I dropped in on my cousin Kathy for a visit. I found her in her garden and she gave me a tour. Her garden is very intuitive. She moves plants where she believes they’ll thrive. Some are seeds from family or friends.
She grows enough food for herself and shares with many in the Pieper clan. That day she was baking a couple of pies for the family gathering and putting a couple in the freezer. I was jealous of her space, and not jealous because I know how much work it entails.
I love going to superb gardens like the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis because I come away with so many ideas. This succulent design was one of my favorites and completely doable in my garden. Less practical is the spectacular specimen of the corpse flower (due to bloom any day and release a really big stink) below. You can find it in the Linnean House.
I first visited the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis during my Ag Leadership national trip in 1996. I always wanted to return, so when I was planning my #MiddleAmericaTour I made sure to have time to visit the Garden again.
There is so much to see over acres and acres of gardens, so it is good to linger over botanical prints and other art on a hot, humid afternoon in the air conditioned museum building.
I loved the giant koi in the pond, the maze, the center for home gardening and more. I remembered a specific garden with beautiful tiles and a fountain from my visit long ago. I thought maybe it was the Ottoman Garden, but alas no (and this was the one neglected looking garden in the whole vast expanse of garden). I finally found a postcard that matched my memory and asked where it was located. It was in the Temperate House, which I had skipped because I was overheated. I braved the humidity to see it. Worth it.
The garden is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. Admission is $12 per person over 13 years of age. Children enjoy free admission. Local residents have a reduced entrance of $6 per adult, $4 for seniors. The garden is accessible for people with mobility issues.
I have always loved walking around the UC Davis Arboretum. It was well established when I was a graduate student in the late 1980s, and even then it had a serious water quality problem in Putah Creek. The algae and other problems caused duck die offs and some stinky stretches. Now with a new design to help clean up Putah Creek, you can actually see the turtles swimming in the creek. The redwood grove has new plantings on the floor, and the new trailhead in downtown Davis is complete. If you haven’t been in a while, it is worthy of another look.
The new infrastructure in the creek helps to keep the water clean. Plus it introduces the sound of running water to your walk along the trail. You will get a healthy 3.5 miles of steps if you walk the entire loop. Along the way you’ll enjoy over 20 gardens, interesting bridges and paths and only occasional glimpses of campus life. I’m sure it’s kept many a student sane.
I belong to the Arboretum so I learn about their plant sales and enjoy a discount. The Arboretum is free of charge. Most days you’ll have to pay for campus parking if you are starting from the oak grove side near the medical campus, so instead park behind Mikuni’s restaurant (by the closed Whole Foods). When you finish up you can enjoy a meal at Pluto’s or Mikuni’s. I’m taking my grandson on Friday!
One of the best gardens in Ireland is in County Wicklow less than an hour from downtown Dublin. Powerscourt gardens are beautiful and delightful even in the end of November–the mark of a garden with good bones. The house is a shell of its former glory since a fire ravaged it. The living spaces have been replaced by specialty shops and cafes. The stable at Christmas sells Christmas trees and greens. The garden drew me back and it still satisfies.
The entrance fee for an adult is 10 pounds from March through October and 7.50 pounds in winter. There are discounts for seniors, students and children and it is 25 pounds for a family of five. There are headphones with additional information and an introductory film, both available for free. Although the repetition of how proud the owners/descendants are of the property gets tiresome.
I first discovered Powerscourt many moons ago when I traveled around Ireland with Cameon, my chum from high school. I had won airfare for two in an Irish-American Club raffle on St. Patrick’s Day. We flew to Dublin and rented a car to travel around the island. We started by driving north so our stop in Powerscourt was towards the end of our week. I remember it fondly and have frequently wanted to return on other visits. Even though it is only 40 minutes from Dublin, I could never include it in my itinerary. I’m so glad I made it back.
I used to live in Pacific Grove in the mid-80s. A lot has changed since then, and at the same time it is still a delightfully “normal” place to visit. The neighborhoods and downtown on Lighthouse Avenue are charming. It is bounded by Ocean View Avenue with a rugged and beautiful coastline. I prefer to stay here over any other part of the Monterey Peninsula.
In the past I have stayed at motels and hotels. This visit I am with my daughter and her family so we rented a home. We looked on VRBO and Airbnb and we found the 2 bedroom 2 bath home we are renting on Airbnb. It has been more comfortable than 2 hotel rooms and about the same price.
We can cook meals.
There is a living room where Calvin can make play with his toys (and make a mess).
We can play dominoes at the dining table and laugh without worrying about waking up a sleeping toddler.
There is a debate raging about the phenomenon of vacation rentals and how it is changing the neighborhoods and city finances of Pacific Grove (PG). My daughter saw a sign for Measure M. I did some research and learned that Monterey and Carmel have tight restrictions on the vacation rental market and PG does not. Also residents have been complaining about over-concentrations of homes for short-term rent for over 3 years and the city council had not taken any action. I had noticed that many of the motels and hotels had vacancy signs, which is uncommon in my memory. There is usually some kind of conference going on at Asilomar or tourism that keeps them near full.
We were walking on Asilomar Beach with Calvin and a dog and then another 2 year old and her dad joined us. We did the usual back and forth about the kids and then he asked where we were staying. We admitted that we were staying in a home nearby. He shared his frustration with the vacation rental situation. “They aren’t paying the taxes they owe the city.” He also alluded to the partying and recently moving from Nashville, which was a party town, he was hoping to escape that scene. Sarah and I weren’t quite sure what his point was as we haven’t witnessed anything but deer roaming the streets and senior citizens power walking in the neighborhood. I mentioned that my neighbor has dedicated his investment property (across the street from me in Midtown Sacramento) for AirBnB rental. People are coming and going during the week and weekends. They typically empty a lot of “bottles” into the recycling, but to be fair, they have yet to disturb anyone.
As a consumer of temporary housing when I travel, I appreciate the range of choice available today. At the same time I am also sympathetic to the challenges it creates, especially in housing markets where rentals are already scarce and prices are rising. I also remember the signs posted in Venice, Italy protesting Airbnb and the perceived effect that it was pricing “real Venetians” out of Venice.
As we walked back to the car, Sarah and I discussed our conversation with the local who is going to vote to limit vacation rentals to the coastal zone (1 mile from coastline) and the business district. He wasn’t unfriendly, just frustrated. We wondered if we shouldn’t have rented the home we are staying in, and decided that we were unaware of the controversy, we are in the coastal zone, and it isn’t illegal. We’d like to come every year, so we’ll have to think through our options next year. Also, does Airbnb pay the local transient occupancy tax or expect hosts to do so?
When I lived here in the 80s, the prices were climbing well beyond the ability of people mostly working service jobs to afford to buy. Then the problem was that some of the supply was taken off the market by people who could afford to buy a second or third home on the Peninsula. They only spent a few weeks a year in Carmel or Pebble Beach and this had a ripple effect in the entire housing market. The Airbnb phenomenon makes it possible for upper middle class people to buy a vacation home and afford it thanks to additional rents.
It is complicated. When Airbnb started I thought it was restricted to host-occupied residences. It was both the attraction and the turn-off. I prefer a hotel to a Bed & Breakfast because I prefer to be left alone. Now it has become a platform for entrepreneurs with enough cash to invest in a dedicated vacation property. I use ride sharing services and appreciate the greater availability of cars where I am, the app’s easy way to pay, but it has not been so great for taxis. A lot of these apps disrupt the existing order of things and create new opportunities for consumers and the industrious. Hopefully Pacific Grove will find the right balance.
The first time I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I went on the guided tour. It was like taking information in from a firehose and there wasn’t time to pause and stare at your favorite bits. So much of the museum is about the atmosphere Gardner created. I wholeheartedly recommend the tour, and I am glad I was able to return and spend a couple of hours on my own.
Isabella Stewart was born in New York City in 1840 and moved to Boston when she married her husband Jack Gardner at age 20. She inherited her father’s fortune and began collecting art. Her friend Bernard Berenson helped her pick up some magnificent Italian Renaissance art from Venetian royalty experiencing hard times. She began designing a Palace to house her collection with exquisite attention to detail. It is located in Fenway and you gain admission with just $15.
When I looked back at my photos (non flash photography is allowed) at days end I realized that I was taking more pictures of decorating ideas that I was of the most renowned pieces. (Check out January 25 blog). Here are the top 8 design tips:
Make the most of first impressions. Don’t let your foyer become just a shoe dumping ground.
2. Paint at least one wall “zappy blue”. The last paint color that inspired me was Jefferson’s choice of robin’s egg blue in Monticello. This is even more exciting. Gardner created the recipe and sent it to Italy to be mixed. I wonder if my local Sherwin Williams can recreate this.
3. Take your objects d’art out of the cupboard and dedicate a sideboard or table to displaying them.
4. Add walls or doors when your art collection outgrows your display capacity.
5. Find clever space for bookshelves on top of hallways and doorways.
6. Take your “great room” to the next level. I once went to a fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion that the Reagans built but Jerry Brown refused to occupy. It’s owned by a couple who filled every square inch with furniture. This sparse version (and only half is in photo) feels so much more grand.
7. Build around a courtyard. I’m creating this out of my postage stamp backyard.
8. Create a snug. Room too large to be cozy? Use fabric to create a room within a room.
There is so much to see and do in Sonoma County. There is the coastline, the Russian River and the party town of Guerneville. You can wine taste in Healdsburg or Sonoma. Great food abounds in Petaluma and throughout the county. Many of the historic Italian dining rooms dotted throughout the western county are still serving lunch and dinner. One that holds many memories for me is Union Hotel in Occidental, California. I don’t know how young I was the first time I rode in the car from Occidental, up and over Coleman Valley Road and dropped down to Highway One and the Bodega Bay on the other side. Dramatic scenery abounds and if it is foggy it adds an element of terror to the ride. I have a romantic spot in my heart for Coleman Valley Road.
When my Auntie J sent me the notice about the Western Hills Garden reopening for visitors this summer and I saw the address (16250 Coleman Valley Road), I got a little thrill. We needed to go on Saturday because that is the only public day that I generally have free. I saw that dogs on a leash were welcome so I packed up Lulu the adventure dog and we headed to Petaluma to pick up my Auntie.
We drove the backroads through Valley Ford to Occidental. Coleman Valley Road deadends in to the middle of town. The garden is part way up the hill from town on the right. There is parking along the road. The garden and plant sales are open Saturday from 10 – 4 as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment.
The entrance fee is $12 for adults. The garden provides a map but the 3 acres of paths are straightforward. Lulu was so excited by the smells of garden cats and wild animals. We were excited by the amazing plants–oversized lilies, large rhododendrons, and a tremendous diversity of plants.
We saved some time for plant shopping. I found some specimens that are hard to find in most nurseries. Now that I have so much shade, I can consider some plants that couldn’t survive in my Central Valley garden with hot summer sun.
I’d go back to shop for plants (no entry fee needed) or to show the garden to friends. It is always inspiring to see a truly well designed garden.
We returned to Petaluma via Sebastopol and to Amy’s Drive In in Rohnert Park. Amy’s features delicious vegetarian diner food. It is just a block from an In-N-Out if you prefer a double-double.