Note: The following was written following a leaf blower ban in the city of Los Angeles. The ban was briefly enforced and then ignored by law enforcement, even though it is still officially in effect.
The recently enacted ban on leaf blowers has given us a golden opportunity to do good.
Most gardeners – despite years of excellent service to their customers – never raise their prices. Even without asking for it, gardeners should receive a 2 percent or 3 percent raise every other year or so; that would truly be the right thing for their customers to do. But now that the blowers are gone and gardeners will be spending more time in every yard, they are definitely deserving of a raise. Since it takes at least 20 percent more time to work with rake and broom than with a blower, a 20 percent raise in gardening service fees would be more than fair.
Some people may scoff at the suggestion that they voluntarily supplement what they pay their gardener. But isn’t this really what it’s all about, after all – indulging in acts of unprovoked goodness? Besides, without blowers, the neighborhood may be quieter and cleaner, but our consciences won’t be if our gardeners are not properly compensated.
Much of the environmental movement suffers from this lack of perspective. For example, many environmentalists fail to grasp that the health of planet Earth ultimately depends as much on how people treat each other as on how they treat animals and plants. Are ecologists and environmentalists as reluctant to exploit people as they are to exploit rivers and rain forests? This is not a trivial question, but one that goes to the heart of the matter, where change of the ultimate global environment – the human environment – is concerned.
Hopefully the obsessive attention we give to endangered animals and plants will carry over to the human realm. Perhaps we will learn from the care lavished upon California condors and redwood trees that people, too, can be endangered when they are not given the attention, and the love that they deserve.
This is the coldest winter we have experienced in several years. Just look at the burnt bougainvilleas in front of the fast-food restaurant on Van Nuys Boulevard and Moorpark Street in Sherman Oaks. A large grouping of bush bougainvillea plants are brown (dead) on top. Bush bougainvillea are more frost-sensitive than vining bougainvillea, but their brown portions should not be cut back until new growth resumes in the spring. Plants cut back now would put out tender, succulent growth that would only be killed in the event of another frosty night.
A plant that is wise to avoid planting until the end of winter is impatiens. By now, most of the Valley’s impatiens have turned to mush, or at lest lost their color as a result of the cold. But impatiens are also damaged by hard, pelting rain, which, least we forget, usually falls in greatest quantity during February. Established impatiens may not be adversely affected by such rain, but the leaves of young plants may be completely destroyed by precipitation’s pelting.
Flowering plants that survive winter’s cold seem to benefit from it. A patch of blanket flower (Gaillardia grandiflora) in Woodland Hills has continued to flower abundantly through the winter; the colder it gets, the more gloriously the yellows and reds of the blanket flower seem to glow.
Many of the salvias also seem to flourish in winter. Rosy-leaf salvia (Salvia involucrata), which is covered with dark pink flowers most of the year, grows so fast in summer that its branches break under their own weight. In winter, this plant comes into its own – continuing to flower, but growing at a moderate pace.
Expect flowering plums, flowering peaches and flowering pears – trees grown for their clouds of brilliant blooms, but not their fruit – to benefit from the cold as well. These trees require a good winter chill to flower to their maximum potential.
Tip of the week: Observe the leaves of mulched plants for slug damage. Although mulch made from shredded leaves and wood chips is an effective deterrent to snails, it harbors slugs that chew holes in the foliage of certain ornamentals, such as hydrangeas. Where slug damage is evident, use an aged compost for mulch, rather than the rougher materials mentioned above.