June 8th @ 10 am: Grafting Citrus with Arny Bernstein

Five things you should know:

One: Arny has over 80 different varieties grafted onto his 20 to 25 citrus trees, so clearly the  man knows what he is doing.

Second:  if you glance at the photo above, you will see Arny demonstrating cleft grafting at our scion exchange in 2017 ;  so you know he has long been an excellent teacher as well.  (He also supervised our graft-your-own session in 2019 and zero blood was shed.) As if this isn’t enough, he has  been running the Grafting Program at UC Berkeley for the past two years and is also establishing a grafting program at Lotusland in Montecito.  With Bill Brandt, he teaches grafting throughout the LAUSD high school system.    Having joined CRFG in the early 70s, he is perhaps its oldest member and fondly remembers being taught grafting back then by Wilbur Wood, one of the grand old men of our organization.

Third:  February was deciduous grafting season;  but this is citrus grafting season.  It is time to strike while the iron is hot and the bark is slipping.

Fourth:  since the arrival of Citrus Greening disease, it is illegal for us to exchange citrus scion wood.  The only legal source in California is the Citrus Clonal Protection Program at UC Riverside.   You can order some truly amazing varieties here.  Registration is free. The budwood, alas, is not.

This page has links to a video explaining the order process along with some grafting demos from the talented Fruitmentor.  Note that cutting is only done once a month.  If you want your scion wood in your fridge ready to use after Arny’s class, you should have your order in by June 2nd.  It will ship June 5th.

And Fifth: We will be back in our regular MultiPurpose Room in Culver City.  Your favorite snacks and/or fruit to share will be most welcome.




Holy Guacamole! Did we have a great time in Long Beach!

Eighteen or so of us braved the 405 yesterday morning to visit Rancho Los Cerritos and then Ricardo’s Nursery.   Many of us were so impressed by both that return trips are already being planned.

At the Rancho, docents who had generously boned up on  the parks “rare fruit” ahead of our arrival were able to display the gardens and orchards originally laid out by the groundbreaking SoCal landscape architect Ralph D. Cornell in 1931,  as well as some amazing trees —  including a rambling pomegranate — dating back to the mid 1800s.    Over the past 32 years, the staff horticulturist Marie Barnidge-McIntyre  has been  researching and restoring and maintaining the trees Cornell originally chose.  We got to see such unusual specimens as the Kashlen, Lyon and Puebla avocado trees, a thornless jujube, a huge black locust that was a local landmark for 150 years and California’s original Sweet Orange.  Not to mention the macadamia, loquat, persimmon, dwarf thornless pomegranate and many  many other trees.

Ricardo Ortiz, generously waiting as we straggled in from the Rancho, served us his sorbet made from his amazing Persian mulberries and lectured on both his nursery’s fairly recent swivel to tropical fruit,  lessons he learned in the process and his newfound love of grafting.  We were able to pick fresh Persian mulberries from one of his enormous trees and admire the vanilla orchid in  his greenhouse along with many many other plants in various stages of growth.    Needless to say, a great time was had by all.

Field Trip May 11th @ 10 am

We are going back to Long Beach!  Yes, it’s not exactly West Los Angeles, but we had such a great time with Jorge Ochoa at Long Beach City College last July, and so many of you seemed willing to make the trek down there, that we decided to explore more of this amazing area.

Our first stop will be Rancho Los Cerritos, an incredible hidden gem which I stumbled upon while researching old fruit trees in the Los Angeles area.  The Rancho website (check it out!)  blew my mind. In 1930, when construction of the tropical and semi-tropical fruit orchard was underway, eleven cogged stones were discovered. Dating to 2-5,000 BC, they represent the earliest presence of Native Americans in the area.  Between then and now, the area followed the path of most other vast swathes of land in California: home to the Tongva/Gabrielino people for centuries, land-granted to a Spanish soldier in 1784 before being broken down into tracts for  his heirs, sold off for ranching and then farming, falling into disrepair, being restored in 1930 as a summer residence  and finally bequeathed  to the  City of Long Beach which opened it as a rare glimpse into Old California in 1955.

The 1844 adobe, which still stands, was the home of the cattle-raising Temple family and then several generations of sheep-raising Bixbys.  There have been fruit trees on the site since the building of the adobe, including lemon, orange, and pomegranate. During the 1930s remodel, tropical and subtropical fruit trees were planted along the south side of the historic adobe house for shade. The orchard includes citrus, loquats, sapotes, cherimoyas, macadamias, avocados, and guavas;  and was able to provide the Bixbys with fruit almost ten months of the year.

I have asked for a tour specifically of the old orchard, but there is also a Backyard Garden with the pomegranates from the 1840s as well as a water tower used long before climate change made this a “modern” idea.  To top everything off, there is a mature California Native Garden which should enable us to see many of the plants Antonio spoke about last week.

After our visit to Rancho Los Cerritos, we have been welcomed to  Ricardo’s Nursery just 4 miles north.  This is a vast wholesale nursery open to the public, with many tropical and semi-tropical fruit trees for sale.   Since we will be there the day before Mother’s Day, the nursery will probably be busy, but owner Ricardo Ortiz – originally from Oaxaca and specializing in tropical fruit from that area — has promised to reserve some parking spots for us and will speak to us if he can manage it.

Please note:  field trips are for chapter members only.  You will receive sign-up instructions with your newsletter.


The Great Rhubarb Experiment: 3.5 years on

Inspired by a comment on the original article, here is an update on our Great Rhubarb Experiment.  In a word (okay, two words) , it is an astonishing success.  We continue to trial new varieties.   In the photo above, Crimson Sunrise is the plant in front  on the far right. while Red Surprise and Ebony are elsewhere in the yard.  But for all of us, Tina’s Noble continues to be the huge, vigorous standout.  It has now grown continuously for three and half years, slowing down in only the very hottest part of the summer but never going entirely dormant and coming back better than ever with the winter rains.   You can see in this photo that my original plant has developed three different heads (probably not the  correct term) and will need to be divided when I can figure out the appropriate time.

For sweetness and tenderness, however, Success is my favorite.   (It is the two plants on the front left in the top photo, the smaller just planted this year).  It tends to flourish at different times of year from the Tina’s Noble.  As a result we are all harvesting at least six to nine months out of twelve.

At this point, we haven’t ordered new seeds and therefore will probably not be offering anything other than plants thinned from our gardens.  Since seedlings are always iffy (just beyond my massive Tina’s Noble plant is one that is not doing as well) growing from divisions will probably yield more reliable plants in the future.

Antonio Sanchez is “Inviting California to Dinner”: on Zoom 4/13th @ 10 am

This not-to-be-missed Zoom will be a guided tour of various native plant foods, including fruits, greens, seeds and more, that can be added to your local landscapes and diets.  Lecture will include how to grow each plant in local gardens, and how to use one or various parts of the plant in recipes.  Among the many plants to be covered include:
Cleveland Sage
CA Wild Grape
Golden Currant
Hummingbird Sage
Honey Mesquite
And many more


Antonio Sanchez is the nursery manager and restoration volunteer outreach coordinator for SAMOFund in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and has been working around native plants for nearly 2 decades. He is co-founder and lead singer of the native plant band Sage Against the Machine (hear him sing “I Want to Be Native Plant“!), and was lead organizer for the California Native Food Symposium, the Southern California Monarch and Milkweed Conference, the first Ventura County Native Plant Symposium, and the California Native Sage Festival.  Antonio has worked at various native plant institutions around the state, and has managed the nurseries at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, worked as a landscaper at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, worked as a nursery technician at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Native Plants, and co-founded and ran Nopalito Native Plant Nursery in Ventura, CA, with a good friend and a cousin, for nearly 4 years.  He believes in making native plants fun and approachable to all, learning about and teaching old and new ways with native plants, and that Hummingbird Sage is probably the prettiest California native sage, but Salvia pachyphylla is a close second.

Note: a similar sold-out event is occurring at Artemesia Nursery in LA this weekend.  If you want to see details of the kind of subjects (and recipes!) Antonio will be covering, you can find them here.

Just a reminder…

We fruit growers are a hardy lot so the Scion Exchange and Grafting Demos will be going on this coming Saturday, rain or shine.  Fortunately the forecast seems to be on our side, but as always we will be prepared to move everything inside should the need arise.

Another reminder, we are not allowed to exchange scions of trees still under patent or about to be patented.  Dave Wilson Nurseries has sent us this list of  verboten varieties.  (They actually sent us a  much longer list but that was mostly commercial varieties to which we have no access down here)


Scion Exchange/Grafting Demos on February 10th @ 10 am

If CRFG is known for one thing (okay, apart from Fruit Facts) it is the annual Scion Exchange and Grafting Demo Day.  West LA Chapter will be holding its version, free and open to the public,  on February 10th,  in the MultiPurpose Room of  the Culver City Veterans Memorial Building.

Members, bring your labelled scion wood between  9:30 and 10 (please, no citrus!).  Grafting demos will begin at 10 with at least 3 different experts in attendance for grafters of different experience levels.  Bruce Blavin, who teaches grafting to school children, will make sure even the noobiest will go home an expert.  AJ and Glen  and Sagi   will instruct the more experienced in advanced techniques like veneer grafts and whip-and-tongue.

The Scion Exchange will begin as soon after 10 as we can get all the wood set out.  Per usual, members who have brought wood to share will get first crack at selecting someone else’s scions.  After them, the rest of the chapter membership will get its shot at clutching that elusive special wood to their bosoms.  And finally non-members, inspired by our demonstrators, can check out the always plentiful remains to make new trees of their own.

Of course, if you want to be in that first VIP batch, make sure your membership is up to date (or join!) and bring us wood .  Instructions on cutting scion wood are right here.

What shouldn’t you bring?  No citrus scions or budwood (this includes curry leaf) plus no plants still under patent.   And of course nothing that is sick or bug infested.

A wonderful trip to the Learning Garden at Venice High

Many thanks to Julie, Ingrid, Ed and all the other volunteers who shared their time and experiences with us at the Learning Garden this past Saturday.  We saw so many amazing things:  green and brown cotton!  Hairy Ball Milkweed!  David King’s famous rhubarb patch!  Edible mushrooms! A very unusual shiny-leaved mulberry we were welcomed to take cuttings from for propagation. The new-to-us plants growing in the Chinese Herbal Medicine garden. The huge red amaranth in the Ancient Grains Garden, etc. etc.  It was a beautiful day and so wonderful to see volunteers of all ages working together.  (Weekends are for the community; Venice High Students use the Garden during the week)

Note: after essentially and needlessly being razed to bare earth during construction at the high school, the Garden has been struggling to restore itself only to be threatened once again by extinction. Please Google what you can do to persuade the LAUSD to preserve this precious resource for the students and community. Volunteering hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3.

Field Trip to Venice Learning Garden – January 13th @ 12:30 NOTE DIFFERENT TIME!

The Learning Garden was founded on the grounds of Venice High School in 2001 and, until his recent retirement, its Garden Master was David King, a regular and welcome presence  — with his students —  at our annual scion exchange.  Over all these past 23 years –despite repeated threats of extermination by the LAUSD – the Garden has continued to grow both physically and philosophically.   While of course there are fruit trees and the very successful rhubarb patch David boasted about when we first started our WLA rhubarb project, the Garden is now also home to one of the most extensive Chinese Medicinal gardens in the country. The students of Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine have played a major role in the development of this garden where  traditional Chinese Medicine schools are trained from seed to harvest to medicinal use  by world experts.

There is also a relatively new Tea Garden – complete with Camellia Sinensis black tea, as well as a variety of herbal tea plants, including hibiscus, rose hips, valerian, chamomile and more.

There is a Native California Garden with more than a hundred different types of native California species, as well as a Fiber Arts Garden which has attracted natural dyers thrilled at the colors that these plants bring to fabric.

And notably there is an Ancient Grain Garden which was planted by our chapter’s own master baker Wendy Temple! (You can see her in the Learning Garden video here.

There is also a Seed Saving Garden, a tribute to David King’s long emphasis on developing and fostering the plant strains most successful in our climate.  As he was quoted saying in an  LA Times blog: “As seeds grow out repeatedly in our soil and microclimates, they adapt.  Far more quickly than one could achieve at home , a variation (for example) of Waltham broccoli specific to Los Angeles or even specific to Venice can be developed, better suited to local conditions.”

And finally, of most interest to us Rare Fruit Growers, is the Tropical Garden where the papaya tree and dragon fruit planted years ago are now both accompanied by bananas, hibiscus, pineapple, kiwi, cassava and more.

But beyond all these horticultural must-sees, perhaps the most important achievement of The Learning Garden has been the continual growth of programs and gardens it has inspired over the years. With very little funding, The Learning Garden has demonstrated the true meaning of sustainability through community spirit and volunteerism. Over 250 high school students a year are trained in organic horticulture, and many have pursued careers in horticulture related fields. In its  Seed to Sale program, students learn the process from planting to harvesting to selling at the local Farmers Market. Art students regularly use the garden to draw and paint. The science classes are out in the compost piles learning the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Much as we saw at Steve List’s Sylmar Learning Center, the Learning Garden at Venice High  has inspired and supported gardens at many of its  feeder schools so that garden curriculum is developing from Kindergarten thru High School.

This is definitely a can’t miss field trip (subject of course to weather!) See you there.


Holiday Party and Big Annual Plant Sale December 9th @ 11:30 am-1:30 pm

Once again we will be holding our big holiday party and annual plant sale in our beloved MultiPurpose Room.

Plants you are donating for sale should be brought in between 10:45 and 11:30.   The sale and party will start at 11:30.

As always, this is our most festive potluck so put on your fancy duds, crank out your favorite holiday dish and be prepared to see dear old friends and make great new ones.

Since the plant sale runs much more smoothly if plants are labelled and priced ahead of time, it would be greatly appreciated if you could send a description ASAP of whatever you plan to bring:  plant name, pot size and price suggestion (if you  have one).  You can see what has already been donated here.

Charles Portney, the mainstay of our propagation efforts heretofore, has announced he is drastically downsizing so we desperately need any plants you can spare.    While our dues have not gone up in years, our room rent continues to climb.

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