Adapting Your Landscape We’re going to help you adapt your landscape to the drought.  Yes – you can adapt.   We see it as a combination of being well-informed, horticultural best practices, and creative reimagining.  Beautiful landscapes can and will prevail.  They may look different. How we use plants and water will change, and we will guide you through each step of the journey. First, know that San Francisco Bay Area water utilities have spoken.  At this moment, only a few have scheduled mandatory water rationing but all are urging cut-backs.  Keep in mind – this could change tomorrow. What’s in this post. An up-to-date report on water usage restrictions – organized by district. Download PDF for the latest policies. What Gardeners Guild is doing to support you. What you can do – now – and later. Water District Policies Below is a snapshot of four Bay Area water policies.  (the attached has more information and districts) San Francisco – as of today, no mandates. The district is urging residents to conserve. MMWD – Marin County has a very specific water rationing policy. NMWD – North Marin until July 1st residents are asked to voluntarily conserve by 20% Santa Rosa residents are asked to voluntarily conserve usage by 20% EBMUD – Declares Stage 1 drought and urges a voluntary reduction of 10% ABC7 map shows the extent of the drought in the San Francisco Bay Area What to do now According to the US Drought Monitor, most of the Bay Area is in either what is called D3 or D4, Extreme or Exceptional Drought.  Exceptional being the driest. For some perspective, in a Severe Drought, the US Drought monitor describes what happens to plants.  “Trees are stressed; plants increase reproductive mechanisms; wildlife diseases increase.” Protect your trees first. Trees are your high-value plants.  They provide shade, give off oxygen, regulate extreme temperatures, nurture wildlife habitat and help us adapt to climate change.  But they may be stressed because of our dry winter.  Symptoms of stress include wilting and undersized leaves, leaf drop, and disease – these are just a few. A drought-stressed tree needs water.  Some watering methods include soaker hoses, gator bags, or deep root watering.  Proper watering depends on the species, its age, and where they are planted.  Water them slowly, says UC Master Gardener Program. See the image below. Mulch – two to six inches of mulch around your trees.  Organic mulch will help the soil retain moisture.  (See the link below for rebates) Irrigation – Is your system is working efficiently? Water early or late – before 9 am or late – after 7 pm. Fix any broken sprinklers and repair leaks Correcting them could save 10 percent off your water bill, and improve your plants’ health.  University of California suggests you also check Automatic valves, heads, and other connections to ensure they are functioning Other irrigation problems can include broken, sunken, crooked, or clogged emitters. This evaluation can be complex, we suggest consulting with a […]

Prevention and Control of Top 7 Invasive Weeds The top 7 invasive weeds that we highlight this month are predators that will leach water and nutrients from your desired plants.  Some of them are highly flammable.  Our treatment recommendations for getting rid of the top 7 emphasize the least toxic practices. Getting rid of these weeds is a combination of mechanical or biological means.  Although Integrated Pest Management (Best Practices) sometimes requires a chemical solution.  Seriously, they are tough t to control.  Consult a professional if possible. Because the weather is already warming and experts forecast a dry spring, this is the time to remove them. Fire district warnings may come sooner than expected. What are invasive weeds? This definition is based on their real threat to native plant and animal communities.  Their impact includes the risk of fire, flooding, and the potential to lower land value. What are noxious weeds? One weed on our list is considered noxious.  This term is a legal one used by state regulatory agencies.  A weed is categorized as such if it poses a threat to agriculture or plants and enables the agencies to ban, quarantine, or eradicate them. The First Line of Defense is Maintenance (Prevention) The Top 7 Invasive Weed Types You may notice some weeds entangling their branches around your desired plants, or growing in the middle of them. It may take time to trace their branches to get to their roots.  Some are flammable – noted in red below. Broom Species (French & Scotch) Fire Hazard Plentiful in forests, wooded areas, and roadsides. They spread along roads and appear like small trees. Despite pretty flowers, they are toxic to humans and animals. Crowds out desirable species by leaching nutrients. Seeds spread by wind. With a hot dry summer forecasted, get rid of these now. Treatment Options Hand pull between January-May Cut and treat with an herbicide Fennel or Licorice Plan – Fire Hazard Seeds spread by wind and compete with other plants for nutrients. They will displace native plants in coastal areas. Treatment options Hand pull when soil is still wet. Dig out as much of the root as possible with shovels, hand picks. Mowing needs to be done at the right time or will encourage seed growth.   Bull Thistle A noxious weed.  Toxic and difficult to control once established. Showy purple blooms and sharp needle-like leaves. Grows where the soil is disturbed. Spreads rapidly up to 6 feet. Aggressively leaches nutrients from desired plants. Treatment Options Dig out with a shovel making to get the root before pulling. Mow before they flower. California Invasive Plant Council says herbicides are effective. Cape Ivy Poisonous, toxic, and aggressive.  Will reduce habitats for pollinators. Forms a dense blanket over desired plants. Its weight can cause a tree to fail. Distinguishing from less invasive ivy is difficult.  They choke off nutrients from understory vegetation, harbor rats, and snails. Treatment Options Requires precision as every stem must be removed. Removing around the perimeter […]

Landscape drainage problems like standing water in your yard, deck, hardscape, and around your building or house can be a nightmare! Let’s talk about it. There are some great solutions for drainage issues.  Ones that work best with Mother Nature, whether you have a yard or a commercial property.    Signs of a Landscape Drainage Problem If you notice these you probably have a drainage problem. You have a mosquito or other insect problem. Soil is wet for prolonged periods of time. Moss growth. Plant material that appears unhealthy or stunted. Exposed tree and plant roots. Soil erosion. Severely compacted soil. Uneven or cracks in hardscapes or paved areas We recommend the 7 drainage solutions below.  With a description of how they work.  Do yourself a favor, talk to a professional with the experience and equipment to do the work right. 7 Drainage Solutions French drains Type of drain: subsurface It’s basically a trench filled with gravel or rock and contains a perforated pipe designed to address subsurface water.  A French drain in your yard or commercial property will redirect surface water away from its foundation to landscape beds or other areas that need water.  Consider this if Water is pooling near the foundation of your building Your soil excessively compacted. Catch basin or storm drain Type of drain: subsurface One of the best investments you can make to your landscape drainage system.  It moves water fast.  Keeps it away from your structure, or from pooling in your turf or planted areas.  Catch basins have a grate on top and an underground drainage pipe that slopes away from the basin. They are often installed in turf or hardscape areas.  Periodic maintenance involves both clearing out debris and sediment underneath the grate and flushing it out of the pipe. Channel Drains (also called a trench drain) Type of drain: surface It moves water through an underground drainage system.  Channel drains are long and narrow (see below) and are often used to protect hardscape from expensive water damage.  Tip – keep the surface around the drain clear of debris so the water can flow unobstructed. Bioswales (also called dry creek bed) Type of drain: surface A shallow trench designed to direct stormwater runoff from one area of a property to another. Installing plant material, rock or mulch will slow the movement of stormwater filtering it from harmful chemicals.  They typically have a drain at one end to take away water that doesn’t infiltrate.  Bioswales can also help recharge groundwater.  See the photo below of a GGI project in Santa Rosa. Re-grading If there are uneven surfaces in your landscape, it can cause water to start pooling in the landscape or around the perimeter of your building. Re-grading is another solution.  It’s the process of leveling out the land, redirecting rainwater, away from your building or paved areas.  Improve Soil Structure – for compacted soil  Severely compacted soil (see below) will result in poor surface drainage in turf or landscape beds.  Its cause can […]

Joy comes in red, white, burgundy, and pink! You’ve had a tough year. Let some fresh Poinsettias help you celebrate the holidays with well-deserved cheer. These classic Poinsettias arrive in a decorative foil sleeve.  If you like, we will maintain them through the holidays, or you can maintain them yourself. Limited quantities are available.  Order today. Your poinsettia order options With or without maintenance Sizes 4”,6” 8” or 10″ Poinsettia. At this time 8″ or 10″ only come in red. Our maintenance period is from November 28th through the first week of January. Safe delivery during COVID-19 Our staff follows all safety protocols including social distancing, wearing masks, frequent handwashing, regular cleaning, and disinfection.  Our vehicles are cleaned between delivery routes. How to maintain Poinsettias.    Poinsettias are temperamental and need just the right light and moisture to last through the holidays.  Professional maintenance is the best option, but we understand we’re living through unique times. Some tips on maintaining Poinsettias They like indirect light for at least six hours per day. The ideal room temperature is 68-70 degrees F. Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch.  They don’t like cold drafts (below 50 degrees) or excessive heat. How to order Contact Angela Wrath Phone (510) 439-3707 Email

In these uncertain times, more people are finding solace in the garden.  Growing edibles surging in popularity. Plants and seeds are flying off the shelves of garden centers.  That leads us to water.  SF Bay Area Water Districts are eager to help you save money on water-saving irrigation equipment, drought-tolerant plants, and lawn conversion. How often do you hear that? I compiled a list of Counties and districts with links to rebate requirements – everything you need to know.  The rebates apply to both commercial and residential accounts. Scroll down for a downloadable report. Alameda County Water District (ACWD) Note: due to COVID-19 rebate programs may be delayed by 1-2 weeks. HOME New! Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Instant Rebate (for residential customers) Rebate for converting their lawns to water-efficient landscapes.* $1.00/sq.ft of lawn converted. Please contact us to learn more. *To be eligible for this rebate, customers must be pre-approved by ACWD, so please check with us first before beginning your landscape conversion project. Rebates are issued on a first-come, first served basis. Funding is limited. For additional lawn replacement ideas, please visit  For additional lawn replacement ideas, please visit Application Materials Application – Please EMAIL this application to Resources ACWD Resource List Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) How to take project photos COMMERCIAL Weather-based “smart controller” rebates Commercial and large landscape customers that replace their existing conventional irrigation controller with a “smart” irrigation controller may qualify for a rebate of up to $30* per active station. See our Program Brochure (PDF) for more information. Sites must be pre-qualified – Please contact us for more information about how to get pre-qualified.  *Rebate is based on the number of active stations of each existing controller. Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) Note: Rebate programs and inspections could be delayed due to COVID-19. HOME Lawn Conversion rebate The rebate is $1 per square foot of lawn replaced up to the maximum amount.  The maximum rebate for single-family residential sites is $1,000. The website has checklist and detailed list of restrictions. Weather based smart irrigation controller rebates $12 per active (used) irrigation station (zone) up to 50% of the list cost of the controller(s). Limit one rebate per customer per address. Limit one controller rebate per customer per address without pre-approval. Multiple controllers per address may be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Pre-approval is required. COMMERCIAL Lawn Conversion rebate The rebate is $1 per square foot of lawn replaced up to the maximum amount.  Maximum commercial, multi-family, and municipal accounts is $20,000 per site. The website has checklist and detailed list of restrictions. Weather based smart irrigation controller rebates Rebate is to upgrade conventional controllers to WaterSense certified smart irrigation controllers only. $20 per active irrigation station (zone) not to exceed 50% of the list price of the controller. East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Note: Due to COVID-19 there will be a delay in responding to and processing mailed-in rebates. For a faster turnaround, please email your rebate application to  HOME Lawn Conversion […]

We are well into May – the official start of fire season.  It may be hiding behind the coattails of COVID-19, but we know it’s here.  In spite of recent rains (which we are grateful for), temperatures will heat up and dry weather will prevail for the next several months. Like clockwork the call volume at Gardeners’ Guild’s has spiked with requests for weed abatement.  This is vegetation management – an essential part of fire prevention – and our topic for this month.  Our forty-plus years of experience managing vegetation inform this month’s content and make us a valuable resource for you. A note about the pandemic and Gardeners’ Guild’s status We are open now – since the state has determined that landscape activities are essential.   I hope this post finds you well. Please call us with any questions about our policy.  (510) 439-3700. As if you aren’t dealing with enough – the shock and overwhelm of a pandemic thrust upon you. Now, Californians, we enter summer with fire prevention added to our to-do list.  This post is focused on vegetation management and its role in preventing wildfires.  We help you navigate this with simple and easy-to-digest basics.  I’ve synthesized the essentials. What vegetation management is, why it’s important now and actions you can take to minimize your risk of wildfire. Scroll down to see a great video on Fire Wise landscaping and links to several county resources. Why is this important now? Wildfire season 2020 threatens to be longer, with bigger fires unleashing more devastation.  Being educated and taking appropriate action now will help protect your investment, family, and neighbors. Daniel Swain is a UCLA Climate Scientist and author of  He studies extreme weather events and their causes.  I began following Swain during the drought and was in awe of his spot-on analysis of weather events.  In a recent post on, Swain said: “the NIFC* is predicting a higher than average likelihood of large wildfires across NorCal by mid-summer–and I would expect that ultimately to be true into the autumn as well.” *NIFC or Nation Interagency Fire Center is a support center for wildland firefighting, located in Idaho.  You may notice that your local fire department is requiring more engagement from you this year.  I’ve noticed some are scheduling inspections and amplifying their public education efforts. North Bay Sunset – October 2017 The 3-R’s of Vegetation Management Vegetation management is the process of controlling plant material to minimize the risk of fire ignition and spread.  Removal Of dead fuels (vegetation), weeds, brush, invasive species and plants deemed a fire accelerant.  Reduction Thinning heavy brush and trimming trees.  Crucial to reducing the spread and intensity of a wildfire. Pruning shrubs and trees will provide adequate separation between them and away from your structure.  Check with your local fire department for plant spacing requirements in your area.  The section below has a link on spacing tips for properties on a slope. Replacement Replace with fire resistant plants.  These plants […]

San Francisco’s oldest retirement community, called Heritage on the Marina, is a historic building, designed by California’s first woman architect and owned by one of the city’s oldest philanthropic organizations. Located in San Francisco’s Marina district, a neighborhood recognized for its iconic architecture. Looking at the northeast corner of the property, you will see a small, but charming brick building, originally a groundskeepers’ quarters.  This month’s post chronicles our experience renovating the landscape. We also describe how we resolved two challenges.   (See before photo below.) Before renovation Design Intent and Its First Challenge The owner wanted to repurpose the building’s interior, then rejuvenate the landscape, which had declined as evidenced by overgrown vines, yellowing turf and poor grade definition. Gardeners’ Guild was engaged to design and build the project.  Our objective was to transform the outdoor space into a small garden that could serve multiple functions: active gardening, areas for relaxation and pre-ambulation. But, there was one challenge – limited space.  This required that our design be creative and meticulous, in order to incorporate each design element. Moreover, the landscape needed to be reflective of the building’s character.  Our design featured a flat turf area for small outdoor gatherings, decomposed granite pathways that traversed around the building and raised planters for gardening projects. (See photo below)   The Landscape’s Second Challenge – To Complement the Building’s Character The building’s historic elements called for ornamental plants, along with fencing and stonework. Primary areas were scaled to the site by achieving minimum dimensions required for the intended use. Grading issues were resolved by the use of subtle retaining walls. Stone materials were carefully specified to match existing structures. (See photo below)  

Gardeners’ Guild will deliver Poinsettias to your SF Bay Area office Having Poinsettias delivered will put a smile on your face.  Your office mates will thank you. Our interior division services San Francisco and the East Bay as well as Marin, Sonoma and Napa Counties. Limited quantities available.  Order today. Your poinsettia order options* Either with or without maintenance Sizes 4”,6” 8” or 10″ Poinsettia in a decorative foil sleeve We will maintain them from November 28th through first week January *A delivery charge may apply.  Replacements are at an additional cost. Colors Red, white, burgundy and pink What you should know if you want to maintain them yourself.   Poinsettias are temperamental need just the right light and moisture to last through the holidays.  This is why having a professional maintenance is the best option, especially for a commercial building. They need strong indirect light, love moisture but not too much and warmish temperatures.  Avoid drafty areas.  Keep them inside. Poinsettias aren’t poisonous but they can cause mild irrigation in puppies or kittens.  Best to keep them away. And, they won’t harm people.  An Ohio State University study found that a 50-pound child would have to eat 500 leaves for any harmful effect to occur. How to order Contact Angela Wrath Phone (510) 439-3707 Email

    Wildfire Readiness – 5-Step Plan for the Bay Area The essentials of what you can do now – including a list of the most fire-prone plants Though it is wet today, the forecast shows temperatures steadily climbing, into the 90’s through next week.  In fact, according to Daniel Swain,,  we may be headed toward an extended heat wave late September into October.  Raising the risk of wildfire.   Because the threat remains and the media reports can be overwhelming,we’ve broken it into useful chunks – just a 5 step wildfire readiness plan – only the essentials you need for this late September. This 5-Step Plan for wildfire readiness were adapted from literature provided state and bay area cities County by county links for emergency alert sign ups Evacuation checklist Inspection by your local fire department Debris removal Removal of flammable plants and debris around your home or building The list above is a short term strategy.  The details below explain what to do, starting with making sure you are set up for emergency notifications. 1. Sign up for Emergency Notifications If you haven’t already, sign up now. Nixle It will alert you to any emergency events and evacuations in your area. You will also receive non-emergency alerts about local criminal activity.  Those messages can be annoying, but trust me, Nixle is an invaluable system. Cal Fire emergency notification sign up, no matter where you are in the state Sonoma County alert system San Francisco alert system sign up Contra Costa County emergency warning system Alert Marin warning system sign up Napa County emergency warning Alameda County emergency alert Alert Solano warning system sign up Understanding the categories of alert messages Evacuation order: Means evacuate now do not delay to gather belongings.  Fire expected in less than an hour.  Evacuation warning: Evacuate soon, but there is time to gather belongings quickly. Shelter in place: It is safer to stay in your current location.  2. Evacuation Checklist The checklist – linked below from the County of Marin, will help you prepare. They have the best one I’ve seen, it has pre-planning checklist in addition to a list for your “go bag”.  Plus a family communications plan. Make copies of important documents like passports, insurance policies, birth certificates, drivers licenses, property deed and mortgage papers. Some people put them in a safe deposit box. Where to Purchase Disaster Supplies If you are looking for reviews and advice on where to purchase disaster supplies, the list below can help. Wirecutter, which is a New York Times Company has much information about where to purchase, costs including for pre-assembled kits.  Aside from the above, there are local big box stores where you can purchase emergency supplies. Costco Home Depot 3. Local Fire Department Safety Check If you have questions about your property call your local fire department.  Find out if they will do a check of your home’s exterior.  They will make recommendations for any vegetation that should be cleared. 4. Debris Removal […]

What’s Unique about Gardening for Pollinators in the Bay Area Most important is plant types.  Because of the bay area microclimates, planting in the right environment is critical.  Plant vigor will be impacted by sun exposure, fog, heat, soil type and wind.  Learn about pollination in a stunning video (below) that catches them in the act.  Also below is an update on the status of our pollinators which explains why gardening for pollinators is so important now. Below is a downloadable list of 9 plants for a pollinator-friendly garden.  The list shows their preferences for sun, soil, water; the pollinators they will attract, and bloom seasons. Why Gardening for pollinators will help sustain our food supply We depend on pollinators Plants that produce seeds, flowers, fruits and vegetables depend on animals who perform the magic of moving the [male] pollen from one part of a plant to the [female] part. Thousands of pollinators exist, but the most common ones include bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, wasps, beetles, and wasps.  Consider the Bumblebee.  They are lured by the scent of nectar and the color of an apple tree’s blossoms.  Flying from flower to flower, they find nectar to feed on. While enroute, pollen from the male part of the flower sticks to their body, signaling it’s time to move on and deliver their powdery stash to the female part of the flower.  That, in a nutshell, is fertilization!  Not exactly romantic, but, now the tree can produce fruit – and that’s pretty cool. Pollinators are declining The reason, is pollution, the loss of their natural habitat, and poisoning from pesticides. Habitat loss happens as an outcome of urban and suburban development.  Read about the status of our most popular pollinators. Bees You’ve probably heard about the decline of Honeybees.  They are most prominent of all pollinators and integral to food production. Their loss has an impact on our supply.  Native bees’ decline, however, is lesser known and has more severe implications.  As documented by the Center for Biological Diversity,  nearly 1 in 4 are at risk.  Moreover, the Center describes native bees as having a “crucial ecological role by pollinating wild plants and providing more than $3 billion in fruit-pollination services each year in the United States.” The Monarch Butterfly (See our report on the Monarch below) From 2017 to 2018 the Monarch’s population plunged dramatically – by 86 percent, according to a report by the Xerces Society, a non-profit dedicated to protecting pollinators and their habitats.  Their analysis shows that the decline has been consistent since the 1980s.  The once 4.5 million population dipped to 1 million by 1997.   Other Pollinators are in trouble The Center for Biological Diversity report found that globally, more than 40 percent of insect pollinators are at risk.  Gardening for Pollinators will Help Reverse this Trend You can help sustain our world’s food supply by creating a pollinator-friendly garden.  No matter your outdoor environment – rural, suburban, or urban area – you can create a habitat […]