Verdant View – January 2024

When I started studying for my third career in architectural design, the word sustainability was just starting to be thrown around. I was fascinated with the concept of combining architecture with environmental responsibility. My basic architectural studies were always tinted with the concept of sustainable construction and materials selection. The more I learned, the more I gravitated to a world where professionals were including sustainable practices into their work. I would hang out at the Los Angeles EcoVillage hoping to soak up global concepts of environmental, social and economic sustainability. It turned out to be the perfect place for me to put into practice the theories I was learning at university.

The most often quoted definition of sustainability comes from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” UNESCO distinguishes between sustainability and sustainable practices like this: “Sustainability is often thought of as a long-term goal (i.e., a more sustainable world), while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it.”

The word itself can be confusing and elusive to many people. If we think about concept turning into action, the question of how to act sustainably in our day-to-day lives arises. Here are some suggestions:

  • Think twice before shopping.
  • Ditch plastic and switch to reusable.
  • Simplify the holidays.
  • Choose organic.
  • Ditch animal-based textiles.
  • Be water wise.
  • Drive less, drive green.
  • Green your home.
  • Boycott products that endanger wildlife.

In the words of Clara Fang, writer, artist, environmentalist and Sustainability Manager, “Instead of sustainable, let us be eco-conscious, eco-positive, earth-oriented, and environmentally responsible. We are not here to put the needs of nature above those of people, but deliver environmental justice, a world where everyone is entitled to the basic necessities of clean air, clean water, fresh food and shelter. Let us leave to our children a planet that isn’t just sustainable, but one that is vibrant, flourishing, abundant, and life-giving for all.”

What to plant in January

The weather is cold at night and in the early mornings, but warms up nicely in the afternoon. Every few years there are January rains, called Cabanuelas, but don’t count on them. At the viveros, look for pansies, petunias, stocks and bergenia. For the flower garden, from seed try Brugmansia (syn. Datura) Angel’s Trumpet, corydalis for its attractive foliage, michauxia with its exuberant, white flowers, and Lady’s mantle for future flower arranging.

​At this time of year we rely and look for every leaf of lettuce and spinach, every broccoli floret, every kohlrabi and cabbage, every Brussels sprout. We’re either glad we’d planted so much in the late summer and fall or regretting that we didn’t plant enough.

Aside from transplanting, most outside gardening activity seems to be limited to pruning and spreading soil amendments. You may want to prune your roses and do the first pruning on the poinsettias late in the month. Continue watering when necessary, remembering that the native plants know it’s the dry season.

Indoors, sow more broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, chamomile, caraway, cauliflower, chervil, chives, coriander (cilantro), dill, fennel, lettuces, marjoram, mint, oregano, curly-leafed parsley, sage, spinaches, tarragon, and thyme.

Perennials will like to be divided and replanted at this time. Agapanthus, chrysanthemums, coreopsis, African daisies (gazania), English daisies (bellis), gloriosa daisies (rudbeckia), and Shasta daisies, daylilies (hemerocallis), delphiniums, dianthus, statice (limonium), and violets are good candidates.

If you simply pinch dead blooms and feed your pansies and violas, this will keep them looking good and blooming for a longer period. 

If you were lucky enough to be gifted an amaryllis it is easy to make it bloom again. After it’s through blooming, cut off the bloom stalk about an inch above where it emerges from the bulb. Place the plant in a warm, sunny place to grow. Water it generously and fertilize regularly. Watering with a quarter-strength houseplant fertilizer solution each time will provide constant feeding for gradual growth. Don’t let the soil get dry at any time, as this will disrupt the cycle. During the summer, a spot in filtered sun outdoors is fine. Flower buds set better in fall when night temperatures are cooler, from 50 to 55 degrees. 

Those holiday poinsettias need to be acclimatized to the cold outdoors before planting them into the garden. First, clip overlong branches after the third node to encourage bushier growth. Place the plant in a sunny spot outdoors that’s protected from wind for several hours each day, and a cool spot indoors at night. Keep its soil moist, and feed it a slow-release or quarter-strength regular fertilizer every week or so. After a week or two, plants should survive a full day outdoors in the protected spot. After another month, they can be successfully transplanted into the garden. 

“Think Big, Start Small, Act Now”

—Robin Sharma

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Francisco Nava
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