The Levan Institute at Bakersfield College offers extension classes for adults in a wide variety of topics.

For the spring quarter beginning later this month, I'll be teaching two classes -- a landscape design class, and a photography seminar -- on Thursday nights, starting Jan. 31.

The landscape design class, which had waiting lists both times it has been taught, aims to get students thinking like designers. We begin with the elements of design, survey various influential styles both historical and regional, and cover planting design, site furnishings, drainage and irrigation.

The photography class, titled "The Art of Seeing," is new this quarter, and is open to photographers of any skill level. All students will submit photos online to the instructor. The class will view student work, and both the instructor and students may offer commentary and suggestions for improvement. The class format is based on the design reviews given in architecture schools. Explanations of equipment and technique may be provided by the instructor as time and need dictate.

Registration has already begun for classes, which have been known to fill quickly.

The phone number of the Levan Institute is 395-4431, and the website is

Garden in January

Wintertime is great for choosing bare-root plants. They are still available in nurseries, although time is short. Soon nurserymen will pot them up for springtime sales.

This is prime rose-pruning weather, and time to prune all manner of deciduous plants that bloom or fruit from new wood. The easy part of pruning is removing or shortening all the pencil-thin twigs, what I refer to as the dooky bits (rhymes with cookie). Twigs that weak cannot support a long-stemmed rose or more than a couple of hanging plums. Next, any crossing branches, which make an "x" where they pass each other, should be removed, either one or both as structure merits.

Crossing branches typically are within the foliage canopy, and they shade each other and create shelter for pests. Any further cutting depends on the type of plant being pruned.

Most climbing roses need only thinning of twigs and removal of some crossing canes, unless they overgrow their space. Fruit trees are pruned for low branching and an open center that allows air circulation and light to reach the whole canopy.

Dormant spray

One chore too-often skipped or forgotten is dormant spraying. When plants go dormant, their pests follow suit, either as eggs or sheltered in nooks and crannies. Many fungi overwinter as spores.

Dormant spray is simply oil that coats the eggs or spores and smothers them, providing nontoxic and easy prevention of garden problems. Some dormant sprays have added copper, making them more potent spore-killers.

An effective dormant spray can be made from household ingredients. To a gallon of water add a cup of canola or vegetable oil and enough liquid soap to make them blend fairly well when the sprayer is shaken. About two tablespoons of liquid castile soap works well, or any less-concentrated liquid soap can work if added more generously.

Spray to coat all your dormant deciduous plants, and eliminate pests before they appear.