Touring California Community Gardens: Fun, Sun and Lots of Ideas

Here are three highlights of my recent adventures in California visiting community gardens from Sacramento to the Bay area:

LaybugSacramento: There are waiting lists four and five years long to get into some of the gardens and if you visit, you’ll see why.  The pride and care that goes into the city’s Parks and Recreation community gardens is evident in the upkeep, the design and the spirited innovation.

There are fruit trees growing, individual gardener plots, even a small vineyard (It is California after all!) and artful ways of conserving water and engaging gardeners. For example, a sculpted cistern shaped like a ladybug collects water from giant metal flower basins.  This is just one of many artful touches.

BayerSanta Rosa:  A bilingual garden at the Bayer Community Farm with signage in Spanish and English. This is a welcoming space with garden plots, a large area with a dozen colorful picnic tables, a labyrinth and a teepee trellis house for children.  The garden space accommodates young and older with raised beds designed for people with disabilities.  One of the nicest aspects of the garden is that it is adjacent to a recreational space that was buzzing with activity as neighbors played sports, skated and rode bikes.

PotHill copySan Francisco:  In most gardens your attention is drawn down to ground level where the vegetables, flowers and herbs grow. In Portero Hill Community Garden, located at the edge of a ridge, your eyes look up and out to see a breathtaking city scape. Perched on land that was once the abode of the goat lady of San Francisco, this is a striking garden and so well tended.  The gardeners here love their spaces and it shows.

More to come….

BTW- Sacramento is agricultural zone 9. They plant tomatoes in March!

 

 

 

 

Log of Magnificent Trees: Banyan Tree

The Banyan tree ignites the imagination and has for centuries.

It is easy to see why. It has multiple sinewy, strong, tail-like “trunks” that are actually aerial roots that drape to the ground, overlap and grow together in a mass.

It was commonly called the Dragon’s Tree because people thought the tree’s trunk resembled hanging dragon tails.

As you look at this tree you can easily imagine it as an awesome treehouse, a pirate’s hiding place, a wizard’s home or as the inspiration for a frightening tree that comes alive with a great branches entangling prey like a giant python.

For such a majestic monster, this tree begins life as an epiphyte, a plant that lives off another plant. The seeds lodge in a crevice of the host tree and take hold sending long roots down to the ground. In time, the roots engulf the host tree which dies, leaving a hollow columnar center that is the banyan tree’s core.

The aerial and surface roots mature into thick, woody trunks that spread and can resemble a cluster of trees, but are actually one.  The largest Banyan trees are in India, where it is native, and where it is regarded as sacred and the source of many medicines.

The name comes from a word meaning merchants as it was under the canopy of Banyan trees that Hindu merchants sold their wares.

Here in zone 10, the Banyan is a wonderful shade tree that is a delight to behold.

Nature Drama in a Japanese Garden

Screen Shot 2019-01-19 at 7.45.49 AMHere’s the scenario.

This green heron sat very still, half hidden by a stone.  Inch-long fish wiggled very near in the pond but just out of reach of the bird.  The enterprising heron took wee bits of whatever it found on the stone, dropped them into the water and waited.

The found “lure” dropped into the pond rippled the surface. The heron watched. An unsuspecting fish swam to investigate and became lunch.

Did you know green herons use bait to catch fish?

This certainly wasn’t the highlight of Morakami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray, Florida, but it was a fascinating snippet of nature.

The botanical garden grounds are exquisitely manicured and there is a variety of different types of Japanese gardens including six historical gardens.

Much of the lake shoreline reminded me of the Adirondacks with its boulders and rocky ledges. I’m always considering, “What can I take home from this experience?”

In the Adirondacks, the landscape is wild. Here the wilderness was partially tamed through pruning and placement of pathways, wooden bridges, archways and bamboo fencing.

Mostly pruning considering the boulders are enormous and spans of rock ledge extend into the waters where turtles and koi eagerly put on a show.

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One of the many pleasures of the gardens is the carefully positioned benches set into the scene to give visitors a resting place with long views of expanded spaces and unfolding natural dramas.

There’s a lot to see including art exhibits. And, lunch here is a culinary delight. Check out the website: https://morikami.org

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Road Trip: Lavenlair Farms

 

Where do gardeners go when they aren’t tending their own gardens?

To other gardens of course.

Today, a friend and I traveled to Whitehall, NY to a Lavenlair Farm to take in the blooming lavender fields. The views are breathtaking not only of the rows upon rows of English and French lavenders, but out over the fields to a 200-year-old house and the mountains beyond.

We gathered bouquets of lavender,  made some purchases at the gift shop and then continued our adventure. If you haven’t been there, add it to your list of local places to visit.

It’s charming. Here’s a link: http://www.lavenlairfarm.com/

ByWard Market Shopping in Ottawa

 

I stumbled upon a farmers’ market in the ByWard district while traveling recently in Ottawa, Canada and couldn’t believe my good fortune.

Here I was with gorgeous fruits and vegetables displayed in front of me on a street that also had shops selling French pastries, hot coffee, wines, loaves of fresh breads and cheeses from around the world.

The farmers were friendly. The aromas appealing.

If I lived there, I would shop this street every day.

 

Outstanding Horticultural Art Exhibit in Gatineau, Canada

 

What does this gardener do on holiday?

She visits horticulture masterpieces, of course!

Today I returned from the Mosaiculture exhibit in Gatineau, Canada.

What’s mosaiculture? It’s art with horticulture. This horticultural technique established in Beijing and Shanghai and just beginning to be known on this continent uses sculpture, paint and plants to create massive and breathtaking works of art.

Inside each sculpture is an armature, much like topiary. Some are wire, but some of the interior structural forms are made with plastics that look more like a giant set of Legos pieced together. The viewer never sees this part. It is covered by different plants to create texture, patterns and show coarseness or smoothness.

Big, Bold and Awe inspiring

Think big, very big.  In the last image above of the seated woman, the bottom of the bag on her lap is about 6 feet off the ground. In some cases, it was one large sculpture on view, like the seated woman, but in others you were viewing a diorama depicting a scene of historical significance like a first nation warrior paddling a canoe, or a man panning for gold.

In other cases, there are sculptures within sculptures, like the artwork of dragons and people shown above. What the viewer sees is thousands upon thousands of plants totally covering the form and the surrounding landscape to create living and changing artworks. The exhibit is spectacular and thoroughly amazing.

Each of the 40 or so arrangements is so unusual, so intricate that you will literally stop, stare and wonder, “How did they do this?”

The artworks are on exhibit in Gatineau as part of the country’s celebration of 150 years of Canadian history, values, culture. Admission to the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 exhibit in Jacques-Cartier Park is free. But hurry, it closes in mid-October. For more information or directions visit the website

I understand that after the Gatineau exhibition ends, the giant plant sculptures will be moved to sites in provincial and territorial capitals.

 

 

 

Lavender Farm, Ice Cream and Mom

Mom’s visiting.

At 89-years-old she has pretty specific wants, likes and requests.

Today we checked a few off the list that weren’t all that exciting. She wanted to buy new shoes and black pants, and have lunch out.

But one part of our adventure today is worthy of more detail because it was wonderful and because time is running out to do it this season.

Lavenlair Farm

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I drove Mom to Lavenlair Farm in Whitehall, NY.  It is nestled in rolling hills of with views that stretch from the Green Mountains of Vermont to the Adirondacks.

Everyone in the car at one point or another commented on the vista or the soaring hawks.

They have 22 different lavender varieties growing in the field.

High time for bloom is July and gardeners have told me the field is a blue wonder then.  But we saw plenty today to make this a must do next summer.

In the little boutique next to the field we found lavenders noted for culinary use, fragrance, and color and shopped for all things lavender from honey, flower wands, soaps, tea, sprays, lip balm, sachets and more.

Also on site is a hand built “Laverinth” a 100ft diameter, lavender planted, Petit-Chartres meditative labyrinth that the owners, David and Diane Allen, created.

If you want to go, hurry. The farm closes for the season September 3rd, which is next weekend.

Ice Cream

The other highlight of our outing was the Ice Cream Man in Washington County.  Mom ordered root beer ice cream. She loves all things root beer.  And, I think she liked it.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 6.09.55 PM.pngShe ate the whole thing. 🙂  Now she’s napping.

Swimming Hole Photo Shoot

This was a fun day.

A friend and I went to a swimming hole in Bristol, Vermont to shoot photos.

We weren’t there long before we met the guys who make the Gooner Longboards videos like this one.

 

Lots of jumping, splashing and hooting. The director Chris Magoon was shooting images of his buddies jumping off the cliffs using a series of devices he created to extend the camera’s reach and slide along with the action.

He is a young engineer, very creative and serious about capturing the action in a cinema-graphic way. Nice work.

Want to go and take a leap? All you have to do is grab that rope you see in the image below, swing out over the water and let go…._DSC0704_1433

I was told that once you hit the water, you need to get to the sides quickly as the underwater current pulls you towards the waterfall. Not what you might expect. Beware.

Oil Painting

I took plenty of photographs that will be studies for a future oil painting. I took images of leapers, kids standing there waiting to jump, splashers, screamers, swimmers and everyone having fun on the boulders. And one day soon, I will draw these images on a canvas and compose a painting. I will keep you posted.

Today was a very good day.

Road Trip: Frost Hill Farm

On a road trip into Vermont yesterday, a friend and I had our cameras fully charged, a map in the car and a willingness to brake for anything of interest…shops, flowers, tag sales, and views.

Our destination: Frost Hill Farm in Belmont, a peony nursery that will leave you breathless. The flowers are so delicate, the petals translucent…and they move in the slightest breeze like dancers in fancy, frilly frocks. This farm will enchant you. If you aren’t sure you need peonies in your garden, walking among the rows of pink, burgundy, white, lemon and magenta flowers will convince you otherwise. The fragrance alone is worth the drive.

Here are a few images:_DSC0574_1295

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piink peony

Frost Hill Farm is only open until the 29th of June. If you’re interested, go this week. There is still plenty to see…note all the buds in the following photo.

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Vermont is just beautiful countryside to drive through. Magnificent vistas. Rolling hills. Even the wildflowers along the roadsides were outstanding. I believe the purple flower is spotted knapweed. Is that correct? The orange flower is Orange Hawkweed.

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While you are meandering the back roads, stop often. We passed a swimming hole in a quarry, talked to an antique shop owner who steered us to great vistas she called “a piece of heaven,” and if we weren’t in heaven…then heaven wasn’t far.

On the Move Lunch Idea

MasonjarsaladSalad in a Mason jar?

When I googled “portable lunch no sandwiches,” this adorable idea came up.

The salad lasts for five days in the refrigerator, the dressing is on the bottom – first layer – so it is not soggy until you shake it up and it is pretty to look at. Add to that my own requirements for something easy to bring on a kayak and healthy, and this is a winner.

I made mine with red onion, carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, basil leaves and feta. You can add chicken, beans, anything you like. The key is to put the dressing in the bottom of the jar and then add the veggies least likely to absorb the dressing. In my case this was the onion, carrot and tomatoes.

I love the idea of prepping the salad once on a Sunday and then having it available in the refrigerator ready to go for the rest of the week. This could become a regular thing.

There are lots and lots of recipe ideas online. Taco salads, Greek salads, etc. Try http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/06/mason-jar-salads_n_5452313.html as a start.

Pretty soon I will be packing mine with veggies all grown in the garden!