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Janet Wanerka

Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal, Inland
State: California
Business: Jiu San Bonsai West

Biographical Information

I am a transplanted New Yorker, excited about being in a year-round growing climate. I have been growing various genera since the early 60's and it is so much a part of my life that I would be lost without the access to working at it. I take classes on any horticultural subject whenever possible. There is usually something each day that gives me delight in my garden.

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.
Quail Botanical Gardens. We have been members since we moved to California 10 years ago. We have seen the Garden grow - there is always some project that they are working on. There is always a great deal of activity at the Garden and classes are offered for the various interests. They are committed to engaging the interests of the children as well as the mature, offering seminars, classes, huge sales events, etc.

Where can members get more of your advice?
On the internet and at the meetings of our local clubs.

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 on the southern coast of California in USDA zone 10. I gardened on Long Island, New York before moving to California. Zone 10 is a Mediterranean type climate.

How long have you been gardening?
Approximately 40 years.

What triggered your interest?
My Mother first triggered my interest in gardening. She raised beautiful African Violets on a windowsill which I remember admiring as a small child.

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
I really 'DIG' the raising of orchids, carnivorous plants, fruit trees, cacti and succulents, etc. I specialize in an Asiatic art form titled KUSAMONO BONSAI, that consists of plantings of wildflowers and grasses on slabs or in shallow containers. These are grown continually, not discarded after their seasonal growth has ceased. I, also, have and still do study Ikebana over the last ten years. In addition, I am fascinated with growing of very tiny Bonsai, which involves reducing the size of a plant to fit the size of the pot and keeping them alive.

Janet's Book Recommendations

It's in Japanese, but has excelent photos.

Bonsai - Kusamono - Suiseki
A practical guide for the organization of one exposure with plants and stones.

  Janet's Favorite Websites

What formal education do you have?
I have a degree in Business Administration, but I did not study any Horticulture at that time.

What formal horticultural training do you have?
Over the years, I have studied at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Clark Garden, Jiu San Bonsai Studio, Planting Fields, all in New York, the Ikebaba classes at the San Dieguito School District, the La Jolla Chapter, Ohara School of Ikebana, Ikenobo School of Ikebana and numerous other venues.

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
I love Orchids because they have always seemed to be an exotic plant. They have become very affordable now and available to the average grower. They are not so difficult to raise if you give them the culture they require, which does require a little research, but it certainly is rewarding when you succeed!

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
I hate spider mites!

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
I spend more than 20 hours a week on my chosen hobby, gardening.

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?
I only garden for pleasure.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
The San Diego Horticultural Society, the San Diego Bonsai Club, the San Diego Cacti and Succulent Society, the San Diego Orchid Society, the California Rare Fruit Growers, Hon Non Bo, San Pu Kai, Ishi Atama, The Tray Landscape Club.

What other biographical information would you like to share?

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
There is a fascination for me in observing a seed grow, mature and become a special plant in my garden. Ditto, cuttings.

What do you dislike most about gardening?
I dislike the fact that plants can't tell you specifically why they are not thriving!

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
Phil Tactill, my partner, has been the major influence in my gardening interest. He is a Bonsai Master, practicing the art for fifty plus years.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
I love to be in the greenhouse or my propagation house. The atmosphere doesn't get much better than that!

What is your favorite time in the garden?
My favorite time in the garden is in the morning; I like the light at this time of day.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
I really enjoyed touring LOTUSLAND. This garden

What is your favorite color in the garden?
Probably white flowers, although it could also be whatever is blooming at the moment.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
I guess it would be an Orchid, because of its exotic qualities and the challenge to grow it well.

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?
I love Manzanita, but it will not grow for me on the coast in California. We have a Coastal Manzanita on our property and it's thriving, but it is part of the Coastal Scrub that was here when we moved in.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
I enjoy gardening in anything that is loose, that can be thrown in the washing machine and doesn't need to be ironed.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
Gardening is better than a Psychiatrist!

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
My favorite TV gardening personality and friend is Tom Piergrossi.

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
What is the fascination of gardening?

And what's the answer?
It is a never ending delight to the mind, the eyes, the senses. It is the calm amidst the storm.

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
I guess a myth that is frequently cultivated is that you should never plant Bamboo because if its tendency to be invasive.

And, what is the reality?
If you really enjoy Bamboo, you should not be deterred by this because it is a very simple process to control its growth, merely by cutting out the new growths where you do not want them, while they are emerging from the ground. And don't plant the runner type, but use the clumpers.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
Someone that is adventurous in selecting plants, is creative and wishes to work some plantings that give a great deal of beauty and don't worry about making mistakes.

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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