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Sacramento loses a perennial hero

Saul Wiseman served as club's longtime president, promoted education grants program

Smiling bearded man in hat
Saul Wiseman, a retired teacher and an expert
on perennial plants, died June 10. (Photos
courtesy SPPC)

Sacramento’s gardening community – and Auburn in particular – lost a legend this month with the passing of Saul Wiseman. A retired educator with a love of perennials, Wiseman died June 10 about two months after he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He was 83.

Wiseman taught generations of students at Placer and Del Oro high schools, specializing in English, journalism and drama. Read his full obituary here:

But it was his almost endless knowledge and promotion of perennials that made him a fixture in Sacramento’s garden scene.

For 12 years, Wiseman served as president of the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club. A founding father of the SPPC, he made every plant club sale an event. He also spearheaded fundraising for the club’s educational grants to spread the love and knowledge of gardening.

“Saul was a shameless, consistent promoter of the Perennial Plant Club’s Education Grants for the Sacramento community,” recalled "Farmer Fred "Hoffman, who often had Wiseman as his guest on his radio shows. “Whenever he called the radio shows, I knew a well-rehearsed, promotional announcement would be coming, urging community groups to apply for the Education Grants. All I had to do was say, ‘Hi, Saul!’ … and away he went, with his guerrilla marketing tactic.”

That was OK by Hoffman.

“I never minded, for a couple of reasons: a) it was for a good cause; and, b) I would extract my revenge when he finished, by asking him questions about perennials, such as ‘Saul, what are some good low water-use perennials?’ or ‘Saul, what do you think of the Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year, the Rozanne geranium?’

“He never flinched. He would immediately launch into his thoughts on the topics, but it was fun listening to him tap dance around the answers. Yet he always answered with confidence, a skill he probably developed as a high school English teacher. He never failed to impress!”

For several years, Wiseman even had his own nursery business, Saul’s Select Nursery, specializing in perennials and flowering shrubs. For seven years, he sold plants at local farmers markets and from his Auburn home.

Wiseman also combined his interest in gardening and journalism as a weekly garden columnist for the Auburn Journal. Before his involvement with the perennial plant, he served as president of the Auburn Garden Club, a first for any guy gardener.

When Wiseman decided it was finally time for someone else to be Sacramento Perennial Plant Club president in 2016, the club renamed its educational grant program “the Saul Wiseman Grants.” He continued to serve on the grant selection committee through last year.

“Saul was president of the club for many years and his contributions to the club were many,” the SPPC posted on its Facebook page. “(He was) a caring man who established the Saul Wiseman Grants for the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club. The purpose of the Saul Wiseman Grants is to promote gardening and horticultural activities with an emphasis on education, service, and enhancement to our community. Many non-profit groups and schools within the County of Sacramento have been recipients. Our club is fortunate to be able to continue this program though his generosity.”

On June 24 via Zoom, club members shared a video tribute to Wiseman, put together by Jane Thompson.

“The garden grant program was Saul’s idea,” said Linda Hax, another longtime club member. “Saul’s career as an educator planted seeds in the minds of youth and he continued planting seeds through garden club leadership and in the greater Sacramento community through the garden grant program. … Planting seeds, making a difference in the community, a life well lived.”

To honor Wiseman, the club will continue the grant program that now bears his name.

Information can be found at or please contact . Or email .

Donations by check may be sent to: Sacramento Perennial Plant Club, care of Marcia Leddy, Treasurer, 3145 17th St., Sacramento. CA 95818.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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