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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!

I have been enjoying sharing with you about my recent trip to the beautiful gardens of Vizcaya, located in Miami, Florida. The trip and garden visit came as a part of my partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt.  These gardens are inspired by Italian gardens and use plants that thrive in tropical climates.


Last time, we explored the secret garden, climbed up the man-made hill and saw a most magnificent, covered patio.


Today, I invite you to journey with me as we explore the gardens further…

 
The second part of our garden journey begins at the top of the man-made hill, looking toward the house.
 

 

On top of the wall, are examples of the stonework present throughout the gardens.  Most of it was made from limestone, which had a real ‘aged’ appearance.
 
 
This is a photo that I shared on my Instagram account of the mangrove forest.
 
Mangroves are trees that grow along coastal areas in the tropics in areas where most other plants cannot grow because of the salty water.  They are an important of the ecosystem and help to prevent erosion.
 

 

*Imagine how spooky this area would look on a foggy day?
 
 

 

A large staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) was mounted from the side of a Royal Palm tree.  They are epiphytes, which mean that they get water and nutrients from the air and not from the host plant.
 
When wet, this large staghorn fern can weigh up to 200 pounds!
 
 
 If you look carefully, you can Spanish moss hanging from the Southern Live Oak, which also grow in the desert – they just don’t get as big here.
 
*Did you know that Spanish moss is NOT a moss?  It is another example of an epiphyte and gets its water and nutrients from the air.  I have some from my trip to Savannah, Georgia last year that I used to make a terrarium.
 
 
A brown anole, which is a lizard native to Cuba and the Bahamas.  They are considered an invasive species in Florida.
 
 
This is a green anole, which is NOT considered invasive.


**A special thanks to my friend and garden companion, Steve Asbell, who explained the difference between these two lizards.
 
 

More examples of the statuary throughout the garden with ferns in the background.



Orchids grew naturally outdoors, which made me slightly jealous, although I have been able to grow them indoors.





There were even orchids growing in trees, which is where they are often found growing in the wild.  Most cultivated orchids are epiphytes, which means that they get their water and nutrients from the air.



As we neared the end of our journey through the garden, we encountered a fence with vines growing all over it concealing another secret garden.  There was a small hole, so I peeked through.



Looking through the hole, I saw another area of the garden that was closed off from the public.  I’m not sure if there are any plans to open this section called the Marine Garden, but I definitely wanted to explore it further.

 
As our time in the garden ended, I was so grateful to have been given the chance to view such a beautiful place.
 
I hope you enjoyed this ‘virtual’ tour.  If you are ever in Miami, I encourage you to take time to explore the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
 
***********************
 
If you want to explore this garden further and learn more about its history, check out my friend Steve’s latest blog post.
 
Next time, I will share with you our next Floridian adventure, which was to create a community garden.  While vegetable gardening is much the same wherever you live (except for the plsnyinh calendar) we did encounter an unusual barrier, which I will share in my next post.
 
*I traveled to Miami as part of a group called the Saturday6, which is a group of six garden-bloggers from around the country brought together by the folks at Troybilt.

 

 

 

Last week, I visited Miami along with five of my garden-blogger friends, hosted by Troybilt.  We had two days together, packed with activities including building a community garden, which I’ll tell you about later.  


The first part of our trip took place at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.




I had flown on the red-eye from Phoenix to Miami and was running on 2 hours of sleep when we arrived at Vizcaya.  

Though I was running on empty by the time I arrived at Vizcaya, once I entered the Italian-inspired gardens, I felt like I had stepped onto an European estate and I was instantly re-energized and ready to explore.

We all enjoyed a personal tour of the house (no picture-taking allowed in the house).  While the mansion was beautiful – I am a gardener through and through – not an interior decorator, so I was anxious to get out and see the gardens.

My friend, Steve Asbell (who has a blog called The Rainforest Garden) accompanied me as we explored the gardens.  His knowledge of tropical plants would prove invaluable as he showed me many of his favorite plants in the gardens.



The gardens were created to mimic the look and feel of Italian gardens, using plants adapted to Miami’s warm, tropical climate.

I really felt as if I was in Europe as we strolled through the gardens.

I would love to share with you some of the beautiful plants and areas of the gardens in the photos below.

Enjoy!


As we stepped out of the house, we were greeted by the sight of Biscayne Bay and a stone barge that was built as a breakwater to help protect against the rising tide.



Although there are quite a few differences between gardening in the tropics and the desert – there are quite a few plants that grow well in both places.


The first plant that I recognized was Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’, which is a huge favorite of many desert dwellers.  I have two growing from cuttings in my own garden.


A tea house stood amidst a backdrop of mangroves that was accessed by crossing a Venetian- style bridge.


This beautiful, flowering perennial is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha).  I have seen it grown as an annual during a visit to the White House and as a perennial here in AZ.  In Florida, it also grows as a perennial.

I really love the red backdrop, which really makes the fuzzy, purple flowers ‘pop’ visually.



Every garden should have a ‘secret garden’ don’t you think?

A decorative stairway leads down to the secret garden of Vizcaya where colorful plants include yellow Peruvian Candle (Sanchezia speciosa) while the fuchsia plants are a variety of Ti Plant (Cordyline ‘Red Sister’).


Wall pots held a variety of succulents.


I fell in love with the colorful Kalanchoe luciae ‘Fantastic’ growing alongside a ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe (which is often seen in desert gardens).

*I have a Kalanchoe growing in a container, but it is not this colorful variety. 


Formally-pruned shrubs form a maze in the center of the gardens.


A row of statues flanked the walkway, which is a design element that I really love to see in large gardens.


Barefoot in the garden.


You could easily think you are in Spain as you view this formal fountain and the palm trees in the background.

Notice the Australian Pine trees in the pots?  They are old!  These trees were last repotted in 1922.


Water is a vital element in many large gardens. 






A hill was installed across the garden from the house to block the sun’s rays.  The narrow tracks in the middle were created so that the gardeners could get their wheelbarrows up the steps of the hill.


At the top of the hill stood this stone planter with some very pretty plants – I have no idea what they are, but that didn’t stop me from admiring them just the same.


At the top of the hill stood the ultimate patio, or as it is called in Vizcaya – ‘the Casino’ where guests could sit outdoors in the shade.  


Here in the desert, we would add misters, which would make it a great place to hang out in the summer.

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of our garden tour.  Next time, we will explore a ‘spooky’ forest, view another secret garden and see an orchid garden.


* My trip to Miami and the gardens of Vizcaya was a result of my being one of the Saturday6 – a group of six garden bloggers brought together by Troybilt.

A week ago, my husband and I took a stroll through our past, visiting the campus of Westmont College in Montecito, California, where we met 28 years ago.

What is special about this place is not only the memories, but the beautiful gardens that surround it.

Last week, I introduced you to the converted mansion, the courtyard with its iconic fountain, the ocean view from my dormitory window and a glimpse of a beautiful flower garden.

Today, I would like to show you the small chapel, hidden among the trees, a beautiful pond, an area burned by wildfire and a garden filled with bird-of-paradise.


This small chapel sits underneath the canopy of large oak trees.



I have always loved oak trees because I grew up in Southern California where the hills are dotted with with these magnificent trees.  



The chapel was built in the 1960’s to honor the memory of the then college president’s daughter who died tragically in an auto accident while attending college here.



Students can often be found spending a few moments in prayer here and I did my share, while attending.



Regular chapel services aren’t held here, but they do host weddings at the chapel.


I just love the view of oak trees from the windows, don’t you?

As you walk away from the chapel, you are greeted by the sound of water.


 I like the simplicity of the water fountain in the form of am earthen jug, which does not compete with the surrounding, lush plantings.
The Weeping Mulberry, while leafless in winter, adds a graceful, drooping element to the water.

Believe it or not, Weeping Mulberry is also grown in Arizona.  There is a large one at my other alma mater, Arizona State University.


As we left the chapel and its pond, the path led into a truly beautiful garden…


This was the favorite part of the landscape surrounding the college.

Boxwood hedges enclosed rectangular areas of lawn that were surrounded by staggered plantings of Tropical Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia reginae). 

The bright orange and blue color of this tropical plant are quite familiar to me.  They are the official city flower of Los Angeles, California where I was born.  

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise is native to South Africa, but thrives in warm climates all over the world.  Sensitive to frost, it is hardy to zone 9 and does grow in the low desert, when protected from afternoon sun.  However, it does not grow as well in desert locations as it does in milder areas such as Southern California.


Even unopened, I think that the flowers resemble birds.


It was somewhat surreal to be walking through a garden in full bloom at the end of December when most of the nation was blanketed in ice and snow.

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise bloom in winter and spring.


While I love this flower, I don’t grow them in my desert garden.  The reason for this is that they can struggle in our extreme heat and cold winters.  It is a rare occurrence when I see one that is thriving and blooming in our low-desert climate.


As we walked through the garden, we heard the sound of running water, but could not see where it was coming from.

So, we headed up the stairs toward the sound.


The sound led us to a narrow, stone-lined trench, filled with water.

As you can see, the fountain part is subtle and understated.  Its main purpose is to lend the sound of water to the garden setting.

As we continued our journey, we came to an area that is still struggling to recover after a wildfire burned parts of the school grounds in 2008.

A lone oak tree is the only survivor in this large, formerly treed area.  


As you can see, there used to be a lot of trees.  

There were signs that construction was soon to take place, so it will be nice to see what they will do with this area.

Our walking tour was almost over and I admit that I was doing a bit of huffing and puffing while walking up and down the mountainside where our college is situated.  It was much easier to walk up and down when I was a 19-year old student 😉

Before we leave, I’d like to show you where my husband and I met, by our old dormitory 28 years ago…


Our dormitory was divided into men and women’s sections.  It was connected by a bridge and you would often find us taking turns walking over to visit the other…


Our stroll through memory lane was almost over and I was sad to go.

Years after I left Westmont College, I finished my degree in horticulture.  As a new horticulturist, I was given the task of re-designing the landscape around a golf-course country club building.  
There is a popular saying with young women at the school, “I went to Westmont and came away with my ‘MRS’ degree.”  

While I did not get my bachelor’s degree from Westmont, I did meet my husband there and become ‘Mrs.’ Johnson.

Thank you for allowing me to share memories and the beauty of the gardens of this special place.





Well, I made it home after visiting five states in 8 days.  


One of the things that I enjoy most about my annual road trips is discovering the people, places, history, food and gardens of the different regions of the United States.


My road trip, this year, took me to parts of the South.




I walked through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina and seeing historical places where events of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War played out.


I peeked over ornate gates to see hidden gardens in this beautiful city.


This native Southern Californian who grew up along the Pacific coast, dipped my toes in the Atlantic Ocean on Tybee Island.


I enjoyed visiting many of the 22 historical squares of Savannah, Georgia where many of the buildings survived the Civil War.


I found that Spanish moss really does hang from the trees down South, although it isn’t Spanish or a moss.
(It is actually a bromeliad and related to the pineapple).


An unplanned visit to the University of South Carolina yielded discoveries of beautiful gardens, including this herb/vegetable garden.


Smaller highways led us to small towns with tiny police stations.


Driving through North Carolina proved that spring has indeed sprung with the vision of flowering dogwoods everywhere.


Small roadside markets in Tennessee tempted us with their wares including boiled peanuts, toe jam and frog jam on our way toward the Smoky Mountains.


The gardens of the University of Tennessee had much to delight this horticulturist, including their kitchen garden.


A visit to Kentucky horse country led to the unforgettable experience of feeding thoroughbreds peppermint candies (with their trainer’s permission, of course).


Discovering the world of horse racing was very exciting even though I wasn’t betting.


I spent the night in a jail.  Seriously, it was a bed & breakfast that was located inside the old county jail in Bardstown, KY.  
I did sleep in a regular bedroom and not this jail cell 😉


The last day of our Southern journey took me to a bourbon distillery where I tasted my first and last bourbon.


On our way to the airport in Louisville, we took an unexpected detour to Fort Knox as our GPS guided us there in our search of a UPS store to mail home our souvenirs.

The South is a wonderful place to visit and I made a few other discoveries while I was there:

– Southerners are the friendliest people.  Strangers wave to you on the side of the road as you pass.  When they ask you how you are doing, they really want to know.

– Their regional dishes have names like ‘Kentucky Burgoo’ and ‘The Big Brown’.  But, the servers are happy to explain to you what they are.

– Sweet tea is very sweet.

– The food is fabulous and fried chicken is served just about everywhere (after all, Col. Sanders created his ‘Original’ fried chicken recipe in Kentucky).

For those of you who followed along with me on my journey, thank you!

The past couple of days on the road have been both eventful AND uneventful.


Yesterday morning found us in Columbia, SC.  We set on our way to find a folk art festival that was scheduled near the campus of University of South Carolina (USC), but couldn’t find it.


What we did find, driving through the campus, was a community garden, a rose garden and beautiful perennial beds along the roadside.


We parked near the university book store in the only spot we could find – we had only 30 minutes to explore or else we could get a ticket.



These perennial beds were filled with vegetables like artichoke and swiss chard, which look great as ornamentals alongside the pansies, dianthus and lamb’s ears.

Pink and coral poppies were in full bloom.  
The red poppies in my garden at home were just beginning to fade before I left.  


The campus of USC also has historical significance during the Civil War, where the parade grounds and barracks were located.

As we continued our walk, I kept seeing more things that got me excited.


As we turned the corner, we found ourselves in a small rose garden.


Isn’t this Peace rose, pretty?  It was raining lightly as you can see.


This climbing rose used a nearby tree as a support.


I have grown many different kinds of roses, but never climbing roses.  Maybe I should try?

Being from a dry climate, I am fascinated in observing the differences in gardens of wetter climates.


Okay, I know that those of you who live in more humid climates may be rolling your eyes at this point when you look at the photo, above.  

But, I thought these ferns looked just beautiful growing out from the brick wall.

I am also always interested in seeing familiar plants, adapted to dry climates, being represented in other areas, like the Yucca, below.


We came upon the largest agave that I have seen, which is saying something because I see a LOT of agave.


I was having a great time and looking at my watch, realized that we had to start heading back to our car so we wouldn’t get a ticket.


But then, we came upon this community garden.

I was in heaven!

These raised beds were filled with delicious vegetables.


Next to the raised beds, was a garden with herbs, including these flowering broccoli.


The separate beds were divided, not with boxwood hedges, but rosemary.  I really liked how it looked.

At the back wall of the herb garden, stood a ‘tipsy-topsy’ planter.

There was a different herb in each pot – chives, cilantro, basil, oregano and rosemary.  
As the clock was ticking and we didn’t have any time to spare, we walked by this beautiful bed of flowers, containing one of my favorite plants – Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).



USC has a beautiful campus and I was so happy to have to found such an unexpected garden ‘jewel’.

After leaving USC, we decided to visit the Confederate Museum in Columbia.  
You see, my mother and I love to learn about history and that entails visiting museums and historical sights.  
I am both a product of both the North and the South in regards to my ancestry.

It was time to leave Columbia for our next destination.  

*The community garden was so wonderful that I will need to feature it in an upcoming post.

**Tipsy-topsy pots are very popular right now and aren’t hard to make.  I found a tutorial that you can click on here.