What’s Your Botanical Learning Style?

I’d wanted to have a nice long post for today, but my brain is really, seriously, quite tired. Right now I should be sleeping, but instead, I am up and exhausted from staying up late to read more and more about plants. You see, I have a long drive home now, and there are more plants to come, in different kinds of places, that have different kinds of ecosystems, and already, my brain and eyes are spinning because of plants‚ÄĒbut not really. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this post.
Looking at the wine grapes took work since I wish I could identify the different kinds just by looking at them, but I am not that talented. This shouldn’t stress me out, but it does. Right now I don’t have the energy to begin learning about any other plants since I am still being overwhelmed with the native plants of California!
Here’s a good example. Entering into this native ancient oak grove truly blew me away. The side effect though is that I have a lot more to read now. I love to go on vacation but it is so odd to return home with homework. (This was near the top when I climbed Mt. Konocti with our friend Tom.)
After that shock to the botanical senses, before we reached the peak, we were able to look out and see Mt. St. Helena in Napa. (It’s the flat-headed mountain out there near the center of the picture.) It was hard for me to believe we could see it, but we could.
Identifying plants along the way became more complicated that day, but I was really happy to have found this Cirsium occidentale. I knew what it was immediately, but I have so many more plants to memorize before I walk through the chaparral of Lake County, CA again. Everything is simply too new to me here still.
While I went off to explore each day my husband had to work. The grapes need to be harvested and processed quickly so that nothing sits around in the heat for long. It is strange to come back to your spouse as they work at a job you’ve never actually seen them do. I’ve heard about the whole process for years, but seeing it was like seeing someone new who I didn’t totally know. When he works the field, pruning and planting new vines, I understand that, but this part was new to me even though it’s similar to a popular activity in the NW called, “beer brewing.”
Right now you may be wondering about my relationship to our famous Oregon Pinot Noir, but I have never been interested in the whole lifestyle it entails in my state due to the cult of the grape that began in the 1970s when I was a girl. It has always seemed somewhat foreign to our region, and yes, Californian. Oddly enough, we don’t have a native grape vine the way California does and I think that’s telling in a way. Wine really fits into the landscape here in a way that it doesn’t in Oregon. That’s just my opinion, and I know it tastes great, but it has altered Oregon in a funny way. (I know, hops aren’t native either, but at least they seem to fit in well and they grow so well in the Willamette Valley.)
So, back to plants, on another day I drove about 80 miles into a very remote area of Lake County by myself. (You can see the road along the ridge in the picture. It’s the wavy line and it was amazing to drive along!) This may not have been the wisest decision, but it made me feel brave.
From that remote area I could look over at Mt. Konocti again and ponder how I could have ever climbed to the top! Oddly enough though I felt safe-ish as I ventured deeper into the wilderness since I could hear a lot of traffic in the air flying over the Mendocino National Forest. This is harvest season after all and I think many of you know exactly what the Feds were looking for at this time of the year.
A few days ago I landed back in San Francisco before heading south to the burbs. Seeing 1/8 or so of the San Francisco Botanical Garden was another amazing and yet visually confusing mess. I am still recovering from that walk but maybe after I visit it again once or twice a year for 10 years I’ll know all of the plants! (Bromeliads grow there “wherever”.)
I wish I could wander the streets of San Francisco just looking for these amazing little gardens. I had never seen a  Standard Fuchsia tree quite like this one before and it truly surprised me too. The streets of San Francisco are so rich with flora year-round.

So as I drive home, I will endeavor to keep my eyeballs straight and not to tire myself out with all of this seeing and looking but that’s truly how I memorize plants and I put a lot of energy into it. Today’s Halloween though, and it’s the day I head north again, so wish me luck as I enter back into the sphere of plant life I am familiar with already. I have a lifetime to learn about Californian plants and I will just have to accept that it will take that long to learn them.

Back Home from San Francisco, Back to Reality

Back in our super quiet house (eerily so), with no foster respite children this weekend, I am dealing with the onslaught of rain, an elderly unwell feline family member, a pinch of jealousy that my husband is in New York City, and then there is this huge 20 pounds of furry feline in my lap that is the cat we call Maurice. He is stuck to me like glue! I guess that’s my punishment for leaving him here.
On the bright side, at least I was able to see my eldest niece this weekend, her boyfriend, and one of my nieces’ oldest childhood friends who spent many nights with my husband and I and both of the girls when they were kids. How I love their never-ending need to make things! How I couldn’t stop laughing when our niece and her boyfriend discussed picking out some houseplants for their new place together. Then came the immense amount of pride I felt when they were excited to hear about Uncle P’s successes this year.
Morning Glory growing in a planter near the San Remo Hotel in San Francisco. 
Unpacking went well, but packing up to return home was not easy. My bags gained several extra pounds apiece and lugging luggage, I’ve realized now, is not my favorite activity. That being said, in the future, I plan to drive back down there. It is so less stressful than flying and the adventure of it is a great deal more fun.
Closeup of the amazing Morning Glory in the alley near our hotel in San Francisco.

This is a post of some odds and ends from the trip, and it’s a bit about my state of mind I suppose. As I told my husband, it is odd to be constructing a Californian identity. Sure I am still a tourist crashing at a friend’s house, but at what point does that change? I don’t really know, but it obviously has something to do with my husband’s being down there all of the time.

I think this is the strangest pruning job I’ve ever seen of an Asparagus fern.

Walking the streets all over the Bay Area you see so many amazing plants. Driving I saw even more but I couldn’t take as many shots as I’d wanted.

Trailing Rosemary creates a great effect if you can pull it off correctly.
Ok, so here’s the real deal with this post. It’s a confession too. I stuffed my pockets silly with seeds whenever I could and I am posting the evidence.
Some of these seeds are new to me, and others I have grown before.

My daily Ikebana project also added to my luggage.

Arranging the seeds and drying them really did slow me down but I am thankful many of them are ready to go.

Using origami envelopes made the picking much more convenient.

Back at home, unpacked, but still getting back into gear, I took this photo while sitting out back under the willow arbor with the kids young adults. I love them for not teasing me about all of the envelopes with seeds stuffed into them that are all over our house. It makes me happy to know that to the girls, what I do is somehow normal, and is expected of me.

I am Auntie Annie‚ÄĒthe seed snatcher! Oh yeah, and welcome back autumn. Now let’s get on with this so I can get back to springtime asap.

Mission San Francisco de As√≠s and Its Historic, Cinematic, and Photogenic Garden Cemetery


Located in The Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, this mission is also referred to as Mission Dolores. Its common name originates from a creek that once ran near the community named Arroyo de Nuestra Se√Īora de los Dolores. Founded by Franciscans, it is named after my favorite Catholic hero: San Francesco d’Assisi.

It is difficult for me to believe that I have been to the Bay Area almost twenty times in my life, and yet, this was my first visit to the city’s oldest structure, a location made even more famous by its inclusion in one of my all-time favorite Alfred Hitchcock films,¬†Vertigo.

I loved that the official plaque made it very clear that the original adobe walls and roof tiles were still intact.

The first Catholic Mass celebrated here took place under a shelter at this site just a few days before the
signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. These bricks had not yet all been formed and dried at the site. The building was completed in 1791.
Inside, the proof is made even more crystal clear.
My namesake, St Ann(e), mother of Mary, is to the right of the crucified Christ and the Immaculate Conception Mary is to the left. Above St Ann(e) is St Clare, the founderess of the Poor Clares, or, the female Franciscans. Above Mary is her father San Joaquin.
Without going into too much detail about the alter and its iconography, I can say that much is being said in this one that is rather atypical. Since I am such a plant and animal nut, it was really great to see such a formal alter for St Francis and all that he stood for in his work.
Beside the mission church is the larger, more modern, Basilica. Seeing its main alter decked out with garlands of blooms and tons of flowers flooded me with memories. It also allowed me to show my husband where my penchant for springtime pagan-like bloom worship sprung from.

Lastly, there is the famous cemetery. If you have not yet seen Vertigo, I promise to hide my shock. If you have, this is where Jimmy Stewart’s character Scottie follows Madeline and he watches her as she sits and visits a gravesite.

This was the only Italian gravestone we found but there ¬†were many in English and Spanish. ¬†I was also really curious about many of the early Irish people who appeared to have been living here when it was still Mexico. That makes sense since it was Catholic. I’d like to learn more about these people now!

The gravestone from the film is no longer here, but there are plenty of real people to keep you more than entertained for an hour of so. Oh, and then there are the plants!

The plants are rambling all over the place.

If you go and you see something you like, there is a list of plants posted.

The architecture, the light, and the plants, made for an unimaginable visit that day.

Even though it was overcast, I could easily see why Hitchcock had picked the site. For many years the church actually left the gravestone of one Carlotta Valdes in the cemetery, but it became too much of a tourist site, and the stone was removed. I am not sure where it is now, but I am sure that it is out there somewhere.

In the film, this figure can be seen behind Scottie. It was once part of a grotto, and from online research, it appears to have been moved around a bit.

St Francis pacing in thoughtful prayer around the rose garden. He was a bit too large and lifelike for me.

I really liked this stone seat. Its permanence is unquestionable.

A newer addition, this looks a lot like the spineless Prickly Pear developed by Luther Burbank. Against the white wall, it really stands out.

As always, the history of the site appears to overlap with that of my husband’s ancestor who travelled on what was John C. Fr√©mont’s famous Third expedition. It is sad that Basil LaJeunesse became an historical footnote during that trip, but his death reverberated for many years in the lives of those closest to him. It is my belief, based on what I’ve been reading, that it was a loss both Kit Carson and Fr√©mont were unsettled about since during the ensuing weeks they did things they later regretted.

I loved the casual feel here. The stepping stones, Sedum and hose make this feel so much like a garden.

One of the most controversial actions these men took involves this man.

This is the grave of the first mayor of San Francisco‚ÄĒthough he was called an Alcalde and the city was then still Yerba Buena. Kit Carson shot and killed his twin sons and their distant cousin in 1846 near San Rafael when told to do so by John C. Fr√©mont. This was just a few weeks after Basil’s death, after they’d attacked and killed the wrong Native Americans to avenge the death in Oregon, and after they must have realized they’d been tracked by Modoc paid by the Mexican Government who’d been tracking them from their encampment near Monterey as they’d headed north of the border for safety.

So enough about all of that for now, you soon will be seeing more of Frémont as he has so many native plants that have his name attached to them. I just have to add this stuff because it is so much a part of why both my husband and I love where we live, between both the Pacific Northwest and California.

So the next time you find yourself in San Francisco, I invite you to sit and stay awhile. Meditate a bit and transport yourself back in time to a California before the Gold Rush, to a time when it was part of Mexico.

Mission San Francisco de Asís or Mission Dolores

Flora Grubb Gardens


If you have not yet read about, or heard about, or seen Flora Grubb¬†and the work that comes out of her nursery, then you have certainly missed a garden design superstar and an undeniable inspiration for many of us. Undoubtedly, you must have seen her work somewhere since published examples and articles highlighting her design work have been around now for several years. After seeing the headquarters at the nursery, I came away feeling like I’d had a relaxing afternoon at a garden spa. It was amazing and I bought some really special garden items but I will post those later.

Lehua. Metrosideros collina ‘Springfire’. Hardy in zones 9-11.
Isopogon anethifolius ‘Cura Moors’. This is an Australian Protea that’s a shrub. Hardy to 20-25¬įF.
Strelitzia nicolai.
Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’.
Willow Cone Bush. Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’. ¬†Zone 9b-11.
Fernleaf Banksia. Banksia blechnifolia. Hardy to the mid-20sF.
Kohuhu. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Gold Star’. Hardy to 20sF.
I feel bad that I missed so many other fine details and plants but I was on such a tight schedule to get up to Santa Rosa to meet my husband after he finished a weekend course on wine chemistry. I tried to stop at some other shops on my way but the traffic and parking in San Fran is so bad I grew impatient and headed north.
From there, we drove for over an hour up to his dad’s house and to the vineyard in Lake County. I was so sad to see all of the rain, but then I realized that this would be the end of tailing my husband in his California car and that seemed much worse. After a night in Kelseyville, I was on my own, but many adventures were ahead of me and I looked forward to hunting for native plants, collecting rocks for the garden, and stuffing large pieces of driftwood into the car. (I will go back to Lake County next time in search of a rare endemic native plant.)