Category Archives: other gardens

San Diego flowers and freeways.

It’s been a week since I departed on my trip, which took me first to my childhood home and family that I wrote about in my last post. After a very full day there, I drove to the San Diego Airport, where I fetched Annie. She and I spent the night slightly inland, where the most temperate marine breezes blew through the windows that our hosts like to leave open as much as possible. We were wined and dined along with other guests including their daughter whose birthday it was. We slept like logs.

San Diego freeways had a good reputation in my mind, even before I drove them a bit six years ago with my husband. When I’m whipping along where frequently there are four to six lanes — sometimes seven! — in each direction, and merging and exiting and noticing other freeways crossing above and below, it seems that much of the land must be covered with them by now. But no, it’s a large county, and there is lots of the sunniest part of California territory still left to walk on, closer to the earth and at a more human and humane pace.

Our first full day we drove to my cousins’ place in Vista, even more inland and at least ten degrees hotter. I first saw their property six years ago with my late husband, and was looking forward to the tour that Joe might give us again of all the self-started trees that he calls “bird drops,” and the succulents and cacti that thrive in that climate, like the tree-climbing cactus above that found a post supportive enough.

By late Friday afternoon Annie and I had made a big loop-de-loop, stopping by her great-great grandparents’ graves that I had last visited in 2015, and we ended up at the condo where most of the groom’s (my daughter Pearl’s) family from Washington and Wisconsin were staying. We joined a group weighted strongly to the young: five or six of my grandchildren and their significant others between the ages of 17 and 24. Toddler Lora, my great-granddaughter, was the youngest in the group. I slept in another Airbnb close by — with plumeria near the front door — and hung out with them a lot as we got ready in various ways for the wedding that was Sunday.

That first evening in Encinitas the boys had groomsmen events, and the females gravitated to the beach, which we got to by jaywalking across a busy street, picking our way over the railroad tracks, down through a gate…  then a run across four lanes of the coast highway and on to the path descending to the rocky shore. Dozens of surfers were silhouetted against the setting sun. I was the only one of our group who kept farther back from the edge while I took my views and pictures; the others all had fun getting drenched to some degree by the surf breaking right there. The next morning boys and girls alike were out early to surf and swim.

That was the day that I went south again to meet in person for the first time two long-loved blogging friends. Emily’s large family will soon be moved from Coronado where she has been cultivating a beautiful garden for several years. It was one son’s birthday at her house, too, but no one seemed to think it strange to have a strange grandmother drop in. Emily sent me off with bags full of starts of many of the succulents that grow enthusiastically all around the house and pool. It was delightful and really heartwarming to meet in person six of the family who were just as happy and gracious in the flesh as they appear in the tales and pictures I’ve been enjoying for so long.

Sara lives about a half hour mostly east of Emily, on a hill with a wide view, and the perfect patio and small waterwise garden in which to sit and take it all in; huge jacaranda blooms show in the tops of the trees from their steep hillside below. But first, we went to lunch, and she took me to the water conservation garden nearby. I had inconveniently come in the hottest part of the afternoon, but we wore our sun hats and strolled in a very leisurely way among the paths.

The garden has been there long enough for the Australian trees to grow to great heights. There was a butterfly garden/cage where evidently those creatures weren’t bothered by the heat. I took so many pictures! My heart was overflowing with flowers and plants way too many to process or learn much about, but because I was discovering them in the company of my friend I was content to let them remain a somewhat anonymous backdrop to our time together.

I had wanted to sit for a spell on her own patio, too, which we did, and I got to chat a little with her very kind husband. Sara gave me gifts of printed prayers like this beautifully illustrated one:

After I said good-bye at their door, on my way to my car, it was then that I spied this gardenia, a rare encounter for me, and it immediately seemed the perfect emblem of Sara and her blogger’s voice that is such a refreshingly sweet and reserved one in this noisy world, saying, “Here is beauty: look!”

My grandson Pat got married the next afternoon! His whole family was handsome, and we sang all the verses of “Be Thou My Vision” during the ceremony. The choice of that hymn tells you a lot about the bride and groom. May God bless them!

The day after the wedding was our last day of San Diego freeways, at least for a while. I was driving on them for about three hours before we got out of the county and on our way to my mountain cabin. Daughter Pearl rode with me, which made the day pass very pleasantly, in spite of it consisting mostly of driving, at least half of it on freeways, for twelve hours. But as I write, I am in recovery, and composing the report on this next portion of my outing, the vacation part! First installment coming soon: Summer in the High Sierra…

The smell of dust.

About five this morning three things happened. I woke up in my sister’s house, which lies in the neighborhood of my childhood, along one of the thousand plain, unlined roads that make rectangular grid lines of themselves through the orange groves.

A mockingbird began to run through his upbeat repertoire outside my window. I was surprised at this, because I never heard them as a child. I wondered which local species he was imitating at the coolest moment of the day, 73 degrees. He didn’t sing for long.

About the same time that I saw on the forecast the prediction of 108 degrees today, I heard the whole house fan come on and start blowing all the previous day’s residual hot air out of the attic and all the rooms. In the summer my brother-in-law turns it on as soon as the outdoor temperature becomes cooler than that under the roof. It really lessens the need to use the air conditioner.

But tomorrow morning there will not be enough cooling off to work this system. While I was driving away in my air conditioned Subaru and toward a more coastal destination, the Central Valley was turning into a furnace. Most of the next ten days over 100 and four of them above 110. 

As I lingered with my brother’s family over dinner last night, we talked about various people we knew who were leaving California for one reason or another. Somebody’s mother had moved here years before from Missouri but had to go back, because she was always sickly in California. Was it the dust? Everyone around the table agreed that the dust can be oppressive.

After dinner we went outside where the children ran on the lawn, and I admired the way the succulents thrive at my brother’s place, in the heat, yes, but under the shade and frost protection of the patio roof. Certain plants love the climate, and of course that dust blows off the fields that are in between plantings such as I saw on my drive in: cantaloupes, tomatoes, corn, alfalfa, cotton…. That Valley dust feeds the nation!

It’s also a component of the air of which I breathe deeply when I visit in the warmer seasons, the scent of my childhood. That air is like a caress, and a tonic, an atmosphere to sink into. The late evenings are the loveliest time to sit out, after the sun has gone down and air has lost its oven-like personality. One wants to stay up for hours recovering from the day’s fierceness, and not go inside where the air may be cool, but it’s artificially so.

At the end of today’s drive, I arrived  in the southern reaches of the state in a place where the ocean influence is felt morning and evening. Windows and doors are open so that soft breezes can blow through my hosts’ house. I picked up granddaughter Annie at the airport, and this weekend we’ll go to her cousin Pat’s wedding in San Diego. 

Today’s photos are all from my brother’s place, which is the house I grew up in. He has made a lot of changes, but it’s all good, and more pleasing every time I visit. Tomorrow, more family to visit, more gardens! Stay tuned…

Infant pines, and other p-plants.

Little pine trees like this have sprouted all over the place under my Canary Island Pine tree. I don’t remember this happening in the previous 30 years I’ve lived here.

The snow peas I planted in the fall are blooming purple flowers! All the other peas I have grown over the decades — the varieties that are grown for food and not flowers — had white flowers, so this is fun.

I am thrilled to see that my ever-languishing Dutchman’s Pipevine has two flower buds and many leaf buds presently. We’ll see if that is enough scent to attract the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. It would be awfully exciting to see one of them in person. This is what they look like in pictures:

Maybe this year I’ll get the other Swallowtails that like parsley; I have a good crop of that, too. And at church, I’m the gardener of a very small planter, which requires little work. It’s on automatic irrigation, so my only task is to plant and deadhead. This picture was the Before Deadheading this week:

The last couple of days we have had a cold and fierce wind blowing through. It makes me want to hide indoors, but I managed to buck up and work a tiny bit outside today — mostly in the greenhouse, where I intend to plant seeds tomorrow! (They don’t all start with P.)

The Appley Dapply-est day ever.

Mrs. Bread and I thought we might sit on her deck and chat… or, we might meet at the beach and walk. But in the end, she came to my garden in the afternoon, and brought me two perfect Fuji apples just picked from her tree.

She didn’t know I had baked an apple cake for us to eat with our tea, at the table in the back corner. Last week it would have been too hot there at that time of day, but today was mild. I had chopped Rome Beauty apples into the cake, because I think the Northern Spy keep a little better, so I will use the Romes up first. They are in the box at the bottom of the picture.

The whole of autumn so far has been the most appley of my life. I have dehydrated dozens of apples and eaten as many fresh and crisp out of hand. Last week two kind man-friends from church came over to help me peel Pippins for a couple of hours — after I gave them dinner and apple crisp, because it was that time of day — and when I had got about a gallon of applesauce into the fridge, I went to bed very late.

Now my freezer and pantry (My pantry is steel shelves in the garage.) are stocked up with sauce, dried apples, and leftover cake. I sent a wedge of cake home to Mr. Bread, and now must abstain for a bit, so I’ll be ready to test the other apple cake recipes that Mrs. Bread is going to send me. Below, you can also see the super-dehydrated banana slices in jars; they are addictive crunchy banana “candy.”

The Winter Banana apples I determined were best in their dried form. I probably don’t need to keep them in the freezer, but it looks appropriate to their name, doesn’t it?

My favorite apple ranch only has one more variety coming in this fall: Pink Lady. I might go back and get some of those — but maybe not 20 pounds — because I think they might dry nicely.

What else made today appley? This:  Several weeks ago I had admired Mrs. Bread’s mint plant that was at the end of its flowering. She promised to give me a cutting, but I had forgotten. Today she surprised  me with it, and it is an Apple Mint.

I wish you could smell how yummy it is!

As I was assembling my appley post this evening, what came into view on my computer but a picture from Pippin (Ha! It’s even the right nickname for today.) of Ivy who was evidently inspired by their harvest to read to her apples. I don’t know what variety they are, but their names I’m pretty sure are Appley, Dapply, and … I confess I don’t know the real names of the friends in the picture.

I hope that this fall finds you with plenty of appley friends and cakes.

Appley Dapply has little sharp eyes,
And Appley Dapply is so fond of pies.

Oh! I haven’t made a pie yet! I bet Northern Spy are good for that…