2013 fling

Stunning San Francisco Fling garden tour of my dream garden…

The San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling was an amazing adventure into a myriad of unique and beautiful gardens and micro climates.  I expected the weather in San Francisco to be cool and comfortable.  Not so.  As is often the case when I’ve traveled to the annual garden flings, they were having an uncharacteristic heat wave.  (The Texas bloggers have a theory that we bring the beat with us – a tradition we’d love to put an end to!) 

San Francisco was tolerable, though as we ventured further out from the city, it was hotter (103 one day walking through the gardens) and drier.  Of course the beauty of the micro climates is that it enabled us to tour a wonderful variety of gardens, all within driving distance. 

On the last day, we visited the Ann Nichols Garden in Oakland.  This was my favorite garden by far, filled with mysterious paths, babbling water features, unique artwork and an intricate garden of tropical plants and desert plants mixed with traditional plants.  (I have a soft spot for tropicals and I garden in the scorching heat of the southwest in Austin, Texas.)

As you arrive, the garden rises from the street in a succulent-lovers hillside of hot with the tropical colors of agaves, yuccas, phormium and cannas. 

Everyone ooohed and ahhhhed over this intricate spiral agave.  It can’t take our arid heat, so I won’t be searching for one to plant in my garden.

I finally tore myself away from the hillside to follow a delicate, almost-hidden path up to the house.  Lined with papyrus, aloes, ground cover and cannas, it led me to my ultimate destination — a stunning brugmansia, its bell-shaped blooms dripping over the path to envelop garden visitors in an apricot  canopy.

Winding on the other side of the house is another path, filled with ground cover, succulents and grasses, that leads you up into the back garden.


Along the property line is a fence/trellis/jungle creation that hosts bromeliads, tillandsias ferns and other exotic

But unlike so many side gardens that are just an avenue for reaching another area, this was a mystical garden of its own.  Flanked by layers upon layers of plants, the steps lead through a series of unique, artistic ponds that are part of a larger waterway system and all connected. 

 The water runs through channels from the upper lever water feature down to the other ponds.

Here’s a garden blogger capturing a photo in the garden…you’ll laugh at this one.  I was trying to remember who this was and I remember that I was wearing a peach blouse that day, wondering who else did.  Then I realize this is a mirror that was hanging on the fence and that’s ME in the picture!  Working on a creative photo shot, I captured myself and then promptly forgot about it.  In any case, the mirror, tucked behind a treasure trove of plants, was a delightful find for garden visitors.

Next to the gate at the top of the stone steps, a tile mural covers the wall as a backdrop for the pond.  Notice the cat in the mural – you’ll see him again in more art in the back garden.

Now onto the back garden.  There are 3 levels in the back garden.  Through the gate and continuing up the stairs, you pass another water feature as you’re drawn to another gate.

But wait, that’s a door, or is it.  No, it’s a gate… It’s a door to a building, painted to look like the gate, with our friend the cat perched on top and his friend waiting for him at the bottom.  So clever and entertaining.  (And there’s another brugmansia to the left…sigh…)

And then it’s off to the right and up another set of steps, flanked by glorious loropetalums in pots, and up onto the small patch of lawn.  In this lush setting, the grass itself is a focal point.

It was also a perfect gathering spot for the garden bloggers to share their thoughts on this amazing garden.  Ann Nichols even invited a few of us inside the house to view the back garden from upstairs, which is the perch from which I shot this photo.

 Then it’s up the stairs once more, through this Dr. Seuss-like allee of weeping sequoia, tied together and leading you on to the last gate of the garden, a replica of the first gate and the painted gate.

 There are several delightful seating areas in the upper garden, which is filled with fragrant roses, succulents and phormium.
And the look back down the hill, framed by the sequoias, to the back of the house and our friends enjoying refreshments and good company.

The back of the house is flanked by a lower-level patio area, filled with pots of suculents and a rock lined retaining wall filled with hot colors and wonderful textures.

You can see why I fell in love with this garden.  I’m sure I could have spent the entire day there and still not seen everything it has to offer,

Flora Grubb delights bloggers with pots, plants and garden design and decor

Come on in.

Where to start?

Our 6th annual Garden Bloggers Fling in the San Francisco area this year was phenomenal.  The Fling crew, Kelly KilpatrickAndrea Fox, Charlotte, Claire and Maggie, did an amazing job of crafting a program filled with beautiful private gardens, public gardens and nurseries.  They babied us and fed us well and it was so fun to gather with friends, old and new, and join together to discover the Bay area.  

As we began our Fling, we all laughingly said that they can grow everything in California.  After these garden tours, I think it may be true!

I’m starting my blog posts from the end.  After numerous problems with my computer and iPhoto (all self- created problems having to do with TOO many files – 18,000 photos – even after moving 5 years worth of photos elsewhere), these are the photos I’ve uploaded so these are the photos you get to see!

Our last stop – a shopping tour and  reception filled with wonderful food and drinks – at the well-known nursery, Flora Grubb.  Wow. 

The nursery had me on garden overload with its unique plants, bursts of hot color and just plain old cool stuff.  Creative vignettes like this classic car overflowing with ferns and phormium captured our attention.

This exotic staghorn fern makes me think of Medusa as it spills out of this Buddha head planter.

The pruning of this palm tree created a live piece of sculptural garden art.

Endless bromeliads – loving the heat and humidity of the Bay area – and paired with hot pots.

Or succulents sitting side-by-side in cool concrete.

Flora Grubb did the landscaping for nearby gardens, and we got a walking tour of the area, which included these great yuccas.

I loved this plant – tibouchina – and was pondering its viability here in Austin, Texas, when Kelly came along, laughed at me, and said: 

“No, it won’t grow in Austin, but it will grow in my garden!”

Then she snatched one up and sauntered up to the cash register!  I had to laugh.  I had a case of serious plant envy by this point without a doubt.

Inside the store, we were surrounded by more beautiful pots and decor.

As things were winding down, and I sat to chat with friends, I almost didn’t notice the cool trenched table inlaid with succulents.  I knew I couldn’t get this in my suitcase.  Think I could make one? Hmmmm…

Each year at the Fling, there seems to be one specific plant that’s in its full glory in almost every garden we visit.  In Buffalo, I remember the mondarda, in Chicago, I remember the alliums.  From the San Francisco fling, I will always remember the over-the-top phormium we found in almost every garden.  We’re a little too hot and a little too dry to grow them here, but you can bet money I’m gonna try!  Maybe in a pot, in a carefully chosen spot and lots of TLC.  (No work involved in trying to grow this plant!) 

Here’s a glimpse of what I brought home in my suitcase – a succulent, a fern and a few tilandsias along with a trio of metal planters and some red long beans.  I would have liked to fill a truck with so much more and drive it home, but that would have been impractical.

This was a spectacular ending to a wonderful Fling.  Thanks to everyone who helped by working, hosting, opening their homes, and sponsoring our special event.