Debbie Arrington

Harvest Day offers tree help from roots up

California white sage (Salvia apiana) is a popular native plant for water-wise landscapes. Unfortunately, it’s also become a favorite target of plant thieves.
California white sage (Salvia apiana) is a popular native plant for water-wise landscapes. Unfortunately, it’s also become a favorite target of plant thieves.

In the City of Trees, most people are mystified by how trees grow.

“A lot of people don’t understand roots,” said Pam Bone, a longtime master gardener and water-wise landscape expert. “They don’t know where tree roots grow, and that affects how to properly care for and water them.”

As a visual aid, Bone sat a wine glass on a dinner plate. The bowl represents the tree’s canopy or foliage; the stem is its trunk. That wide flat plate illustrates the reach of its roots – far beyond the canopy but not very deep.

“All sorts of things can upset tree health,” Bone said. “During the drought, we focused on water, but a lot more is involved.”

Bone will share her tree expertise next Saturday, Aug. 6, during the annual Harvest Day celebration at Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in Fair Oaks Park. She’ll be one of three featured speakers focusing on gardening issues beyond drought.

Hosted by the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Sacramento County, Harvest Day has grown into the Sacramento area’s largest free gardening event of its kind. More than 2,000 patrons are expected to attend this perennial showcase of green thumb know-how. They’ll see dozens of hands-on demonstrations, shop for unusual plants, learn new gardening tricks and much more.

This Harvest Day’s keynote speaker, Bone will lead off at 8:30 a.m. with “Keeping Trees Healthy During Drought and Beyond.”

A popular speaker at local gardening clubs, Bone has heard the same questions over and over from her audiences.

“We want to keep trees healthy even when not in drought per se,” Bone said. “Tree health goes beyond deep watering and mulch. So, we’ll start with a ground-up view of what’s happening with trees.”

Bone will be followed by two other popular speakers: Morningsun Herb Farm’s Rose Loveall on “Herbal All-Stars” at 9:45 a.m.; and master gardener Ellie Cary on “Plan and Plant a Showstopper Bulb Garden” at 11 a.m.

The event also includes six presentations on composting, from how to build a worm bin to making better compost faster. (Worm bins and compost sifters, $25 each, will be available; cash or check only.) Guided tours of the center’s new “Ultra Water-Efficient Landscape” and native plant rain garden will be offered.

I’ll be there, too, among the many community booths and vendors. Stop by and say hi.

Bad karma

Somebody’s stealing sage. Specifically, California white sage (Salvia apiana) has become the frequent target of plant theft. That includes sage stolen from the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, site of Harvest Day.

“The (Water-Efficient Landscape demonstration garden) has been invaded by Salvia apiana snatchers,” reported master gardener Pat Schink in the group’s newsletter. “All our white sage in the WEL is gone, even the replacement plants.”

Because of the possibilities of theft, the master gardeners eliminated this popular native sage from their suggested planting lists even though it’s a great choice for low-water gardens.

White sage thefts have become common in public gardens featuring this native plant, say experts. Worse, thousands of sage plants have been ripped out of their native habitats on sunny, dry mountain slopes by entrepreneurs who sell bundled sage leaves as a natural incense or smudge stick.

“Evidently, some folks like to burn smudge sticks made with this California native white sage,” Schink said. “How stolen plants can create good karma is a mystery to me.”

Harvest Day

Where: Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, Fair Oaks Park, 11549 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks

When: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6

Admission: Free

Details: 916-875-6913,

Also: Meet The Bee’s Debbie Arrington at Harvest Day. Drop by The Sacramento Bee booth from 8 to 10 a.m.