San Fernando Valley Gardening Tips

West Valley Nursery’s John Tsuchiyama Opens Up

What’s your number one gardening tip?
JT: Be as green as possible. Minimize water and chemicals.

For those looking to make a major change, any suggestions?
JT: Get rid of or reduce your lawn. Plant something like Dymondia, a silvery gray ground cover that needs little water.

What’s the one thing every garden should have?
JT: Edibles. At the very least, one should grow herbs.

Favorite perennial?
JT: For the sun, I love Wave Petunia, which is fungus-resistant. While many people use them like annuals, they’re really perennials—if you cut them back, they’ll return.

JT: Dwarf Zinnia “profusion.” It’s heat-tolerant, disease-resistant, and you don’t have to stake it.

JT: Yves Piaget. It’s a hot bluish-pink, very fragrant and looks like an antique. 

What’s your most prized possession here?
JT: Our dwarf Olive bonsai (pictured on right). One of my employees is incredible at this kind of thing. He put it in this pot five years ago. It took a lot of skill to get it to this point.

What’s the biggest mistake Valley gardeners make?
JT: They don’t use imagination when landscaping. I see these big, beautiful houses with average gardens.

What should we never grow in the Valley?
JT: Pampas grass. It’s too invasive.

You have beautiful fuchsias here – what’s the trick?
JT: They’re hard to grow in the Valley. They don’t like hot, dry sun, so you have to find the perfect spot and fertilize a lot.

You’re not a fan of the ficus hedge – right?
JT: Correct. They grow fast, but they can die from a cold snap, and they’re extremely invasive. Roots buckle pavement and crack pipes.

What’s a better option?
JT: If you can be patient, I like Holly Leaf Cherry or Catalina Cherry.

Favorite fertilizer?
JT: I’m a firm believer in organic composting. My neighbor has a compost pile that she dumps stuff into. One day out of the blue there was a watermelon growing there. Amazing.