May Grower Spotlight of the Month - John Schoustra of Greenwood Daylily Gardens - Ventura County Agricultural Education
John Schoustra is a local gem. It’s not every day you meet a grand man who wants to discuss flower varieties and their colors. When you first meet John Schoustra you notice his tall stature right away. Standing over 6′ 6″ he commands a certain distinct presence. When he looks out over his land he radiates his love for Ventura County, Somis and how his nursery fits into the landscape.
When researching Greenwood Daylily Gardens I found this great article in the Press-Telegraph News about John and his knowledge and passion for flowers.
GARDENING: Geraniums plant lifetime of memories
By Meredith Grenier
Schoustra started his nursery with the mission to find, or breed and grow, daylily varieties that are superior plants for California landscaping. They needed to be tough, grow well for anyone with little plant know-how and have lengthy bloom in garden beds. In time, his nursery began growing similarly hardy varieties of irises, clivias, pelargoniums and cannas. In each case, hundreds or thousands of varieties were evaluated before choosing the best for Southern California gardens.
“It’s nice to win a blue ribbon with a single bloom,” he said. “But I’m looking for plants that will get your attention in a landscape as you pass by going 55 miles per hour.”
Martha Washingtons are the prom queens of the pelargonium world. They put on the most spectacular show for the shortest amount of time, two to three months. They bloom in spring until the temperature reaches about 80 degrees.
“Think of them as drought-tolerant substitutes for azaleas and wonderful Mother’s Day gifts,” said Schoustra.
Rembrandt, which he offers at his nursery, is a rich purple that starts blooming late but keeps going through July. And Dark Mystery, one of his own introductions, is a deep chocolate reddish-black plant that blooms longer than most with scattered rebloom in fall.
Another exceptionally long bloomer is his “New White” with a splash of magenta. This variety will bloom throughout the summer. It is also resistant to root rot, which Martha Washingtons can get with too much water, as people tend to forget they are drought tolerant.
A lot of collectors search high and low for scented pelargoniums. Their leaves come in all sorts of scents – from lemon to chocolate to peppermint – and they don’t get little green worms or grubs, as Schoustra calls them, because the plants’ oils repel them.
“They also don’t have big, sexy flowers like Martha Washingtons, but attempts are underway to cross-scent varieties with Martha Washingtons for showier, hardier plants,” he said.
The angel varieties are my husband’s favorites. These are crosses between regal and (usually) scented geraniums. They also have been called mini-regals or pansy-face pelargoniums. He loves them for the same reason their popularity is soaring: their long blooming period (sometimes from February through fall); massive flower displays; and trouble-free, usually fragrant foliage.
Angel pelargoniums stay in bloom later than Martha Washingtons and can have color nine months out of the year. Fringed Gabriel has large triangular, pale lavender flowers with maroon centers and always looks great in the garden.
Schoustra’s nursery also carries angel introductions from Jay Kapac, whom he refers to as “the pelargonium savant, who knows which pelargoniums you can cross and which you can’t.”
Two of Kapac’s angels, Gary’s Nebula and Aurelia, have been in bloom since February, he said. But it is difficult to take cuttings from these particular varieties.
Pelargoniums are the sagebrush of South Africa. After fires they are the pioneer plants.
“Here (in Southern California) we have a fire ecology,” Schoustra said. “After a fire we get sage, then the bigger plants like ceanothus emerge, then little trees such as oaks, pines and manzanita. It is the same thing with pelargoniums in South Africa.”
To mimic the native South African conditions, pelargoniums need to be cut back around Thanksgiving. This is important to keep them blooming and from becoming rangy.
You can prune them all at once or, ideally, you can take one-third of each plant and cut it back by three-quarters. Then wait two weeks and cut another one-third back in a similar fashion. Finally, wait two weeks to cut the final one-third back. By then, you should see tiny new growth emerging on remaining short stems. As the days grow shorter, plants will start pushing new buds.
Schoustra only grows four zonal varieties. Most tend to get spores on the backs of the leaves, but his plant called Redondo is spore-free. It loves heat so it should be grown near a reflective wall and its red blooms will produce all summer.
He said if he could only grow three pelargoniums, he would grow Tweedle Dee, with its masses of peach to salmon blooms; White Lady, a scented with white flowers, which is already pushing blooms at Christmas after its Thanksgiving pruning; and Variegated Nutmeg, which has bright green foliage with the amazing ability to make any plant next to it stand out. It virtually made a burgundy red zonal pop when placed beside it.
Schoustra’s nursery in Somis, near Moorpark, is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, April through June. That’s when his daylilies, irises, pelargoniums, cannas and clivias are available.
John also has a website where he sells selected plants throughout the year, and he is a frequent visitor to area garden sales, such as the South Coast Botanic Garden’s fall and spring sales and the South Bay Geranium Society’s sale.
For information, go to www.greenwoodgarden.com