. Maybe you garden to enhance your home and its appearance or maybe because you need an area to entertain and a place for others to relax and enjoy. All of these are fine reasons to garden.

Honestly, I garden rather selfishly. I pretty much don’t worry about what others think about the plants I cultivate, the pots, the patio, the flowers, the colors, the textures, or any other opinions of what I have created. It’s not for them anyway; it’s for me – and the birds and the lizards. That said, I’m not disconnected. I do garden responsibly, doing my best to conserve resources, encourage wildlife and generally reduce any negatives of my gardening footprint.

So, although often asked, I seldom invite people into my garden. Instead, I would rather paint a picture of my garden; a picture created with words. Sometimes the illusion is more powerful than the reality. Sailing might be that way. An intimate conversation with a celebrity might be that way. A visit to Cape Town, South Africa might be that way. Space travel might be that way. And my garden might be that way. I do my best to keep the illusion alive; why spoil it with reality.

So, when Dan Songster asked my to be the speaker at this month’s meeting of The California Native Plant Society I’m not sure why I agreed. Dan is in charge of the programs at the Native Plant Society and is an amateur arm-twister of sorts. I knew it was a bad idea having a friend who is also in charge of programs and that worry became a reality when he asked me to give a program about my new garden. He said, kind of a “trials and tribulations of creating a garden”. I guess I said “yes”; my name is in the chapter bulletin.

If you’ve been reading this column for any time now, you may have formulated some images and preconceptions of what the author’s garden might be like. If you want to test those presumptions, then meet me at The OC Native Plant Society’s meeting on Thursday, September 16. There, I’ll be explaining the process and sharing pictures of my switch from a rather traditional 1990’s suburban planting to what it is now.

Although the program’s emphasis will be on the native portion of my garden, I’ll also be showing some of the other portions of the garden as well and discussing topics like irrigation, soil preparation, successes and failures and, of course lots of my favorite plants.

My hope, if you come, is that it will inspire you to make some changes in your own garden – perhaps by integrating a few native plants, encouraging some butterflies and birds or by experimenting with some unfamiliar plants. But mostly, I hope to persuade gardeners like you to simply follow their heart; to get started, and to create the garden they’ve always wanted.

No, I probably won’t invite you to my garden any time soon. We probably won’t sit down and chat about the plants, share stories and watch the birds. So Irvine meeting will likely be about as close as you will get to my garden - I have to keep the illusion alive. Nothing personal, I’m just not gardening for other people, I’m gardening for me.

The OC Native Plant Society meeting will be Thursday evening September 16 and is free and open to everyone. Doors open at 6:45 PM, with the meeting at 7:15. The Duck Club, 5 Riparian View, Irvine. From the 405, exit Jamboree south, turn left on Michelson to the 3rd signal. Right on Riparian View. Follow the signs to the Duck Club, ¾ mile from Michelson.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar.

Questions from Readers September 4, 2010

I need to divide and re-mount my overgrown staghorn fern. When is the best time to do this?

Sheri, Laguna Beach

Answer:

Staghorn ferns are warm-weather, tropical plants and enjoy the summer months. Staghorns grow quite well in our mild coastal climate and many species will eventually outgrow their container or mounting board. I would try to get this done pretty soon, before the shorter, cooler days of fall begin.

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