About the Author
Author: Mitch Shirts
Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal, Inland
I am retired from the Aerospace industry where I was a graphic coordinator. I am a founding member of the South Coast Botanical Garden Foundation and served on the board for 10 years I was a member of the Southern California Horticultural Society in the LA area was on the board for 20 years and served as President for part of that time. While living in Torrance I was a founding member of Torrance Beautiful Commission. I served on the board of the Quail Botanical Gardens Foundation and worked as a volunteer curator of the Water Fall & Stream garden for many years. I founded and served as the first president of the San Diego Horticultural Society. I photographed and produced the Trees of San Diego book and the second edition, Trees for a Mediterranean Climate.
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.
San Diego Horticultural Society, Quail Botanical Gardens.
Where can members get more of your advice?
The books: Trees of San Diego and Trees for a Mediterranean Climate, published by the San Diego Horticultural Society.
Briefly describe the climate where you garden now (climate zone, state, area) and any other areas where you have gardened in the past.
Zone 24, coastal with inland influences 10 miles from the ocean.
How long have you been gardening?
Over forty years.
What triggered your interest?
When I bought my second home with sandy soil and all slopes. I hired a landscape architect to draw up plans for my garden and I installed it. During the process I really got into it and became good friends with the LA. After looking at the plans I decided there was no mystery and as an artist it really sparked my interest. I started taking classes and continued for 10 years.
What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
Trees (produced 2 books on trees for San Diego Horticultural Society), Cycads, Bonsai, Plumerias.
|Don's Book Recommendations
Sunset Western Garden Book
Don's Favorite Websites
The Palm Society of Southern California
What formal education do you have?
I am formally trained as a graphic artist but have a history of life-long learning in the horticulture including plant ID and garden design.
What formal horticultural training do you have?
What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
Good Garden Design. I can appreciate a succulent garden, palm garden, cactus garden, or any garden no matter of the size or form as long as it is put together right.
What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
Italian Cypress because it is rarely used correctly in the landscape.
How much time per week do you spend gardening?
40 hours per week.
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?
At least 20 hours per week or more at some times.
What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
San Diego Horticultural Society, Quail Botanical Gardens, Palm Society of Southern California, Plumeria Society of America, Arizona Native Plant Society.
What other biographical information would you like to share?
What do you like most about gardening?
I like being outdoors with plants. I am just as happy pulling weeds as planting something new and exciting.
What do you dislike most about gardening?
I hate hauling away the trash. I shred everything I can but the rest must go in the trash --- I hate that! Second I dislike clipped hedges. I prefer correctly pruned or laced plants.
What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
While taking gardening classes one teacher had a great influence on me,Phil Chandler. He was like the father of horticulture to several of us. He taught continuing Ed Classes in the local area, he offered week-end walks, and taught at the Los Angeles Arboretum. Another great mentor was Jack Catlin, a garden designer in the LA area. He was a member of many plant groups and got me into Bamboo, Bonsai, landscaping, and much more. He was considered the #1 Bamboo expert during his time. He was also into Chinese and Japanese garden design.
What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
Sitting on the bench and looking down over my Vista garden.
What is your favorite time in the garden?
What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
Quail Botanical Gardens because I have been so personally involved with the garden and the people there. Also, QBG has the best Bamboo collection in the country. My second favorite is the Huntington-- again I am very personally connected. I know the garden intimately. The succulents in the spring, the palm collection is outstanding and the jungle garden is great. And my 3rd favorite would be the Santa Ana Botanical Gardens because it is a California Native Garden with great design and outstanding plant collections.
What is your favorite color in the garden?
Any color as long as it used in great combinations or any color that gives me pleasure at the time.
If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
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?
Bonsai junipers and pines. I just never figured it out so I gave up!
What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
Felcos on my belt, a hat because I am bald, pads for my creaky knees. Any old thing I can find like a faded t-shirt and holey pants. I don't dress up to garden. One most favorite is my Hortisexual t-shirt.
Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
If it is a huge garden, small garden or little patch -- do it right!
Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
How often do I water it?
And what's the answer?
The answer is one that no one wants to hear, "When it needs it." Look up the water requirements for plants you are not familiar with their requirements. Sometimes you need to actually check the soil around the roots to see when it needs water.
What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
And, what is the reality?
What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
Beginners -- people who are interested in horticulture but are not sure were to start or what direction to go.
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).