Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bay Area Preview

A preliminary, "thumb-nail" sketch of my San Francisco Bay Area trip.

Sue (middle sister, #4/6 siblings) and husband Mike's house - Gilroy CA:
Arbutus x 'Marina' with that cinnamon trunk; it's a hybrid of Pacific Madrone / Arbutus menzeisii and Strawberry Tree / Arbutus unedo. Many were used on their street corners as accent trees.

Jeremy (nephew 3/8) & daughter Anjali: 

Off! To the SF Garden Show, landscapes of good-bad-ugly proportions, natural areas, places, and even people.

Valley Oak / Quercus lobata (L), Coast Live Oak / Q. agrifolia (R):
Valley Oak leafing out
I recall amazing valley oaks E of Paso Robles and near Madera CA. They grow fast in hot summer locales like here or Abq, but they spend a decade - or more - growing roots deeply and growing their tops vertically,  before developing their incredible spreading habits.

To me, this is a parallel species to the "English" Oak / Q. robur of the dry-summer western reaches of the Mediterranean parts of NW Africa and adjacent Europe. Even a similar leaf, small w/ rounded lobes.

Coast Live Oak leafing out:

A grove or mott of Valley Oak trees growing among the (storm) water-harvesting action of boulders:

Garden party at Rebecca Sweet's killer sweet, inviting and beautifully-crafted garden Tues afternoon. Great plant nerd conversations inside!

So much great garden design here in Nor Cal. And Semperviviums we can't do in the desert, but patterns we can:

I could hang out here for hours, croissants and joe by my side:

Never-ending. Austin TX - you have met your traffic match:
The breakfast of venture capitalists and the tech pioneers they meet with at Buck's in Woodside:
So, mediocre breakfasts fuel great thinking? Maybe that's what's wrong with Abq, since few places I've been equal the quality of breakfast or other food of Burque...too much great, cheap food? I dunno...

Next stop - the SF Flower and Garden Show. The ASU booth, manned by the great George Hull and great LA and hort students at...ASU in Tempe. Many of these plants, I know:

Nice use of wood, horizontal and vertical lines, and permeable paving (that us poor desert folk can't use, since the pores in the pavers fill in with blowing sand and dirt. (but we have more sun, so there!)

A vignette of another large garden:

And some smaller gardens, just as nice (especially when you meet the maestro of it, such as Alida Truant, here):
Or this serene but show of flamboyant flora (such as Michelle Derviss, including of Garden Porn fame):

And nurseries, at the show or live in person:

I was drooling at this planting scheme. Far above lame, tired victorian-yankee-rocky mtn-pretend prairie hort.

Even people, including family (sister Denise), friends (Jenny P., aka J. Peterson), new friends (Jayme Jenkins), and me:

I think you can spot my sister...

A nice Strawberry Tree / Arbutus unedo specimen, btw.

And now in the chic Napa, drink, asthetics. And more oak porn photos...many killer oaks in Nor Cal:


  1. Succulents with the brick border is divine.

    Why does it have to be saw cut?

    Everything we want, want, want takes $$$$.

    Is the precious girl with ringlets your niece?

    XO T

    1. Divine - exactly. Let me think more on doing that w/o being sawcut, but you are right on economics. Yes...she is a cutey!

  2. What a change! I love that area....lots of cool plant ideas. And as Tara puts all takes money!!!:) I think I've spent 400 dollars alone this month on plant prep. Ridiculous:)

    1. It is very cool and different in the Bay Area, mostly in good ways. Like you from the desert, the extra green is a nice temporary break, "but only to visit". Green ain't just plants...

  3. Fun preview, and you definetly played it right going to Napa on Friday in the sun and the show on Saturday when it was NONSTOP rain. Can't wait to see more of your take on things...

    1. Oh yeah...and your spiky take, as well. I am bummed I missed you yesterday, since we arrived by 2:30 pm.

  4. "lame, tired victorian-yankee-rocky mtn-pretend prairie hort.' hahaha (as my daughter would say.) what a whirlwind trip! i want to go to rebecca sweet's killer, yes, you said killer house! i bet it's amazing inside, too! those garden shows seem pretty bizarre, but fun if you have the right 'tude! thanks for sharing it all!

    1. Thanks for putting up with my spiny attitude on that, just had to vent in favor of good stuff! I was all over, esp once family would like Rebecca's house...perhaps a post on that is in order? The inside was especially nice with all the plant-design nerd conversations. (I hear the Seattle NW show is even better, but really far...and further and further out, but inspiring is Philly PA)

  5. I was at the SF flower and garden show on Wednesday day one! It was awesome! Great photos!

    1. Thanks for dropping by! That first day was amazing, and the Saturday was crowded and not as fun to me. Though, I did see a few details I missed Wed...

  6. I love the pics of Arbutus which I assume are the Pacific Madrone. I'm curious David, do you ever incorporate the Arizona or Texas Madrone in any of your professional landscapes ? If so, what steps do you take as to their successful survival ? I only ask because they can be picky.

    Thanks again for the looks.

    1. Thanks...I just clarified that the Gilroy trees are a hybrid involving Pacific Madrone.

      Equally difficult to establish seems to be most manzanitas...our native is Pointleaf Manzanita / Arctostaphylos pungens. I know of some nice A. glauca in Las Vegas NV, too.

      No suppliers nearby of either AZ or TX Madrone, though I know a few who grow small quantities and sizes of those within 700 miles of here. I might figure out how to add some into my residential projects, where someone wants one and can wait a decade for them to grow out more. Probably not enough or reliable enough for the common contractor / owner to try on larger or commercial projects.

      I tried some Strawberry Tree / A. unedo on a couple landscapes in Abq, and only 1 didn't struggle. I think the winter of 2010-2011 froze and killed them.

      I think your idea of using "endo-mycorrhizae" is probably key in growing madrones, manzanitas or other picky species. I am designing some landscapes with such a product. (not sure you know of a local offering out here -

    2. Well, an interesting thing about Arbutus is he lack of root hairs unlike other plants, so Arbutus with the addition of mycorrhizae should be a must. I'm also a plant companion practicer. I try and find out as much about thenative environment as I can and what grows well with what. Mycorrhizal connective associations seems to be coming more and more clearer these days.

      When we visited Sierra Vista to see family, we always made a point to go up into the Huachuka Mountains. Arizona was everywhere midway up the mountain and in hard rocky dry areas at that. They of course are not as pretty in some ways as the Pacific, but they have an added element of variety if you grow them with something else.

      Apache Pine was another one of my favourites from there. It grew well in the mountains above Palm Springs and you can find it doing well at the San diego Wild Animal Park southeast of Escondido.

      Here's a link to a University of Texas site by Bob Harms dealing strictly on this page with Texas Madrone (Arbutus xalapensis). It's a collection of his personal experience at propgation and general observation of their prefered idea conditions and requirements. It's a fun read and I find such sites informative to experimenting with similar species.

      Texas Madrone, Arbutus xalapensis

      If interested, I also have a couple of forstry papers on the interelationships between Douglas Firs and Arbutus menziesii. For the moment I can't locate the links(I think they're on my Earth's Internet blog, but I'll post them later if you wish. The applications are kool for many plants with similar family needs.

      Good Luck again.

    3. Great information, and the link to the UT Austin site on madrone is excellent; I forwarded it on. Including to the soil secrets person. I'd be happy to see those other papers - feel free to e-mail me from my profile.

      I completely agree with you on companion plants, when I can get them! Not just culturally-compatible, but site. Chaparral for chaparral species, desert for desert species, etc. I did not used to consider that much. Probably many "untapped" potential relationships there.

      You might find another blog of mine interesting, which tracks seasonal changes -

    4. Okay, I sent you those two links to your email. They are dated from the very late 1990s, but are still huge in their impact on understanding complex underground workings of nature.

      The articles on Tom's Texas Madrone page are great, though he has a bit of a negative on possible underground biological relationships between Texas Madrone and Jumiper or Cypress which he admits that healthy populations are almost always found together. So take it for what it's worth or rather a pinch of salt to season it.

      Some of his writings comments and personal experiments triggered off some ideas in my head that may have been suppressed or dormant, but I learn alot not only from personal experience, but things others say that further trigger the switch 'on light' in my brain as well.

      Enjoy them.

    5. Made reply also on your other site.


  7. Looks like a great trip! Look forward to more pics.

    1. You know there will be more pics! Alot of fun, though not enough time or free / alone time that I envisioned.

  8. Those pictures insight some major design envy! I love the design with those pavers! is that echeveria glauca against it?

    1. Hi, I hear what you're saying on envy. The brick walk with the succulents...let me look that up, since I'm unfamiliar with that plant. But it was all over N. Calif!


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