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 heatwave 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 was adapted from literature provided by 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 is 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 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 The […]

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 […]

Why your weeds keep coming back Have you noticed an abundant crop of weeds this spring?  One reason – the heavy rains of last fall and winter may have awakened long-dormant seeds.  Does it feel like the long rainy winter just erased all the backbreaking work you did last year?  Our guide to weeds includes the why what and how of managing weeds.  Plus our guide to weeds is downloadable.  See link below. Why do they reappear? Weeds produce thousands of seeds.  Those seeds are stubborn and can be viable for years, even decades. They are transported by weather, especially wind. Also by animals, humans, and water. Mulches and soil can also harbor weed seeds. Even after weeding, their seeds will remain in the soil and may be dormant for years. Perennial seeds are the hardiest.  Their roots are alive for many years and harder to kill than annual weeds. An example of a perennial weed is a dandelion.  Just one dandelion puffball carries as many as 100 seeds! Understanding is the key to managing weeds They are tough and relentless. Weeds can thrive in the most unsavory environmental conditions. Drought, fire and even herbicide applications don’t kill all weeds.  And, they will outcompete with desired plants for sunlight, water, nutrients, and space.  Weeds offer some benefits Protect bare soil from erosion. Improve the soil by imparting organic matter. Absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Can provide habitat for birds, worms, and beneficial insects. And – some have powerful medicinal properties (and are edible) Weeds are a problem when They overpower desired plants and deplete the soil of nutrients and moisture. Their unattractive appearance, texture, color and growth habit detracts from your garden or landscape. They harbor disease-carrying insects that spread to desired plants. Poisonous weeds can be dangerous to you and your pets. Invasive weeds take over your garden in a single growing season. Two types of weeds – what makes them different Annual Weeds Warm weather annual weeds grow only from seeds every spring.  Cool weather weeds germinate in late summer or fall. Their roots are shallow as compared to perennial weeds (see below). For this reason, they are easier to pull.  Some die out after flowering. Perennial Weeds These weeds reproduce year after year from roots and seeds.  Because of their tenacious roots and seeds that can live for years, they are much more difficult to control.  Two common perennial weeds in the San Francisco Bay area are dandelions and oxalis. Tips for Managing Weeds The harsh truth is that you can never completely eliminate weeds, but effective management will help control them.  Your first step is prevention. Tips on Weed Prevention Plant Choices The right plant in the right place sounds simple but makes all the difference.  Healthy vigorous plants have the best chance of out-competing weeds.   Healthy Soil Make sure that plants are healthy by feeding the soil with organic products including mulch and compost. Mulching and Sheet Mulching Mulch keeps the soil cool and […]

2 Reasons this Urban Multifamily Community Garden is Thriving People are growing their own food in bigger number than ever before.  In urban areas this trend is surging, particularly in multifamily communities.  These communities include apartments and condominium associations.  It enhances the sense of community and increases property values.  An NYU study in 2006 (the last one we saw) found that regardless of the neighborhood’s income level, property values increased up to 9.5 percent. This month we’re talking about a client garden in Oakland and the reasons for its success.  It’s one thing to start a garden.  But, maintaining it requires a different set of skills, knowledge and time.  We’ve distilled the success of this multfamily’s garden to these two factors. How they are maintained.  It’s actually not the how – but who. Their vegetable garden pictured above is maintained by someone outside of the multifamily community.  Gardeners’ Guild performs the maintenance, but it doesn’t have to be us, or any company. It can be one or two people.  The key to its success is that the gardener is outside of the community. It’s a cleaner relationship.  No entanglements with the community.  See our explanation below. Fundamental for plant survival is – the right plant/right place; soil and proper amount of water and light But that’s not everything. How an Outside Gardener Helped Make this Garden Successful This is especially relevant for urban multifamily housing like homeowner’s associations or apartments.  Many of these residents are super busy and don’t have time to maintain a garden.  Yet these urban communities recognize the benefits of an edible garden. It is convenient.  Healthier and less expensive. The realities of plant maintenance, however, can sometimes undo all the hard work of planting an edible garden. We’ve seen it happen.  Plant problems occur.  The solution rests on a board or committee burdened by multiple priorities. Sometimes there is disagreement among the group on a solution. The garden may suffer.  When the maintenance is done outside the community it takes all the guesswork, planning and scheduling off the shoulders of residents.  They can enjoy their edibles without being pulled into the work of managing them. Some residents and/or committee members may be horticultural experts, equally experienced with maintenance. However, if they don’t have the time, or have conflicting loyalties, it could impede the garden’s success. If you choose to outsource the maintenance of your edible garden Develop a garden maintenance scope of work that includes these basics. Watering – either with irrigation or hand watering.  Keep in mind hand watering takes more time and will cost you more. If irrigation, make sure your gardener understands how to program and troubleshoot problems. Pruning – excess foilage helps direct their growth, let in light and helps protect from disease.  If they become overgrown it is harder to access air and nutrients.  Thinning -this is important so that each plant has sufficient space to grow and mature. Weeding Fertilizing – type of fertilizer and frequency will depend on the […]

Primary Landscape Trends for 2019 We notice some landscape trends return year after year.  They remain on the list because their popularity is still soaring.  Like edible and community gardens. These two are big – and encouraging.  More people are embracing plants – indoors and out.  Millennials are spending a lot of money on plants. And, Generation Z – loves them!  Gardens that save water, benefit the environment, are low maintenance and –  gardens that heal and feed.  They are everywhere.  Not just in the west.  Healing Gardens More hospitals and institutions are incorporating gardens.  Since we know that gardens can heal the mind and,the body, Horticultural therapy is a increasingly recognized profession.  How plants help in institutional settings. Alzheimers and dementia patients Patients with mental illness Improves hormonal balance Decreases violence by 19% Interior Plants are More Popular Than Ever From Garden Media’s annual report. Pinterest searches for indoor plants are up 90 percent. National Gardening Association found that 30 percent of all households bought at least one hourplant last year.  Millennials are driving this trend – they represent 31 percent of houseplant sales. People who spend a lot of time indoors behind a screen are craving nature.  Bringing the outdoors in – is a no-brainer. One organization in New Zealand has identified how apartment dwellers are using plants in their homes. Putting “masses of indoor plants on modular shelves.” Aranged for easy maintenance. At home they are not using living walls – too high maintenance. A partial list of indoor plants with the best air cleaning attributes (according to NASA)* Boston Fern Bamboo Palm Agloenema Sansevieria Ficus Benjamina Anthuriums Spathiphyllum Dracaenas (Marginata and Massangeana) Pothos See our website for photos of the above plants and others we use in our service. *Bill Wolverton, former NASA research scientist who conducted the 1989 plant study favors golden pothos.  He suggests placing two good sized plants per 100 feet of interior space.  He reminds us that they make people feel happier, reduce stress, improve mood and energy levels. ​Office Building Trends Sustainable design and bringing nature inside was once a new trend.  Now these concepts are the standard and essential for attracting talent. It’s called “Biophilic design”. Designers also integrate views, natural lighting and climate to mirror the outdoor environment. One study by Harvard University found that – In a strategically designed green office, employees had on average 61% higher cognitive function than their non-green counterparts. Big picture, sustainable buildings are just one aspect of what is called – healthy buildings.   Spaces are being designed with the employees’ well being in mind.  One example is relaxation or quiet spaces, featuring soft and comfortable seating; mini fridges.  Community Gardens The Trust for Public Land says this trend has grown 44% since 2012. 22% since last year.  Most community gardens grow edible plants.  The biggest way they make a difference is by providing low cost healthy food for underserved communities.  It’s hard to envision living in an area without a major grocery […]

Rose Pruning is Easier Than You Think! Our tips and tools give you all the basics to make it easy.  We tell you when and how. Plus advise you on the best tools to make it safe.  And, easy.  Straight from the experts.  Including a video. The Goal of Rose Pruning We call it the 3 D’s!  Remove DEAD, DISEASED or DAMAGED.  Remember this when you look at your roses. Another goal of pruning is to Increase air circulation. Shape your plant. Encourage growth on flowering wood. You want new, fresh canes.  They produce more and healthier roses than older ones.  Tools for Rose Pruning Safety Take precautions to yourself because thorns are very sharp.  Scratches and punctures from them can get infected. Having the right pruner is a big step toward making it easy. Rose Pruners that we recommend There are two types of pruners.  Anvil and Bypass pruners.  We recommend Bypass. Anvil pruners are not as sharp and do not make clean cuts.  See examples below. Bypass  Pruner – Our recommendation.  Note the curved blades in the illustration below.  What makes them effective is that the two curved blades cross eachother while cutting. It’s the key to getting a sharp clean cut.  Otherwise you risk injuring your plant. Anvil Pruner – They are not sharp and will tend to rip the cain.  You can see the difference as the blade is flat and flush against the back side. Gloves – San Francisco Rose Society, a trusted authority on roses, recommends thick leather gloves to protect you from sharp thorns. For more protection, there is the gauntlet which protects above the wrist.  See below. Clothes  – Should be thick and hard enough to protect you.  Long sleeves are a must.  SF Rose Society recommends a leather jacket. About Rose Canes Cane – It’s the stem of a rose.  It grows from the trunk.  A young cane is bright, smooth and green or a mahogony color. See illustration below showing a healthy cane. Old or dying canes are wrinkled and gray.  See dead gray cane below. When and How to Prune Roses Because of the mild San Francisco Bay Area climate, we  recommend pruning roses in February.  Our pruning tips are broken out below by three basic types of roses.  Carpet roses (sometimes called shrub or ground cover roses.) Climbing roses.  And, Floribundas and Grandiflora roses. The illustration below shows you proper pruning – how to make the cut. Floribunda and Grandiflora Roses They are the most popular roses in the San Francisco Bay Area and are pruned similarly. The Master Gardener video posted below is a great tutorial on pruning this type of rose. See the example below of a Grandiflora rose bush Remove any damaged, diseased, weak or broken canes, until there is only healthy growth. Cut back about one fourth to one third of the current year’s growth. Cut the center branch from each cluster of branches. Cut the remaining ones back to 3-4 undeveloped growth buds. Important […]