Friday, April 29, 2016

A riot of color: Keeyla Meadows’ Bay Area art garden

I had seen many posts about Keeyla Meadows’ garden in Albany, CA (like this, this, this and this) but I had never had the opportunity to visit it until the Garden Conservancy’s Spring 2016 East Bay Open Day last Saturday.

What did I think?

A simple three-letter word says it all: Wow.

I’ll be the first to admit that “wow” is overused and tends to lose its impact because of that. It should really be reserved for things like Keeyla’s garden. Look at the photos below and you’ll see what I mean.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Meanwhile, at home…

It seems I've been away from home more than usual lately. In late March we spent spring break on California's Central Coast. This was followed by a long weekend in Victoria, British Columbia where my older daughter will start school in the fall; a field trip to the Ruth Bancroft Garden  and a friend’s private succulent paradise in the East Bay hills; and finally, last Saturday, a visit to five gardens in the East Bay as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day program (posts still to come).

In the meantime, our garden at home has been chugging along. Many plants are still in bloom, thanks to the mild weather. Things may change soon—the thermometer is supposed to climb into the 90s this weekend. Today we had a series of thunderstorms with towering clouds and menacing wind but not a drop of rain. If this keeps up, I’ll have to turn on the irrigation. Our drought it not over, no matter what some of the headlines claim. Ask any gardener in Southern California!

Today’s post is just a random collection of photos taken over the last few weeks. There’s a lot of good stuff, though, so be sure to page down all the way.


Beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Most beautiful post of the year: University of Victoria Finnerty Gardens

When people think of Victoria. British Columbia, they immediately think of Butchart Gardens. It may be the biggest horticultural attraction in Victoria, possibly even in the entire province of British Columbia, but it’s not the only game in town.

On our recent University of Victoria college tour with daughter #1 we visited Finnerty Gardens right on campus. From their web site I knew that:

One of Canada's best collections of rhododendrons is on display at Finnerty Gardens on the University of Victoria grounds.

The garden contains over 4,000 different trees and shrubs with more than 1,500 rhododendron and azalea plants, including 200 collected rhododendron species, and a spectacular range of companion plants artistically displayed on a 2.6 hectare (6.5 acre) site at the southwest corner of UVic’s campus.

Complementing the plant life are three tranquil ponds, an inviting network of winding paths and dozens of benches, each with its own distinctive view of the gardens' ever-changing splendour.(1)

But I was not prepared for the spectacular beauty we would find.

Our visit had a very auspicious beginning. Even before we entered Finnerty Gardens (free admission seven days a week; free parking on Sundays) we found these Pacific madrones (Arbutus menziesii) in full bloom right in the parking lot. I was so excited, I took more photos than I realized, but to me the combination of the peeling reddish bark and bell-shaped white flowers is breathtaking.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hillside succulent paradise in the SF East Bay

After our special tour of the Ruth Bancroft Garden last Saturday, the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society was invited to visit RBG garden host Stephen Lysaght’s private garden in the East Bay hills. I had seen photos on Facebook of the garden paradise Stephen and his husband Gary have created and I was excited like a kid on Christmas morning.

Here’s a quick teaser:

160416_S G_029

But let’s start at the top of the hill.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

2016 Spring Fling at the Ruth Bancroft Garden

Yesterday I went on a field trip with the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society to the Ruth Bancroft Garden. It coincided with the RBG’s 2016 Spring Fling, a new name for their annual spring plant sale. I was so busy yakking with people that I didn’t take a lot of photos of the actual sale but it was very similar to last year’s (see here).

As always, there were lots of cool plants, ranging from succulents—spiky and non-spiky—to desert trees to shrubs from the southern hemisphere to California natives. Truly, something for everybody.

In addition, there was a Talavera pottery trunk show, unique plant pillows (called “Plantillos”) by Berkeley artist Sabine Herrmann, as well as other local art and succulent-oriented books.


Agave salmiana dug from the garden and ready to go to a new home. I called it the “Hannibal Lecter” agave.


This hypertufa planter was so large, it occupied an entire plant cart!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Whirlwind trip to Victoria, British Columbia (part 2 of 2)

Day 2 of our whirlwind trip to Victoria, British Columbia last weekend started out overcast. That was perfect for taking photos along the waterfront:


And perfect for visiting Finnerty Gardens on the campus of the University of Victoria and Abkhazi Garden in the Oak Bay neighborhood. I’ll have separate post on each garden since there was so much to see.

By 2pm the sun had come out and we headed a little further west to the town of Colwood. Our destination was Hatley Castle, a place my daughter really wanted to see. Read on to see why. If you’re into Marvel movies, it might look familiar!

Whirlwind trip to Victoria, British Columbia (part 1 of 2)

Last summer we spent a couple of days in Victoria, the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia. This included Canada Day, Canada’s equivalent of our Fourth of July. We saw many beautiful sights on our Pacific Northwest trip, but Victoria was the highlight for all of us. We swore we’d come back soon, but we had no idea that it would happen so quickly.

The driving force behind our quickie trip to Victoria last weekend was daughter #1. She’d fallen in love with Victoria on a high school trip three years ago, even before our visit last summer, and applied to the University of Victoria (UVic) this spring. After she was accepted, we thought it would be a good idea to do a campus tour before making a final decision on attendance. And that’s how daughter #1 (henceforth D1), my wife and I ended up in Victoria on Saturday morning.

To our delight, UVic was all D1 had expected, and more. I’ll have two separate posts about UVic since I took so many photos. The campus is beautiful at any time of year but especially so right now. Spring is at its peak and many trees and shrubs are flowering. I almost suffered sensory overload at the university’s Finnerty Gardens where thousands of rhododendrons in all colors were in full bloom.

Today’s posts contains photos I took on Saturday driving and walking all over town. Get ready for an explosion of tulips!


View from the window of the small Horizon Air prop plane that provides service between Seattle and Victoria

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: tulips, tulips, tulips

This is something you don’t see here in the Sacramento Valley:


When I saw this house, I literally slammed on the brakes (fortunately there was nobody behind me) and pulled over. This sight is the very definition of cheery, isn’t it? A perfect spring vignette!

Seen last weekend in Victoria, British Columbia. Post about my whirlwind trip to BC coming soon.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lots of flowers in the front yard

The front yard is so beautiful right now that I want to press Pause on the giant DVR that is time. All too soon this floral cornucopia will be a thing of the past and summer will be here. Yes, summer starts early in our parts—as early as May.

But right now I’m getting tremendous enjoyment out of this spectacle and I want to share these photos with you. They’re random, and not about anything other than beauty.


Bed between our driveway and our neighbor’s. The yellow poppy on the left is a Mexican tulip poppy (Hunnemannia fumariifolia). The others are California poppies (Eschscholzia californica); the deep orange cultivar is called ‘Red Chief’.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Revisiting Sue’s succulent garden

Last May I showed you my friend Sue’s front yard makeover. What had been lawn became two distinctive areas—one public, one private—separated by hardscape. The space under the large golden rain tree (Koelreuteria elegans) was planted with star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), fortnight lily (Dietes grandiflora) and variegated euonymus (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’).


Sue’s front yard seen from the sidewalk (April 4, 2016)

The courtyard behind the low retaining wall features an L-shaped raised bed. It’s constructed of poured concrete and finished to match the stucco of the house. The front wall of the raised bed is capped with slabs of slate that provide a comfortable place to sit.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: succulent tapestry

I recently checked on the progress of a friend’s succulent garden and was struck by the many different shapes, textures and colors of her succulents. What a beautiful tapestry!


Click here to see the full post.

Monday, April 4, 2016

San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden

There are plenty of botanical gardens in California that have a national or even international reputation. Beyond that there is another layer of regional gardens that may not have the same name recognition but are often just as exciting. Case in point: the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden on California’s Central Coast. I had never heard of it prior to our recent trip to Morro Bay. But now that I’ve been there, it has a prominent spot on my garden watch list. Read to find out why.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy April Fool’s Day

Happy April 1st to all you fools out there! I’m not saying that gardeners and plant lovers are fools, but a healthy dose of foolishness doesn’t hurt. Taking yourself too seriously is never a good thing.

This post has no real theme because, to be honest, after a long work week my brain is fried. As fried as the poppies you see in many of the photos below will be in another month if we don’t get any more rain. It’s been warm and dry—so much so that I will need to turn on the drip irrigation this weekend.

But for tonight let’s leave all the unpleasant things aside and look at some pretty flowers.


Front yard, outside the fence