Hanging on the Peninsula (Oh, the plants!)

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After my husband left, asking initially for a separation, and then weeks later for a divorce, I really have to admit now, that at that time, I wanted nothing more than to go away too but I really wasn’t able to do so since when you live with a chronic illness, saving money is far from easy.
I think the yellow bloom is an Acacia, but let me know if you can ID it. Its companions are some lovely Agave americana or century plants.

So just in case this kind of situation ever arises in your life, I suggest you stash money away for just this kind of thing. Then again, you’re probably not at all like me, and you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into this kind of mess in the first place.

I love this pine tree. Not sure which one it is but the needles are really long and beautiful.

So, as a present to myself I did eventually purchase a plane ticket to stay with my high school friend and her family down in California.

I think this is Oxalis valdiviensis.
She recently lost her father, so in a sense we’re mourning simultaneously, but in very different ways.

Nice little planter with some kind of Aloe.
Being down in CA again, just south of San Francisco, has been relaxing and I’m glad I’m here.

This is a planting in front of an apartment complex with possibly Aloe arborescens and some form of the common ice plant Delosperma cooperi.
I have some big plans to visit some large gardens but today started off slowly and I just enjoyed a walk to and from the Trader Joe’s.

Here’s some more of that amazing tangle of Aloe.
Everything you’re seeing here was shot with my lovely new iPhone as I walked the 1.7 miles to and from the store. I wore a sun hat (since I burned my face last week), and the sun on my arms felt so nice.

I think this is a kangaroo apple hedge but I am not sure—Solanum laciniatum. Thoughts? (I mean other than, “Wow, that’s in the deadly nightshade family and it’s a hedge!)
Looking at such a lovely landscape did lift my worries a bit, and I cannot believe how much I enjoyed such a simple walk. (I guess I am still in awe of my body’s ability to function again.)

You know, this is part of the world where you can have your flowering cacti out on your patio. I know mine would love to life here too it only the could…

The walk helped me to think a lot, and to think about my blog, and where I was going with things and why I’m even here so often.

I really liked this gate.
I took this to text to my niece. She has a California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) tattoo.

I like being here, and I like it when I am able to write more complicated posts about interesting topics and things. Something inside of me—namely mental and physical exhaustion—has been making those deep and meaningful posts impossible right now though and I’m hoping California will help me to recover.

Jade Tree hedge. Yes, the houseplant. Crassula ovata.
The first day seems to have gotten me off to a great start, and that’s not bad considering I read a book about technical botanical terms on the plane. That stuff is dry and reading it during the flight was a huge hurdle for me to lurch over—but I did it.

This Echium was part of a really pretty planting at a small office complex near downtown San Carlos.

Coming to terms with being such a highly sensitive person has not been easy for me, and if you know me, you probably know that I hide it well, and like many gardeners, I hide it there in the mass of plants best of all.

This quirky garden was hard to miss: Agave americana, Agapanthus, Canna.
You see, only recently I discovered that I absorb and learn so much more of what I know through my senses than through my mind. I am not as intellectual or as cerebral as even I’d thought and that’s a relief because for years I was beginning to think that I was not smart at all. I simply didn’t understand my skill set the way I do now.

More of the quirky house. This place was great!

For so long I’ve wondered why as a child I did some pretty absent-minded things. Somehow I took drowning to new level, and it was as if I sought out the sensation over and over. I liked how if felt, but I knew nothing of the consequences—something about the panic thrilled me too.

Not sure I have ever seen a Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) used as a hedge. This was a first and it was pretty fun.
This has all come back to me as I feel that same feeling, but now in an impending divorce and failed relationship, that rush and thrill of near death and the dramatic panic that comes with it. Yes, it’s like that rush any addict feels to help them to feel alive.
You settle into the mess that you’ve somehow emotionally sought out—just for the pure experience of it. Sensation seeking doesn’t have to be so self-destructive though, or so harmful to the individual. I just didn’t know this—but you may have felt it before too.
You’re here looking at garden blogs and plant pictures so you must want to drown a bit too and sense something, desiring the plant, craving the climate maybe, absorbing a sensation deep inside of yourself that resonates and feels warmly and it’s called beauty.
It’s dangerous. I know. But is is mostly safe, that’s the good part, and if you want it to be unsafe, that’s always an option too. Some of us walk the line of sobriety, but for others like myself, there are the other lines in this funny composition we call life.

You can plant a Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) here in your hell strip—no problem!
I’ve vowed to no longer drown, and to not seek out that sensation. My swimming lessons have not necessarily started yet, but I am drifting and treading water this time, and I keep telling myself how much I want to live.

You can grow your own Citrus tree too.
Yes, somehow my love of nature and plants figures into this, but it is an ephemeral thing, something I feel and it has very little to do with anything I know.

This little pocket on the walk back still had its native trees intact.
When it is around me, I feel it, and it feels good and I am happy. Much of what all of this is comes out of some kind of happiness inside of me, and from the comfortable place I seek, where I can sit calmly finally and rest. It’s been years since I’ve been able to do so. When my body was very swollen and reactive I lost my compass and I was out of touch with the outside world. For years I was truly adrift.
Probably one of the best under-tree plantings I’ve seen in awhile.

People drift apart and so do plants. Sometimes plants grow too in places where they shouldn’t be able to do so. I think the same goes for people.

Poor old Sequoia who had the burbs grow all around ‘um.
I’m not sure which succulent this is growing in the English ivy but it looked nice in bloom.
When I was a girl, I did not yet understand or appreciate that a woman must have a room of her own. Right now, I want nothing more than a garden room of my own. (If only Virginia Woolf had willed it so…)

This house really screams of springtime (left to right): Leptospermum, Wisteria, Blooming Cherry (Prunus) and a pink climbing rose (Rosa).
These thoughts and many more floated in and out of my mind as I walked through the beautiful streets of San Carlos today. I tried to remember all of the many sensations I’ve felt from this area over the years, and I was reminded just how many times I’ve come here to this part of California to be healed of something in my life. Oddly enough, the most difficult transitions I’ve ever faced started here and that amazed me to remember today as I walked.

Hedge of Darwin Berberry, Berberis darwinii.

This has nothing to do with plants, but years ago my heart was healed with laugher while staying with another dear girlfriend from high school and we were laughing so hard we missed an earthquake. When we awoke from the hilarity, we notice the lights were all swinging. The sensation of that moment will last forever for me.

I don’t think this is the place to grow an Azalea (Rhododendron).

Whenever I walk, or work with plants, I do tend to feel a great deal, and now that I am no longer swollen, the sensations are far more real and tangible to me. To have been cut off from how I “see” things for so long made me blind in a way that we never speak of, in a way that few of us probably even understand.

Golden Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii.
I am a sensation seeker and I know how to spot others like myself. Often, we’re the ones petting and pawing at plants as we walk past them. We need to not only see the textures, but we must touch them too.

Where I hang my sun hat when I’m staying on the Peninsula. (Thank you SO MUCH friends for putting me up and for putting up with me.)
So my life is hanging on, as am I, and this will pass as did the other moments in my life when I needed to seek a kind of refuge here. I think that for the first time though it has become clear to me that this area—including the city of San Francisco—offers me the many sensations I seek, and this involves the pleasure of plants, as well as the many other beautiful things this little corner on the planet has to offer.

Neighbor’s beautiful Bougainvillea.

Thank you for taking this little walk with me.

PS: If you’d like to read the amazing post my hostess wrote to me on her blog about what I am going through, please check it out: Jess Out West: An Open Letter.
I have to admit that I really liked what she wrote and am honored and lucky to have her as a friend.

San Francisco: Wine Deliveries, Lunch, and Flora Grubb Gardens (Again)

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 Crimson Passionflower, Passiflora vitifolia, at Flora Grubb Gardens.

On my first full day with my husband in Lake County, CA we had to get up early and head to San Francisco. Another long day in the car wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was worth it. He was going to attend a day-long industry-only wine tasting and I’d planned to take in some sights.

From the time he woke up he started feeling unwell so we adjusted our plan a bit. During harvest and crush, he really gets worn down so a rest day was in order and we were both kind of excited about visiting SF together.

Ficus microcarpa ‘Nitida’.
Other than an early dinner date with a new garden writer friend up in Marin, the city was very briefly our oyster that day. Our only serious task was to deliver some cases of wine, and while waiting in the car at one of those stops, I shot this picture of a typical street somewhere in SF.

Sorry for the dirty windshield but note that a weekday drive into San Francisco from Marin can be pretty painless during October just so long as you wait until after all the morning traffic.

During the drive, I discovered something funny about harvest. Once all the grapes are in their tanks fermenting, the whole valley in Sonoma actually smells of fermenting grapes. (Mr. B said Napa is even worse.) Coming from beer central, I should have realized this was possible but I just had never really thought about it. What an experience for the nose!

Entering the city you get to pay your $6 toll. I never get to take pictures of the tollbooths,  so I was happy this time with Mr B driving. They are designed to match the bridge and I think they’re the prettiest tollbooths I’ve ever had to go through.

After we paid our toll we had no plans and for me that was unusual—but welcome. Usually when I drive into SF I have some idea of where I am going since otherwise I’d still get lost very easily. In this case, I just sat back and enjoyed the view.

Alcatraz as seen from Hwy 101 just past the tollbooths.

The first thing I saw, of course, was Alcatraz in the distance. It’s now such a large part of my Ikebana project it made me smile. Finding my own metaphorical escape from the imprisonment of chronic illness has become such a game for me and gardening and plants are such an integral part of my strategy. I think for some of us, making the battle less personal is key to our survival. We need that distance to feel more comfort and less fearful. We need that space to heal. In a way, I’ve tried to leave a lot of my troubles on that island and I think it’s been working.

For lunch Mr. B decided to take me to the Ferry Building Marketplace. What a great little shopping area they have there! (I now know what Portland wants to have in its plan to create our James Beard Public Market. Shopping before your ride home is a such a great idea!)

So the first business that truly caught my eye because of its regionally accurate “shop locally” distinction was McEvoy Ranch. Could you have a store dedicated to olive oil and its many products anywhere else? I think not! That’s what they do. They’re olive ranchers.

To say that I felt envious is an understatement. I want to be an olive rancher too. (When he met me he was shocked that I cooked everything in olive oil. That still includes things like fried eggs and pancakes.)

I think I may have been an olive oil life-stylist long before we discussed and marketed things called “lifestyles” to consumers. My dad used to crack up when I was a girl because I’d use our jugs of olive oil to concoct rosemary and olive oil leave-in conditioners for my thick dry hair. (I still use olive oil soap but it’s usually the kind made in the Middle East.)

But oh how I now want to be an olive rancher…

Speaking of lifestyles, the gardening lifestyle is not an uncommon one to find in San Francisco either. Kingdom of Herbs was actually kind of nice to visit because it had upscale fun stuff mixed in with other odds and ends that all related to a love of all things plant material.

As someone who’s known for picking seeds wherever I go my husband and I giggled quite a bit about how I’d fit a few of these into my pockets. Not likely.

They had a lot of nice hats too.

And then there were plants…

and preserved plants and wood products. (Next year I really hope to preserve my boxwood cuttings. I really love these wreaths but they’re a bit pricey.)

After we grabbed some take-out from a deli, we wandered outside to watch the foot ferries while we ate. (This ferry takes commuters back and forth across the bay to Marin County.)

On our way out we stopped by The Gardener. It is a small local chain in the Bay Area and I was a bit less enthused by what it had to offer since it had far less to do with gardening.

I liked their display though of Japanese gardening tools. Reminded me a bit of a little piece of art I could hang on my own wall.

Mexican Flame Vine, Senecio confusus. This is a plant I’ve tried to grow from seed once or twice with little success.

Later, after the deliveries we went to Flora Grubb Gardens. I was embarrassed that I’d already been there four times this year, but since it was going to be my husband’s first visit, it somehow seemed necessary.

I was not disappointed. He was truly blown away by the displays and by the plants. As usual, I obsessively noted every change I could and thought about plants I may want in the future. (If only I could have that second garden in California.)

Queensland Silver Wattle or Pearl Acacia, Acacia podalyriifolia.
Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos ‘Bush Dawn’.
Hibiscus ‘Haight Ashbury’.
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. It’s endemic to California and is the largest of the North American Oaks. Some mature specimens can be nearly 600 years old, and can reach almost 100 feet in height.
Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’.

I love all the colors and you may have noticed that incredible blue sky?

Groundsel, Senecio mandraliscae and Sedum ‘Ogon’ behind it.
 Aloe ‘Pink Blush’. What an incredible hybrid!

Then there are the exterior/interior design ideas that Flora Grubb is so famous for. I still haven’t made my Sedum masterpiece, but that’s probably because I am still stuck on that Jackson Pollock flowerbed idea. (More on that next season. I’ve made some progress with this idea this year.)

I am not sure if the wire baskets are oyster baskets, but they sure look like they could be. These little decorative wall items are kinds cute and I hope to make some this winter. I so love anything with gilding.

Last time I don’t think I added a picture of their suspended Woollypocket display.

This geometric bear head is great too. After all it is California and they do have that silly bear on their flag, so why not!

Begonia ‘Irene Nuss’.

Just before we left I discovered these two Begonias. Glad I did too because one of them I can grow from seed. It is really amazing how much leaf variation exists in this group. I truly am in love with all of them, but the Grape Leaf Begonia might just be my new favorite.

Grape Leaf Begonia, Begonia reniformis or Begonia vitifolia.
Grape Leaf Begonia, Begonia reniformis or Begonia vitifolia.

Alcatraz: The Garden Tour, Part Two

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Once you reach the top, you’re at the cellhouse. If you’d continued following the garden tour, this is near where it ends, just beneath the Recreational Yard, where the fenced in prisoners’ garden once was and where it has been restored. (Note the Lobularia maritima in the foreground.)

In case you were wondering, this is the inside of the prison. To be honest, inside it is very small but it’s so interesting. (We had an amazing time watching the European tourists and we both loved hearing Italians speaking Italian.)

Back on the trail, these were the plants I was able to see as the tour went from the top of the Rock down along the westside towards the north with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge that’s amazing.
Perennial Statice, Limonium perezii.
Seed heads of Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis.
The refurbished prisoners’ area greenhouse.
The prisoners’ greenhouse back in 1993 or 1994 during my first visit to Alcatraz.
Aeonium arboreum and Acanthus mollis.
Crassula, Aeonium, and Acanthus. I am not sure what the silvery one is but I am sure someone else will know.
This is another view of the same area.
And another view. I think there are some Aloe in there too.
This is about as close as you can get to the water on this side. There is a fence though so you cannot walk on the pavement. This area is protected. Birds nest there.
Kinda not sure about this one but it is a Mediterranean plant all right.
Fig Tree, Ficus in the prisoners’ garden.
Notice the fence. You can also see the skyline of downtown San Francisco.
From that area you can walk up the steep stairs to the Recreational Yard.
We started to make our way back down to the ferry at this point and believe it or not there were still plants to see that I’d missed on our way up.
Crocosmia.
Monstera deliciosa in a photo display in the Warden’s Office of what it looked like during the Kennedy administration.
If you were coming to visit someone on Alcatraz, you would have had to walk under this display. The cornucopias with their bountifulness is a bit odd.
The planter box along the road down to the boat was full of Geraniums.
Behind this row and down below are some of the areas we’d been granted access too earlier in the day.
Alcatraz is full of Fuchsia after Fuchsia.
A lone Hydrangea with a few Western sword ferns, Polystichum munitum.
Leathery Polypody Fern, Polypodium scouleri. This is a great native plant.
 Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi.
Where the Rock meets man.
This was a very tall red Geranium.
 Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi.
Nasturium have taken over and are growing wild on the island.
Unknown Geranium.
Unknown Geranium.
Back at the dock there is yet another Geranium.
An unknown Fuchsia tree.
Fuchia trying to get off the Rock.
A carpet of Aeonium.
This is a view of the Aeonium carpet as seen from the ferry.

If this did not whet your appetite for a trip to Alcatraz, I don’t know what will! I can’t wait to go back myself and I am so impressed with of all of the amazing work they’ve accomplished with the gardens.

Vashon Island, Washingtion

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My first visit to Vashon Island occurred when I was in high school. One of my friends at that time had family here and we were often invited up to visit her when she was visiting them. After I purchased my first car, I drove her up and dropped her off. That was my first solo road trip, and as anyone who knows me now knows, it was the beginning of my long love affair with road trips. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have returned for a quick visit. This island is the first place I ever felt freedom as a young woman and that still means a lot to me.
It might be hard to see, but the name of this Washington State Ferry is Rhododendron.

I wasn’t sure what to write about Vashon Island, since there is simply so much to say, but I had to start somewhere so here we are on the water!

There are four ferries to the island. One leaves from Tacoma and takes you to the south end of the island while the other three leave from the north and can take you to West Seattle, Southworth or downtown Seattle. The ferry to downtown Seattle is a passenger-only ferry and we utilized it a lot when I was younger.

Nowadays I stay with another friend from high school and it’s at her in-law’s vacation home. Lucky for us, the drive from the ferry is a quick one so I had my feet up resting in no time.

We had to drive to the north end of the island to gather some dinner items and as soon as we returned, the chef was hard at work. Our hostess did an amazing job of making everything pleasant for us and the evening could not have been better!

My friend’s mother-in-law is great with interior design and it is fun to see her love of nature and plant-life. This charming marigold print is a new favorite of mine. Surrounded by the grey-blue of Puget Sound and the sky it compliments the environment well.

Outside on the deck, a lonely Aloe awaits us. It is such a great touch and it is almost starfish-like. (Yes, you can lean over the deck sometimes and look directly at starfish and other creatures. It is really dreamy that way.)

Like all vacation homes, the house has plenty of hens and chicks—and these are beautifully arranged.

There is a mixed succulent dish too.

When you first arrive at the house, after a long walk down several flights of stairs, this is what greets you  beside the front door. It is nice to enter a house smiling and I think the homeowner has nailed that requirement.

Nearby, you will find other garden and patio decor. And although this is a catfish, I’d like to imagine it to be a sturgeon.

This morning I awoke early, excited for the day ahead, with plenty of plant shopping on my mind, and I watched the fishermen and the wildlife. I grew up on a creek and I often saw herons all of the time, but living in the city now, I honestly miss them. They are really beautiful birds.

Nearby on the back deck there is also this lovely piece. I am guessing this was purchased, but it could easily be handmade by anyone with enough time to collect the driftwood.

I was also able to see some amazing watercraft this morning too other than the plain ole salmon boats with their screeching outboard motors and huge almost ridiculously over sized nets that are honestly necessary to land big salmon.

Sorry this is only setting the scene, and I haven’t truly dug my teeth into any REAL garden material, but trust me, I will. (Have you ever seen abandoned overgrown orchid greenhouse? Oh, you will!)

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part Two, The Cactus House

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Unfortunately I was unable to document all of the plants here, and there is a bit of a reason that I must fess up to right now. Due to my complete and total love for so many of these plants as houseplants, I did overload the capacity my home has for their maintenance and upkeep this past year. Let’s face it, there are only so many plants that can stand in the light, and I cannot care for them all—not yet at least.

Believe it or not, this Jade Tree was started from a large cutting back in 1916. Wow.