Join us for monthly Western Hort programs designed to inform, educate and inspire the dedicated plant lover. Meetings are currently available via Zoom and links are sent monthly to all members who provide email contact information. Meetings are a benefit of  WHS membership. We also currently have a sharing agreement for meetings with the California Horticultural Society. Our members will receive links to the their monthly Zoom meetings and we will send them links to ours.

Meetings are held 9 times a year on the second Wednesday of the month and feature a lecture and slide presentation by a guest horticultural specialist. Each program also includes a member-led discussion and photos of unusual plants.

Future in-person meetings, when feasible, will be held at the Garden House in Shoup Park, 400 University Ave, Los Altos.

Located near Lincoln Ave.

In-person meetings often include a sale of diverse plant varieties donated by members and local nurseries as well as books, seeds, tools and other horticultural items on occasion.  All are welcome!

Meetings presented via Zoom. Link sent to all members prior to the meeting date.

If you enjoy the talks given at our meetings and want to help the Western Horticultural Society sustain our program, you might like to sponsor one of our speakers! Your donation helps cover the costs of hosting a speaker and we will note your name as sponsor in our newsletter. You can choose the month or speaker of your choice or perhaps you have a speaker you would like to propose? Contact Leslie Dean lesliekdean@sonic.net about donations or questions.   


January 12, 2022 7:30pm, Zoom and venue TBD

Growing Gorgeous Gardens from the Ground Up

With Lynn Del McComb

As a life-long plantophile, Delmar McComb has grown a huge variety of plants from all over the globe. Cultivating such a range of species has engendered another passion for trying to understand the soil beneath our feet. This accessible and utilitarian talk will emphasize how to enhance and tailor your soils to maximize the health and beauty of your garden and container garden plants using readily available materials and methods.

Whether you need to make your Arctostaphylos and Zephyranthes or your artichokes and zucchinis happier, there will be many practical tips and insights given to grow abundant foliage, flowers, and fruit, while continually regenerating your soil fertility and structure appropriate to your garden denizens. 


Delmar McComb is co-owner, with his partner Carin Fortin, of Blossom's Farm in Corralitos, California, where they grow and process approximately 100 varieties of medicinal herbs which are made into health and beauty care products.

He was director of horticulture for Suncrest Nurseries Inc. in Watsonville, California for 5 years where he introduced more ecological growing practices. He designed soil mix recipes and started in house production of these recipes that were used for the production of the diverse variety of plants grown there. Prior to this, Delmar gardened professionally for nearly 30 years serving as horticulturist, consultant, and designer of many California public and private gardens. He was the owner of Checkerspot Nursery, a wholesale grower of perennials and shrubs from 1994-2002. 

And as an operatic tenor, Delmar has sung many leading roles with opera companies around the state.

February 9, 2022 7:30pm, Zoom 

Speaker TBD


March 9, 2022 7:30pm, Zoom and venue TBD

Succulents At Large: Designing with Larger Succulents

With Kipp McMichael

Though most familiar as small rosettes in living wreaths and well-packed planters, many succulents and cacti can be grown to impressive sizes in the Bay Area. When given space and proper care, medium and large succulents become the focal points of colorful low-water gardens that make the most of our seasonally arid climate. This talk will discuss choosing, planting and maintaining large succulents as well as the best taxa for Bay Area gardens. The talk will also include lessons from building and growing my 12 year old succulent garden in Berkeley.

Kipp McMichael is a web developer by trade and a horticulturalist by passion. He has several degrees but none of them are plant related. He lives with his husbands in Berkeley, California where he grows far too many plants including geophytes, succulents and cacti.

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April 13, 2022 7:30pm, Zoom and venue TBD

Vanilla: the Botany, the History, and the Culture

With Patricia Rain

My photographic presentation begins along the Gulf Coast of Mexico where vanilla was first harvested from the rain forest and then domesticated by the indigenous Totonacas. I touch on how Moctezuma was introduced to vanilla and his role in introducing vanilla to the conquering Spaniards.

The cycle of vanilla begins with the various ways the vanilla vines are grown throughout the tropics.

We follow the pollination process, the stages of growth, harvest, curing and drying, packing and shipping. Vanilla has been integrated into the cultures of the the countries that grow it.

We see how climate change is already impacting the three primary luxury crops we love so much (coffee, cacao, and vanilla) and how this will affect the future of these crops.

We also see a glimpse of the plantations and the people who grow and/or prepare t

he vanilla beans for market.

I will have a table where attendees can look at a few varieties of sylvestre beans not used commercially, vanilla ornaments, both planifolia and tahitensis beans and other interesting artifacts. There will be a tasting of vanilla sodas to get a sense of the differences between Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla tahitensis, and cookies that have vanilla-forward flavor.


Patricia Rain is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company,

a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of

pure natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide.

The Vanilla Cookbook (Celestial Arts, 1986) established her as an authority on this

exotic rainforest product.

She has continued to do research on the uses of vanilla in a diverse variety of applications: as a flavor in both sweet and savory foods; as a medicinal; as a fragrance; and in aromatherapy.

The Vanilla Chef (Vanilla Queen Press, 2002) is a companion book to the internet business.

Vanilla: The Cultural History of The World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance (Tarcher, a member of the US Penguin Group, 2004) is her most recent book.


May 11, 2022,  7:30pm, Zoom and venue TBD

Resiliency: Choosing Trees for Climate Adaptation

in Coastal California

With Dave Muffly

Many people are asking what trees to plant in the face of sweeping climate change and are noticing

the vast loss of all kinds of species worldwide. With dozens of new oak and other tree species,

and a true climate change migration strategy, the fabulous success of Apple Park represents

a high water mark in global ecological horticulture.

Dave will be talking about key insights and lessons of 30 years on the cutting edge, and will be

showing the trees that will be coming to our urban forests in decades to come.

Dave Muffly has been planting trees, especially oaks, in the Bay Area and other coastal California locations for more than 30 years. A graduate of Stanford University in mechanical engineering,

Dave began his tree career with the non-profit Canopy, planting native oaks in a project that has yielded more than 4,000 established oaks in 40 years. He then “branched” into fruit trees, and urban plantings, especially street trees.

As a Board Certified Master Arborist, he designed and oversaw the 101 Soundwall planting as part of the East Palo Alto Tree Initiative led by Canopy. This radical, 1,000 tree drought adaptation planting proved to be the proof of a concept for the even more radically diverse plantings

at Apple Park in Cupertino.

Dave spent seven years years as Senior Arborist at Apple, where he oversaw and directed the planting of 9,000 trees, ranging from saplings to 60 foot oaks and 100 foot redwoods, in one of most ambitious landscapes ever created.


October12, 2022 TBD

Farming in The Valley of Heart’s Delight

With Andy Mariani and Charlie Olson moderated by Robin Chapman

Change is inevitable. But despite the paving over of The Valley of Heart’s Delight,

many of us still cherish the legacy of the farmers and bounty of the harvest of Santa Clara Valley.

This is still one of the best climates on earth for growing an amazing variety of fruit.

Between the two of them, Charlie Olson (in Sunnyvale) and Andy Mariani (in Morgan Hill)

have spent over a century tending family orchards and growing some of the

best tasting fruit there is.

Tonight Robin Chapman will moderate a conversation between two local growers whose skill, knowledge and passion has kept some precious acres of trees growing and producing fruit

with the flavor they were meant to have.

This conversation will be in a question and answer format. Members are asked to submit their questions for the speakers at least a week before the meeting to  info@westernhort.org.


Andy Mariani, educated in both horticultural and behavioral sciences, continues his family’s tradition of growing specialty stone fruit along with persimmons and citrus in Santa Clara County. 

An innovative farmer, he practices Integrated Pest Management as an approach to fruit growing. 

As a member of the California Cherry Research Committee, he has helped initiate research in cherry growing.  He has also authored a book on fruit varieties, several articles and lectures on various aspects of fruit growing. 



Charles J. Olson grew up picking apricots and prunes in the family orchards in Sunnyvale, land his grandfather first purchased in 1899. His mother Rose, an immigrant from the Middle East, set up the family’s first fruit stand on El Camino Real.

Charlie went off to the University of Denver where he played football. After college Charlie played professional football in the Canadian league and then returned home to become the third generation of Olsons to work in the family business. Charlie’s daughter Deborah, the fourth generation, now distributes his luscious fruit through their family company, C.J. Olson’s Cherries. Charlie, now 86, manages the 10-acre Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard, one of the last working apricot orchards in the Santa Clara Valley. He was recently named "Sunnyvale's Hero," an honor marked by a banner in the orchard he has long cared for. 


Robin Chapman is a journalist native to Los Altos, California. She worked at KRON-TV in

San Francisco and several other stations in the West before heading to Washington D.C.

There she covered the White House and other big stories for the ABC-TV station. In 2009 Robin returned to her hometown to care for her parents, and in the years since has published

California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley and Historic Bay Area Visionaries,

both from the History Press.

She is working on a book based on a collection of her columns for the Los Altos Town Crier on Bay Area history. It is tentatively titled Apricots in Paradise: True Tales of the Santa Clara Valley and scheduled for publication by History Press in late 2022.