When there's a bug sucking on your roses, when you're looking for just the right shrub for the north side of the house or when a new weed suddenly invades the vegetable garden, whom do you turn to for advice?
Radio talk show hosts? Nursery employees? The Internet? Your neighbors? Each has its strengths and limitations. Advice from a radio garden show is just a phone call away, but the inability to see your problem is a distinct disadvantage. Searching computer web sites and newsgroups for specific information can be time consuming, confusing and frustrating. Nursery employees can help you out, providing they're knowledgeable about your situation and not just trying to sell you something you don't really need.
The horticultural profession is populated with experts with varying titles. Here's a partial "Who's Who" of knowledgeable garden folks here in California:
* California Certified Nursery Professional (CCN Pro): a retail nursery person who has passed an exam given by the California Association of Nurserymen. Areas of expertise include plant problems and identification as well as landscape planning. Usually, every nursery has one on staff and is the one to seek out for answers.
* Horticultural Consultants: Provide on-site identification, diagnostic and cultural advice and recommendations. Usually have college degrees in Horticulture as well as experience in the field. Closely related specialties include arborists (tree experts certified by the International Society of Arboriculture) and pest control advisors (licensed by the state Dept. of Pesticide Regulation).
* Landscape Architect: Concerned primarily with the design, form and function of land areas. Must have a state Landscape Architect License. Suited best for helping you formulate and implement the overall picture for your yard.
* Landscape Designer: Can provide you with ideas and a blueprint for your yard. You, though, provide the manual labor.
* Landscape Contractor: Skilled in the installation techniques of plants, irrigation systems, fences, decks and patios.
* Master Gardener: a community volunteer who is trained, tested and certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension in plant science, horticulture and gardening techniques. Locally, Sacramento County Cooperative Extension-based Master Gardeners provide free information weekdays on the telephone, at (916) 875-6913.
* The Internet. A few of my favorite horticultural reference sites.
And that picture above? A closeup of parasitized aphids. Those holes on the backs of some of those dead aphids is where the baby parasitic wasps emerged. A victory for the garden good guys! The picture was taken by a listener to the radio shows, Irene Isolde, who used her Olympus SP 550 UZ with the super macro setting selected. A victory for point and shoot cameras!