Future Programs:

Meetings start at 7:15 p.m. in the County Fair Building at The San Francisco Botanical Gardens You can meet the speakers for a walk through Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at 4:00 in front of the Strybing bookstore. If you're not a member, there is a Guest Fee of $5.

Click on titles of previous programs for written recaps of the presentations

Previous Programs

January 17, 2005

Broadleaved evergreen trees, shrubs and climbers
Presented by Sean Hogan, well-known horticulturist, author, and co-owner of Cistus Nursery and Design in Portland, Oregon.

Learn about the avalanche of species and forms allowing us to use new textures far outside of accepted boundaries from evergreen oaks with orange furry leaves, to Schlefferas and relatives able to withstand ten degrees F. and maples that look like live oaks to Mahonia species from Mexico that make great shade trees.

February 21, 2005

Seeing Color in a Different Light
Using black, gold and silver in the garden

Presented by Karen Platt.

World-renowned author of 14 books, Karen Platt was the first woman to have a nursery specializing in black plants 10 years ago. She now concentrates on writing about plants and the talk will be based on 3 of her books.

She has won an awards for her garden designs at the NWFGS and the SFGS and at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show where she exhibited for the International Black Plant Society which she founded in 2002.

Learn about how to use unusual color in the garden. Platt will select suitable plants for Californian climate from dynamic black and brilliant gold to stunning silver.

There will be book signings after the talk.

March 21, 2005

Botanical explorations in Taiwan with the Dendrological Atlas Project
Presented by Kathy Musial
, Curator of Living Collections, Huntington Botanical gardens.

The eastern half of this small island is a wilderness of rugged mountains and forests and home to a flora ranging from tropical to alpine. The speaker will share her experiences exploring a variety of habitats including virgin forests with impressive specimens of Taiwania cryptomerioides and rare species such as Amentotaxus formosana.

April 18, 2005

Modern Day Plant Hunters
Presented by Bobby Ward,
noted author and speaker, and President of the American Rock Garden Society

Many gardeners are aware of the "greats" of historical plant exploration, such as E. H. Wilson, George Forrest, or John Tradescant. Fewer of us may know the names of today's plant explorers or recognize the makings of a new golden age of plant discovery—the post-Cold War era—of which we are the beneficiaries. A visit to almost any nursery will reveal the bounty of these current-day intrepid plant collectors, whose handiwork enriches public and private gardens everywhere. In his talk on modern-day plant hunters, Bobby J. Ward profiles some of today's more prolific plant hunters and some of the many plants they’ve introduced and promoted. From the Czech Republic and the U.K., to South Africa and Chile, and to the U.S. and Canada, Ward has sought out those explorers in the private sphere who are collecting plants specifically for horticultural introduction through their nurseries or businesses.

            The talk is based on Ward’s book, The Plant Hunter’s Garden: the New Explorers and Their Discoveries, published by Timber Press in Fall 2004. The book covers 32 contemporary plant hunters and about a dozen of the plants each has introduced.

May 16, 2005


“Water-wise gardening”

Presented by

Susan Handjian & Christine Finch of East Bay MUD, recipients of the 2005 Annual Award for their efforts in promoting water-wise gardening. 

Presentation of Photographic Award of the Year to noted garden photographer Saxon Holt.

Silent Auction of rare plants.

Call Elsie Mueller at [800-884-0009] for reservations. Fee is $5 per person to cover event costs. Your dinner ticket & name tags will be held for you at the door. Bring your favorite dish [enough to serve 8]; your table setting & own silverware; plants for sale.

June 20, 2005

Rays of splendor: Passionflowers of the World
Presented by John MacDougal, Research Associate, Missouri Botanical Garden specializing in passionflowers and Professor of Biology.

John is a founding member of the Passionflower Society International, and with over 50 publications on passionflowers, he is considered an expert on the passionflower family. As a broadly trained biologist with extensive horticultural experience, he was manager of the Climatron, conservatories, and public greenhouses at Missouri Botanical Garden for 12 years.

July 18, 2005

Plant Exploring in South Africa--In Search of South Africas’s Woody Irids
[An Adventure to include encounters with a treasure trove of South African plants along the way]

Presented by Martin Grantham, Biology Dept. Greenhouse Manager at San Francisco State University, Horticulture Instructor at City College of San Francisco

The Woody Irids are a small group of fascinating relictual plants from pre-Mediterranean climate South Africa whose closest relatives are in doubt. Although reputed to be of difficult culture, they are proving fairly easy in the SF Bay area. In the genus Nivenia flowers of intense blue leads Mr. Grantham to call them “gentians on a stick.”

August 15, 2005

Buried Treasures – Best Bulbs for year-round color in California
Presented by Dr. Don Mahoney, Horticulturist, Nursery Manager, San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum.

The diversity of bulbs growable in the San Francisco Bay Area is quite outstanding. There are bulbs for bloom every month of the year either for containers or for planting in the ground. There are both winter dormant bulbs for watered gardens and summer dormant bulbs for dry gardens. They come in a wide array of colors and some are among the most exquisite flowers in the plant kingdom. By the right combinations, bulbs can be the dominant element giving color to your garden for much of the year. Both difficult small bulbs and easy landscape staples will be shown and discussed.

September 19, 2005

Foliage Color and Texture (or “Plants I like and How to Use Them)
Presented by Luen Miller of Monterey Bay Nursery

Luen began focusing on foliage plants after losing an argument with his wife about what color to repaint their house. (She won, and she was right.) After the house was painted, Luen had an epiphany about the use of plants as samples of colors and textures. The architectural style of the house invited a more Asian type of planting to enhance the overall look. His talk will include slides from gardens around Santa Cruz that celebrate planting for foliage effect before flower color and his particular love for blue and silver foliage, as well as use of many hardy tropical plants.

In addition, because of the distraction of work and the activities of his children, he had less time for weeding.Thus, he developed his philosophy of “Weed-fu,” one loosely inspired by the principles of Kung-Fu and Fend Shu, that philosphites that if you fill up all the empty space in a garden there is nowhere for the weeds to grow.
October 17, 2005

“Plants from the Edge of the World New Explorations in the Far East”

Presented by Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Mark Flanagan, Keeper of the Gardens at Windsor Great Park

In 1987 a storm devastated the parks and gardens of the south-east of England, a storm the like of which had not been experienced for over 250 years.

 At the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and its satellite garden in Sussex – Wakehurst Place – hundreds of exotic trees were lost. Such losses seemed irreplaceable as many were champion trees and of inestimable scientific interest.

 However, once clearance work was well advanced Kew began to assess what steps should be taken to bring about the renaissance of its tree collections following so catastrophic an event. The storm had left huge gaps in the landscape and a unique opportunity for replanting on a major scale was provided.

It was decided to accelerate Kew’s plant collecting programme to bring back authentic, wild-collected seed and Mark Flanagan and Tony Kirkham were charged with participating in this ambitious initiative. Their target area became the Pacific coastal areas of Asia out with China. 1989 saw them collecting in South Korea to be followed by Taiwan (1992), the Russian Far East and Sakhalin Island (1994) and Hokkaido (1997).

 In all over 800 collections were made in the forests and mountains of these floristically rich areas, many for the first time. In South Korea a wonderful form of the Japanese rowan (Sorbus commixta) was gathered as was the interesting raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis). Taiwan yielded a rich harvest of endemic maples, cobra lilies and the attractive and little known Astilbe longicarpa. In Russian the richness of the herbaceous flora was stunning with such choice things as Trillium kamtscahticum, the twin-leaf (Jeffersonia dubia) and the blue-fruited Clintonia udensis. Hokkaido provided a wealth of majestic trees, principal among them being the  monarch birch (Betula maximowicziana), Japanese wingnut (Pterocarya rhoifolia) and Japanese umbrella tree (Magnolia hypoleuca).

 All this material was returned to the nurseries at Kew and Wakehurst Place and distributed to many other gardens. Today these collections are taking their place amongst the diverse plantings at Kew and making a significant contribution to Kew’s scientific remit.

 Join Mark and Tony to hear about these wonderful plants and the people, places and events that made for four unforgettable trips now committed to print for posterity in their book –‘Plants from the Edge of the World; new explorations in the Far East’ published by Timber Press.

November 21, 2005

“The Garden as Sanctuary”

Presented by Lawrence Lee, horticulturist and co-owner of Plantopia Nursery, Danville, California which specializes in unusual plants that are suitable for the entire Bay Area. Lawrence will also have a marvelous selection of rare and unusual plants for display and sale.

From the beginning of civilization gardens have provided sanctuary, as places of beauty, solace, refuge, and creativity. This illustrated slide lecture will explore some of the unique ways gardeners have created sanctuary, from those of ancient Babylon to present day gardens with all their individuality and eccentricity. A special focus will be on how plants nourish our senses and souls and how they can play an important role in creating your own personal sanctuary. Lawrence will also have a marvelous selection of strange and wonderful plants for display and sale.

We humans are so complex, we seek and need sanctuary in myriad of different ways, which sometimes seem logical and complimentary but other times are not.

Sanctuary in space and time

Sanctuary in medieval times it was a place where one could find refuge from creditors, murderers, or anyone else after you. In these days our gardens it might be a refuge from your boss, your children, your spouse, your neighbors, or even yourself.

*Privacy: walled gardens, safety

*Openess, freedom: expansiveness

* height: Gardens of Babylon, Rockefellar Center

*Freedom from our cognitive minds, our thinking, planning, rational, practical self.


*From heat, wind, noise: Islamic Gardens
I hate the hot sun, I hate being in the hot sun, I hate working in the hot sun, something I didn't tell the manager of the botanical gardens at Berkeley when I applied and got the position for taking care of New and Old World Desert Plants.

*Sanctuary in time: how do or can gardens provide a sense of timelessness? freedom from the demands of life, our schedules, our experiences in the garden are unplanned, unpredictable, and as life can only be at its best, spontaneous and in that we can loose our sense of control and demand. I know of an eminent plantsman who when he comes home to his garden, no matter who or what might be waiting for him, goes first to his garden as if nothing else mattered.

Sanctuary as an Escape from Reality into fantasy, or simply diversion

* Mazes: if only temporarily
*Chinese Gardens meant to disorientate
*Garden follies? Simulated landscapes


Sanctuary for the (delight of the) senses

*Visual, beauty eye candy, stimulation to

*Hearing: The sound of water, rustling of leaves, the absence of sound

*Smell: Roses, chapparal,

slides: Women smelling roses

*Touching: the opposite of don't walk, don't talk, don't run,

*Tasting/eating/imbibing: taking something physically into ourselves of the garden; there is something very metapysical if you will of taking something into our bodies from the garden, which nourishes our bodies and our souls.

*place to do physical, practical, beneficial, and profitable work: slide of gardeners at work in a medieval garden


*Garden to inspire, raise one thought to high ideals, of the to combat the tyranny or infamy of the world, Garden of British Worthies.
*Gardens as places of memory, or memorial if your will
*Gardens can celebrate places and gardens that have touched your deeply or places or dreams that you deeply long for
*I.e. the perfect place, the most lovely garden: Ninfa, south of Rome, or Les quatre Vent along the St. Lawrence seaway outside Quebec

* a place for good friends, good food, and good conversation which feed and stimulate our minds, which overwelm us with feelings of stimulating conversation. How does a garden banquet differ from one in a dinning rooms, there is a sense of freedom, relaxation, and comfort, informality, and most of all beauty.

SANCTUARY FOR THE SPIRIT: something which is not easily definable or described.

Sanctuary in the Sacred beyond ourselves

*Walking the Sacred Path: a place of healing, of prayer

* To embrace the mysteries of the Cosmos: Lake Tai Stone: seeking myteries

*Zen: A place of meditation, stillness, quiet, beauty.

* A place of oneness with nature to connect ones life as part of the continuity and antiquity of life as well as the and fleeting nature of all life: Japanese love of ephemeral flowers: image of Taxus at Stourhead, and plum blossoms

* to connect us with the seasons: What in your life experiences reminds you of the seasons you have experienced in life

*Arisaema a rite of spring, something coming out of the underworld, myserious, almost unsettling, certainly forceful, connects us with time immemorial

* a feeling of peace which must somehow coexist with the chaos of the world.

Sanctuary as a place to find ourselves, our truest selves

*We are as gods in our our garden, we create our own world

cf. Sanctuary as a place to loose ourselves, our cares, our worries, our responsibilities, the harsh realities of our lives.

Sanctuary as places of creativity

Sanctuary as a place of healing

Sanctuary as places of fantasy

Programs from 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006