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Brenda Gousha

Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal, Inland
State: California
Business: Owner - Sisters Garden Room

Biographical Information

I started gardening when I was nine, to 'help' my mom. I really liked the peace and quiet. I attended Cal Poly, SLO, majored in Ornamental Horticulture. I Graduated with honors, Class of 1980. I managed and developed a Ranch for six years out in Bonsall, planted lots of trees, gained tons of experience with water systems, heavy equipment, roads and drainage systems. Since then, I have worked in Rancho Santa Fe as a garden designer, consultant. We also maintain estates.

Please tell us briefly about your favorite cause/business/product in which you are involved that you would like to share with the general public and why.
I love trees. We need to plant trees more wisely, make better choices. We need to prune and care for trees with more knowledge and expertise. I am also interested in letting the public know about our new garden website. It is based on our decades of experience gardening. We also sell great garden tools and accoutrements that we have used for years in our business.

Where can members get more of your advice?
Our website, sistersgardenroom.com has a tip section and also sections on garden projects, favorite plants and trees. We also will have a seasonal garden travel article. So this would be a great resource for all gardeners. They can also email me with simple garden questions.

I'm also currently teaching a class at Mira Costa College on plant identification.

Background Information

Briefly describe the climate where you garden now (climate zone, state, area) and any other areas where you have gardened in the past.
I garden in Escondido, CA. We live on a frost free hill, with very good air circulation. Very warm summers are the only challenge. I have also gardened in the foothills of the Sierras (CA). Very hot summers. Nice winter climate. Frost. I have also gardened in the Ozarks. Hot humid summers, cool to cold winters. Not much snow. We could grow old favorites like lilacs, peonies etc.

How long have you been gardening?
41 years. I started when I was nine.

What triggered your interest?
My mom was a fantastic gardener. I grew up in a big, old adobe house with six kids. I think I used the garden as a peaceful escape from the noisy household. I was the youngest.

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
My specialty is creating and maintaining estate size properties. Another specialty is container plants. Also, we have had quite a bit of magazine coverage (12 articles in Sunset, San Diego Home and Garden and Veranda) Much of this coverage has been about the fact that we are two sisters who run the garden business together. We are also pretty good at creating cozy, patio groupings, garden vignettes and/or usable garden 'rooms' and spaces.

Brenda's Book Recommendations

All My Edens

Gardens of the Wine Country

The Rose Bible

Brenda's Favorite Websites

Sisters Garden Room
I am not kidding, there are not very many nice garden sites out there.

What formal education do you have?

What formal horticultural training do you have?
A B.S. Degree in Ornamental Horticulture from Cal Poly, SLO. With Honors.

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
Trees, using the right tree for the right spot. Appropriate tree placement. For example, I encourage people to plant trees, even if they have a view. Views can still be enjoyed, and in fact, enhanced by framing the view with the right trees. I also like to create living spaces out in the garden.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
The horrific but sadly accepted method of pruning that we see everywhere in Southern Calif. Crews go out with shears and shear everything in site. Plants are stimulated to put on new growth. The gardeners perpetuate the problem by continuing to shear. We wind up with odd, 'poodled' shapes. Most shrubs should never, ever be sheared!!!!!!

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
20 or so, depending on the season

How much time per week do you spend working at the business of gardening, such as consulting, reading, writing or talking about your gardening subject?
Full time.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
I belong to the National Arbor Day Foundation.

What other biographical information would you like to share?
The design work of Brenda Gousha has been featured in Veranda, Sunset and San Diego Home & Garden magazines. She is also included in a special edition issue of Sunset's 'Outdoor Living' magazine and the newly revised and updated Sunset Western Landscaping book .

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
Creating beauty. Peace, serenity. Free therapy for the troubled mind. Physical exertion. I love to work in cool or even cold weather.

What do you dislike most about gardening?
Physical exertion-ha! Hot weather.

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
My mother, because it was her escape from her busy life as a mom. Kate Sessions because she was truly a pioneer, for her time and also a tree nut like me. She took on Balboa Park and hand-waved the whole thing. I also do not like to draw my designs.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
Cutting roses for the house. Hand watering when I have the time.

What is your favorite time in the garden?
Dawn and dusk.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
There are many in England that I adore and am inspired by. But Stourhead is probably tops, because it is a classic, sweeping landscape type garden. I forget who designed it, but it is the opposite of fussy. There are vistas and lakes and follies.

What is your favorite color in the garden?
Green and white.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
Daphne for the green foliage and fragrance in winter when nothing else is blooming.

What plant have you tried to grow that has given you the most trouble? Or, what plant would you like to grow and can't, and why?
Oddly enough, I cannot seem to grow gardenias. My sister ignores hers and gets hundreds of blooms. I think I try too hard. I am also quite adept at killing plumeria.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
Gap denim coveralls, slogger hat and clogs.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
Keep it simple. Repeat shapes and colors. Gardens should be soothing. I want to hear people say aaahhhhhh rather than wow! Less is more. Green is often enough.

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
Ray Reddell is so fun to read. Unless it's entertaining, I usually won't read info about gardening. I just get inspired by looking at the visuals. Ray makes me laugh. Pat Welsh is a lovely writer. I also really like reading about garden travel.

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
Question: Where do I begin to learn how to garden?

And what's the answer?
Answer: Begin simple and small. Start by becoming inspired by books, magazines and websites. Get an idea of how you want an area to look and just concentrate on that one thing. A really good grouping of three pots can be more effective than a large, thrown together bed. So start small and start simple.

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
When I attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, there was research being done comparing the growth of plants using amendments in the planting hole, versus not using amendments in the planting hole.

And, what is the reality?
The research showed that plants will grow faster over the long haul without the amendment. The idea being that an amended hole is like a pot and the plant's roots will tend to want to stay in that small area and not go out into the virgin soil. I would like to hear other's opinions on this, but we do not amend individual holes. If we can, we try to amend and loosen up the entire area we are planting. If nothing else, a good topdressing works.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
Probably both the experienced gardener and the beginner gardener. We have gardened professionally for a long time, so have discovered some simple ways to garden in containers and beds. We also do some more intricate work, such as hedged rooms with arched 'doorways' that would appeal to the more seasoned gardener who wants an advanced project.

Would you like to participate, or can you recommend someone who you think should? We're always looking for more expert gardeners to tell about their philosophies and give their plant recommendations contact us and we'll get started (it's easy and a great way to promote yourself).

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