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Walnut Creek Magazine


May 11, 2020 08:11PM ● By Patrice Hanlon

Bouquets of flowers welcome us into the world, help us celebrate life, and honor those who leave us. Food nourishes our bodies, but flowers feed the soul. California’s Mediterranean climate sets the scene for a palette of plants as diverse as the people who live here. This equates to a year-round abundance of plant material for creating bouquets with a bit of wildness and whimsy from garden bounty – from vines and Meyer lemons to succulents and ranunculus. Combine common shrubs like dogwood or manzanita with seasonal flowers found at the farmers market or grow some of your own. Snapdragons, foxgloves, zinnias, anemones, and poppies flourish in our area.

But don’t leave your searching to only your garden. Urban foragers find beauty all around for bouquets—lichen-covered oak branches littering the ground, small cones, peeling Eucalyptus bark, and twisted grapevines woven into unstructured arrangements with fruits, flowers, and grasses.

For inspiration and ideas take a walk and see and see what is unfolding outside, visit the local farmers' markets or check out Debra Prinzing’s book, Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden or Linda Beutler’s Garden to Vase, Growing and Using Your Own Cut Flowers.

The dirt on our soil

To understand it lookup. Stand outside and look for Mt. Diablo. The soil we live on has washed away and eroded from the rocky mountain and combined with organic matter from decomposed plants, earthworms, and fungi over ten thousand years of washing away from wind, rain, streams, and floods.

Mt. Diablo is not a volcano, rather it is a big rock that has been pushed around by plate tectonics, poking through the earth like a groundhog. In fact, we know that this entire region was underwater for millions of years.  Lime Ridge and Shell Ridge got their names from deposits of marine life found on the hills.

Our fertile clay soil is called alluvial and while a good place to build a house, the tiny uniformity of the particles makes it tight and tough to work in the garden. Digging our concrete-like soil is not easy, but preparing the soil for plants is probably the most vital step aside from watering.

Good soil needs a variety of particle sizes to allow for aeration and root growth, moisture retention. and sufficient drainage. Turn, chop, and till the soil then add organic matter such as compost. It takes some grit to open it up for aeration and drainage—grit may be sand, crushed rock, pumice or perlite. Not all plants are created equal so do your homework and prepare to get dirty.

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