Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 7: Vancouver, BC

My day began with a visit to the University of British Columbia (UBC) Botanical Garden. I got there right at 9:30am when the garden opens and for a few minutes I had fairly even lighting. It didn’t take long for the clouds to dissipate, though. Before I knew it, I had to contend with the harsh light that makes photography challenging.


UBC Botanical Garden

The UBC Botanical Garden is quite large—78 acres (32 hectares) in total. It is divided into two sections (north and south), separated by a tunnel under Marine Drive. The south section, where the entrance and parking lot are, is occupied by the David C. Lam Asian Garden. The north section consists of a number of smaller gardens, including the Alpine Garden, Food Garden, Physic Garden, Arbor, etc.

One of the biggest attraction, the Greenheart Canopy Walk in the Asian Garden, is a series of suspension bridges 50 feet above the forest floor. We’ll do that tomorrow morning so look for photos in my next posts.

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 5-6: Vancouver, BC

We’ve been in Vancouver, British Columbia for two days now, and it hasn’t been love at first sight. True, its location is stunning, as you can see below.


But the city is very large, very crowded, and very noisy. In addition, everybody seems to always be doing something: running, bicycling, speed-walking. It’s as if life is happening at a faster pace here than elsewhere. More than once I was reminded of an old documentary called Koyaanisqatsi. Its time-lapse and fast-motion sequences of modern life left quite an impression on me when I first saw in in the mid-80s.


I will say that on the morning of day 3, I’m getting acclimated to Vancouver, and that we’ve progressed from frenemies to acquaintances. Who knows, by the time we leave tomorrow, we may have struck up a friendship.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 4: Seattle, WA

Day 4 of our summer trip was spent in Seattle. Even before we left our hotel by the airport we heard about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision ruling in favor of marriage equality. The rainbow flag was flying over the headquarters of Starbuck’s as we drove (or rather crept) by on the freeway. It was a great day for America, and a great day for us, filled with dazzling visuals and indelible impressions.


EMP Museum in Seattle Center

I’d been to Seattle before, but only very briefly, so I consider this my first real visit. The weather was perfect, albeit a bit on the warm side for Seattle, and the Seattle Center where we spent most of the day, was thronged with people. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 3: Tacoma, WA

Day 3 of our 2015 Pacific Northwest road trip took us to Tacoma, Washington’s third largest city (after Seattle and Spokane). My personal highlight of our half-day visit was the garden of Peter Herpst, the Outlaw Gardener. Peter was gracious enough to show me around even though I hadn’t given him much advance notice.


Peter’s picture-perfect Victorian, complete with the most densely planted hellstrip I’ve ever seen

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 1-2: Portland, OR

If from yesterday’s post you guessed that we’re headed to the Canadian province of British Columbia, you would be correct. But we’re not there quite yet. Day 1 (really just a half a day) and day 2 were spent in Portland, Oregon, one of my favorite cities in the U.S. You may remember that I attended the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland just about a year ago. I have very fond memories of the many gardens we visited. I haven’t even blogged about all them yet but am slowly catching up.

We spent Tuesday evening with Loree Bohl of Danger Garden fame and her husband Andrew. Loree made the best margarita I’ve had in a long time, and we had dinner at an Iraqi restaurant in NE Portland I can highly recommend: Dar Salam.


Hanging out in the backyard of Loree’s ever-fabulous Danger Garden

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Off to the land of poutine and Nanaimo bars

Do you know what poutine and Nanaimo bars are? If so, you know where we are headed on our 2015 summer vacation.

Here’s a photo of poutine:

Poutine. Photo by Yuri Long from Arlington, VA, USA (road_trip-9349.jpg) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s basically French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds. If you think that’s a weird combination, welcome to the club. But I’m willing to try it.

2015 Pacific Northwest trip index

Here are all the posts from our summer 2015 road trip through the Pacific Northwest.

Miles driven: 2,699 (4,343 km)
States/provinces visited: 4 (California, Oregon, Washington; British Columbia)
Favorite town: Victoria, BC
Favorite attraction: Space Needle, Seattle, WA
Favorite public garden: VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver, BC
Favorite meal: Fish and chips, Barb’s Place, Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC
Best sunset: Bandon, OR


Downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier from the observation deck of the Space Needle

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Craftsman-inspired front yard in Carmichael, CA (design by Chris Corbett)

Last Friday I showed you a fenced entry courtyard designed by Chris Corbett. After we were done photographing that project, we drove to the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael to see another front yard redesign. This one has a larger scope. In addition to the hardscape and planting scheme, Chris also gave the front of the house a Craftsman-inspired makeover to tie everything together.


There had been another Lavandula × intermedia ‘Grosso’ on the left but it died, leaving a noticeable gap

The two elements that jumped out at me were the quartzite flagstone path to the front door as well as the amazing lavenders (Lavandula × intermedia ‘Grosso’). It was starting to drizzle soon after we arrived, and the rain gave the flagstone a metallic sheen. (No rain in Davis that day, though.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Gerhard on Google Street View

A couple of months ago, as I was stepping out of the house to get the mail, I saw a Google Street View car drive down our street. Little did I know that I would feature quite prominently in the photos of our house. Really, what are the odds?

The photos of our neighborhood are now up on Google Maps. Here are some screen captures.

In the first photo, I’m just a small blob.


I’m a little bigger in the second photo.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Tranquil entry courtyard in Davis, CA (design by Chris Corbett)

Recently Chris Corbett, a Davis-based architect and landscape designer, asked me if I would photograph some of his projects for his portfolio on Houzz. Even though I’m not a professional photographer and have no experience photographing landscape design projects other than what I’ve done for this blog, I said yes.


The first project I photographed was an entry courtyard in Village Homes, an ecologically sustainable community in Davis developed by Chris’ father Mike Corbett in the 1970s. It was one of the first projects of its kind in the world and attracted a great deal of international attention.

Properties in Village Homes are typically small, with a focus on shared community spaces rather than insular backyards. I can’t speak for the homeowners, but maybe their desire to have a private front yard is in direct response to the communal living philosophy underlying Village Homes. Even if you like your neighbors and people passing by, it’s nice to have a private space where nobody bothers you.

At least that’s my feeling. I purposely didn’t ask Chris about his design approach to this project since I didn’t want anything to cloud my experience.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Belated Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – June 2015

The 15th of each month is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. You’d think I’d have committed this date to memory by now, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m late once again, but at least I have some nice flowers to show.

Friday’s official high of 108°F (42°C) here in Davis was an outlier. While it’s been hot (in the 90s), we haven’t had any triple digit temperatures since then. Nobody likes them, not even the plants in my garden. I’m hoping that we’ll stay away from the century mark so the flowers that are in bloom right now will continue to look good for a while yet.


Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee High’

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Floramagoria: tropical sizzle in Portland, OR

It’s been almost a year since the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon. I’ve written about a number of gardens I visited during this fantastic 3-day event, but there are several I’ve held out on until now. In light of the recent record-breaking temperatures here in Davis, CA (108°F last Friday), now is as good time as any to return to Portland on a rainy Sunday morning in July 2014.

The garden we’re visiting in this post turned out to be a sizzling tropicalesque backyard paradise.


But there was no way you could have guessed it from the front of the house. Trees, bamboos and ferns create a naturalistic forest setting in the front yard, and the house itself looks fairly traditional.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Perfect retirement home for succulent lovers

While walking along the oceanfront in La Jolla on our recent spring break trip to San Diego, we came upon Casa de Mañana, a retirement home where succulents clearly take center stage: The plantings in front of the Spanish-style complex were colorful and multi-textured while needing little water (small patch of lawn excepted).

The focal point on either side of the driveway was a pair of Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’, impressive in both stature and beauty.


Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’

Friday, June 12, 2015

Halloween agave

Our house is a magnet for spiders. I’ve blogged about this before (September 2011, May 2012, May 2013), and this year is no different. I’m not arachnophobic by any means; in fact, I’m glad the spiders hang out at your house to eat flies, mosquitoes and other insects that would be a much bigger nuisance than they are.

Still, I wish they wouldn’t build their webs in my spiky plants. One agave (Agave ‘Kissho Kan’) is particularly afflicted. It would make a great prop for a haunted house movie, wouldn’t it?

I wonder what it will look like on Halloween if I don’t remove the spiderwebs?


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Gardens at Mission San Juan Capistrano

When most Californians think of Mission San Juan Capistrano, they think of swallows. Every spring, legions of American cliff swallows return to Mission San Juan Capistrano after spending the winter in Argentina 6,000 miles away. Local legend claims that once upon a time a local innkeeper chased the swallows away by destroying their nests, and they took up refuge at the mission nearby,

In 1910s, a savvy priest at the mission used the public’s interest in the swallows to generate support for his restoration efforts. Without Father O’Sullivan the mission might not be what it is today. In 1939, composer Leon René wrote a song called “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” that has lived on until today.


I had wanted to see Mission San Juan Capistrano for a long time. There hadn’t been an opportunity to visit until this April when on our way home from our spring break trip to San Diego we drove right through the town of San Juan Capistrano. I expected a sleepy mission, but much to my surprise, it turned out to be far more beautiful and interesting than I had imagined.

Monday, June 8, 2015

‘Bonsai Blue’ jacaranda, where have you been all my life?

I’ve made no secret of my love for the blue jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia). This South American native may be a messy tree—really messy, not politely so like our ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde—but few trees can hold a candle to it for sheer beauty when in bloom. And even when it isn’t, its fern-like foliage is attractive year round.


Quite a few cities in warmer climates turn a sea of blue when Jacaranda mimosifolia blooms in the late spring. This includes Pretoria, South Africa; Sydney, Australia; as well as Los Angeles and other places in Southern California. Even here in Davis we have a few jacarandas although my favorite tree on 8th Street was cut down last year (no idea why; it was the only thing pretty at an unattractive older apartment complex).

When we removed the truly messy (there’s that word again!) ornamental purple plum next to the driveway in September 2013, I briefly toyed with the idea of planting a Jacaranda mimosifolia but ultimately decided in favor a ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde—the very tree that’s been blooming its head off since late April. My concerns were the aforementioned messiness as well as its frost sensitivity (around 25°F). The latter isn’t a problem in a normal winter, but I don’t want to lose something as substantial as a tree in one of those really cold winters we seem to get every 15-20 years. (In December 1990 temperatures dropped into the high teens, which killed a lot of trees, especially citrus.)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Gazania ‘Sunbathers’ adding awesome pops of color

When it comes to non-stop bloomers that thrive in our hot summer sun, African daisies are hard to beat. “African daisy” doesn’t refer to one specific flower. Instead it encompasses several related genera, typically Osteospermum, Artotis and Gazania.

Osteospermums are so common in our area that they are lovingly referred to as “freeway daisies.” They thrive in hostile places like median strips of parking lots and, as their nickname suggests, along the freeway (provided they get at least occasional watering). With their trailing habit, they are a fast-growing and attractive groundcover

Arctotis are particularly elegant because of their silver foliage. I recently added two Arctotis hybrids called ‘Wine’ to the front yard.

But the most beautiful of the African daisies are the gazanias, especially the newer hybrids. They come in many different colors—white, pink, yellow, orange, red—and the flowers of the latest introductions are larger and more complex that ever before.


Left to right: ‘Totonaca’, ‘Tikal’ and ‘Otomi’

One of the newest series of gazania hybrids is called ‘Sunbathers’. Unlike regular gazanias, the flowers of these hybrids stay open in low light, at least partially. I first became aware of ‘Sunbathers” in a recent post on Kris Peterson’s awesome blog Late to the Garden Party. Yesterday I was at our local Ace Hardware to buy some mulch and I spotted several ‘Sunbathers’ for sale. I ended up buying three different cultivars: ‘Totonaca’, ‘Tikal’ and ‘Otomi’.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Palo verde messiness update

Contrary to what some people have said, I maintained as recently as four weeks ago that palo verde trees (Parkinsonia sp.), specifically the ‘Desert Museum’ hybrid, are not messy. The leaves are so tiny that even if they were to fall en masse—not likely to happy since palo verdes are evergreen except in very cold winters—they would amount only to a fraction of the leaf litter you get from a larger-leafed street tree.

The biggest source of debris is from the flowers. Below is our most floriferous ‘Desert Museum’. The first flowers opened toward the end of April. Now, at the beginning of June, the tree is still a solid mass of flowers. If this continues for another two weeks, as I expect it will, we’ll have had a good seven weeks of flowers. That’s pretty impressive in my book.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ruth Bancroft Garden miscellanea (June 2015)

Yesterday I made an impromptu trip to the Ruth Bancroft Garden to meet up with friends from Portland, OR. I was too busy talking to take photos in an organized fashion so what I ended up with is a series of vignettes rather than a connected narrative. But that’s OK because you can enjoy the garden Instagram style as well. Sometimes that’s all we have time for in our busy lives.


This Agave parryi looked particularly luminous, but the outer leaves are turning purple. Just stressed or getting ready to flower? It looks too small, but I had an Agave parryi in pot that flowered when it was smaller than this one.


Yucca rostrata in bloom