Wednesday, April 27, 2016

California Road Trip: Days 9 & 10 - Wine, Rain, an Innovative Marketplace and Gardens

Well, another road trip is drawing to a close, but not before two more fun-filled days.



After leaving San Francisco, we headed up toward Napa Valley.  Despite it being a rainy day, we were determined that getting a little wet wouldn't hinder us from exploring this area.


Our first stop was (not surprisingly) a winery.  Many wineries were surrounded by beautiful landscapes and to be honest, I like plants more than wine, so I spent more time outside than inside sampling wine.



Olive trees and roses were prevalent in landscape beds alongside grape vines.


Young grapes were beginning to appear on the vine.




Ivy climbed up the walls of buildings and neatly trimmed boxwood shrubs enclosed areas filled with roses and shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans) shrubs.  


The green hills were studded with oak trees and tall poplar trees were also used throughout the area.


The next morning was sunny and warm making it a perfect day to spend exploring  Cornerstone Sonoma with its trendy stores and gardens.



Many of the stores were filled with items for both home and garden while others offered stylish clothing with a casual theme.  



An artisan created ollas onsite.  These clay containers are buried in the ground and are an old-fashioned way to water plants that have seen a resurgence in popularity. 


Also offered for sale were shallow basins that mimic the appearance of wood.  They were filled with water and used as containers for plants.


Old grape vines were used as borders for garden beds as well as for an accent piece in the garden - you could also buy some for your own garden.


Unique, rusted metal containers were for sale, just waiting to be taken home and planted.


Throughout the shopping area were creative container plantings that I really liked.  They were housed in square metal containers and filled with purple hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea') and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum).  The focus on these containers wasn't on flowers but rather on the colorful foliage of the plants.


One very exciting element of Cornerstone Sonoma is their new partnership with the folks at Sunset Magazine who are moving their test gardens and their test kitchen to this popular spot in Napa Valley.


While the official opening isn't until mid-May, the Sunset Test Gardens were well on their way to being completed.



Large amounts of plants were still waiting to be planted in the new Sunset test gardens, which is where new plant varieties will be evaluated while also allowing the public to see them up close.



Landscapers were hard at work planting the new gardens.


 There are a lot of creative garden structures and I hope to see these gardens someday once everything is finished.



Next on our tour was the existing Cornerstone Gardens, which are described on their website "as  an ever-changing series of gardens, showcasing innovative designs from international and local landscape architects and designers.  They create a cultural and creative haven, celebrating the connection between art, architecture and nature". 

"There are currently nine Cornerstone Gardens. 
Continually in a state of evolution, some garden installations will be in place for a season, while others will remain for several seasons."



Approaching the gardens, the main path takes you by a grassy area, dappled with shade.  The focal part of this area is the 'plastic pinwheel flower garden'.  Passersby enjoy this fun take on a traditional flower bed - especially kids.


Individual gardens were surrounded by Japanese privet hedges, creating a sense of mystery as you walk toward the entry into each one.

One of my favorites was In the Air by Conway Chen Chang.  "This garden is intended to give the viewer a better sense of the human relationship to air in a very playful and whimsical way."

Wisteria Vine

Clematis flowers
A curved path with uniquely-shaped step stones sits beneath curved metal rebar with clematis vines.




The next garden was filled with plants that are popular in the Southwest, including Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.

Garden of Contrast by James Van Sweden and Sheila Brady

"This is an experience of contrasting texture, form, color, and scent that changes with the seasons."


I love contrasting textures in the landscape and using agave with its bold shapes alongside ornamental grasses and their wispy texture creates drama in the garden.



Eucalyptus trees

This garden was the most unusual, in my opinion and paid homage to the eucalyptus tree.

Eucalyptus Soliloquy by Walter Hood & Alma Dusolier

"A celebration of the non-native eucalyptus trees in the Sonoma Valley."

Driving throughout Southern, Central and Northern California, eucalyptus trees are almost as  familiar as native oak trees.



Wire cages held strips of eucalyptus bark and decorative eucalyptus seed pods were piled at the base.



The wire cages framed an attractive view with a pond filled with waterlilies.






Rise by Roger Raiche and David McCrory

"A tubular experience that stirs and arrange of emotional response.  A place for interaction and play."

I loved the use of contrasting colors and textures in this garden, don't you?


The view at the end of the 'tunnel' was a field of grape vines.


We spent a wonderful morning at Cornerstone Sonoma and I highly recommend visiting if you ever find yourself in San Francisco (it's about 1 hour north).


As we left Napa Valley, heading back toward to San Francisco and our airline flight back home, I found that crossing the famous Golden Gate Bridge the perfect way to finish a fabulous road trip.


Thank you so very much for coming along with me.  

We will be back on the road next year!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

California Road Trip: Day 8 - The Gardens of Alcatraz

San Francisco has been a popular destination for me and my family.  While I was born and grew up in Southern California, both my parents are from the northern part of the state.  As a result, trips to the San Francisco area were frequent events in my childhood as well early in my marriage when our two oldest girls were young.

For this part of our road trip, we decided to do something that we had never done in San Francisco - visit Alcatraz - or more specifically, the gardens of Alcatraz.



Believe it or not, Alcatraz has gardens, many of which were created and tended by the inmates themselves.


The boat ride to the island of Alcatraz is very short as it is only 1-mile away.


However, as you leave the dock, the views of the city of San Francisco as spectacular.


Coit Tower, which was built in 1933, stands sentinel as boats come and go.


Off in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge traverses the gap between the city of San Francisco to the south over to Marin County to the north.



As we neared the Alcatraz Island, you could see the much of the city.


As you approach the 22-acre island, you notice that part of the island is covered in greenery.


Century plant (Agave americana) grows wild along the hillside and many were flowering.




Getting ready to dock, you get a good glimpse of the structures on the island, which housed prisoners 1934 - 1963.  Before that, it was a U.S. military prison.


It was believed, and correctly so, that no inmate could successfully escape through the waters of the bay with its strong currents.


After you disembark from the boat, you are greeted by a park ranger who gives you guidelines for your visit.  Basically, you can't take food anywhere on the island (other than the dock area) and you must not remove any plant material.


There are a large number of birds who call this island their home and this was nesting season, so some of the areas were off limits.


Now, it was time to climb up to the top where the prison building was located - the equivalent of 13 stories.  There was a tram for those who couldn't make the walk to the top.


The walk to the top was a gradual slope with no stairs.  These stairs were roped off.


I was so proud when I reached the top and looked down to see how far I had come.


We entered the prison, which offers a great audio tour.  



The cells were still there and some were set up as they were when this prison still held inmates.

Details of escape attempts were shared during the tour.


Former inmates said the it was torture to be able to see the city just off in the distance while they were stuck in this horrible place that was cold and drafty.


The part of the tour that was really difficult was walking into a cell where prisoners were held in solitary confinement.  Once the doors closed, there was no light and total darkness.

While the prison tour was very interesting, I was much more interested in the gardens on this rocky island.




The gardens begin along the roadside the leads up toward the top of the island where the prison is located.  




It was almost surreal to be walking along, enjoying the beauty of colorful plants and mixtures of textures on the way to a stark prison where prisoners would be, for the most part, quite miserable.


One of the few bright spots for the inmates were the gardens that they tended.

One former inmate enjoyed gardening on the island so much that he went on to have a
 successful career as a landscaper once he was released.


As you might imagine, it was a privilege to work in the gardens and gave prisoners a brief respite from their incarceration.  Inmates were trained how to care for plants, many of which were donated.


While the garden plants on Alcatraz aren't native, they do thrive in the harsh climate of the island.  This red valerian (Centranthus ruber) does so well on Alcatraz, that is growing out of a wall.

Canada geese with their goslings explore part of the garden.

A seagull sits on her nest amidst colorful ice plant.

Parts of the garden were roped off because feathered residents of the island were nesting and raising their young.


However, we were still able to see them from above.  This section of the garden was called the Officer's Row Gardens.




The inmates and staff weren't the only residents of the island.  The families of the staff also called Alcatraz home and assisted in the creation and care of the gardens. 





As there are no prison staff or inmates to take care of the gardens anymore, volunteers come to maintain the garden areas.



What a cool way to volunteer!


Built in 1929 the warden's house was created after the popular Mission Revival style.  In 1970, a fire destroyed much of the house.  The skeleton still stands.


The Bay Bridge visible from an old window from the warden's residence.


Our visit to Alcatraz lasted about 2 hours, which took us through the prison building and allowed plenty of time to explore the picturesque gardens.

It also serves as a good reminder that it pays to follow the law :-)

If you would like to learn more about the gardens of Alcatraz, click here.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails