A couple of weeks ago Mike and I spent a long weekend in San Francisco. We made the trip to be a part of a truly beautiful wedding celebration for my cousin Luke and his wife Whitney, but in addition to the wedding festivities, it turns out much of our trip ended up relating to gardening in some way or another, so I thought I’d share some of the more interesting highlights.
On our first day in San Francisco, we spent several hours at Golden Gate Park. After months of snow and cold, words cannot do justice to just how amazing it was to spend the afternoon outside surrounded by so much green! One minute we were alone in the woods, and the next we were walking through a formal tea garden. Every time we turned around we were discovering new wildflowers or succulents.
Sadly, the Conservatory of Flowers was closed to the public because they were getting ready for a wedding that evening, so we were only able to take a quick peek from the front entrance.
But the San Francisco Botanical Gardens were open, and that is where we spent the majority of our time in the park. And I just need to stop right here and tell you just how awesome my husband is for indulging my need to stop every few feet and take a closer look at just about every plant. That, my friends, is true love!
We browsed thousands of plants in the short time we spent in the gardens. So many interesting and beautiful things to see, but of course I would get especially excited when we would come across edibles!
Cow Parsnip in bloom in the California Native Plants area:
An interesting strawberry of sorts (Mock Strawberry, I believe) in one of the Asian collections – the blossoms were a bright yellow and the berries were round and had very long stems:
A more traditional-looking strawberry blossom:
Monkey Puzzle, and fascinating South American plant that produces edible fruit:
And then there was the rhubarb! So many different kinds of rhubarb!
A native California rhubarb (Indian Rhubarb):
And the Chilean Rhubarb!
I cannot even begin to do justice to how massive these plants are. They are big in every way, from the moss-covered rhizomes that mound up from the earth , to the thick, leathery leaves that are capable of providing shade for a grown person on a sunny day. There happened to be a rather well-fed squirrel following us around for a while looking for a handout, and he conveniently provided a little scale in some of these photographs:
If I had to pick one area of the garden that was my favorite, it would definitely be the ancient plants area. From the giant chilean rhubarb to the ginormous unfurling ferns, it was easy to imagine we were walking right into a real-life Jurrasic Park. The fog starting to roll in over the tree tops at the end of the day definitely added to the experience!
I had just made a comment to Mike about how I felt like there should be dinosaurs roaming through this garden when we stumbled upon this garden sculpture:
We could have easily spent an entire day in the botanical gardens – it was amazing! If you ever find yourself in the San Francisco area, the $7 adult admission to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is well worth it; just be sure you give yourself plenty of time to meander through the different gardens. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, for the sake of our trip budget), we were there on a Thursday afternoon and April is still the off-season, so the bookstore was closed.
All those garden books locked up – sad!
For most of our trip, we stayed in Berkeley. Every day we had an opportunity to walk through the neighborhood and check out some fascinating front yard gardens, and one day on our way to a little cafe for breakfast (which served delicious homemade jams and spicy ketchup) we passed by not one, but two neighborhood garden centers. Seeing the diversity of cacti, succulents, flowers, and edibles that thrive in the area was really fun.
Judging by the photos that came off my camera, I definitively have front yard lemon tree envy:
Seriously. Sign. Me. Up.
Even as we took part in some of the more touristy sights in San Francisco, there were some fun gardens to check out.
We hand lunch next to these Fisherman’s Warf flowerbeds, which were filled with rainbow chard and herbs in addition to an assortment of vibrant flowers:
We didn’t have time to take a tour of Alcatraz, but we did go around it by boat. The story of The Gardens of Alcatraz is fascinating and is something I would definitely want to see someday! Also, I absolutely love this garden quote:
Following the wedding, we spent a day in wine country. Seeing an agricultural area of California was incredibly interesting. I loved hearing about the different microclimates, as well as the differences in how grapes are grown from vineyard to vineyard. While most vineyards use drip irrigation, we visited one vineyard that doesn’t use drip irrigation for any of their grapes and instead focusing on building up moisture-retaining soil.
In a “normal” year, we would have been there too early to see much growth on the grape stock, but because of the unusually dry and warm winter, and a well-timed soaking rain just the week before we arrived, the grapes were ahead of schedule and the hills were newly green.
We visited wineries and vineyards in both Sonoma and Napa, and also had the opportunity to visit an olive press at one of the wineries. The olive oil tasting was really interesting, and let me just say, fresh jalapeno pressed olive oil is about the most amazing thing I tasted all trip.
We had a great trip and an amazing time in San Francisco, but by the time Monday afternoon rolled around, I was definitely anxious to arrive home and see how spring was progressing back in Minnesota!