The American Garden School

one class will change the way you garden

additional course topics

The American Garden School offers a full range of course material concerning gardens and landscaping. Keep a look out for future course availability, and see below to view our offerings. If there is a specific topic you are interested in learning about or would like to work with the American Garden School for an upcoming private, educational, landscape industry or public event, let us know! Course lengths can be as little as 1 or 2 hours, or last most of a day. 

Native Plant Gardens
There are 6400 native plant species in California from widely varied ecosystems.  Each part of the state has a wide range of soils and climates occurring in a very small area- that range from coastal bluffs, to fog-prone inland sites, hot inland valleys, oak woodland, chaparral, or serpentine soils. Which plants are good specimens for the conditions found in our gardens and how do we go about choosing them?  How do we compose them in a pleasing combination that suits our sense of design and what care do they need? This course will guide participants through these many questions and present a range of easily-grown plants to chose from and describe the typical care they require.  Slides of native plant gardens will serve as design examples.

Practical Soils
Why do so many plants and gardens fail to thrive despite our best intentions? Soil health is too often overlooked in our garden planning and maintenance.  Healthy soil creates healthy plants, yet what is healthy soil and how do we create it? When do we till and when do we not need to? What is the correct soil approach to each garden type? What is the best type of compost and mulch for each garden situation? Learn the practical and simple secrets to success to with soil in many situations such as from vegetable gardens, flower borders, native plants, shrubs and mature trees.

Sustainable Landscape Design
Create your own sanctuary. Instead of the ferocious roar of the lawnmower- imagine dueling hummingbirds, the quiet melodies of goldfinches, courting titmice in the arbor, velvet-upholstered bumblebees, a symphony of flowers through the seasons, a cascade of mock orange perfuming the dinner table; a place where plants grow in sympathy with the soil and climate, and support nature while creating a moving and inspirational experience for us.  How do we create these environments and why are their principles so important?  Many examples of these gardens (including edible), the principles that underlay them, and the accompanying sustainable/ecological themes will be discussed.

Bee-friendly Gardens
Planting pollinator gardens not only ensures your vegetables, flowers and fruit trees are pollinated, but can help perpetuate plants who depend on pollination- over 80% of the world’s plants.  Though many of us think of honeybees when we think of pollinators, there are 1600 species of native bees in California.  Who are they and what do they need? Bee-friendly gardens are flower-filled gardens, yet what flowers do bee visit and why? How do we arrange them to best support bees? This course is focused on bees, their life-cycles and plants that support them.

How to Design Bee-Friendly Gardens
Flower-filled gardens make us happy, support many species of bees, and other biodiversity beneficial to our gardens and our lives. We all desire our gardens to be full of color and interest for many months of the year, yet what flowers appeal to which bees and why? How can we put them together in compositions that work well with the parameters of our site, in combinations that suit us, and cater to bee’s needs?  This intensive design-focused course will show you how look at your garden with new eyes, and how to create beautiful landscapes and inspirational environments that will transform your relationship to your yard. 

Habitat Gardens
Habitat gardens are plant-filled gardens. These same gardens make us happy and have the ability to sustain many insects and birds.  Flowers provide nectar and pollen resources that many beneficial insects, bees and butterflies require. Over 90% of birds feed their young insects, so where there are insects for fledglings there is potential for healthy bird populations. Birds require plant structural diversity to nest and roost, and those which provide seeds, berries for birds to eat are equally important.  This course will focus on which plants to include in your habitat garden, how to structure them, and provide examples of colorful and unique garden styles to consider.

School Garden Intensive
School gardens are designed with our children in mind, yet they must be easy to take care of and continue to thrive during the summer when children are not in school. How do you set up an efficient and healthy system that generates a plant filled garden that requires a minimum of maintenance and provides a maximum of fun and educational opportunities for kids? This intensive class will go over various bed options, developing and maintaining healthy soils, weed control, efficient irrigation systems, pest control- besides lots of examples of fun and appealing plants and gardens that get kids excited. 

Irrigation Design Made Easy
Is life ever going to change for you!  This subject, which has as many methods and water delivery types as there are types of pasta, will be simplified into standardized organizational systems that translate to every part of your garden, and to every garden.  Learning how to systematize your irrigation into simple, rational forms, and to run on irrigation timers will revolutionize the way your garden preforms, and save water!  Lessons on how to operate timers will also be provided.  We will discuss various irrigation systems to meet your landscape needs, water budgeting, and maintaining your system.

For the Professional: Landscapes of Success and Efficiency

Much time and resources go into conceiving, designing and installing a landscape, and expectations are high for its appearance and performance.  Yet, how do these landscapes look two years or five years later?  Success and longevity of a landscape is determined by a series of simple, essential but often misunderstood principles and practices that include designing for the criteria and goals of the site, adequate soil preparation and maintenance with the right materials, efficient and simple irrigation systems, appropriate plant choices and siting and care of them.  Knowing and understanding these principles are essential for professionals- from maintenance gardeners, to designers and landscape architects.  This intensive course covers all the topics you need to know for successful, efficient landscapes in the short and long term that will make your work shine. 



Is your venue or group interested in teaming up with The American Garden School to put on a course? We can come to you! Contact us to discuss opportunities.


The Drought Resistant Garden
All of us desire to have drought resistant gardens. The usual technique is to buy plants labeled drought resistant, plant, and think we are done. There is a lot more to this essential new reality of our Western climate. It involves processes beginning with developing healthy soils, selecting the right mulch, effective drip irrigation system on a timer, understanding plants adaptation strategies to drought, proper planting techniques, and quality plants. We will discuss everything you need to know to develop a truly drought tolerant garden and look at successful examples of this concept.

Pruning & Garden Maintenance
This course discusses the importance and many techniques of proper garden care for a beautiful and thriving garden. People often don't know how much, how little or when to cut back plants or to deadhead spent flowers.  In addition, some plants are short-lived while others are long-lived. Some need dividing every few years. Some shrubs respond best to pruning techniques rather than heading. How do you approach each of these plants care and how do you know what to do?  We will go over how to "read" a plant's needs so to care for them correctly. We look at this subject from the basics of correct planting, to seasonal maintenance,  pruning techniques, seasonal maintenance, and pest & weed control. 

Plant Propagation
Plant propagation is fun and easy. Simple rules apply to many propagation situations. Learn to grow plants from seed, cuttings, and division for your garden, opening up the opportunity for an endless array of vegetable and flower varieties not found in nurseries. This class will go over how to grow successful seedlings, soft and hardwood cuttings, divisions, layering, bulb and tuber propagation, and much more.  Generate plants for your garden, plants to give away, sell or swap with your friends!

The Backyard Orchard
Learn all aspects of developing a productive orchard that delivers delicious produce year after year! From assessing site needs, developing and maintaining healthy soils through compost and cover crops, tilling or no-till, efficient irrigation systems and scheduling, planting and pruning techniques, thinning fruit, and pest and weed control.

Adventures in Ecological Gardening From California to London and Saudi Arabia. What lessons are for us here?
Kate's gardening and farming adventures have taken her from Northern California to the Chelsea Flower Show in London, Japan, Malaysia and to a Prince’s organic farm in Saudi Arabia. What ecological factors from Northern California have informed these gardens? And what lessons and information from these places will help us here in our efforts to create healthy, productive, organic gardens full of vitality?  As importantly- how are our gardens communicating this message?

A California Designer at Large at the Chelsea Flower Show
In 2003, 2005 and 2007 Kate Frey submitted designs and created gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show in London for her employer, Fetzer Vineyards in California. The gardens were representations of organic vineyards in spring.  She won one silver-gilt and two gold medals and met Queen Elizabeth twice, much of the Royal family and other celebrities. See the unlikely story of how California wildflowers, agricultural plants and weeds won the heart of the British public and the Queen.




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