In memoriam: Goodbye to old oak


Courtesy of Molly Matthews
The oak tree at Montecito Preschool was cut down last November. Over the years, thousands of children played beneath its branches.

The California live oak tree at Montecito Preschool had to be cut down last November. Molly Matthews, co-founder of the preschool, reflects on the loss.

Seasons in the greenhouse


Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Built under the shade of a deciduous tree and in view of the kitchen window, this greenhouse protects tender seedlings and transplants from weather and pests.

Growing your own plants from seeds or cuttings requires nothing more than a dedicated area of your yard or house where you will be sure to check in daily. I’ve used everything from tables in front of a sunny south-facing window indoors to jury-rigged cold frames and north-facing patios outdoors. But a small backyard greenhouse is fun if you enjoy propagating plants year-round and watching them grow.

Before you take on the cost and responsibility of a greenhouse, consider whether you have the space, what you like to grow and how much you will use it.

Los Altos passes ADU laws

It’s getting easier for grandma to move into the backyard.

The Los Altos City Council approved two amended ordinances July 10, one governing the size of accessory structures in residential districts and another regulating accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as in-law units, granny units or secondary units.

Summertime is pool time for many local residents


Photos courtesy of Phil Cooke
Summer is often the time homeowners want to remodel or clean up their pools – or put one in. According to Phil Cooke, owner of Blue Water Pools, summer is his busiest season. The Los Altos Building Division reports that over the past five years, more residents applied for permits to install a pool than to demolish one.

As summer heats up, many Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents are thinking about their pools – and repairing them. According to Phil Cooke, owner of the Mountain View-based Blue Water Pools, summer is the busiest time for his pool building and repair service.

“Everybody is paying attention to their pool, and anything that wasn’t fixed can be fixed,” he said.

Flies are underappreciated pollinators


Photo by Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Because flies eat nectar and perch on flowers to bask in the sun, they serve as important pollinators, supplementing the work of local bees.

Flies are the second-greatest pollinators after bees. As pollinators, flies are undervalued, understudied and underappreciated, according to John Whittlesey, owner of Canyon Creek Nursery and Design.

Whittlesey spoke at the Northern California Botanists’ Symposium last year. He said he started doing macrophotography several years ago, taking photos of “whatever ends up on a flower,” and saw lots of flies. He discovered that flies are very photogenic, and he wondered what they were doing.

Planting for privacy: How to create living fences and grow strategic espaliers


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Vines and espaliers can serve as a natural curtain, offering privacy with the perk of bonus natural visuals. Planting to create a “sanctuary space” requires planning which green screens can grow to fill a need without overcrowding or requiring constant trimming.

Hedges serve the purpose of fences but are more visually appealing, espaliers and vines can function like natural curtains and strategically placed plants used as screens or garden dividers can result in a “splendid sanctuary space,” according to Kevin Raftery, owner of Kevin Raftery Horticultural Services.

“Planting for privacy can screen what you don’t want to see and direct the eye to what you want to see,” said Raftery, who is also a horticulture instructor at Foothill College and teacher of the “Planting for Privacy” class at the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden in Palo Alto.


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