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Lucy Warren
Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal
State: California
Business: Garden Writer, Master Gardener

Biographical Information

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.

Where can members get more of your advice?
www.sdfair.com, www.springhomegardenshow.com, www.sdhortsoc.org, www.cglhs.org, www.mastergardenerssandiego.org

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.
Southern California, Mediterranean climate. Have also gardened a little in the San Francisco Bay area.

How long have you been gardening?
I started helping in the garden as a child, but when I married in 1987 and we bought our home my Dad's first comment was, "Well, now you have a place to dig!"

What triggered your interest?
We lived in the country and always had gardens. Mom did the flowers and Dad planted trees and vegetables. We were often out helping. When I was about six my father gave me my own row in the vegetable garden and I could plant anything I wanted. I chose carrots. He was skeptical of my success in the hard Virginia clay, but I watched and watered and pulled them up nearly daily, successfully thinning the row by curiosity rather than design. I can still remember the thrill when the skinny little roots started to turn orange. They were delicious!

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
Greasing the wheels to encourage other gardeners to try it and have fun. I'm in the background for a number of different projects and organizations. I love sharing my joy of gardening and facilitating opportunities for others to enjoy and appreciate plants.

What formal education do you have?
My educational background is in business, with a Masters in Marketing from the University of Arizona.

Lucy's Book Recommendation

Beds I Have Known: Confessions of a Passionate Amateur Gardener
I just love this little book. It's a compilation from her newspaper articles that are timeless and always make me laugh, even if she is a Rhode Island gardener.

Gardens of the Sun
Fresh and wry, great for Mediterranean climate gardeners.

Hortus III
I'm constantly looking up plant names even though it's really old now and there have been a lot of changes.

  Lucy's Favorite Websites

San Diego Floral Association
This organization has helped gardeners in the area for a very long time. In fact, they are celebrating the centennial of the organization in 2007!

San Diego Horticultural Society
This is a great place to find out about upcoming meetings and events of the organization.

State of California Agricultural Website
This is the State of California agricultural website with so much incredible information that is developed for California agriculture and gardening that it is mind boggling. It also includes our local Master Gardener information which I access with some frequency.

What formal horticultural training do you have?
Community college classes, adult education, and Master Gardener training.

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
I just love learning about plants and their wonderful eccentricities, adaptations and unique features. I cop to being a dilettante because my interests flit about from one fascinating thing to the next. It's so exciting and so much fun to share.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
My pet peeve is owners of dogs who allow them to mark my plants when they are walking their pets past my garden.

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
Far less than I should, my garden suffers like the shoes of cobbler's children, passionately loved, but seldom polished.

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 think it could be considered full time, but it varies.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
San Diego Horticultural Society (board member), California Garden and Landscape History Society (founding member and former board member), Garden Writers of America, Save Our Heritage Organization, City Beautiful (board member), Pacific Horticulture Foundation (board member), San Diego Floral Association (board member), San Diego Master Gardeners

What other biographical information would you like to share?
In addition to the plants, I'm fascinated with the people part of horticulture, particularly historically. Although the area has a relatively short history, the founders and developers of the San Diego area had incredible and foresightful people such as Alfred Robinson, Kate Sessions, Flora Kimball who were in contact with horticulturists worldwide and tried a tremendous number of plants in our environment. Some of the "new" introductions now give me a chuckle because I've seen them on planting lists from 100 years ago.

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
Constantly discovering (and often buying) new plants.

What do you dislike most about gardening?
Discarding plants that have passed their peak, pulling out the roots of a once or current living thing (weeding). While it gives me great satisfaction to tackle a project and see it completed, the necessity for it to be done again comes much too soon.

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
Wow, there are so many mentors. Carol Greentree encouraged my early forays into garden writing. Pat Welsh is always such a joy. Vince Lazaneo is a true inspiration. These people and so many others are full of knowledge and are so willing to share. But I think reading the writings of Kate Sessions really set me down my track nearly two decades ago.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
I spend the most time in my garden in the front yard, it's labor intensive with no grass and seasonal chores, but it's also where I see neighbors and passersby. While I call it a meadow, it's constantly changing. I love just sitting on the patio. And I love looking out my window by my desk when I'm working at the computer.

What is your favorite time in the garden?
Anytime, but I think I like the early morning best of all, when the world is still quiet and beginning to awaken. I love the golden light in the early morning.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
A. This changes daily, but what popped into my head, and I've only been there once in December, was the Denver Botanical Garden. Even in a very off-season, it had a terrific energy and joy. I thought I saw the director, but was too shy to say hello and let him know of my appreciation. B. I fell in love with Balboa Park when I first moved to San Diego and I have been amazed that even as the staff seems to get reduced constantly, it is still a magical place. Sometimes I forget that, but all it takes is one out of town visitor and I'm back again in the wonder of my first discovery of each of its wonderful gardens.

What is your favorite color in the garden?
Green! And then every other color, too.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
Wow, talk about a tough question! I guess it would be a grafted stone fruit tree with branches for plums, apricots, nectarines and at least two different kinds of peaches. There is nothing like home grown fruit, producers just have to pick their fruit when it is too green.

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 haven't even bothered trying to grow peonies in Southern California because we don't get the winter chill they need to thrive, but I dearly remember my mother's in Virginia. They're wonderful. That was one annual garden chore I enjoyed, spending an afternoon disbudding the peonies so they would produce one magnificent blossom per stem.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
Spontaneously, I garden in whatever I have on at the moment, unfortunately this has led to the demise of numerous "good" outfits, so I try to remember to change into my comfy jeans or shorts and tees and grab a hat. Shoes are generally optional until I need to use a shovel.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
Most of all, have fun and try new things. If you don't like it, you can always dig it up later.

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?
"Don't you just love it?"

And what's the answer?
and the answer is, "I do, I definitely do! I hope you do, as well."

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
At least 80% of the garden books have people adding lime to improve the soil, because most soils in are acidic and in areas where there is a lot of rain. Lime increases the alkalinity.

And, what is the reality?
In Southern California we don't have that issue and lime is the last thing you want to add to our neutral to alkaline soils. Instead, if you're building a bed, dig in sulphur to reduce the alkalinity. It doesn't leach, so you must dig it in, but it lasts for a several years as it slowly decomposes.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
Home gardeners, anyone who loves a plant and is curious to know more about it.

About the Author
Author: Lucy
Lucy Warren is a longtime regional gardening professional in southern California. She has written for many local and national publications, including a regular gardening column in the San Diego Union-Tribune. She has also been editor for California Garden magazine. She is a life-member of the San Diego Horticulture Society, a UCCE Master Gardener, and a horticulture chair on the board of Friends of Balboa Park. She is a sought-after speaker and expert on native plants and sustainable landscaping.
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