Region: Southwest
Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal, Inland

Brad Monroe

State: California
Business: Program Coordinator - Ornamental Horticulture Cuyamaca College

Biographical Information

Born and raised on a farm in the California Central Valley town of Hughson. Our farm raised canning cling peaches, grapes, walnuts, almonds and fresh market cherries.

I graduated from Modesto Junior College with an Associate Degree in Plant Science, California State University, Fresno with a Bachelor of Science in Plant Science and later received a Masters in Computers in Education from National University.

I began working in the landscape industry after graduating from college and I have been teaching horticulture and related courses since 1975. I began the horticulture program at Southwestern College in 1975 and then had the opportunity to start another program at Cuyamaca College in 1980 and have been the program coordinator since that time.

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.
Irrigation and water conservation have long been my main interests, but I enjoy all aspects of horticulture.

Where can members get more of your advice?
Cuyamaca College offers a full spectrum of horticulture classes and at the current time, I teach an introductory horticulture course and a principles of landscape irrigation class.

Cuyamaca College is located at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway, El Cajon, California, 92019 and we have classes in the fall and spring semesters.

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.
My small home garden is near Cuyamaca College just south of Jamul. The garden is in Sunset zone 21 but because it is on a hillside, it gardens more like zone 23. We have very few frosts but the summer heat is a battle.

How long have you been gardening?
I began gardening by putting in a back yard at my parent's house when I was in high school, which was over 40 years ago.

What triggered your interest?
I think my interest in gardening came from growing up on a ranch. I was always involved in plants and my interest just migrated to landscape plants when I found you could actually work with plants in some other capacity than farming.

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
Irrigation technology is my area of specialization. I have written training manuals for the Irrigation Association and Hunter Industries in this area.

 Brad's Book Recommendations

Flowering Plants in the Landscape

Landscape Plants for Western Region: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation

  Brad's Favorite Websites

Google Images
Google images, good quick reference for most plants.

What formal education do you have?
Associate of Arts: Modesto Junior College - Plant Science, 1968. Bachelor of Science: California State University, Fresno, 1972, Master of Science: National University, Computers in Education, 1990.

What formal horticultural training do you have?

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
Lilacs are my favorite garden plant (though it is difficult to pick out only one plant.) I grew up with lilacs outside our kitchen door and have loved them ever since.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
People that like their gardens perfect. I think some of the most interesting gardens are those that have a lived-in look. I compare gardens to homes; designer homes are fun to look at but the most interesting homes are those in which interesting people live and I feel the same way about gardens.

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
Unfortunately, I only get about 4 hours per week to garden at home, the rest of the time, I am at the college.

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?
40 to 60 hours.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
The Irrigation Association, California Landscape Contractor's Association and the San Diego Golf Course Superintendents Association.

What other biographical information would you like to share?

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
The sense of accomplishment and the anticipation of the coming seasons.

What do you dislike most about gardening?

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
A former colleague, Ed Dimond. He is a former University Extension Agent in New York and his love of gardens and gardening is contagious.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
Sitting on the back deck at sunset with my wife and a glass of wine.

What is your favorite time in the garden?
Sunset, there is no other light that makes a garden look as good as the late afternoon, early evening light.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
The Gardens of Versailles in France for their incredible fountains and sheer size, Kew Gardens of England for the history and botanical collection, Longwood Gardens for the conservatories, Boboli Garden in Florence for their covered walkways, the Berlin Botanical Garden for their horticultural museum, the Royal Botanical Garden in Sydney for its collection and beautiful setting, the Horticultural Mosaics of Montreal for their fantastic plant sculptures and the Isle of Mainau in Germany for the overall experience.

What is your favorite color in the garden?
I have never met a color in the garden I didn't like.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
Lilacs, I have loved them since childhood and the fragrance and flowers hold both beauty and memories.

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?
Delonix regina is a plant that would be spectacular in San Diego but our temperatures are too cool.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
For a gardener, patience is a must.

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
I don't watch TV gardening shows much, but Tom Piergrossi does a great job and is fun to watch.

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
What is calcareous soil?

And what's the answer?
Calcareous soils are those with excess free lime. This causes the pH to be too high (typically 7.2 - 8.3) and because there is excessive free lime, the pH can't be economically altered. Gardeners should choose plants that are tolerant of high pH, plant in raised beds or mounds of imported soil or in high visibility areas where raised beds, mounds or plant choices dictate otherwise, excavation and replacement of existing soil would be recommended. Calcareous soil can be determined by the home gardener if the soil effervesces when vinegar is poured on the soil. These soils are common in San Diego and often lead to problems with many of our common landscape plants.

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
It is more about farming, and the statement is that farming will destroy the soil.

And, what is the reality?
Soil is the growing medium; we can harm and/or help the soil by the practices we employ but the act of farming does not destroy the soil.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
Our program at Cuyamaca College is directed toward individuals wanting to enter the horticulture field as a career and this is the group I find the most fun to work with.

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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