I wish you and yours a happy, prosperous,
vibrant New Year!

My best day of 2014... so far... 

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve made two:  reduce sugar consumption and increase my creative consumption. So today was my best day of the year – so far!  It was my dream day, and it went like this: 

After working in my office in the morning, I drove to San Francisco at 10 am, post rush hour, and breezed right through to the deYoung museum in Golden Gate Park to see the much acclaimed David Hockney exhibit.  With only a few more days until the exhibit ends, it was now  or never. Age 77 and still creating world-class art, Hockney shows us that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Using his iPhone and iPad, he is able to quickly create the essence of each one of his portraits or landscapes while fresh in his eyes.  He has learned that it takes too much time to change paint colors on canvas and is able to “color dump” his art in rapid fashion. He recreates some of these pieces in the studio with watercolor or oils, media he also uses beautifully. 

Standing far back is the best way to view much of Hockney’s art since many pieces are made up of multiple canvasses, joined to form single works of art. They are huge and take up a large space on the wall.  He is also obsessed with cubism and has created a very interesting video technique, using multiple cameras filming one scene at the same time, and then piecing them together like a puzzle on the wall for viewing.  My favorites were the jugglers and the winter scene. 

And did I mention that the temperature was in the upper 60’s with cloudless, blue skies?  The next part of my dream day took place as I left the deYoung, crossed the street,and entered the San Francisco Botanic Garden.  I freely strolled the garden paths, enjoying the sun and looking at beautiful plants. What could  be better than that? It was surprising to see how many plants are already in flower!  Spring is early this year. Taking pictures of almost everything that was flowering, it inspired me to incorporate some new ideas in my planting designs. 

The drive back home was its usual slow pace, but it allowed me time to reflect on the amazing artist I learned about and the always-beautiful plants at the SF Botanic garden.

Giving the Gift of Giving

In my last newsletter, "Giving the Gift of Giving during the Holiday Season" article, I asked readers to send stories that represented the spirit of sharing and caring. Here is one I received that I want to share with you!

Dear Susan,  

My front yard has received many compliments and thank you’s for helping to add to the beauty of the neighborhood.  I put some hot sauce on plants that are deer proof, but the poor young ones are so hungry that they tried some of them anyway.  So far so good dealing with the frosty mornings.  There are some plants that have suffered from the cold, but once it warms up they will hopefully revive.  I had a poinsettia plant from Costco that froze even in the porch area.

Now I’ll share my holiday story with you.  My dog, Buddy, and I shared our breakfast from Nation’s one morning with a man, Percy, and his big German shepherd, Bear.  I asked him if he was having a picnic and if he was traveling somewhere since he had a backpack and a bedroll.  He said he lived in Canyon and had been camping.  He offered me a sweater to sit on and a blanket for Buddy.

We kept running into each other and since I’m always hungry, but can only eat small amounts, I kept sharing my meals with him all week.  We ended up brainstorming about how to raise funds and awareness for my favorite non-profits – ARF, Shelter, Inc., Contra Costa Food Bank, and Toys for Tots.   We spent a lot of time together, and because I was wearing lots of winter clothes, I was sometimes mistaken as homeless and treated as a homeless woman.  It was eye opening to be told to move away from a store by the owner.  I was indignant and told her I had lived in Moraga since 1985, and she couldn’t tell me where to sit. 

One evening a lady came over to our table and gently whispered, “God bless you” as she guessed I was feeding a homeless man down on his luck.  I still didn’t know Percy’s story other than he seemed he had done extensive traveling, helping children all over the world. 

One morning I came up with the idea of making signs that said, “Follow the Paw,” and I drew a paw on the sign, leading to my fundraising location.  I had jars with ARF and Shelter, Inc., for monetary donations and tables and chairs from home.  We also had a Toys-for-Tots container, and we asked for gently used clothing, bedding and towels for Shelter, Inc.  Canned goods were also welcome along with stocking stuffers for any of the causes.  After three, long, cold days, the final tally was $101 for Shelter, Inc., $100 for ARF, and lots of in-kind donations.   We had no idea what our results would be, but the main goal was to raise awareness about animals and people in need. 

During that time, I walked in Percy’s footprints and while I may never see him again, I know I treated him with dignity, kindness and respect.  Buddy and I are relaxing in our beautiful warm home and I hope that Percy and Bear are keeping warm somewhere.

Mary M.  ~ Moraga

Quick, Easy Winter Gardening Tips

Prune Plants & Divide
  • Cut back perennials, prune roses and shrubs.
  • Do not prune spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia, cherry, lilac and quince.
  • Divide overgrown perennials and transplant or share with a friend.
  • Thin out tree canopies.
  • Plant spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth.
  • Bulbs can grow in any size space – perfect for containers and for large areas too.
  • Plant trees and shrubs now, to benefit from coming winter rains.
  • Consider bare root shrubs for a low cost alternative.
  • Spread a fresh layer of organic mulch over all exposed soil area to reduce erosion, keep weeds down and add nutrients to the soil. I like “nitrified mini-bark”.
  • Put flowerpots and large containers by a front entry, back patio, anywhere.
  • Plant in layers with one taller plant and cascading flowers or vines below.
Plant Annual Flowers
  • Plant cool season annuals, such as primrose, pansies, Iceland poppies, and more to add cheerful color to a winter garden.
Frost Protection
  • Frost sensitive plants such as citrus trees, palms, etc., may need to be covered and/or sprayed with an anti-desiccant to reduce frost burn.
  • Weeds love this time of year – stay ahead of them by hand pulling while the soil is moist.
  • Avoid herbicides if possible.
Turf Renovation
  • Top-dress bare areas with light layer of soil and spread light layer of seed.
Spring Planning
  • Create project plans now for greater rewards later.
  • Look through seed catalogs, cut out magazine pictures, notice other gardens you like and start a “garden” file.
Have Fun! 
Gardening is great exercise – and a great family activity!  Set a reasonable goal and do something fun to celebrate your accomplishment.



Susan Friedman

"Let us transform your new landscape retreat… one that you can’t wait to come home to."
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