Dog Days of Summer

So, my daughter Tara is finishing up her Master’s in Literature at Glasgow University in Scotland. What I’ve noticed about her besides growing up to be a wonderful young lady, is how smart and intelligent she is. During her college career she has read many novels spanning centuries of time. She knows an incredible amount of “stuff”.

I think to myself, “I want to know that much ‘stuff’.”

But the truth of the matter is I’m too old to follow her academic trail. And I think my mind has atrophied a little bit to the point that I’m not sure I can absorb as much “stuff” as she has. So I take on the simple “stuff”.

The Dog Days of Summer are upon us. But, what puzzles me is what is a dog day? I know what dog years are. I know that a cat has nine lives. What’s a dog day? Well, check this out. Those Romans, they had answers for all kinds of “stuff”. They call the hottest, most humid days of summer “dies caniculares” or “dog days”.

They associated the hottest day of summer with the star Sirius. Sirius is the “dog star” because it’s the brightest star in the constellation Canus Major, “Large Dog”.

Stick that fun fact in your hat, Tara.

But for most of us, the Dog Days of Summer translates as just long, hot, humid days. These are the days that we bob and weave in and out of air conditioned buildings, park in the shade and garden from inside the house by looking out the window. But September is kind of a pivotal month in gardening. Here are some gardening tips for September that will pave the way for a better garden. Here we go.

Tara has a wonderful green thumb (not), so hopefully she’ll learn something from her Pops.

This is a good time of year, Tara, to fertilize your indoor plants. But since you’re moving back home in October, this doesn’t apply to you. You’re off the hook.

For all you green thumb people this is a great time to dig and divide and replant overgrown perennials as they finish blooming.

Now’s a great time to add compost to your soil for winter vegetables.

If you want to plant bulbs, now is a good time to purchase them and place them in the refrigerator for six weeks if they haven’t already been pre-chilled.

Time to take out vegetable plants that have stopped producing and compost them.

If you’ve got fruit trees, fertilize after harvest and top dress with compost. We do this at Maple Rock with horse manure right before the rains come which washes the fertilizers into the soil naturally.

Now, I realize we’ve been blessed with some really great weather of late, but I’m sure the heat will come back. Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows, because believe it or not the first day of fall is only 25 days away.

As Fall comes and the days get shorter we can reduce watering slightly, but for now keep your hands off your irrigation clocks. I realize you want to take your seat belt off when the plane’s coming into the gate, but you have to wait until the plane comes to a full and complete stop. So put your hands back in your pockets and don’t touch your irrigation clocks until I tell you it’s safe and I tell you to take them out and move about.

With the Dog Days of Summer here, Maple Rock watermelons have arrived. Join us this Saturday at High Hand for Ryan’s melons.

Here’s a look at Ryan’s melons in the back of his pickup truck grown at Maple Rock. Here are our offerings this weekend – Tendergold, Orangeglo, Cream of Saskatchewan, Crimson Sweet and Moon and Stars.

There’ll also be a few cantaloupes available. Do you remember I bought seeds for a Japanese cantaloupe that sold for 24 grand a pair in Japan? Well, they’re growing and they’re ripening. I’ll let you know when it’s time for tasting. We’ll see what all the fuss was about soon enough.

The Dog Days of Summer bring about Train Day at Maple Rock.

Did I tell you that you will be able to purchase lunch at Train Day? You’ll have a choice between barbecue tri-tip or chicken served with a slaw and corn on the cob. Or a pulled pork sandwich on our very own bread. And for your vegetarian delight, a wonderful pasta with summer vegetables. Need a snack? Chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies.

And if you’d like to wash it down, we’re offering beer, wine and two signature High-Hand cocktails. So come on and have a beer. Why not? You’re not driving the trains. But, if you are, we’ll have lemonade and, of course, watermelon lemonade.

Train Day will also include watermelon fresh picked from the fields and, if the flowers are available, U-Pick It flowers.

Parking is free. Live entertainment, as always.

Tour the garden with a glass of wine.

Tickets are available by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event.

So, let’s recap Dog Days.

This Saturday, September 1st at High-Hand Nursery, meet Farmer Ryan from Maple Rock. Meet Farmer Ryan’s melons. You can adopt a melon and take it home. They’re very easy to care for and delicious to eat. He’ll be rolling in somewhere around 9ish.

September 15, Train Day, 9-3pm with all the fixins mentioned above. Pick your own flowers, $5 a bouquet. Bring your own clippers and gloves. Have some lunch. Stroll the garden with a cocktail and watch the lazy trains huff and puff through.

See you at High-Hand Nursery this weekend and meet a melon. I’ve never met a melon I didn’t like.



It’s the Dog Days of Summer of Celebration at the High-Hand Olive Oil Company. Shop online and receive 20% off your purchase. Type in coupon code GR8OIL to get your savings. This will get you 20% off and flat rate shipping. This is good for online only. Shop online at and shop for great oil.

Sage & Onion Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sage & Onion Mashed Sweet Potatoes



  1. Place diced potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain immediately.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons High-Hand Olive Oil Company Sage & Onion Infused Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced onions and brown sugar; stir occasionally, until the onions caramelize and turn a deep golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. In a small skillet over medium heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons of High-Hand Olive Oil Company Sage & Onion Infused Olive Oil. Add sliced sage leaves and saute until lightly crisp. Remove from heat.
  4. Using a hand-held potato masher or an electric mixer, mash potatoes to desired consistency. Add the caramelized onions and the crisp sage leaves in High-Hand Olive Oil Company Sage & Onion Infused Olive Oil to the potatoes. Add coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir until well blended.
  5. Drizzle with High-Hand Olive Oil Company Sage & Onion Infused Olive Oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt before serving.

Crazy Dory and the Freight Train

Man, I had no idea.

High-Hand Nursery is backed up against railroad tracks. Every time a train leaves the Roseville rail yard it comes huffing and puffing through to make it over the Sierras. To this day I still stop and watch the freight train come through. Maybe it’s a guy thing.

Hosing off concrete is a guy thing. Starting a barbecue is a guy thing and watching freight trains? It’s a guy thing.

Did you know Saturday, September 15th is Train Day at Maple Rock Gardens?

Well, now you know. Train Day at Maple Rock, September 15th. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event. All aboard for Train Day.

I’ll bet you didn’t know this. The longest freight train in history was over 18,000 feet long or around 60 football fields. I wouldn’t want to wait at that train crossing.

The longest Maple Rock train in history? Six feet.

There are over 107 billion pounds of steel within America’s rail network.

At Maple Rock, 125 pounds. Ish.

There are over 489 million railroad ties in the rail network.

At Maple Rock, within our G scale railroad we maintain about 2500.

You can build 6,667 Eiffel Towers with all the steel from America’s train system.

You could not even build a rivet for the Eiffel Tower with Maple Rock’s steel.

Stretch out the freight train network from end to end and you will wrap the earth 5.6 trips.

Stretch out Maple Rock Garden’s railroad system end to end and you’ll barely make it down the driveway.

A freight train can move a ton of freight 473 miles on a single gallon of fuel. Don’t believe me? Google it.

A single electrical charge of the Maple Rock freight train batteries will take us about a quarter mile. Hah! Pound for pound, I think I have them beat on this one.

The Maple Rock Garden Railroad is now eleven years old. With over 900 feet of aluminum track, the railroad is designed to be interesting and pleasing. It’s mixture of hills, valleys and open scenes that avoids the monotonous circling of most garden railroads. Built with the help of master train builder, Earl Martin, the railroad serves a gold mine, a logging operation, two small towns and a train depot. Its long loops climb up the mountain and return to the valley floor. Out and back trips are about five scale miles, climbing and descending about 300 scale feet (15 vertical feet).

The railroad is part of a 30 acre garden and farm with extensive walking gardens and water features with plantings to fit the scale of the railroad.

On September 15th at Train Day, live steam locomotives will join the tracks. Something you don’t see much on America’s railroads these days. So join us at Maple Rock for this rare treat.

Here’s something you didn’t know. Crazy Dory? Well, she’s actually not that crazy. This Saturday, join Crazy Dory, aka Dory, for a Kokedama class.

Did you know? Kokedama is a centuries old garden form from Japan. Our version uses beautiful succulents from our nursery planted into moss and shaped into cones. We will suspend our ornamental garden onto a branch and create a custom macrame hanger display. All supplies are included as well as a refreshing boozy beverage and treats from our cafe to enjoy while you craft.

Did you know you can reserve your space by clicking here for this Saturday, August 25th? Now you do.

Did you know that succulents got their name from the Latin word “sucus”? This means juice or sap.

Did you know Dory got her name from Dory the Fish? Now, if you believe that, that means that Dory is only two years old since the movie Finding Dory came out in 2016. I had to keep up the “Did you know” theme. Mama said a little white lie don’t hurt.

There’s a succulent named after a donkey’s tail. That’s surprisingly sophisticated, don’t you think?

Did you know there are thousands of things you can make with succulents, including jewelry that will grow as you wear it?

And did you know that the amount of classes and fun ideas that are in Dory’s head are endless? They are so endless that I have decided to build Dory her very own dedicated Crazy Dory classroom. Coming soon, the High-Hand classroom will host a gamut of fun, entertaining activities for all.

But, check this out, in the middle of construction we came across a surprise I didn’t see coming.

I said, “Joe, let’s tear that plywood off the old evaporator platform.”

Now, understand I have pretty much remodeled High-Hand from head to toe and thought I had pretty much unearthed every nook and cranny and every secret this building held. But she wasn’t done giving up secrets.

As Joe tore down the plywood, the paper confetti rained. Who would stuff a bunch of paper between two layers of cooling platform? Who was told to do this?

“Hey, Hank. Go stuff a bunch of paper in between the wood.”

“What paper would you like me to stuff, Harvey?”

“Just grab anything you can find and stuff away.”

Well, I guess if you were a fruit packer at High-Hand this is the paper you would have grabbed to wrap fruit 60 plus years ago. So, it would only be natural to stuff an evaporative cooling platform with High Hand fruit wraps. Right?

Do you think Hank knew that long after he was gone, Dory would come along 60 years later with all of these fun crafty ideas in her head and inspire us to build a classroom and find his time capsule?

High-Hand continues to surprise.

So now you know. August 25th, this Saturday you can join Dory for her Kokedama class. Sign up by clicking here.

And you now know that September 15th the steam engines will be rolling down the tracks at the Maple Rock Garden Railroad. Farmer Ryan will most likely have fresh melons picked from the field if Nature allows. Perhaps even U-Pick flowers from the garden. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.

Join us for these great times and stop by High-Hand Nursery and watch the progress of Dory’s classroom.

See you at High-Hand Nursery.


OMG, I Killed My Japanese Maple

Or did I? There are two ways to kill a Japanese Maple. Panic and love. I’ve seen it all. So, let me help you out with these.

We notice our Japanese Maple is drying up. It’s leaves don’t look like they used to and they’re dropping off like rats from a sinking ship. We don’t know what to do, so we do nothing. We’re paralyzed. We’re paralyzed because we didn’t take five minutes to understand the rights and wrongs of our Japanese Maple and so we don’t even know which questions to ask.

This doesn’t make sense to me. We’ll get a free cell phone because of a free upgrade and be completely focused for the next month learning the ins and outs of that cell phone. We’ll buy a four hundred dollar Japanese Maple and not take three minutes to learn the ins and outs. This scenario plays out more than you think.

Killing it with kindness is the best and fastest way to kill a Japanese Maple. When it’s leaves dried up we decided to remove them from the tree because we didn’t want the tree to look ugly. So nice. We just opened up Pandora’s box to the demise of our tree. Overwatering our tree because we thought it needed it contributed to its demise.

So let me share Japanese Maple reality. SPOILER ALERT: They’re not easy to kill if you don’t panic or kill them with kindness.

So we had to plant a red leaf Japanese Maple in the full sun.  Good news, bad news. It will survive. It will take several years for its shallow root system to develop. Bad news. There’s nothing we can do about the fading leaves. The dry California air and the lack of humidity is the culprit. There’s nothing we can do about it. Don’t panic. Let the tree do its thing

This is a tree in our nursery. Not even I can prevent it in the dry California air. In the heat of the summer, the leaves get tired. You might call it burning or dying. I call it flagging. Do not remove the leaves. Your kindness will remove the insulation the tree needs to protect itself. Don’t panic.

I’m going to let it work through its drama. It will be beautiful once its feeder roots become established and stronger against the summer heat.

There are things you can do to help the tree along:

Putting mulch around the base of the tree helps retain moisture and maintain a weed free environment. Keeping grass away from the trees will eliminate competition for water and provide winter protection for the roots.

Japanese maples do not like inconsistent watering. They prefer a uniform supply. If you are in a dry area, don’t flood the tree inconsistently. If you are in an area where moisture is plentiful, the tree should be watered during dry spells. Got it? Consistent watering.

Japanese maples are not greedy. If your soil is fertile enough for most of your garden plants chances are the maple will do well. Here come the big words. Maples seem to resent the ammonium sources of nitrogen. Calcium nitrate works best, as well as other non-ammonium fertilizers. A balanced garden fertilizer will be just fine. Apply in early Spring and not more than once a year and you’re good to go.

Don’t Get Confused
The most talked about and most confusing problem with the Japanese Maple is twig dieback. This condition or disease starts at the tip of the twigs and moves down through the branch shoot. There are a number of fungal diseases, pesty bugs and climate conditions, including soil chemistry (yuck, I hate chemistry) that can cause this problem. Try not to confuse disease over what is most simply a certain amount of “natural pruning”. This takes place as the tree develops and can be resolved by simply taking your finger and snapping off these branches.

The Right Tree in the Right Place
Weeping Japanese maples such as Crimson Queen or Red Dragon or green Viridis (you can Google images on these), generally need shadier conditions. While they can acclimate sometimes in the sun, they will get tired and flag. If you are okay with that and keep watering consistently let time work it out. Usually two to three hours of sun in the morning is okay.

Red, upright Japanese maples such as Emperor 1 or Bloodgood can go in the sun, but the same rules apply as the weeping maples.

Scott’s Picks on Japanese Maples for Full Sun – There are three.

Acer palmatum “Seiryu”- This tree is amazing. It is the only upright growing laceleaf. With its beautiful red Fall color, it is a show stopper. When stressed in the heat it is very rare that it flags. Instead it gets a cinnamon hue. Perfect.

Acer palmatum “Pine Bark” – Cool leaves, controlled upright habit, very cool bark like a pine tree, stunning red fall color. It holds up well in direct sunlight and heat.

Last, but not least, Acer palmatum “Tobiosho” – It’s a basic green maple. People usually cruise by it and yawn. Just a boring green maple. But no, this maple is a consistent grower with outstanding fall color.

All three of these trees do wonderful in full sun with consistent watering and consistent fall color.

This is my friend, Pine Bark. He lives in the nursery in full sun as well, right across the way from Mr. Drama Bloodgood. Not such a boring green Japanese maple is he?

Back by Popular Demand

Saturday, August 25th, 10:00am–12:00pm
$65 + tax

Kokedama is a centuries old garden form from Japan. Our version uses beautiful succulents from our nursery planted into moss and shaped into cones. We will suspend our ornamental garden onto a branch and create a custom macrame hanger display. All supplies are included as well as a refreshing boozy beverage and treats from our cafe to enjoy while you craft. Reserve your space by clicking here to get tickets.

Rolling down the tracks.

Train Day at Maple Rock Gardens, September 15th. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event. All aboard for Train Day.

So if you’re looking for green or red, upright or laceleaf, ask us. There are just a few questions you need to answer.

1. Do I want a green maple or a red maple?
2. Do I want it to be in sun or shade?
3. Do I want it to be a laceleaf or a broadleaf?
4. Do I want it to be an upright grower or a weeping grower?

Answer the questions and it will narrow down your choices automatically.

I love Japanese maples. You should too. Grow them with confidence. Don’t be afraid.

See you at High-Hand Nursery.


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