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


Our hotel, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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.


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.

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


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


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.


And I took one of her.


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


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.

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


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


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.



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



This Canada goose also wanted some too.

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


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



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.



This is what they were looking at.  


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


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.



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



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.



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.


The gardens surrounding this mission were absolutely lovely.

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



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




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).



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



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

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.

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

The significance of the abalone is explained with this sign.



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



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



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



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

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.

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


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

To learn more about the imaginative cottages, click here.

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.




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



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…



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!

In my humble opinion, a garden should be filled with plants that benefit wildlife.  Imagine a garden that not only rewards you with beauty but also has the wonderful side benefit of allowing you to observe wildlife up close when they come and visit.


Butterflies are so ethereal and you’ll find most people stop and stare whenever they are fortunate enough to have one fly nearby.


Queen butterfly visiting a desert milkweed plant at the Desert Botanical Garden

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the plight of Monarch butterflies and their declining population and how plants belonging to the Milkweed family are so important to them.

Did you know that the Southwest has their own native species of milkweed?  In fact, it is the only milkweed species in the United States that is evergreen.
This milkweed is a succulent that thrives in full sun, provides a unique vertical accent in the garden and needs little care.  

Want to learn more?  Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com and see more reasons why you’ll want to add this plant to your garden.

What plants do you have in your garden that butterflies love?

Do you like puppies, iPhones and plants?


If so, then this should be a fun post. If you have an android phone, you will like at least two of the ‘P’s’.


Okay, the first ‘P’ stands for ‘puppy’….



Meet the newest addition to our furry family.

This is Polly.  She is an English Labrador Retriever. 

We have been waiting 7 long weeks to be able to bring her home.  She is fearless, friendly and very playful.

We bought her from the same breeder as our black English Labrador Retriever dog, Penny, who joined our family last year.


So, they are already sisters.  Both dogs share the same father.

Penny has been such a joy in our lives and we decided to add another.


Polly was excited to meet her big sister, Penny.  But, Penny was scared of her little sister and ran off with her tail between her legs 😉

She is gradually beginning to warm up to her new little sister though.  For her part, Polly isn’t the least bit scared of her big sister.


Like most puppies, most of her day is spent sleeping and cuddling with us.


Polly joins Penny and our two rescue dogs, Tobey and Max.

I’ll be sure to share more photos of Polly as she grows up.  I really want to take a picture of her and Penny side-by-side, but I’ll probably have to wait a while until Penny gets over being a big scaredy cat.

Crested Saguaro Ribs

The second ‘P’ stands for iPhone.  I took an iPhone photography class last weekend at the Desert Botanical Garden.  As a garden writer and blogger, I take a lot of pictures and while I have a nice DSLR camera – I don’t always have it with me, so I often use my iPhone for a lot my pictures.

Desert Garden Path
The class was very informative and taught me some great tips.  The best part of the class was being able to walk through the garden with our intructor and take pictures of all the beautiful plants and scenery.

Ramada made from natural desert materials.

It is really amazing what good photos you can take with your phone.

Monarch butterfly on lantana.

I was even able to get some close up pictures of monarch butterflies with my phone.

*If you have never taken a class from the Desert Botanical Garden (or your local botanical garden) – I strongly urge you too.  They have a large variety of classes and there is so much to learn about all kinds of things..

Okay, back to our list.  The last ‘P’ is about plants.

Do you know what is happening next weekend?  The Desert Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale!


I can hardly wait!  

I always encourage people, no matter where they live, to visit their local botanical garden’s plant sales because you can be assured that their plants are well adapted for your climate.  In addition, they often have hard to find plants and new color introductions of some old favorites.


Last time, they even had heirloom vegetable transplants for sale.

I wrote about my last visit this past spring, where I picked up three lovely plants, which you can view here.  

I am still in the market for a few more plants to fill in some bare spots in my landscape.  The plant sale runs next Saturday to Sunday.

I’ll be sure to share with you my findings!
Do you like to visit plant nurseries?

I do – especially when I am traveling.  It is always nice to see what plants are popular in other areas.

Last weekend, my husband and I made at trip to California to visit our daughter who is serving in the Navy.

I always enjoy visiting California – not just for its nice weather, beautiful beaches, laid back people and the scenery – although those are all things that are reason enough to visit.  The real reason that I enjoy spending time in California is that I grew up here.

I am a 4th generation, native Californian.  Those who came before me were farmers, lumbermen, a city sheriff, a truck driver who worked his way to oil company executive and a social worker (who was my dad). 

Now that my daughter is stationed in California, I now have more reasons to make the trip over.


During the course of our trip, we stopped by one of our favorite small towns, Carpinteria, which is located a few miles south of Santa Barbara.  This is a wonderful beach town that is backed up by tall mountains.

As we got out of our car with the intent of heading to our favorite cupcake place, I noticed not one, but two plant nurseries just a few yards away.  So, my husband and daughter patiently waited for me while I headed into to see what discoveries I could find.


I had not brought my nice camera on our trip, so I had to rely on my iPhone camera, which did a pretty good job, except that I tend to take a lot of pictures and my battery soon died.  Luckily, my husband had his phone and I used it to take the rest of my pictures.

Believe it or not, I don’t buy a lot of plants when I visit nurseries – my landscape has more than enough plants in it.  But I am always on the lookout for plants that I don’t know about or are new to the market.  

Often, nurseries can serve as inspiration for your own garden with creative plant pairings as shown in the photo, above.

This particular nursery was filled with mostly flowering perennials, annuals and vegetable transplants.


I love a colorful garden and was excited to check out the flowering perennials.  I did find a new perennial introduction called ‘Echibeckia’, which is a cross between purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).


I saw this shrub that had been pruned into a tree.  Its brilliant purple flowers were almost blinding.  I’m not sure what it is – but it’s gorgeous!


*Update – a very kind reader (Rusthawk) was kind enough to identify this plant as Tibouchina – thank you!


I love Mediterranean climates and the plants that grow well in them.  Many of these plants also grow well in the desert garden like lavender and lantana.


Like I mentioned before, I do love flowering perennials and I have both black eyed Susan and purple coneflower growing in my garden.  However, I don’t have them in my regular landscape areas where it is not fertile enough and doesn’t get enough water.  I plant a them among my vegetable gardens where they help to attract pollinators.


In addition to pretty perennials, I am a sucker for beautiful containers like these.  Too bad that I don’t have a big enough budget to even consider buying these.  I’m still figuring out what to do with my free Tuscan planters.


Butterflies and hummingbirds were flying about, enjoying the nectar from the colorful flowers.

Butterfly Weed

If you add butterfly weed to your garden, you’ll be bound to attract any butterflies nearby.




There were so many butterflies fluttering about that people were able to get up close to them.


A monarch butterfly was feeding on the purple blossom of a butterfly bush, seemingly ignorant of the people who stopped to admire it.  A very nice woman, standing next to me, took a video and was kind enough to share it with me – Thank you, KD!


After I tore myself away from staring at butterflies, I decided to see what else this nursery offered in addition to to flowering perennials.  My attention was immediately drawn by the variety of potted succulents.  If you like succulents – there is no better place to grow them than in California where they enjoy the Mediterranean climate with its warm, relatively frost-free temperatures.


As I was looking at the succulents, I saw a bright flash of purple and bright green off to the side.



New leaf lettuce transplants had just arrived along with potted artichokes.


While my garden is not quite ready for fall planting, I am already envisioning rows upon rows of leaf lettuce, which is my favorite vegetable to grow.




Who says that vegetable gardens can’t be beautiful?  


I plant both red and green leaf lettuce varieties in my garden each year.  I like the gorgeous color contrast that also looks great in your salad bowl.




I also like these assorted kale transplants.  I didn’t add any to my garden last year, but may consider doing so this year.


Have any of you grown kale?  How did it do for you?


As I slowly walked back through the nursery, I stuck my phone in my pocket and was ready to join my husband and daughter who were patiently waiting for me.


BUT, as I walked out the entrance I found myself facing another nursery.




I’ll give you this glimpse of the entrance of the most unique nursery that I have ever had the opportunity to visit.


Behind its fairly unremarkable entrance, lay secret gardens filled with unusual plants that I will show you next time.