Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, part 2

In part 1 of this 3-part series on the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (MCBG) I showed you the entrance plantings and the nursery. In this post we’ll take a look at the Perennial Garden in the large meadow just down the steps from the entry plaza. (In the next photo, the entrance and gift shop are straight ahead; the nursery is on the left.)


From the MCBG web site:

Designed by Gary Ratway in 1980, the group of irregular island beds in our Perennial Garden provides a pleasing display of an unusually large number of perennials, as well as woody specimens. The beds are mounded to ensure drainage because of the high water table here. From old favorites to rare species, the Perennial Garden is bursting with blooms spring through autumn and is alive with bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Visitors find inspiration for their home gardens in the plant combinations here. Plants are displayed in dramatic sweeps, with striking color combinations and variations in form and texture, in addition to exciting landscaping features such as boulders, sculptures, and pond. Many of the unusual plants are available for purchase in Nursery on the Plaza.


I’m a sucker for tapestries—plantings so dense that they become a tableau of contrasting or complementary colors. Vignettes like that abound in the Perennial Garden, as you will see.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, part 1

In my last post I showed you the impressive gardens of the Surf Motel in Fort Bragg, CA. Just a few miles south on Highway 1 is another very special place I didn’t even know existed: the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (MCBG). I have been up and down Highway 1 any number of times—although not in recent years—and through some unexplainable quirk of cosmic irony I missed the MCBG each time.


The 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, whose web site address is the aptly named, was founded in 1961 as a private enterprise. It went through some trial and tribulations over the decades, like many private gardens do, but has been under stable management since 1990. In 2013, the MCBG was ranked as the #2 public garden in the western U.S. by Sunset Magazine. (I missed that list of top public gardens, too, although I read Sunset somewhat regularly.)


Gunnera tinctoria growing on the edge of a lily pond in front of the garden entrance

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marvelous Mendocino motel garden

Sorry for the alliteration, I couldn’t help myself. Blame it on the ongoing heat here in the Sacramento Valley. Speaking of which: We escaped the heat this past weekend by slipping off to Mendocino on the northern California coast where we attended a wedding in blissfully cool 65°F weather. Overcast skies, too! I couldn’t ask for more.

Since I’m always on the lookout for things to blog about, my curiosity was piqued when I saw this sign in Fort Bragg, the town where we were staying:


See what it says? “…and Gardens!”

What kind of gardens could a motel have? A motel, mind you, not a fancy resort with a hefty landscaping budget. I set out to find out, and I was blown away. Come take a look.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#GBFling2014: Rhone Street Gardens

As we’re pushing the 100°F mark down here in the Sacramento Valley, let’s return to Portland, OR—specifically a cool rainy morning in July when the Garden Bloggers Fling contingent visited Rhone Street Gardens. This is the domain of Fling co-organizer Scott Weber, lover of grasses and photographer extraordinaire, and his partner Norm.


Out of all the gardens we visited, Scott’s was the smallest—just 50 x 50 ft., i.e. 2,500 sq.ft. You might think that having so little space available means that, by necessity, your garden is defined by limitations and compromise. That might be true for an ordinary place, but it certainly wasn’t at Rhone Street Gardens. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was blown away by how much Scott has managed to squeeze into his lot. Every square inch is filled to the brim with plants; no nook and cranny is left unused.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Heads up: Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens, September 26+27, 2014

120928_SucculentGardens_entrance-plantingThe 4th annual Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens in Castroville, CA will take place on Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27. That’s in two weeks, folks! If you love succulents and live in Northern California, you won’t want to miss this spectacular—and FREE!—event. Take my word for it; I’ve been to every Extravaganza. Look at my posts below to get an idea of what will be waiting for you.

The 4th Succulent Extravaganza promises to be even bigger and better. In line with this year’s theme, “Succulents: The Landscape Is Changing,” top California landscape designers such as John Greenlee, Julia Bell, Sean Stout and James Pettigrew, and Michael Romero either have or will be installing garden vignettes that showcase the use of succulents in a drought-tolerant landscape.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Update: Mangave ‘Bloodspot’ and Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that one of my Mangave ‘Bloodspot’ (Agave macroacantha × Manfreda maculosa) was starting to flower. Since then the flower stalk has grown exponentially. As of this afternoon, it’s exactly 72 inches (183 cm) tall. It looks like the first flowers might open in a few days. I’ll keep you posted.


Across the flagstone path from Mangave ‘Bloodspot’ is a large Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’. I measured it today, and it’s 5½ ft. tall and 5 ft. wide (168 x 153 cm).


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hawaii: Spectacular variegated banana

This summer we spent two weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii. On our last day we had extra time on our hands since our flight home didn’t leave until 9 p.m. We decided to drive up to the cloud forest above Kona, located in an area called Kaloko Mauka. The best way to see it is to visit the privately owned 70-acre Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary. From the description on their web site, it sounds like very special place:

Much of the sanctuary is still covered with native plants. In some designated areas of the property, a fascinating plethora of non-indigenous plants that are carefully managed have been added, enhancing the variety of fragrance and color.

The sanctuary abounds with ancient Koa, Ohia, over 100 varieties of bamboo, and gigantic tree ferns, some of which are 30 feet or more in height. The native forest contains many rare and endangered species which Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is committed to protecting.

Unfortunately, touring the Sanctuary requires advance reservations. I hadn’t planned ahead, so we weren’t able to get in. The Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is now at the top of my list of must-see places the next time we’re on Hawaii. If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island, be sure to visit and let me know how it was!

140805_Hawaii_BananaAeAe_004 140805_Hawaii_BananaAeAe_003

We spent an hour driving around Kaloko Mauka, which is home to large country estates that are barely visible behind the dense vegetation. I caught glimpses of beautifully landscaped homes I would have loved to visit. How wonderful it would be to go on a garden tour in this area!

The most spectacular sight, however, was a small clump of variegated bananas growing right by the road. I spent 20 minutes photographing them from all angles. In my book, this is one of the most spectacular foliage plants in existence.

140805_Hawaii_BananaAeAe_025 140805_Hawaii_BananaAeAe_026

Friday, September 5, 2014

#GBFling14: Cistus Nursery, Sauvie Island

Time to rewind a couple of months to the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, OR. One of my personal highlights was a visit to Cistus Nursery located on picturesque Sauvie Island, a 26,000 acre island in the Columbia River north of Portland. 


Run by plant guru, explorer and evangelist Sean Hogan, this self-described “retail micro-nursery” is known all over the country for its unique collection of exotics, rarities and oddities. Many of them are available via mail order (I’d drooled over their catalog more times than I can count). But perusing a PDF online paled in comparison to experiencing Cistus first hand.


We had less than two hours at the nursery during the official Fling visit on Friday, July 11, but since I knew was going back on Monday, I wasn’t in as much of a hurry as some of the others.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day visit to Annie’s Annuals

Annie’s Annuals & Perennials in Richmond, CA, one the most iconic nurseries in Northern California, is having a big Labor Day sale. Until Labor Day (Monday, September 2) all plants are 20% off.


I took advantage of this opportunity for a quick visit yesterday. Annie’s is only 57 miles from my house, and even with a bit of traffic I made it in an hour. The nursery was busy, but not packed, which was just fine by me. The aisles between the tables are fairly narrow, and it hard to maneuver your way around other shoppers.


Annie’s is huge, and even though I’m familiar with the general layout, I like to wander and explore. I think that’s the best way to experience a nursery like Annie’s—you never know what you might find. This time I came with no shopping list so my entire visit was a treasure hunt. The photos below reflect my dashing back and forth between Rarities, California Natives, Succulents, and a few other areas in between (I did skip Edibles, Shade Plants, Grasses and much of the Annuals).

Many of you buy from Annie’s via mail order because you live far away. But if you can, you should try to make it to the nursery. Prices are lower than on their web site, and many plants that are listed as unavailable online are actually in stock at the nursery. Please note that plants sold at Annie’s generally are in 4-inch pots; the only exceptions are some edibles as well as fruit trees.

Friday, August 29, 2014

What’s in bloom, August 2014 edition

For some reason, I always seem to miss the monthly Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from around the world post photos of what’s in flower in their garden at that particular point in time. Call me two weeks early or two weeks late, but here’s what’s blooming in my garden on August 29, 2014.

Late August/early September marks a subtle transition. Summer-flowering plants are slowly declining, while fall-flowering ones are gearing up for their time in the limelight. In a month’s time, things will look very different around here. Hopefully I will remember to post another update then.

I never know how to organize this kind of post. First I thought I’d present these photos in random order, but then I decided to sort them by color. For once, organization wins over chaos—not that I don’t like a healthy dose of the latter.


Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) still going strong. It’s been blooming non-stop for months now, contributing an element of cheer to the perennial border inside the front yard fence.