Wildflowers ,  California bluebells and red flax

California bluebells and red flax

One of spring’s many joys are the fields of wildflowers that we often see growing along the side of the road.  It is one of the many miracles of nature how such lovely flowers can grow in the wild without any help from people.

I find it kind of ironic that if we want to grow these flowers of the wild in our own garden we  have to give them a little assistance to get them going.  But, the preparation is fairly simple and the rewards are definitely well worth the effort.

Wildflowers , Arroyo lupine with white gaura

Arroyo lupine with white gaura

As with many things in the garden, planting begins in advance, and in the case of wildflowers, fall is the best time to sow the seeds for spring bloom.

Wildflowers

I’ve planted wildflower gardens throughout my career, but I’ll never forget my first one.  It was on a golf course and I sowed quite a bit of wildflower seed in that small area – and I mean a LOT of seed.  The wildflowers were growing so thickly together and probably would have looked nicer if I had used less seed and/or thinned them out a little once they started to grow.  But, I loved that little wildflower garden.

If you like wildflowers, how about setting aside some space in your garden to plant your own?

I have shared my tips on creating a wildflower garden in my latest article for Houzz.  I hope you enjoy it.

Plant a Wildflower Garden in Fall for Spring Blossoms

Wildflowers

**Do you have a favorite wildflower?

September Gardening Tasks

September Gardening Tasks

After a seemingly endless summer, we have finally made it to the finish line.  This is the season where we experience a ‘second spring’ and venture out into the garden again.

citrus fertilized

Soil is ready to be amended, citrus fertilized, and some light pruning can be done.

 September Gardening Tasks, Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings

September Gardening Tasks, Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings.

September is the gateway to a busy time in the garden, but there are a few things that it is still too early to start on yet.

I’ve made a video of what you should do and shouldn’t do this month:

 
 
 

What is your favorite season of the year?

The popularity of fairy or miniature gardens is evident with whole Pinterest boards dedicated to them as well as nurseries having entire sections filled with fairy garden furniture and accessories.

During a recent visit to California, I visited the J. Woeste Nursery, which had taken a slightly different direction with fairy gardens. Theirs were decidedly drought tolerant and planted with succulents.

J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden

Each fairy garden was well-designed, each with their own unique mixture of succulents and moss for grass.

J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden

I was told that the nursery had a specific designer who created these miniature succulent worlds.

J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden

No two were alike.  From the houses used to the combination of succulents and the container itself – each was a truly unique creation.

J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden

I must admit that I had a hard time tearing myself away in order to look at the rest of the nursery, as I was so captivated by these miniature, drought tolerant gardens.

J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden
J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden

Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit one in my suitcase.

J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden

However, if I decided to make my own, there were a lot of different fairy succulent gardens to be inspired by and the nursery had a large selection of succulents available to assist in my endeavors.

succulent gardens

Besides miniature succulent gardens, the nursery was filled with other unique examples of succulents being planted in unexpected ways.

variety of succulents

A large variety of succulents were available for customers to use to in their own gardens, whether planted in the ground or in a favorite container.

J. Woeste Nursery, fairy garden

If you ever find yourself in the charming town of Los Olivos, California, you must stop by J. Hoeste Nursery to see the fairy succulent gardens along with its other treasures.

Have you ever thought of planting a fairy garden? If so, I recommend the book, Gardening in Miniature.  It teaches you how to make your own miniature garden, in easy steps.  There are also a number of inspiring ideas to help you on your way to make your own.  I reviewed this book in an earlier post, which can read here.

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

I am always on the lookout for great examples of plants in the desert landscape. In my work as a landscape consultant, I drive through countless neighborhoods, which allows me to see lots of ideas.

A few years ago, I drove by a house that had a beautiful Hop Bush shrub (Dodonaea viscosa).  

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

This evergreen, drought tolerant shrub does wonderfully in our southwestern climate, and it is a frequent addition to landscapes I design. 

It’s versatility is one of the reasons it is near the top of my favorite shrub list.

  • Hop Bush is a great substitute for Oleander shrubs.
  • They can grow up to 12 feet tall or be maintained at a shorter height – basically you can decide how large it gets.
  • Their height makes them a great choice to screen out an unattractive view in spaces where a tree won’t fit while providing shade for for windows.
  • Hop Bush can be allowed to grow into their natural shape or pruned more formally.
Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

Native to the Southwest, Hop Bush is quite versatile and relatively fuss-free, especially if maintained by pruning every 6 months or so, as shown above. Here is another example of a hop bush shrub that has been pruned more formally, which it handles well.

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

 Of course, you can always let it grow into its more natural form as a large shrub.

For more information on hop bush including what its flowers look like and why it’s becoming a popular substitute for oleanders, you can read my earlier blog post – “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Hopbush the Alternative to Oleanders.”

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

California Road Trip

California Road Trip

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.

beautiful landscapes

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.

California Road Trip
Olive trees

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

Young grapes

Young grapes were beginning to appear on the vine.

California Road Trip
shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans) shrubs.

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

oak trees and tall poplar trees

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

Cornerstone Sonoma

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

California Road Trip
California Road Trip

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

California Road Trip

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. 

California Road Trip

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

California Road Trip

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.

California Road Trip

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

purple hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea') and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum)

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.

Sunset Magazine

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.

California Road Trip

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

California Road Trip
California Road Trip

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.

California Road Trip

Landscapers were hard at work planting the new gardens.

California Road Trip

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

Cornerstone Gardens

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.”

California Road Trip

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.

California Road Trip

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

Wisteria Vine

California Road Trip
Clematis flowers

Clematis flowers

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

Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.
Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.

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.”

Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.

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.

California Road Trip
Eucalyptus trees

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.

California Road Trip

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

California Road Trip
pond filled with waterlilies

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

California Road Trip
California Road Trip

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?

Field of grape vines.

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

Cornerstone Sonoma

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).

California Road Trip

California Road Trip

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.

California Road Trip

California Road Trip

Thank you so very much for coming along with me.  

We will be back on the road next year!

Arizona Road Trip: Flowers, Containers, and a Wedding

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.

gardens of Alcatraz

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

island of Alcatraz

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

city of San Francisco

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

Coit Tower

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

Golden Gate Bridge

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.

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

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

22-acre island

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

Century plant (Agave americana)

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

U.S. military prison

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.

California Road Trip: Day 8 - The Gardens of Alcatraz

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

California Road Trip: Day 8 - The Gardens of Alcatraz

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.

California Road Trip: Day 8 - The Gardens of Alcatraz

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.

California Road Trip: Day 8 - The Gardens of Alcatraz

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.

gradual slope with no stairs

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

California Road Trip: Day 8 - The Gardens of Alcatraz

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

prison

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

prison
prison

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.

prison

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.

prison

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.

San Francisco
San Francisco
visit Alcatraz

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

visit Alcatraz
visit Alcatraz
visit Alcatraz

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.

visit Alcatraz

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.

visit Alcatraz

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.

 red valerian (Centranthus ruber)

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.

Canada geese with their goslings explore part of the garden.

A seagull sits on her nest amidst colorful ice plant.

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.

Officer's Row Gardens.

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

Officer's Row Gardens.
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. 

Officer's Row Gardens.
Officer's Row Gardens.

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

 Gardens of Alcatraz
 Gardens of Alcatraz

What a cool way to volunteer!

 Gardens of Alcatraz

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.

 Gardens of Alcatraz

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.

What is the tallest tree that you have seen?  

Redwoods State Park , See how tiny I am compared to the trees?

Big Basin Redwoods State Park , See how tiny I am compared to the trees?

How about one that is over 250 ft. tall?

Our journey took us to a place that I have been to at least ten times – from trips as a small child, a teenager, as a young mother and finally as a grandmother.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is located in the mountains outside of Santa Cruz, California, and as you will see, it is a truly incredible place filled with stunning beauty among giant redwood trees.

Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Upon entering the park, you notice the shady conditions with spots of sunlight shining through.

On the left is a large cross-section of a redwood tree that fell in 1934.

What is special about this tree is its age.

Redwoods State Park

Tree rings tell the age of a tree and this tree has lived through many historic events, including the birth of Jesus, indicated by my finger.

Redwoods State Park

This outer ring is from when Lewis & Clark’s expedition in 1804.

Redwoods State Park
Redwoods State Park
Redwoods State Park , Coastal redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens).

As many times as I have seen this display, it never ceases to amaze me at the longevity of these Coastal redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens).

Visitors take a leisurely stroll along the .8 mile-long path that meanders through the redwood grove.

Redwoods State Park

The enormous height and size of the trees are hard to understand until you see someone standing next to them.

Compare the perspective from the photograph above and the one of the same area below, except now I am standing at the end of the path.

Coastal redwood trees

It’s hard to see me, as I am so dwarfed by the trees.

Coastal redwood trees grow along a narrow corridor from Big Sur to southern Oregon.

Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Rainfall is just one way that the redwoods receive the water they need.  The fog that primarily occurs in summer can provide up to 50% of their water needs.  

The lower leaves (needles) are flat, which allows water droplets from the fog to drip down to the root zone.  The upper needles that are exposed to more sunlight are rounder and have a thicker coating, which protects them from excess evapotranspiration (losing water from their leaves).

wooden cave

The walk through the trees is quite educational, with certain trees singled out for special attention. 

Our favorite has always been the tree that has a ‘wooden cave’ inside its base.

wooden cave

The Fremont tree has a hollow base that was created from a fire long ago.  John C. Fremont was exploring California in 1846 and allegedly camped inside the tree.

Over time, the outer part of the tree has been slowly growing back over the old fire damage, creating a ‘wooden cave’.  The opening is gradually closing up, making it difficult for adults to step inside without doing a lot of crouching.

While these trees are very long-lived, our family has seen the Fremont tree change. 

-In the 1950’s my mother and her entire family of six, could walk through the hole of the tree and stand up inside.

– In the 1970’s I did the same with my family.

– Once the 1990’s came around, I brought my kids to this place and while we had to crouch to enter the tree, we still could.

– Fast forward to 2016, and the opening is too small for me to want to crouch to get inside

– I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get back up 😉

Redwoods State Park

Walking next to these old, majestic trees, you cannot help but get a healthy perspective on what’s going on in your life and the world when you consider all the history that they have lived through.

Redwoods State Park
Redwoods State Park
Redwoods State Park

The photos above are all of the same tree.  It took three separate photos to get the entire tree.

Redwoods State Park

The photos above are all of the same tree.  It took three separate photos to get the entire tree.

Redwoods State Park

The lush undergrowth is filled with ferns, greenery, and some shade-loving iris.

After leaving the Big Basin Redwoods, we drove up the adjoining mountain, 5 minutes away on a hunt for a cabin that used to belong to our family.

The visitor center has been recently renovated and is filled with great displays, which detail the ecosystem of the majestic beauties including the wildlife and other plants.

If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, I invite you to take the 1 hour and 20-minute journey to this special place.  While you are in Santa Cruz, you can stop by the beach and the Boardwalk.

The cabin was owned by my mother and her siblings.  For years, we would all travel to the cabin where we would spend our summer vacation together with aunts, uncles, and cousins.

The cabin had three self-contained levels and a deck around the middle level.  We had heard that the cabin was not being used and that they path to the cabin had been blocked.  To be honest, we weren’t sure if it still existed.

So, I headed up a different trail, lower down, hoping to see our much-loved, albeit very rustic, cabin.

Old Family Cabin

Imagine my surprise and delight when I found the cabin looking much the same as it did 16 years ago.

Fun-filled memories began to come back, including my cousin’s wedding held down in the forest and her reception on the deck of the cabin.

Our cabin was balanced precariously on the side of a hillside and had no foundation.  Believe it or not, it rested on jacks.

Back in 1989, we were staying there when there was an earthquake; that was a pre-cursor to the large one that hit the San Francisco area in October for 1989.  The cabin didn’t slip down the hill then and is still standing.

Old Family Cabin

There are no occupants of the cabin, and we are not sure what the owners have planned.  Maybe they want to build a new cabin someday?

At this point of our trip, we were ready to head north to San Francisco.  Like most of our road trip, we don’t always travel the fastest way – our goal is to enjoy the journey, so we decided to travel on Highway 1 along the coast through the small towns of Pescadero and Half Moon Bay.

Pescadero

Pescadero is one of the few areas that has remained largely untouched in the 20 years since I had been there.  The church, with its tall steeple, still is the highest point in the town.

grocery stores

The two small grocery stores have a nice selection of baked goods – especially sourdough bread.  Californians are serious about their sourdough!

Pescadero
Creative container

A few miles down the road is the larger town of Half Moon Bay.  The main street is filled with very interesting boutiques, restaurants, and galleries.  This beach town is also known for its nurseries.

Creative container plantings lined the street.

Succulents
Succulents

Succulents grow like they are on steroids in northern California!

Surfer's Paradise

If you think that you have heard of Half Moon Bay before, you likely have.  Surfers flock to the beaches of this small town where waves 25 – 50 ft. and more are known to occur. 

San Francisco,

San Francisco, here we come!

California Road Trip: Day 8 – The Gardens of Alcatraz

This day of our road trip proved to be the most activity-filled of all.

Our hotel in Pacific Grove, The Butterfly Grove Inn.

Our hotel in Pacific Grove, The Butterfly Grove Inn.

We spent the night in a place that holds special memories from my childhood.  Pacific Grove is a town that is located next to the city of Monterey.  My grandparents would spend their summers there each year and we would venture up the coast to visit them.

Small sea shells

We would take the short walk from the house to the beach, which was filled with rocks to climb on and tidal pools filled with anemones and hermit crabs.  Small sea shells were plentiful as well.

So, while planning our itinerary for this trip, Pacific Grove was one of the first places we chose to visit.

Pacific Grove , Monarch Grove Sanctuary.

Pacific Grove , Monarch Grove Sanctuary.

As we got ready to leave our hotel in the morning, we drove by the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.  

While many Monarch butterflies head south to Mexico, those that live west of the Rocky Mountains head to the coastal areas of California where they winter in the pines.

Butterfly Town

Pacific Grove is called “Butterfly Town, USA” and  it residents are proud of its seasonal visitors.  In fact, if you purposely cause injury to the butterflies, you could be faced with a $1,000 fine.

colorful Victorian homes

The main street is filled with colorful Victorian homes that have been converted into businesses.

masonry building

A handmade furniture store located in one of the older masonry buildings had this sign up in their window, reminding us that earthquakes are a part of life in California.

Victorian house

Years ago, in the 80’s, we were walking downtown and saw an old, white Victorian house that was for sale for $1.00

Of course, there were stipulations that the city would require for renovating the house without sacrificing its historical character.  

We never forgot that house, but after 30+ years, we couldn’t recognize which house it was.

 little garden shop

One of my favorite stores on the main street was a little garden shop.  Two friendly dogs welcomed visitors as they walked up the steps to an outdoor area filled with unique containers filled with combinations of succulents.

Vintage glass containers filled with succulents.

Vintage glass containers filled with succulents.

I have always had an affinity for recycling old items and turning them into containers for plants. 

chairs planters

I have seen chairs planters filled with colorful annuals, but this is the first one with succulents.  I like it, don’t you?

beach and explore the tidal pools and the beaches.

After shopping downtown, I couldn’t wait to get to the beach and explore the tidal pools and the beaches.

While I was taking pictures of the sea, my mother was taking a photo of me.

 Pacific Grove

And I took one of her.

 Pacific Grove

I decided that at 50, I was still young enough to climb over the rocks to explore.

 Pacific Grove
 Pacific Grove

As I turned to walk back to the car, where my mother was patiently waiting, I was pleasantly surprised at how far I had come.  I could just imagine my 14-year-old son scrambling over the rocks with me.

 Pacific Grove

When I spotted my mother in the car, I noticed that she had made some new friends.

 Pacific Grove

She had taken some of our whole wheat sourdough bread and was sharing some with the birds.

squirrels

Once I reached the edge of the beach, I was greeted by a little friend who was undoubtedly hoping that I was generous like my mother.

squirrels

Well, it turns out that I was willing to share some bread, so my little friend invited some of his friends.

Canada goose

This Canada goose also wanted some too.

Canada goose

After feeding both birds and squirrels, my bread was gone.

However, this was not to be our only encounter with wildlife this day.

 Pacific Grove

As we drove down the coast toward Lover’s Point, we noticed a group of people gathered next to a temporary fence with binoculars and cameras.

Curious, we parked our car and joined them.

rocky shore

This is what they were looking at.  

Can you see the two animals in the center of the rocky shore?

harbor seals

Here is a closer view.  This is a harbor seal with her baby, which is only about a week old.

This particular beach in Pacific Grove is a very popular place for harbor seals to give birth and raise their pups.  From March to May, they give birth and care for their babies for about a month before leaving them to fend for themselves.

The people we joined in viewing the seals, were volunteers, who observe the seals and note their size and activity.  Some volunteers keep track of how many babies are born each season.  So far, there had been 35.

harbor seals

As we were watching the seals swimming along the shore, a mother and her pup came up on the sand so that her baby could nurse. What a special moment to have been able to see!

Carmel Mission

Carmel Mission

After we had spent some time with the seals, we drove to the nearby city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a small beach city that is famous for its beautiful mission, picturesque downtown and fairytale cottages.

Carmel Mission

If you have followed our road trip, then it shouldn’t surprise you that we found ourselves at the Carmel Mission.  I had first visited this mission back in 2000.  Known as the “crown jewel of the missions” for its beauty, the Carmel Mission  opened in 1793.

Carmel Mission

The gardens surrounding this mission were absolutely lovely.

Carmel Mission
flowering perennials and shrubs

Wooden gates were flanked by large beds filled with a combination of flowering perennials and shrubs.

 Pacific Grove

For entry into most missions, you pay a small fee, usually at the gift shop before entering.

 Pacific Grove
 Pacific Grove

Within the walls of the mission were smaller structures with a colorful mixture of geraniums, roses, Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber), sea lavender (Limonium perezii) and Santa Barbara daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus).

Lady Banks rose

The branches of a Lady Banks rose adds beauty to the side of this mission building.

cork oak tree

A large cork oak tree adds beauty to this inner garden of the mission.

Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

You often see Santa Barbara daisy, with its small white and pink daisies, growing throughout many coastal areas of California.  I grew it as well in the garden of our home in Phoenix in filtered shade.

abalone shells

This is a part of the cemetery where native American graves are edged with abalone shells. 

abalone shells

The significance of the abalone is explained with this sign.

 Pacific Grove

After touring the garden and other structures, we headed into the church.

interior is beautiful

As you can see, the interior is beautiful. The metal rods that run through the ceiling help to provide stability.

statues add to the beauty of the church.

At the front of the church, the crucifix along with other statues add to the beauty of the church.

crown jewel

For those of you, like me, who learned the history of California in school, this grave will interest you.  Father Junipero Serra, the founder of many of the California Missions is buried right here, where his picture rests.

Besides the having the “crown jewel” of California Missions, Carmel is also know for its fairytale cottages.

Our House Cottage

Our House Cottage

These small cottages were built in the 1920’s, by Hugh Comstock and they look like they stepped straight out of a fairytale.  

I'm not sure which one this is.

I’m not sure which one this is.

He created the homes for his wife’s rag dolls that she made and sold.  The cottages came with unique names such as Birthday House, Hansel, Gretel, Fables and Storybook Cottage, just to name a few.

Fables

Fables

The Birthday House

The Birthday House

The size of the homes are quite small and people really do live in them.

To get to them, you have to hike up some hilly streets – (my feet still hurt) while being respectful of the occupants privacy.

Hansel

Hansel

To learn more about the imaginative cottages, click here.

Farmers' Market

Toward the end of the day, we headed toward adjoining Monterey and The Old Monterey Marketplace and Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Tuesday evenings, beginning at 4:00.

Farmers' Market
Farmers' Market

Three city blocks are filled with vendors selling delicious organic produce, baked sweets as well as handcrafted items. 

organic produce,
organic produce,

We bought some food for our dinner before heading off to our next destination of Santa Cruz.

Walking toward our car, we passed by this vendor displaying his wares…

California Road Trip

If that doesn’t scream California to you, then I don’t know what does.

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your kind comments on both my blog and facebook page.  It has been so fun sharing our experiences with you!

Whenever we go on a road trip, something always unexpected happens, which helps to make the experiences that we have, even more memorable.  This was certainly true of this day.

Morro Bay "Gibraltar of the Pacific"

Morro Bay “Gibraltar of the Pacific”

Morro Bay "Gibraltar of the Pacific"

After leaving San Luis Obispo, we drove through Morro Bay, known as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific”.  It is dominated by a 23 million year old, volcanic plug that reaches 581 feet tall.

Morro Bay "Gibraltar of the Pacific"

At a distance, it appears to just rise straight up with no gradual rise in sight.  

Growing up, we went camping a lot as a family.  Our first camping trip took place in Morro Bay.

Morro Bay "Gibraltar of the Pacific"

Seagulls make their homes along its walls and you can drive around part of it.

Morro Bay "Gibraltar of the Pacific"
Morro Bay "Gibraltar of the Pacific"

A causeway extends out to the rock that cars can park on.  People can walk up and down the causeway or simply sit on a nearby bench and watch the waves.

 be careful, especially during periods of high surf

Of course, you do have to be careful, especially during periods of high surf.

two old surfers

Surfers by the dozen were out this morning and two old surfers were discussing their most memorable rides.

It was while we were sitting and watching the waves that we received some unexpected attention.

seagull

This curious seagull flew onto the hood of our car and spent the next several minutes watching us eat our lunch.  I am sure that he was trying to figure out how to get inside so he could steal whatever we were eating.

I say ‘steal’ because that is what seagulls are very good at doing.  That being said, he was very cute, but determined.  As we started to pull away and drive off, he was thinking of coming along with us…

 

It was so funny to see him trying to decide whether to try to hitch a ride with us or not.  He eventually decided to fly away.

Our route today would take us up the famous stretch of Highway 1 throught some of the most picturesque scenery along the rocky California coast.  It isn’t the fastest way up to Northern California, but it is the quite beautiful.

As we drove through the beautiful, small town of Cambria, I saw some water conservation signs, which were quite original.

California Road Trip: Day 5 – A Volcano, Whales, Rocky Shores and an Unexpected Hitchhiker
California Road Trip: Day 5 – A Volcano, Whales, Rocky Shores and an Unexpected Hitchhiker

They are quite creative, aren’t they? 

Cambria to Monterey

This stretch of Highway 1, from Cambria to Monterey, is a windy road flanked by grass land, forest and stunning coastline.

stunning coastline

Do you see that little shiny spot in the ocean?  That is a whale!

We were driving along the highway when I noticed not just one, but three whales swimming close to the beach.  Even though I spent my first 20 years, living in California and have visited countless time since then, I have never seen a whale swimming in the ocean – until this day.

To say that I was excited, is an understatement.  We pulled off at a viewing area along with other travelers who were just as excited as we were.  The whales were slowly making their way north.  I am no expert on whales, but they may have been gray whales.

Limekiln

As I mentioned earlier, we went on a lot of camping trips and one of our favorite destinations was Limekiln, which is south of Big Sur along Highway 1 in California.

Limekiln
California Road Trip: Day 5 – A Volcano, Whales, Rocky Shores and an Unexpected Hitchhiker

We would camp a little higher in the hills surrounded by trees and then walk down to the beach and climb on the rocks.  I have a vivid memory of my dad standing on a rock and getting drenched unexpectedly, by a large wave while my mom fed us Vienna sausages from a can.  It’s funny what you remember from you childhood.

campground years ago with our much-loved yellow and blue tent

Here is a photo of our campground years ago with our much-loved yellow and blue tent.

tall redwood trees

Almost to our destination, we drove through Big Sur with its tall redwood trees.

Big Sur Lodge

We walked through the woods for a while and then stopped off for an ice cream cone at the Big Sur Lodge.

 large redwood trees

This is the southern edge where the large redwood trees grow, reaching up to 250 feet in height.  Further north, they can reach 350 feet.  Later in our trip, we will visit on of my favorite places with majestic redwood trees.

California coast is filled with wildlife

The California coast is filled with wildlife and stunning beauty and I was so grateful to have had a chance to experience it again.

California Road Trip: Day 6 – Butterflies, Baby Seals, Fairytale Cottages and a Crown Jewel

Four days into our California road trip, we have had a wonderful time, which included some welcome surprises.

My mother and her sister, enjoying a nice conversation over breakfast

My mother and her sister, enjoying a nice conversation over breakfast.

Sunday morning began with a nice breakfast with my aunt and uncle at their house.  Then we were off to Los Olivos (again) where my cousin lives.  She invited us to attend church with her and her daughter.

Me and my cousin, Mandi.

Me and my cousin, Mandi.

The church is located in the middle of Santa Ynez Valley, which is horse and wine country.  Many of the people at church were ranchers who raise horses or else grows grapes.

After church, we had lunch with my cousin before heading north toward San Luis Obispo with a stop or two along the way.

pink climbing rose

Next to the restaurant, was a lovely, pink climbing rose.

town of Solvang

Our next stop was the small town of Solvang, which was established in 1911 by a group of Danish people who wanted to live in a warmer climate rather than the Midwest.

Solvang

The town is a tourist mecca, and I used to visit Solvang often while I was growing up.

Red Viking Restaurant
Danish Mill Barkery

Being 1/8 Danish, I like to revisit my roots 😉

Iron Art Gift Shop
Iron Art Gift Shop
Iron Art Gift Shop

Like most tourist towns, there is a large number of curio shops, but also some authentically Danish ones too.

Solvang

My mother used to go to a certain shop to buy decorative trim for the dresses that she would make when I was a little girl.  It’s funny that out of all the stores in Solvang, that is the one that I remember most.

California Mission

California Mission

California Mission

After leaving Solvang, we drove by the California Mission of Santa Ines that was established in 1804.  

California Mission

Of course, like many of the California Missions, it had a lovely rose garden.

Santa Ynez Valley

This is a characteristic vista that you will see throughout Santa Ynez Valley with rolling hills, grassland, and oak trees.  The Pacific Ocean is on the other side of the mountain range.  This valley is drier and hotter than the coastal areas.

California Mission

Yes, this is another California Mission.  I have always had an affinity for them, mostly from a historical sense.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was built in 1772 and is located along California’s Central Coast.

Mission in Santa Barbara
Mission in Santa Barbara

What I first noticed that it was more rustic than the Mission in Santa Barbara.  It was much smaller and not quite as grand.  I liked the painted flowers along the walls.

Mission in Santa Barbara

The wooden ceiling was scattered with star symbols.

Mission in Santa Barbara
Mission in Santa Barbara

The garden surrounding the Mission was lovely.

Mission in Santa Barbara
Pink roses

Pink roses lined the pathway.

 Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)

Alstroemeria is quite prevalent in many of the gardens that we have seen.  This flower has a special place in my heart as they were the main flower used in my wedding.

 Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)

A row of Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) was in full bloom around the grounds of the Mission.

eucalyptus trees

Of course, it wouldn’t be California without the iconic stand of eucalyptus trees.

California Road Trip: Day 4 - Family, Ranchers, a Little Piece of Denmark and Two Missions

As we prepared to leave the Mission, we came upon a rack with sweaters and scarves hanging from it.  Underneath it had the following inscription:

“I am not lost.  If you need this to stay warm, please take it.  Be warm and help someone else when you can.”

I couldn’t agree more 🙂

I invite you to return tomorrow when we visit a town in Northern California, where I spent a lot of time as a child.  I will also share our adventure with an unexpected hitchhiker. 

California Road Trip: Day 5 – A Volcano, Whales, Rocky Shores and an Unexpected Hitchhiker