Monday, December 28, 2009

I Love Susan Harris at Garden Rant

One good turn deserves another and that one deserves another one. Susan Harris, that super-nova ball of energy, knowledge and dry wit, was kind enough to invite my wife, Lin, and me to her home just north of D.C. last September, where I was delighted to offer some fresh design ideas for Susan's sloping, narrow, forest-surrounded backyard garden.

I guess I could have been polite and said, "It's nice," but, hell, why lie to a friend?

So I paced out and pantomimed plant massings that I thought would better serve her. A few weeks later, she e-mailed me a rough sketch of the yard I'd seen. Out came my trusty colored pens, and here's what came of it. I don't know the specific plants that will thrive in Takoma, Maryland, but I do know where she needed big background shrubs, where the border between her alternative lawn and ground covers should be, and the best place to pop things with a strong focal point.

Today at, Susan does a little show and tell.

Read on...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Don't Smirk! Santa Barbara HAS TOO Got Fall Color!

Don't believe everything you hear as a kid. It turns out that deciduous trees don't turn yellow and orange and red because forest dwellers paint the leaves by the light of a full moon. I vaguely remember seeing that in a cartoon, but even as a young child, I was skeptical. Where, I wondered, would the Keeblerians get all that paint? How could they organize and execute en masse? It's not like they could text.

Click for the rest. Some very hot color going down in the 805!

Friday, December 11, 2009

When The Temperature Drops, Look At Flowers

I was flipping through my digital images and realized that most of the recent "winter" images are some pretty hot. I figured it might help warm up my readers shivering their days away at home.

So I posted this tidbit at my Cool Green Gardens blog at Fine Gardening column.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

FINALLY - A Time Machine That Works!

And what a cool trip it was! There's nothing that makes my day better than traveling back 85 years and seeing how people of wealth AND good taste put the equation together. My tour of Casa del Herreo (House of the Blacksmith), the Santa Barbara area's newest National Historic Landmark, is captured in this recent blog at

Gorgeous pictures and an interesting story to boot!

Casa del Herrero article at

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Television celebrity for landscaping shares green tips in class

I'm a glutton for punishment, mostly due to my inability to utter the words, "No thank you, I'm terribly busy right now." Or, "GET THE @#$^ OUT OF MY FACE!!!" depending on my mood. So this fall I once again, overly-ambitiously, bit off more than I could chew.

I not only began my stint as a professor in the Santa Barbara City College Environmental Horticulture Department - inventing a rigorous 3-unit / 45 hour curriculum out of thin air - but also enrolled in Journalism 101, thinking I'd have time in my "retirement" (read "lay-off") to hone my self-taught writing and reporting skills. I only lasted a few weeks, quickly realizing that I wouldn't learn much without investing a lot of time that I didn't really have.

But lo and behold, Andrea Ellickson, one of my Residential Landscape Design students, was simultaneously enrolled in her own journalism class and thought I would make an interesting subject for one of her assignments. Her story was good enough to merit publication in The Channels, the campus print and on-line newspaper.

And a tip of my stingy-brim hat to Bilge Akinci for her lovely photo in my favorite garden in the whole wide world.

For your edification, here's the article.

Television celebrity for landscaping shares green tips in class - Features

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Use An Agapanthus - Go To Jail

Santa Barbara, my beautiful home town, has A LOT of rules and regs for homeowners. I did a bit of research into those strictures that govern plants in peoples' front yards. It's pretty amazing. Here's an excerpt from my column for this week....

Those Agapanthus in your parkway strip could land you in jail for a year. No, I don't mean your plants are going to rat you out for falling behind on your child support. But aiding and abetting a plant that can grow more than eight inches tall in your parkway is a crime.

That ten-foot tall, bright pink oleander hedge that keeps your front yard nice and private? Add your attorney's number to your speed dial. I see a possible perp-walk in your future.

And I pity da foo' whose juniper inches over the curb into the street right-of-way. But not to worry, you'll get to see the sun when you're released into the County jail exercise yard from 9:12 - 9:18 every other Tuesday morning.

Anything like this in YOUR town?

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Easy Garden Simulations - No New Software Required! - Fine Gardening

Here's a fun, new, useful post at my Cool Green Gardens blog at Fine Gardening magazine. I've used this easy technique to experiment with plant composition ideas, then present them to my clients.

All you need is a computer with an internet connection and a word processing program--though PowerPoint makes it a bit simpler.

When you're stuck in the house on a winter day, longing to be out in the garden, use your time to play with all your favorite plants without spending a dime or getting your hands dirty!

Click on the link below, learn this easy peasy technique and find out how to win a great book - Planting: The Design Book for the 21st Century, by Diarmuid Gavin and Terence Conran.

Easy Garden Simulations - No New Software Required! - Fine Gardening

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time To Unite In The Name of Ugly

The Hague prosecutes heinous acts like genocide and ethnic cleansing. Though the plant mutilations and acts of aesthetic idiocy I've uploaded to my Flickr site don't rise to that level, they at least deserve to be ridiculed.

Though beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some of you might look at the images and say "What's so bad about that?" I resort to my mom's dictum: "You have your opinion and I'll have the right one."

Thanks mom.

Brace yourself, ask the children to leave the room and click here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Santa Barbara Edhat : Look, Up In The Sky!

When I think of October I think of Halloween, which gets me thinking about bats. Naturally, bats conjure thoughts of belfries, which invariably lead to the topic of beavers.

Confused? There's a cure. Read the rest of this sumptuous tour of Santa Barbara's architecture and "roof toppings" at my recent blog.

Read Look, Up In The Sky!

Planting Design Lessons from Raleigh NC - Fine Gardening

Blessing or curse, I find it difficult to look at a garden without immediately activating the design teacher in my brain. I imagine it's no different for a film critic trying to watch their brother-in-law's home videos.

Tune in and see me apologize to a cactus on my hands and knees. Really!

Planting Design Lesson from Raleigh, North Carolina

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Win a copy of Designer Plant Combinations! - Fine Gardening

What a fun read this was! Scott Calhoun's book is now the first thing I reach for when I need a bit of inspiration on a planted design job. You gotta have this book!

You can win your own copy by visiting my blog at Fine Gardening Magazine and leaving a comment. Do it NOW!

Win a copy of Scott's book. Click over to my Cool Green Gardens blog.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

One Pill Made Me Larger: Tripping on Bonsai

Does the current economic downturn have you contemplating a career change? Have you considered taking a hallucinogenic drug? No? Let me tell you, it worked for me.

Wait! Hold it! I’m not talking about my recent departure from my gig with the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department. I’m talking about the early 70s when I began extricating myself from the music business and entering the world of horticulture.

The rest of this sordid tale is posted at my most recent blog, Santa Barbara's finest on-line news and entertainment site.

Santa Barbara Edhat : Tripping on Bonsai

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can Coyote Pee Repel Zombies In The Garden?

Once again, my inner 3rd grader was on the loose, interviewing a rep for an unusual product at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Raleigh, NC a few weeks ago. The full article and video are at my Fine Gardening blog. Here's a teaser...

"I stifled a giggle as I approached Ronald Boyce, an actual scientist who works for Shake-Away Animal Repellant, developed as the humane and environmentally safe way to repel deer, woodchucks, armadillos, skunks and other unwanted garden visitors. They use coyote and wolf urine to keep four-legged pests out of the pea patch...

I couldn’t contain myself. Tapping into my hard-hitting Kathy Lee Crosby journalistic instincts, I peppered him with probing questions. "How do you get them to pee on demand? Do they prefer Miller Lite or Stella Artois? Who follows them around with the specimen cup? Would Shake-Away prevent zombie invasions?"

Video blog link!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bovine Biscuits Get A New Lease On Life

Here's an excerpt from my latest blog post at Cool Green Gardens...

"How often does a garden writer get to use the words
pee-pee, poopy and worms at the website of a respected on-line publication? Once. I promise. This will be my sole channeling of my inner third-grader, at least for a while."

I’ve just returned home from the Garden Writers Association (GWA) Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina, were more than 650 garden communicators gathered for educational sessions, garden tours, networking, product displays and sweating in 90-degree, 4356% humidity. (Good thing I brought my 55-gallon drum of baby powder.)"

Here's the rest of the blog...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What plant(s) did you kill this year? - Fine Gardening

What a treat! While I was in Raleigh NC last week attending the Garden Writers Assoc. symposium, I finally met my editor at Fine Gardening magazine. Kate Frank was a hoot to hang with and she brought along her video rig.

We did three different segments, and this is the first to go up. We asked bloggers and others we ran into "What's new in your garden this year?" and "What did you kill in your garden this year?" We even got Amy Stewart, NY Times award-winning author of Wicked Plants, to make a stunning revelation.

The short video is posted now at Fine Gardening. Have a look, and if you're up to it, log in and enter the confessional.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Third-Annual Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards

For the past few years, I've taken it upon myself to peel back the fetid cloak of darkness and draw your attention to a parallel alternate universe of hideous and paralyzingly misguided landscapes ... a realm so evil and disturbing that parents rush to protect their children from the Boschian vision. Despite the personal joy I get from ripping to shreds these misguided landscapes, my intent is to give my readers useful information-I just like to spew a little bile while getting there.

Read the whole, hideous mess here...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rethinking the Suburban Lawn: National Coalition Launches New Website - Fine Gardening

I've joined forces with a heavy-hitting group of bloggers, garden writers and film producers. We've been tinkering with, debating about and editing a new website designed to help people take a fresh look at our obsession with lawns.

The Lawn Reform Coalition is the brainchild of Susan Harris, co-creator of the brilliant, and at times, scathing blog, GardenRant. Join us and find out more about beautiful, functional, sustainable approaches to gardening.

Below is the link to my blog post at Fine Gardening. You'll find lots of great links AND a chance to win grass guru John Greenlee's new book, The American Meadow Garden.

Rethinking the Suburban Lawn: National Coalition Launches New Website - Fine Gardening

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

This past summer I treated myself to a brain expanding permaculture design course at Santa Barbara City College. I was already very conversant in the sustainable horticultural practices that are embodied within the permaculture paradigm: Work with nature, respecting the unique natural systems inherent in every site.

It was the lecture about building community that expanded my vision of how all the pieces fit together. We watched an inspirational video about Mark Lakeman and his organization, City

That evening I walked my neighborhood, realizing how sterile and soulless it felt compared to what I had just seen (except for the McConnell's ice cream shop). Where were the brightly painted mandalas in the intersections or fanciful bus shelters built from locally harvested street trees? I didn't see one box of fresh produce generously left in a curbside kiosk.

The 3-year old in me petulantly pouted, "I want some of THOSE THINGS!"

Mark Lakeman and City Repair to the rescue...

Read the rest of the story at

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Confessions of a Santa Barbarian: Palm Trees Are Stupid

I posted this a few weeks ago at my column. It's a local Santa Barbara website dedicated to local news & events and my general wise-assmanship. I figured I'd get ridden out of town on a Trachycarpus fortunei trunk, but the comments that poured in seem to support my thesis statement:

"Palm trees are stupid. They have no business growing in Santa Barbara." That's how I was going to start this week's column. Come to think of it, that IS how I started this week's column. But I don't really mean it. Not in the literal sense. I've had some engaging conversations with palm trees on important issues and they always hold their own. But that says more about me than about them.

What I mean is that palm trees just don't DO anything. If you planted one of the big guys in your yard a few decades ago, chances are the only people who can enjoy the show live ten blocks away.

Pretty pictures and the full article...

Why Are You Working So Hard? Blow Up Your Rototiller!

I've kinda had it with all these so called "sustainable tips" that start with "Buy a butt load of compost that's been trucked in from who-knows-where and dump it on your beds. Then turn on the Cuisine Art and blend your soil into a lifeless medium for plants that don't belong in your garden."

Well, that's not what they say, but you get the idea.

Here's the whole story at Fine Gardening...

What's Microsoft Doing In My Pea Patch?

From my August 20, 2009 Fine Gardening blog...

"Wouldn't it be totally cool to be a professional futurist? You'd get a paycheck for predicting what the world will look like in a hundred years, then wait for everyone to die before they can tell that you made it all up."


Monday, August 17, 2009

Toxic Aisles at the Drug Store

When Big Pharma extends its tendrils into the gardening aisle at my local drug store, I get worried. I poked around a little to see what Bayer (last I recall, they were pimping aspirin) was up to. This recent post at my blog made me realize that healing the sick and obliterating garden pests and diseases can walk hand in hand.

While I've got you here, stay tuned for a big announcement in September. Susan Harris, one of the forces of nature behind the wildly popular GardenRant blog has marshaled the talents of a national cadre of garden bloggers (me included) to spread the gospel about lawn alternatives. Watch for

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's Like Road Rage, Only Wetter

In my continuing negligence of this blog, I will once again "repurpose" what's going on in the rest of my blogging life. How I wish I had the time to ponder and print my ADD musings, but, alas, post-retirement life is far more complex than I had imagined.

For your reading pleasure, please pop over to my Fine Gardening Magazine blog. I've got my knickers in a bunch over folks who waste water and ranting in the first and second installments on my series on water conservation and lawn alternatives. I used the phrase "drier than a popcorn fart" and my editor let it through. It brings out the 3rd grader in me. There is also a bit of musing about making nooses out of garden hoses for those who dare to waste our most essential and limited resource.

If you'd be so kind, stop and leave a comment. It feeds my massive ego.

There's also a new(ish) post at my bi-weekly Edhat column about using succulents in the garden. I had the pleasure of lunching with one of the leading experts on the subject--Debra Lee Baldwin--while she was in Santa Barbara promoting her book, Designing With Succulents. Luscious pictures, very practical design ideas, delightful lady.

So click on a few links and see what I'm up to. Maybe someday I'll have enough brain cells and time to refloat this here blog barge.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My YouTube Video is Going Viral!!!

I'm a freakin' rock star on YouTube? How else would you explain 1000 hits in 2 weeks for a bizarre, silly music video?

I co-host a humorous/educational TV show in the greater Santa Barbara region along with Owen Dell. We're called the Garden Wise Guys (sound familiar?) and have been on the air for about 4 years, doing a new show every 3 months. The most recent episode, called Lawn & Order, is all about finding rational ways to reduce or eliminate our wasteful, unsustainable love affair with turf grass.

It starts with Owen and me dressed in orange prison jump suits, awaiting sentencing by the judge. Our offense? Our extreme position about murdering lawns. We get 24 hours to convince the judge that we can tone down the rhetoric and provide a more measured approach to water conservation and environmentally friendly landscaping.

But the high point is the 3 minute music video. It's titled "Takin' Out The Grass Is A Gas, Baby Can You Dig It?" I'd love to tell you more about it, but you wouldn't believe me. So take a look. If nothing else, you'll enjoy my bright flamingo-colored sport coat and stingy brim hat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Extrie! Extrie! Get Your Fresh New Content!!

Gosh, I'm prolific sometimes. Just not here. But if you want some good summer reading (longer than a Twitter tweet / shorter than War & Peace) here's what I've got for you.

When I was in San Diego a few weekends ago, I took my first tour of Quail Botanical Garden in Encinitas. It's VERY Mediterranean plantings inspired me to keep my camera on for most of the visit. But the real stunner is this Puya flower.

At my new blog at Fine Gardening Magazine's website, I pondered the difficulties of incorporating such an other-worldly plant into a landscape.

Read Flowers From a Bad Sci-Fi Movie.

With the longest day of the year behind us now, click over to this new article I wrote for It's about Santa Barbara's big Summer Solstice celebration and how the hot colors I'm seeing around local gardens inspired a photo essay.

Read Scorching Shade of Summer Solstice.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Slackin' on my posts

Hey, gang of probably dwindling loyal readers. I'm been a baaaaaaaad boy at keeping this blog fed. It's a good news/bad news story but I'll lay it out for you.

After humble beginnings a few years ago, my Garden Wise Guy blog has become the seed for what's turning into a real writing career. I retire from my 22 year gig as landscape architect for Santa Barbara and will be spending a lot more time at the keyboard.

From little blogs, big writing trees have grown--a veritable copse, no, more like a grove, NO, make that a forest! Aside from a bi-weekly blog at Santa Barbara-centric, I had, until recently, been freelance writing for two magazines in the Santa Barbara area. That's been good for building my writing chops, and just as I found out I was being laid off (I'm choosing to call it "retire" since I qualify for a pension) doors have sprung open and the welcome mat is saying "hello."

Long story short. I've been hired by Fine Gardening Magazine to contribute to their web site under the "brand" of Cool Green Gardens. It's a column about sustainable landscaping from a Left Coast perspective and I get to rant just like I rant here. Not to brag too much, but a recent design article on curing "one-of-each-itis" got 10,000 hits in two weeks. "Speechless" is all I can say.

So, as you can see, with two "real" writing jobs, a consulting practice to ramp up, drumming with King Bee and a new teaching position at the local community college (I get to teach landscape design!), it's hard to keep this blog well fed.

This blog has become a repository for click-throughs to my other writing. Hopefully, you'll still find it convenient to stop by here first, then venture out along the cyber-tendrils. If not, find me directly through these links below...

Time to pimp my new articles.

One at Fine Gardening is about a laid-off economist who's going back to school to study garden design. Very inspirational. If you come by, I'll love to read your comments.

And the most recent Edhat, Miracle on San Andres St., is near and dear to me, celebrating the greatest project I've had the good fortune to manage in my career. It's the story of an art-filled oasis in one of Santa Barbara's less-seen neighborhoods. There's also a link to a photo-essay at Flickr.

Later, skaters.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dargan's thang reminder from Billy G

Hey, a lot of folks have replied and it looks like a nice group coming together for the retirement send-off. We'll be assembling at Dargan's (21 E. Ortega) around 5 on Thursday, June 25.

 It's no-host everything; no speeches or presentations. Just be there and keep your expectations really low - that's how I make it through the day. I simply wanna have a drink or two with my friends, get a hug and try to pick your wallet so my retirement will be more comfortable. 

Hope you can make it.

Landscape Coaching and Design:
Contributing content at Fine Gardening Magazine
Entertaining at my blog
Pontificating at Edhat
Co-hosting TV at
Drumming at King Bee
Popping eyeballs at Flickr

Friday, June 5, 2009

One Man Guerilla Marketing Blitz...

Seems like I'm getting more than my 15 minutes of exposure this month, and it's still only the first week. With my impending departure from my gig with the City of Santa Barbara, I'm seeking ways to drive a few more clients toward my landscape design and coaching work. What better way than this little confection of an article by my new(ish) writer friend, Debra Prinzing.

Debra is a REAL writer (as opposed to this little charade I continue to perpetuate) with years of experience writing for the nation's finest publications. Her new book, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, is flying off the shelves, deservedly so. It's a delight to look at but also has lots of clever ideas for homeowners for creating a special space in their own yards.

But I digress...Debra and I were having lunch at my most bestest Santa Barbara Mexican restaurant, Las Agaves (Milpas and E. Cota Sts.), when she whipped out a steno pad and announced she needed to interview me. Something about the "Guys Issue" and being on a deadline. I'm a guy; we were both in the same place--works for moi!

The resulting article (links to a pdf file) is this great little piece in 805Living about how I am sometimes called upon to act as not only a designer, but also as a marriage counselor. The free, sumptuous magazine can be found from northern LA county through Ventura and SB counties.

I'm also adding links to two other new bits of writing: My CoolGreenGardens blog at Fine Gardening is starting to get some loyal readership--sometimes I rant, sometimes I teach.

And this week's piece highlights my swan song project for the SB Parks & Recreation Department, the Bohnett Park expansion. You'll also find a link to a photo essay about this totally unique art-filled postage stamp-sized parcel. It's titled Miracle on San Andres Street. Read it and you'll see why.

Retirement count down: 25d 4h 30m 37s (but who's counting)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

One-Of-Each-Itis: Ruiner of Gardens

I've got my newest post up at my Cool Green Gardens blog at Fine Gardening. "You've got the fever (yea yea) I've got the cure!"

Based on a rigorous statistical analysis that I recently made up, I've detected the near pandemic expansion of One-Of-Each-Itis. You know you suffer from it, but your first step to wellness will come only when you admit you have a problem.

This tongue in cheek article ends with solid design advice that lets you buy on impulse but still end up with a strong design. I pondered how one of those "Maybe you should ask your doctor about..." ad might start...

Scene 1: Baby boomer couple, she in a mint green gardening hat with little pink Cecil Bruner roses on the band; he in his weekend Eddie Bauer sartorial splendor. They are meandering through a nursery looking at the vast selection of colorful, enticing perennials, discussing the merits of each. They are smiling and laughing, but as he continues to observe his wife, an ominous look of worry creeps over his face.

Come on over for a read. I'd love it if you left a comment, too!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've Never Posted One Of These Here!

I know, I know...GARDEN Wise Guy. But I'm JONESIN' to play drums and my band is finally getting back in the groove a week from Friday - May 29. But the real interesting thing is that writing the e-mail blurbs for this band was my first venture in writing. Now I've got my national blog at Fine Gardening - persistence pays off.

My King Bee posts have always been a labor of love. Here's the most recent. If you're in Santa Barbara May 29, check us out.

King Bee Fans:

Recently, King Bee received a letter from a frustrated fan. Seems that he has been missing the therapeutic value of listening to and dancing to King Bee, which has had a an impact on his sense of well-being. We’ve missed playing, too.

While the current administration is working their way through the backlog of needed reforms to bring about a healthier populous, we thought we’d do our part and move things along.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter.

Dear King Bee, I’ve been suffering due to a lack of King Bee in my system. It’s having an affect on my well-being. I hadn’t realized how much better I feel after a night of, as the kids say, “Getting down and getting funky.” I talked to my doctor and he explained that endorphins are released when I’m enjoying myself aurally and engaging in moderate to aggressive exercise. He said that endorphins can produce a sense of euphoria. I did a little fact checking at Wikipedia and found this excerpt the explains why I like coming to hear you at SOhO. “A widely publicized effect of endorphin production is the so-called ‘runner's high’, which is said to occur when strenuous exercise takes a person over a threshold that activates endorphin production. Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. This also corresponds with the time that muscles use up their stored glycogen.” I think that pretty much sums it up. Please play at SOhO again really, really soon so I can experience a “dancer’s high”. Signed: Jonesin’ For Your Music

Dear Mr. Jones:

Please join King Bee at SOhO (1221 State St.) on Friday, May 29, 2009. We will strive to produce the necessary music that will activate your pleasure centers and keep you in tip-top physical and psychological condition. Though most of the treatment is covered by your current insurance policy, there is an $8 co-pay at the door. We highly recommend that you have a good meal consisting of some complex carbohydrates to maintain your stamina. Dinner reservations can be made at SOhO by calling 962-7776. Moderate doses of alcohol are also recommended.

Hope to see you there.

Visit us at King Bee

Friday, May 15, 2009

Intercontinental Ballistic Blogging - My Interview in Poland.

I was most flattered to receive an invitation from Ewa Szulc to be interviewed at her blog. Ewa and I have been great admirers of each other's blogs since we both "hung out our shingles" at Blogger.

Ewa wanted to know how blogging has changed my life. Given the recent development of my becoming the new West Coast blogger for Fine Gardening Magazine's web site, I had a lot to say.

Click over to her blog and see what's up. I'll be interviewing this delightful Polish blogger in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There's Dumb, and Then There's Dummerest!

That's artificial turf you're looking at. Those are real sprinklers popping up through the artificial turf. That's real water coming from the sprinklers. I'll flaunt my expertise here, but artificial turf doesn't need to be irrigated (unless someone dumps a Coke on it or a stray jackal upchucks a bit of wildebeest carrion).

I received this curious, unimaginably absurd image from Alison Jordan, Water Conservation Coordinator for the City of Santa Barbara.

Once I got up off the ground and finished wiping my eyes, I pondered the amazing series of events that would lead to a situation like this. I'll assume they didn't install the pop-up heads specifically for this project. There are some weird people on the planet, but I just can't fathom a thought process that resulted spending money to install an irrigation system for Astroturf. God have mercy if I'm wrong.

I'll guess there used to be turf in this strip and someone decided to replace it with faux grass. Lower maintenance, looks "neat." I'll not comment on fake turf here, but I'm not a fan, for a number of reasons.

But someone had to have noticed during the prep stages of the installation that there was a sprinkler system in place. Duh! They CUT HOLES in the plastic to allow the heads to rise!!!

I can't go on. Please leave a comment and provide SOME logical explanation other than "just because we all walk upright and have opposable thumbs, we're not all of the same species."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Laid Off: My New Career Opportunity...

June 30 - poof, out the door after 21 years with the City of Santa Barbara's Parks and Recreation Department. I posted this article at my bi-weekly column. What floors me is the response from my community. I'm having a Sally Field moment: "You like me! You REALLY like me!"

One door closes and a whole bunch more open. Read on for recipes on making lemons into lemon sorbet.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Why Would a Grown Man Call Himself Billy?

When I was a little kid, everyone called me Billy. My birth certificate says William, and I don't have a middle name. I kid that the hospital charged by the letter and my folks figured two names were enough.

By the time I hit junior high, I guess I thought I needed to grow up a bit. There's the urge to be older sooner. I even thought that turning ten made me a teenager, "ten" and "teen" are the same word root. So "Bill" it was for the rest of high school and a few years beyond.

The early 70s brought the writings of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. into my life. I devoured everything he wrote. He had a wonderfully macabre, dark sense of humor, a nice slightly sci-fi twist and was balls-out funny to boot.

It was Slaughterhouse-Five that turned me back into Billy. The lead character, a hapless, schlub of a guy, was Billy Pilgrim. I haven't regretted the name change.

“How come they call you Billy instead of William?”

“Business reasons,” said Billy. That was true. His father-in-law, who owned the Ilium School of Optometry, who had set Billy up in practice, was a genius in his field. He told Billy to encourage people to call him Billy—because it would stick in their memories. It would also make him seem slightly magical, since there weren’t any other grown Billys around. It also compelled people to think of him as a friend right away.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twittering My Way To A National Audience

"What a freakin' waste of time! Why don't you do something with your life, you Twidiot?" Don't think I haven't run that internal dialog a few times in the last couple of months. A few of my writing buddies introduced me to Twitter when I was at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show recently, so I checked it out.

If you're not in the know, Twitter is a cross between text messaging (maximum of 140 characters and spaces) and Facebook. You build a community, stick your nose in other people's business and figure out how to write War and Peace in pithy little abbreviations and unintelligible bits and pieces. If you have the Twitter app on your iPhone, like I do, you also walk into the occasional tree while walking Biff the Wonder Spaniel.

Long story short: Kate Frank, web editor for Fine Gardening Magazine, hangs out at Twitter with the same horticulture and garden crowd me and our paths crossed. After a few e-mails and conversations, I was asked to become a regular contributor to Fine Gardening's blog. I'll be writing about garden design and sustainability with a Left Coast perspective. She says Taunton gave her the job of loosening things up a bit. I'll be helping her accomplish her mission. I can make the stretch.

Little did I know that when I started this blog about 125 postings ago, I'd get to a national audience. I just thought I'd pontificate from time to time and rant about some of the ugly crap that passes for landscapes in my community.

So please pop over to Fine Gardening, click on Blogs (or that link) and read me! My column is called: Sustainable Landscaping: Cool Green Gardens by Billy Goodnick. What would be super-groovy is if you leave a comment. You'll need to register, but it's easy-peasy and non-invasive).

I'm hoping to start with a bang and need my peeps to show their love.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Years ago, the now-defunct (and then-funky) Spy magazine had a great feature called "Separated at Birth" where they'd find images of two very unrelated people in a similar pose and juxtapose them while asking the question "Separated at Birth?" There were uncanny resemblances and it was always a hoot. Spy even published a book filled with these gems.

The most iconic was this shot of Don Knotts (Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show and "The Incredible Mr. Limpet") with his doppleganger, Mick Jagger...

I'm wondering if some genetic material was once passed along by Mickey Dolenz's (lead singer for The Monkees) family and singing sensation Susan Boyle?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Santa Barbara: Where Earth Day Started

I was at the annual Santa Barbara Earth Day celebration last weekend. 98 degrees in April makes you kinda think about climate change. It helped focus everyone's attention on the matters at hand. People were flocking to all the booths and asking a lot of questions.

Is it just me, or has "green" become anyone's and everyone's buzz word to slap onto everything from household bleach to toothpicks? I know, anything is better than nothing, but based on my observations on Sunday some sponsors could have just stayed home, as far as I was concerned. My visit brought out the best in me and a healthy dose of the cynic within as well. Read on at my column at!

BTW: Set your calendars for May 4th. That's when I make the leap from this blog to being a featured contributor at Fine Gardening Magazine's web site and blog. I'll still be lurking around here, ranting and raving.

Monday, April 20, 2009

WAY Off Topic...

I usually just write about my smallish world of landscape-related things but this was too good to pass up. My wife, Lin, forward this, no doubt due to my impending retirement from my 21 year gig at the City of Santa Barbara...

Here ya kinda humor.

Yesterday I was at my local Wal-Mart buying a large bag of Purina dog chow for my loyal pet, Biscuit, the Wonder Dog and was in the checkout line when woman behind me asked if I had a dog.

What did she think I had, an elephant? So since I'm retired and have little to do, on impulse I told her that no, I didn't have a dog, I was starting the Purina Diet again. I added that I probably shouldn't, because I ended up in the hospital last time, but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.

I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is to load your pants pockets with Purina nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story.) Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no, I stepped off a curb to sniff an Irish Setter's ass and a car hit us both.

I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard. Walmart won't let me shop there anymore.

Better watch what you ask retired people. They have all the time in the world to think of crazy things to say.

Forward this (especially) to all your retired friends.... it will be their Laugh for the day!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Must We ALWAYS Be Funny?

(L) Billy Goodnick (R) Owen Dell

Owen Dell, author of Sustainable Landscaping For Dummies, is a pretty funny guy. I know, because I'm a pretty funny guy. We've been working together on a regional TV show called Garden Wise Guys (GWG) for about three years. It's a silly show. It's a very informative show. We're very fond of each other and the chemistry that erupts when we're working on ideas for the show is actually better than the show. We often comment that the writing sessions are far better than what we capture on GWG.

We think we're very clever and have an important message about embracing sustainable landscaping practices. So for a while we tried to figure out how to take over the world!!! (MWA HA HA!!! said the boyz, rubbing their hands, clarification: Owen rubs his hands together while I rub MY hands together). We thought up a few business ideas all of which we gave up on. Its initials were CGG. Nuff about's the main point, which I believe reinforces the initial contention that Owen and I are very silly people. The following is a series of e-mails that began as a serious question, but as generally happens between us, was trampled and pounded beyond recognition due to the unmitigated urge to be clever and funny. Herewith...

Original question from Owen:
I'll be speaking in Vancouver, B.C. next month on business
opportunities in sustainable landscaping. They have asked me whether
I have any hard statistics on the market, where the money is, etc. I
really don't, but I think it's a reasonable request and a good thing
to add to my talk. If you happen to have any thoughts on how to find
such info I'd appreciate hearing them. I'll be looking into this over
the next couple of weeks.


Response from Billy
O. Perplexing and illusive. As you know, that's the question we keep asking ourselves.
Given what we heard from someone recently (was it Rusznak?) I'd start with the reference librarian at the main library. Could kill two birds with one stone (that's the IPM approach); one for your Vancouver talk and one for CGG.

Reply from Owen

Yes, but is that stone native sandstone or has it been trucked in? If native, was it removed from a protected area or were any endangered species hiding under it at the time of removal? Was an EIR issued for the project? Will the stone be returned to its original location after it has been used to kill the two birds?


From Billy

You're such a buzz killer!

If you really need to know, it was not actually a stone in the geologic mineral sense, but was made from organic waste, originating at the south end of a northbound musk ox, then hand-formed and sun dried into perfect spheres by indigenous Nepalese dung sculptors, carried down from the Himalayas on beasts of burden (who urinated on sprouting organic vegetables along the way), then placed on sail boats and brought to Santa Barbara, where the biodegradable hemp packaging was reused as tie-dyed fabrics to cloth poverty-stricken hippies at De la Guerra Plaza. Then the "stones" were distributed to sadistic little children of meth addicts who would ambush the rare double-breasted pin-striped Western warbler and smash its little skull repeatedly. The carcass of the boid was rendered into blood and bone meal, then sent back on the aforementioned sailboats to the foothills of the Himalayas to supplement the urine-soaked organic veggies.

You can calculate the embodied energy, but I think it's minimal. My conscience is clear.

If you'd like to catch a bit of our show, we're at

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Four Year Old Photography Assistant - Ellie

Fremontedendron californicum

I can't think of anything particularly brilliant to impart that would be more enjoyable than recycling my article for today.

It's a lovely tale of visiting the joyously spring-filled Santa Barbara Botanic Garden with my wife and our dear friend Ellie. Pictures of Calif. natives? Naturally (Get it? Nature? Naturally? That's why you come to read my blog - top notch literary devices). Also, lots more images at my Flickr site...find the "badge" in my sidebar.

Santa Barbara Botanical Garden meadow

A bit of other news. I've become a rabid Twitter user and was honored today when my name continually popped up in peoples' FollowFriday. That's when a Twittererererer recommends that all their Twitter friends follow a particular contributor. Today's my turn in the barrel. Honored. You can follow along by finding the Twitter window in the right column of this page.

Now quit wasting time and start reading.