top of page


Join us for monthly Western Hort programs designed to inform, educate and inspire the dedicated plant lover. 

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.

In-person meetings, 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!

Our Upcoming September Meeting will be in-person
in the Garden House at Shoup Park in Los Altos

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 about donations or questions.   

Nita Winter and Rob Badger Backpacking in Carson Pass_CA_MG_4958_BATB_edited.jpg

September 13th, 2023,  7:30pm,

A 27 Year Wildflower Journey: The Making of Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change

With Rob Badger and Nita Winter

Rob Badger and Nita Winter take you behind the scenes on their 27-year journey photographing wildflowers throughout California and the West.

It began in 1992 when they discovered and fell in love with California's spectacular wildflower blooms in the Mojave Desert's Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve. Photographing these beautiful landscapes and individual flowers evolved into their documentary art project,

“Beauty and the Beast: Wildflowers and Climate Change.”

Gorgeous superbloom scenery isn’t the only thing that makes this series so special.

The photographers show how they create wildflower portraits in the field, lugging 80 pounds

of cameras and their “natural light” studio equipment from below sea level in Death Valley National Park to 13,000-foot- high mountain passes. Rob also shares two innovative field techniques he developed to capture unique floral portraits that go beyond traditional wildflower photography.

Internationally acclaimed conservation photographers Rob Badger and Nita Winter have been life partners and creative collaborators for more than three decades.

Rob’s environmental images have won multiple awards, including Best in Photojournalism

in international competition. He was one of three American photographers chosen to document Russian nature preserves in Siberia.

In 1998, he presented a slideshow documenting the impact of mining on our public lands at the National Press Club in Washington DC for the Sierra Club to support the Clinton administration’s efforts to reform the antiquated 1872 Mining Law.

Nita began her photographic career documenting her work fighting wildfires in northern California and later as a National Park Ranger on Alcatraz.

In 1986, Nita had her first major exhibit, “The Children of the Tenderloin.” The series received extensive media coverage and showed her first-hand the power of photographic storytelling.

Over the next 17 years, she produced and created portraits for six major public art projects celebrating the Bay Area’s diverse communities.

Their work has been featured in NBC-TV, KQED-TV, Time, Mother Jones, and Sierra magazines, the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. They are the recipients of the Sierra Club’s 2020 Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography.

Purchase books and learn more at


October 11th, 2023,  7:30pm,

Growing Stone Fruits in the Home Garden

With Andy Mariani

Those of us who were lucky enough to attend the October 2006 WHS meeting heard

Andy Mariani’s well-informed discussion of the best adapted and most flavorful varieties of stone fruit trees for the Santa Clara Valley.

Back by popular demand, this month Andy will tell us how to care for those thoughtfully chosen stone fruit trees in order to harvest the highest quality fruit possible.

Andy will cover topics like winter chill requirements, pollination, pruning/training, rootstocks, irrigation, fertilization and a special focus on diseases and pests of stone fruit. 

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.  

Morales flats_edited.jpg
Morales head shot_edited.jpg

November 8th, 2023,  7:30pm,

Plant Propagation: Tips from A-Z

With Leonel Morales-Bajarano

Plant propagation around the world is both the same and completely different.

Certain basic techniques can be applied to many plants, but when we’re faced with more difficult subjects, independent experimentation can yield some surprising results.

Leonel’s talk will be about more than just the basics. He will focus on the propagation

of California natives, combining a short history of his work at Suncrest Nurseries and real-life illustrations of challenges he’s met.

Leonel Morales-Bajarano’s career path is an example of what can be accomplished through hard work, constant experimentation and a willingness to learn from mentors.

He began working at Suncrest Nurseries Inc in about 1990 after working for a short time

at Soquel Nursery and then at a landscape company.

His first duties included the basics: planting, weeding and watering. In short order he moved to the pull order group and then to propagation where he set about learning two languages,

English and botanical Latin.

In 1993 Leonel began learning the intricacies of propagation, working with Nevin Smith,

and became head of propagation in 2000 where he remained for more than twenty years, responsible for the 3,000+ different plants available at Suncrest. Leonel left Suncrest in 2021 to work for Manuel Morales at Los Arroyos International Wholesale Nursery as head of propagation.

Ken Litchfield head shot_edited.jpg

December 13th, 2023,  7:30pm,

All Mushrooms are Magical:

Experiencing the Phantasmagorical Realm of Fungi

With Ken Litchfield

We will learn about many of our favorite local Bay Area and Northern California mushrooms

and their culinary, herbal/medicinal, dye and psychoactive properties and uses.

Ken will discuss their healing properties for human health and also their mycoremediation properties for healing the earth and building healthy soils. He will share easy to learn techniques he has implemented in woodland, garden and lab situations. He will cover many mushroom lore topics

of interest including fruit of the roots of the pine and the oak, ergot and huitlacoche lore in Aztec fermentations, candy cap mushroom psychoactivity, stoned ape theory, Hollywood mushroom stories and much more.

Ken will illustrate his talk with stories and anecdotes from his many years of mycological escapades so that we can partake in the creative flavors and juices of his MycoMondo late nite events.

Ken encourages us to bring our locally collected mushrooms to add to table decorations

and for him to identify and discuss. 

Ken Litchfield has been the Chair of the Cultivation Committee of the Mycological Society

of San Francisco for over 30 years. During that time he he led a team of mushroom cultivation enthusiasts to institute the mushroom society's first mushroom garden at Randall Museum.

He moved it to the Presidio National Park during a remodel of the museum.

At the Presidio Ken and his committee instituted the society's first mushroom lab.

When the Presidio had to remodel he moved the lab and garden to Merritt Community College Landscape Horticulture Department where he instituted the first community college accredited

Mushroom Cultivation course in the country.

He also instituted Growing and Using Healthful Herbs and Beneficial Beasts in the Garden classes as part of the horticulture and permaculture programs Applied Biology for the Plant, Animal,

and Fungi Kingdoms), which he taught for 10 years before retiring. He moved the lab and programs as citizen science to Omni Commons in Oakland where it resided for several years until Covid.

Fergus Garrett photo _edited.jpg

January 10th, 2024,  7:30pm,

Plant Combinations for a Long-Lasting and Resilient Garden

With Fergus Garrett

Fergus will talk about the plant combinations at Great Dixter, Northiam, East Sussex

which is an incredibly resilient and biodiverse garden. 

A long season of interest is achieved by mimicking multi layered, natural systems that are present

in the surrounding ancient woodlands, meadows, and pastures. He will touch on individual plants,

and how they can be placed in a community, as well as horticultural techniques which help

to support good plant growth with the changing climate and adverse weather conditions. 

Fergus will also give examples from other gardens striving towards waterwise resilient horticulture.

In addition, Fergus will discuss soil, composting and sustainable practices within the garden at Dixter, striving towards a circular system and creating a more harmonious place for humans and other life.

Fergus Garrett has been Head Gardener for the world famous Great Dixter Garden in Northiam, East Sussex, United Kingdom since 1993.

In 2006, Fergus took over the position of CEO of the Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Fergus has a Turkish mother and an English father, was born in England but grew up in Turkey

until he was 12 years old. He studied horticulture at Wye College, University of London,

graduating in 1989.

Fergus has received many horticultural honors, including the Royal Horticultural Society Associate of Honor, the International Contributor Award from the Perennial Plant Association, the Longhouse Landscape Award,the Garden Media Guild Golden Nisse Award, the Veitch Memorial Medal

of the Royal Horticultural Society and the RHS Victoria Medal of Honor. 

Fergus believes in passing on his knowledge and expertise through national and international student and volunteer programs at Great Dixter. He has written many magazine article and lectures widely both nationally and internationally. Fergus is a hands on gardener who is deeply interested not only in the artistic aspect of gardening but also education and biodiversity. 

Jen and Mom_edited.jpg

February 14th, 2024,  7:30pm,

Memories of an Extraordinary Garden

With Jennifer Dungan

Jennifer Dungan will speak about the making of a garden (1990-2009) in Carmel Valley by her late mother, Claire, an avid amateur horticulturist.

Originally, this was a rocky site with a steep hillside at the mouth of the valley that Jennifer's parents purchased in 1988. Through terracing, placement of stairs, trellises, stone pavement and walls, complete lawn replacement, and continual soil improvement, the basis for an amazing plant and wildlife paradise was created. Claire was constantly seeking rare or unusual cultivars and had a true artist's eye for striking and inspiring compositions.

Pictures of her garden (Saxon Holt photography) can be found on many pages

of "Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region"

(East Bay Municipal Utility District, 2004).

There is something for everyone in this talk, from the macro to the micro.

Jennifer Dungan gained her garden-love at her mother's knee. The family lived in the East until the late 1980s, when they all moved to California. 

While Jennifer's career developed at NASA where she studied vegetation from satellite, in her spare time she often visited her parents as they built their Carmel Valley garden.

Together, mother and daughter learned about the very different climate, soils and vegetation

of the West and got to know the people and places of the Bay Area horticultural world.

Both Jennifer’s garden in Mountain View and her sister’s garden in Davis were cultivated

in collaboration with their mother.

Since her passing, both sisters feel her spirit among the foliage and flowers.

example of line-source drip_edited.jpg
Lori Palmquist head shot.jpg

March 13th, 2024,  7:30pm,

Water in Your Garden – Taking Control

With Lori Palmquist

California is all abuzz with talk of drought right now. Our local water districts have declared

Stage 2 drought and are bringing on restrictions, reductions, excessive-use penalties, and drought surcharges. It’s time for us to get our dry game up and running.

Join irrigation and water-efficiency expert Lori Palmquist as she gives you a veritable buffet

of strategies for lowering your water use in the landscape. She’ll provide a no-nonsense approach

to using water wisely and responsibly. Lori will provide you with actionable steps and a checklist

for watering your garden correctly and making your irrigation the best it can be.

You’ll come away with new tools for drought-proofing your landscape. 

Get ready to rock your irrigation!

Your garden will thank you, and our diminishing water supply will surely benefit.

The following topics will be covered:

  • Why it is essential for us all to reduce the water we use in our landscapes

  • Alternative sources for landscape water

  • Seven strategies for reducing water use

  • A checklist handout for assessing and optimizing your irrigation

  • A resources handout for where to find assistance

  • Instructions for programming your irrigation controllers

Lori Palmquist is an irrigation expert who has designed, installed, repaired, maintained, and upgraded hundreds of irrigation systems in her 33-year career as a landscape professional.

She has a fiery devotion to irrigation and water conservation and claims to have irrigation water running through her veins.

As a water manager for several homeowners’ associations and large residential landscapes

in the Bay Area, she has been responsible for saving millions of gallons of water from being wasted

in the landscape. In the past 15 years, Lori has given hundreds of talks, workshops, seminars,

and trainings to thousands of landscape professionals and the public.

That’s pretty good for someone who used to be terrified of public speaking.

April 10th, 2024,  7:30pm,

Five Seasons: The Garden of Piet Ouldolf

Documentary movie night

Arvind Kumar final copy 2_edited.jpg

May 8th, 2024,  7:30pm,

Gardening for Habitat With Native Plants

With Arvin Kumar

Why do we garden? Is it only for beauty and to enhance the curb appeal of houses?

Or does the garden also play a role in the local ecology? More and more people are coming

to realize that our yards can provide sustenance to wildlife, from butterflies to birds and more, without sacrificing aesthetics.

A yard landscaped with well-chosen native plants can not only look good but also provide unparalleled habitat value.

Come to this talk to learn the basics of habitat gardening and which native plants

in our area are particularly suited for attracting birds and butterflies.

A plant list will be available.

A software engineer by training, Arvind Kumar has been growing native plants in his home garden

in San Jose for 22 years.

He coordinates volunteer workdays at the 2-acre Native Garden in Lake Cunningham Park.

He is a board member and former president of California Native Plant Society

(Santa Clara Valley Chapter).

bottom of page