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Pat Hammer

Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal, Inland
State: California
Business: Owner - Samia Rose Topiary
Get Monthly Plant Care Reminders From Pat: themulch.com/plant-cares?id=68

Biographical Information

I have a degree in Ornamental Horticulture with and emphasis on propagation. Over the years I have worked in assorted nurseries with an assortment of special crops such as orchids in the tissue culture lab, propagating woody ornamental in a large New Jersey Nursery, bedding crops in a nursery in Pennsylvania, cutting roses and even in a cactus nursery. I spent 15 years at Longwood Gardens, a large display garden in Pennsylvania. During my time there I worked in the production department and have grown all sorts of specialty crops such as cascading chrysanthemums, caladiums, primula, ivy, poinsettias, and many more. While at Longwood I helped to develop the preformed topiary program and eventually wrote the book, The New Topiary. I was the president of The American Ivy Society from 1990 to 2000. I came to California in 1992 and started Samia Rose Topiary which specialized in ivy and topiary. During that time, our business became known around the world for whimsical topiary. We created large topiary displays for many gardens around the country such as the New York Botanical Gardens, the Dallas Arboretum, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, and the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Our work was also featured at Cypress Gardens and Universal Studios in Florida. We worked with the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the San Diego County Fair. In 2005 I closed the business to return to my roots in public gardens and took the position of Director of Operations at Quail Botanical Gardens. This position gives me the opportunity to combine all of my past experiences and be part of a team devoted to inspiring people about plants and nature.

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 would have to say my favorite cause is San Diego Botanical Gardens (www.sdbgarden.org). It is an oasis of green in the middle of the crowded and bustling San Diego Area. It is a treasure that should be preserved for generations to come.

Where can members get more of your advice?
I write often for The American Ivy Society and I am active in the San Diego Horticultural Society.

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.
San Diego coastal.

How long have you been gardening?
35 years.

What triggered your interest?
At the age of 3, I wondered into a commercial flower field filled with millions and millions of Bachelor Buttons -- each one more beautiful than the last.

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
Ivies and Topiary.

Pat's Book Recommendations

The Ivy Book

The New Topiary, Imaginitative Techniques from Longwood Gardens
My own book.

  Pat's Favorite Websites

Quail Botanical Gardens

San Diego Horticultural Society

The American Ivy Society, Inc.

What formal education do you have?
Ornamental Horticulture degree.

What formal horticultural training do you have?
Ornamental Horticulture degree

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
Planning and designing whimsical and theatrical garden displays with or without topiary. I love the challenge of making an interesting garden display with what's on hand. I love the idea of making something that appeals to someone's sense of humor and gives everyone a smile.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
I have three pet peeves -- Mulch Brains -- people in my business that think you must speak in latin and know at least 3301 plants by their scientific names. Gardening should be for everyone and most of all it should be fun. My second pet peeve is Plant Police -- or people who want to take away a person's right to choose. I do agree with educating gardeners on the things that may be a problem in the garden or in the community but they should not be taking away our right to diversity in the garden. I also get angry when they preach with authority and they have not done their homework. I feel they often work harder on scaring gardeners and banning plants than they do on gathering the facts. Last -- my all time pet peeve is seeing black pots in Garden Show displays! Cover up the pot -- and keep the illusion!

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
Much less than I would like to spend -- most weeks probably about 4 hours.

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?
70 hours

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
Quail Botanical Gardens, the San Diego Horticultural Society, The American Ivy Society

What other biographical information would you like to share?

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
I love plants! I love to get dirty and most of all I love the feeling of being able to control at least a little piece of life.

What do you dislike most about gardening?
Getting down on my knees.

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
Over the years there have been so many really great gardeners in my life but I would have to say that a woman, Grace Jackson, taught me so much about vegetable gardening. She and her husband owned a big dairy farm in Nottingham, PA and they had the best vegetable garden I have ever seen. Grace and I worked together in a greenhouse, transplanting seedlings to be sold as bedding plants in Oxford, PA. It was one of the most repetitious jobs I have ever had. It was like a baby plant factory. Grace made the time go fast and I learned so much practical information about The Garden, not to mention that she also taught me much about raising two very active boys. Thank you Grace -- you will probably never know how much influence you had over me.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
I enjoy sitting in the old rocking chair on my back deck on mornings when the marine layer is rising off the coast for morning tea. That same spot can be a magical place looking at the sun setting over the ocean. It is a completely private area in my garden and it is surrounded with my eclectic collection of potted plants, tons of bird at the feeders and Simple's purple balls hanging overhead.

What is your favorite time in the garden?
Any time I can be in MY garden.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
Quail Botanical Gardens (Why?) You have to ask?

What is your favorite color in the garden?
It is still purple, but green is actually the backdrop for any purple.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
If I could only grow one plant life would be very very dull and frankly not worth living. But it would probably be corn since corn can be used for some many things like chicken corn soup, pop corn, corn fritters, corn bread and much more.

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?
There are several plants that I have attempted to grow and not been successful but usually it is not the plant's fault but more the gardener trying to grow it in a place or climate it just does not like. I would like to grow Hellebores and Estilbe but neither like my climate.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
Old sweats.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
Garden to make yourself happy. When it becomes a chore -- quit.

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
Tom Woodham, Garden Writer from Atlanta because his writings are always so wonderful. Felder Rushing from Mississippi, Garden Writer and Radio Celebrity --- he has the right gardening philosophy.

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
Where can I garden if I do not have a garden?

And what's the answer?
Come be a volunteer at Quail Botanical Gardens.

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
I have two myths that drive me crazy. 1) Ivies attract rats! 2) Ivies destroy mortar walls.

And, what is the reality?
1) There is absolutely nothing about ivy that attracts rats, mice or any other unwanted critter. The truth is any ground cover or planting that offer shelter or a place to hide is attractive to critters. They like the protection from the elements and the predators including people. 2) Ivies to climb by clinging aerial roots but they do not "eat" the mortar. Ivy roots may move into areas were the mortar has already eroded away but generally if the mortar is modern the ivy will not create a problem. It has been decided that ivy had helped to preserve some old brick homes by acting as a raincoat and protecting old buildings.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
People with a passion for finding the fun of the garden.

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.

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