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2014 Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour: Sneak Peek of Garden #3

Peter_garden1

Night-time gardener reaps rare rewards

Story by Maureen Austin, CHIRP / Photos by Mendi Wyatt, CHIRP

Peter_garden2Laughingly labeled as a “plant hoarder” by a friend, he prefers the title “plant collector.” Peter Swoboda says he never met a plant he didn’t like, and although he has hundreds of different plants growing in his near-acre garden, he purchased less than 20 percent of them.  The balance were gifts or starts he propagated from cuttings.

He does have his favorites, however.  Peter is partial to cycads and fragrant flowers, and is especially fascinated with the intensely aromatic night-bloomers.

Whereas most gardeners toss in the trowel at dark, Peter is often just getting started!  Wearing a lighted miner’s cap, and with the aid of additional flood lights, he gardens. “I do my best design work after sunset,” he says, “without the background pollution.”

Most night-blooming plants are intensely fragrant, and many people miss the experience of enjoying them by being indoors, he said.  Most people, in fact, are not even aware that many common plants have fragrant flowers.  He cites the philodendron, of which he grows several varieties. “The philodendron flower completely fills the air with fragrance after sunset–but weather conditions have to be just right,” he said.  “Warm and humid.” He said their bloom usually occurs about the third week of June–an observation he has made in the 32 years he’s been gardening in his Alpine home.

Peter_garden3A collection of tropicals and other plants usually only grown indoors in this area, fill the deck and areas immediately outside of his home, where he can provide them with summer shade. Throughout the rest of his property is the balance of Peter’s plant collection, along with his workshop and greenhouse.

A long, meandering path wraps around a small lawn area and over a dry creek, and includes a mix of succulents, grasses, perennials, palms, cycads, bromeliads, and natives. He describes his garden as “forest-like but not manicured”, with its abundance of trees and plants. “I like a lot of plants, but not a mess,” he said.  “And I don’t like things cut into shapes.” Peter said he tries to allow space between plants.  “People plant too close and pretty soon they have a big ‘wust’,” he laughs.  (“Wust” is the German translation for “mess”, German-born Peter explains.)

His best advise to new gardeners is to plant trees. With over 2 dozen fruit trees–along with mimosa, palm, pepper, eucalyptus, oak and more–his yard is alive with the song of birds and butterflies by day, and bats and moths by night.

Although visitors will not find an evening showing for this garden, there is plenty to see during the day!

It is Garden #3 on the Sage & Songbirds tour.

 

Peter_him

Tour Information:

  • Five fabulous Alpine gardens are showcased in this year’s tour, plus a place-of-worship garden and raptor rehabilitation facility.  Admission to all seven sites is $20.
  • Ticket includes a map for the self-guided tour, and is valid all three days of the event.  Visitors may stay as long as they desire in each garden.
  • Tickets may be purchased in person at Jennifer’s Feed or Alpine Garden & Gifts.  Cash or checks only at those locations.
  • To purchase online with credit card, please visit www.chirp.org.
  • Instructions to purchase by mail may also be found at www.chirp.org, or by phoning 619-445-8352.
  • The event is hosted by CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc.

 

CHIRP_garden_tour_poster2014

2014 Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour: Sneak Peek of Garden #2

  Coursons_garden4

Sea-faring adventurers set roots in Alpine habitat – Sneak Peek of Garden #2
Story by Maureen Austin, CHIRP /  Photos by Mendi Wyatt, CHIRP

Scattered car carcasses and tall, dense weeds were the only “garden elements” around the pressboard shanty home that once sat on this Peutz Valley property.

Today, the 4.5-acre site, sloping sharply up the hillside, is an engaging commentary on “living off the land” through such practices as sustainability and permaculture.

Coursons_garden2Mike and Alison Courson spent the first 17 years of their marriage living aboard a 34-foot sailboat, exploring such distant places as Bora-Bora.  Alison describes their boating life as “being integrated with nature’s rhythms.”  It wasn’t until they moved to Alpine that they considered living on the land to be equally fulfilling, she said.

It was the Sage & Songbirds Festival that first brought them to Alpine, over 14 years ago, when they were living in LaMesa.  How appropriate that their garden is now a featured site for the 17th annual event!

Their National Wildlife Federation-certified habitat is in-sync with “nature’s rhythms,” largely through Alison’s gentle prodding and coaching of her husband.  Mike laughs as he recalls his intention of planting “tropical gardens” where California native and other Mediterranean perennials now thrive.  It took an on-site visit by native plant guru/author Greg Rubin to convince Mike that native plants would provide the color, texture and excitement he wanted in their garden.

But Mike did have many worthy ideas–one of which was the construction of about 100 feet of hillside waterfalls and ponds, which he worked on for 15 minutes a day, over a period of 1 1/2 years.  It was ultimately finished by a team of professional waterscape builders who Mike convinced to use his property as a demonstration project for teaching.

The water feature is a focal point of their garden, and a hub of wildlife activity, including a chorus of croaking frogs, hummingbirds, songbirds, insects and a variety of mammals.

Mike and Alison marvel at how “nature” has nourished their garden.

“It’s amazing what the birds and animals bring in the way of seeds and ‘plant’ around the property,” Mike said.  “We started the growth here in as close to a natural way as we knew how, and the animals and birds took over and have brought in an uncountable variety of other beautiful plants!”

In a strange twist of fate, it was the Cedar Fire of 2003 that actually revealed the depth of the beauty of their property to the Coursons.  Their entire yard burned, but their recently remodeled home was spared because of its concrete resin siding, they said.

Coursons_them“We discovered 3 natural, seasonal waterfalls and ponds on the backside of the property that we didn’t even know about!” Mike said.  After the fire leveled the decades of thick growth, they were discovered.

Alison saw the fire as a motivator to implement permaculture practices such as planting gardens with immediate needs (i.e., herbs, lettuce) up-close and lesser needed items (seasonal veggies) farther away.

As one might infer, this pair of adventurers is not done yet!  Future plans include setting up bee hives, finishing an aquaponic symbiotic gardening system with fish and veggies, and lessening their needs for non-renewable power.

Those things are down the road, but for now, they invite Sage & Songbirds Garden tourists to “visit, linger, enjoy the wildlife and see their version of gardening.”

Theirs is Garden #2 on the Tour.

                Tour Information:

  • Five fabulous Alpine gardens are showcased in this year’s tour, plus a place-of-worship garden and raptor rehabilitation facility.  Admission to all seven sites is $20.
  • Ticket includes a map for the self-guided tour, and is valid all three days of the event.  Visitors may stay as long as they desire in each garden.
  • Tickets may be purchased in person at Jennifer’s Feed or Alpine Garden & Gifts.  Cash or checks only at those locations.
  • To purchase online with credit card, please visit www.chirp.org.
  • Instructions to purchase by mail may also be found at www.chirp.org, or by phoning 619-445-8352.
  • The event is hosted by CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc.

 

CHIRP_garden_tour_poster2014

 

 

17th Annual CHIRP Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour: May 2-4, 2014

CHIRP_garden_tour_poster2014

Tickets: $20 each

Gardens open from 10 am – 4 pm all 3 days

Spectacular water features, sensational succulents, sprawling natives, a lush but low-water jungle, and a veggie garden that could feed an army…just some of what will be found on this year’s tour.

All 5 gardens on tour are owner-designed, and this is the debut showing of each site.  (None have ever before been featured on this or any other garden tour.) Presented by CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc., a not-for-profit habitat education corporation.  All proceeds benefit habitat education for our backyards and schoolyards.

For additional information or to purchase tickets please visit www.chirp.org or phone CHIRP at 619-445-8352.

17th Annual Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour & Festival 2014

17th Annual Alpine Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour: May 2-4, 2014 – Gardens open 10 am – 4 pm all 3 days

Spectacular water features, sensational succulents, sprawling natives, a lush but low-water jungle, and a veggie garden that could feed an army…just some of what will be found on this year’s tour.

All 5 gardens on tour are owner-designed, and this is the debut showing of each site.  (None have ever before been featured on this or any other garden tour.) Presented by CHIRP for Garden Wildlife, Inc., a not-for-profit habitat education corporation.  All proceeds benefit habitat education for our backyards and schoolyards. For additional information please visit www.chirp.org or phone CHIRP at 619-445-8352.

Sage & Songbirds 17th Annual FESTIVAL – 10 am – 5 pm • Saturday, May 3, 2014 • ONE DAY ONLY!!
New location! Alpine Creek Town Center 1347 Tavern Road in downtown Alpine

FREE!!!! • FREE!!!! • FREE!!!!
• Live Entertainment
• Art & Craft Vendors
• Birds-of-Prey (owl, hawk, more)
• Live Hummingbirds
• Snakes, lizards & other live reptiles
• Monarch Butterfly Release at 2 pm
• Opportunity Drawings
• Silent Auctions including a 4-pack of Disneyland/California Adventure Hopper passes, a Julian cottage getaway & more

Sage & Songbirds 2014 Flyer

Order Early Bird Tickets Now and $AVE!!  Early Bird pricing ends April 1, 2014!

Early Bird Price – $15
Regular ticket price – $20

 

To order tickets:

Online with credit card:  www.chirp.org
Mail:  Send check or money order, payable to CHIRP, to CHIRP, PO Box 532, Alpine, CA  91903

 

CHIRP Garden Club Meeting: Special Guest Nancy Conney of Sky Raptors – April 2, 2014

Nancy Conney

Please JOIN CHIRP Garden Club at their upcoming meeting on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 6:30 pm at the ALPINE COMMUNITY CENTER (1840 Alpine Blvd.)

Program: “Raptor Rap”
Presenter:
Nancy Conney of Sky Hunters Raptor Education & Rehabilitation
With special guests:  Barn Owl, Kestrel & Screech Owl

Get a rare, up-close look at the birds-of-prey Nancy will bring with her to this meeting and learn how they can benefit our gardens. Learn where these amazing birds live, what they eat, and how long they live. Also learn what to do and what NOT to do if you find a sick, injured or orphaned bird, and the laws we have protecting all wildlife.

Thinking about a barn owl box? Nancy will give you all the scoop!

The meeting is free and open to the public. Please phone 619-445-8352 or email info@chirp.org with questions.