Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day Trip: Flora Grubb Nursery

  My pal Tasha asked me if I wanted to take a little day trip up to San Francisco to visit Flora Grubb Nursery. It was a slam-dunk "Yes"! 
  So last week, on a lovely late summer morning, we took the 2 hour drive, chatting up a storm, like we always seem to do when we are together. Tasha and I can yak about everything, and nothing...enjoying every moment. For me, the drive is a big part of the fun. 
  We have done these "nursery crawls" many times, always coming home with plants in the trunk of the car. It's good, clean fun, usually with food involved, as well. This trip included lunch in China Town...always an adventure.
  We like to get an early start, so we can enjoy plenty of time in the nursery. There is lots to "ooh and ahhh" over...
  In 2003, the nursery began in the Mission District of San Francisco, moving in 2007 to the much larger space, now in the Bayview District. It's been written up in all the garden and design magazines, and for good reason.

Entering the nursery from the parking area.

It all looks so good, especially on a sunny day!

  The place is design forward, in so many ways. It just looks so damn good, and the plant material is heavy with succulents, palms, and grasses.  It seems really lush, even though many of the plants featured are drought tolerant, big time. It's a candy store for garden designers from all over the Bay Area, and more. 
  I'll admit, when I first started collecting plants for my own garden, I was taken with all the wrong choices for our area. I just had to have roses and clematis, and ferns, and foxgloves, old fashioned fuchsias, and, and, and.....We live in an area that is suffering from lack of rain. Always. We are always on water restrictions here. 
Over the years I have learned to just say "No" to the lovelies that won't be happy a month, let alone a year, after being planted. Face it, can't have an English garden on the Central Coast of California. Not these days.
  So. With a new understanding and admiration of drought tolerant plants, I have changed my garden quite a bit over the past several years. Now I look for color in foliage, and texture, texture, texture. This is a big reason why I love Flora Grubb....
  On this trip I was ready for something to replant a shady border with. While looking for the perfect beauty, I sure did enjoy wandering the aisles, seeing a lot of fun options...

I love these big Aeoniums, all wavy and green. They make a big statement...

Though not what I was looking for, I loved this combo with the "stone" balls...
I believe that is  phormium "The Guardian" with the burgundy foliage...

Great color combination here, and very water wise!
Leucadendron, Cordyline & Agave, I think...

  Besides awesome plant material, this nursery is full of fun design surprises, which I really appreciate. The placement of the plants in their nursery cans are's as though you are walking in a fantastic private garden. No blocks of lines and rows of black everything is artfully arranged. I always come home with great ideas, along with great plants.

Hard not to just hang out here in the sun...great pop of color.

This fellow wasn't here last time I visited. I love that the
flatbed is actually a small deck, complete with cafe tables and chairs.... and a staircase in back..!

  Anyone who has been to Flora Grubb has seen the car. It just keeps getting better every time I visit, that's for sure. You just kind of come across it, all tucked away in a back corner. Kids must go bonkers over this display.

Yes, that is a stand of bamboo bursting through the roof...

I can't help but look at these plants as a group of wild thrill seekers, tearing down the road.
 That one has it's elbow out the window, right?

An exploding engine....

 Walking around, I couldn't help but take notice of these beautiful palms, the bark like some kind of cool ceramic sculpture. The nursery is well known for it's palms, and has an in store palm broker. I love the sound and movement of these magnificent specimens.

Ain't Nature Grand?


  Then there are the succulents. Sigh. 
  When I was a teenager, I fell in love with succulents and had an impressive collection outside my bedroom. After turning my back on them for years, I have a new found love for them all. Especially now that we travel so much. I can have beautiful borders of care free succulents giving me everything I want from my plants...color, texture, hummingbirds even! All with out much more than an occasional grooming, or cutting back...which just creates more plants to spread around. And minimal watering. A win-win.
  Here, they have made the most of the trend in "Vertical Gardening" using succulents in a huge display, maybe 6 or 7 feet square...

Vertical garden, succulent style.

And a close up, of course. 

  I really loved this picnic table with it's own permanent "floral" display. A sort of living sculpture, in a way, going right down the center of the table. I'll bet it's gorgeous with little tea lights, at night.

Sweet little fellers.....

Another hanging garden, quite impressive.

  Tasha picked up a few things, and I found some drought tolerant ferns for my new shade border. And in 4" size, which always makes me happy. 
  I have also been looking for an extra giant pot for my goldfish...we have raccoons that attack the water features, and over the years they have been a real pain to deal with. When I spied the big rustic pot, below, I knew I had found the one...

Rusty red pot will be a new home for the fishies...
I'll still have to cover it at night, but I hope this will make it harder for the raccoons to get into.
It's tall!

  You have to stop into Flora Grubb, if you find yourself in the City by the Bay...It's a "destination" garden center, for sure. There is a coffee shop and bookstore, plenty of room to just settle into, and loads of inspiring displays to drool over. Plus a fantastic array of indoor plants, really unusual ones...

Great to just walk around this wonderful nursery.

  The displays in the shop are just as yummy as out in the garden, and on some visit soon, I want to take time for a cappuccino, and a nice sit-down in the coffee shop here. I love all the colorful pots and containers on display. Lots of nice gifts, of course.

Inside the shop, lots of lovely containers and plants for the house.

More greatness in the shop.
 A beautiful display of Tillandsias,  an "air" plant they specialize in here, at Flora Grubb Nursery.

  I'm happy that I get to go back soon to pick up that big pot. Johnny has never been, and he is going to just love this place. I just hope the sun is shining in San Francisco when we go! It will be just so perfect.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Two Visits To Isola Maggiore

 There is nothing like a boat ride on the lake when the weather is fine. We took advantage twice this past visit to Umbria. So lucky to have some gorgeous warm days in late March, and again in May.
  Isola Maggiore is one of three small islands in Lago Trasimeno. We still need to visit the other two... To get to the island, you have to catch a boat in Castiglione del Lago, or elsewhere on the lake. For us, this was the easiest place to start from. 
  There is a cute boathouse, complete with bar/cafe to while away the time waiting for the next boat. We each ordered a morning cappucino, bought our tickets and hung out watching the clouds go by.

Johnny watching out for the next boat. He's geared up to paint, too.

    The boat bumps on up to the dock, and on we march. Being it's such a lovely day, we sit outside to enjoy the views and fresh air. Both times on the lake we were happy to be sitting outside. It's fun.

Fresh, breezy air...(or is it hair?)

Johnny looking very happy about it all (before off-ing the facial hair...).

  Once on the island, we took a good hike around the small town, and up into the wilder areas. Johnny looked for a place to set up and paint, I looked for a place to sit down and eat. What can I say. We each have our own priorities...
  While he's painting, I like to just walk around, seeing the sights on offer. In this tiny town, I really enjoyed the aged houses on the main street and also all the little garden plots along the banks of the lake. 
  The town is known for it's intricate lace making, and there are still a handful of elderly women who set up small tables in the warm sun and sit and stich. I never feel comfortable taking pictures in theses situations, but am now sorry I didn't. I did buy a very sweet little piece of lace. Perfect to put a small vase on at home. 
 On the opposite end of the main street, I found Mr. Apodaca painting away...

Painting in the shade.

Close to being done.

  On this day, we walked back down the way to the lovely Ristorante L'Oso (the translation I found is "The Dare..." not sure what this is all about...), a place I had seen from the water as we came into the dock area. They have outdoor seating and it was so nice out.

Outdoors at L'Oso. Beautiful.

A pretty view from our table.

  As is our nature, we had to order the "bruschette miste", all veggie for us, grazie..

Oh, Yum. Oily, salty and scrumptious, too.
  Johnny is always looking around for something to doodle, it seems, and here was no different. He was soon distracted by pasta, though...

Working in the notebooks we keep for our selves...

We each ordered the tagliatelle caccia e pepe which was perfect.
Hand cut pasta with cheese and tons of black pepper...ooh.

Always must have grilled the addition
of the radicchio here.

Mixed salad, "insalada mista" is ok, especially dressed with the great balsamic they offered.

  I keep saying in this bloggy of mine the following...
 "...we hardly ever order dessert, but just couldn't resist..blah, blah blah..."
  I guess I should just resign myself to the fact that we often order dessert, and always enjoy it. 
  There. I feel so much better now that I've admitted it. For both of us.

  We each ordered something different, and shared, of course. With espresso, natch. 
  I loved this lunch, unfortunately, there isn't a website to share here, but they may like it that way. Hey, I understand.

Apricot torte with pine nuts, caramel and creme. What a shame...

Chocolate torte with pear wasn't too shabby, either.


After a short walk back through town, we head back home at just the right time of day, late afternoon. A wonderful time to be boating along on the lake...

This looks so fab now, but moments later I got slightly drenched by a rogue wave! Hehehe...
I think I'm so cool, and then I'm just so wet...

Why we like to go out to the islands....

 The next trip out to Isola Maggiore was several weeks later, and another sunny, warm day. We just had to go back again. This time, we really got an early start, hiked the entire island, and then had another great lunch.  
  Johnny did several paintings, and I walked and hiked all over the place on my own. Some of the shots on an earlier post, Yellow and Green All Over, were taken on the second time out to the island. The pictures of the fennel forests were from this day. 

Johnny working hard. Nice yellow banksia rose, too.

The finished painting from the shot above.

  So, we were hungry. We had hiked around for a couple of hours, and it was time to "mangia". As I was on my own, I had made a reservation at Da Sauro, a hotel and restaurant I came across. I wanted the table right there, with the lake just beyond...

So glad I got us this table...

...with this view.

A nice cheese plate to start with..

And we each had the days special, wild asparagus lasagna....

The lasagna had lots of very thin, silky layers of pasta, and a light b├ęchamel.
The asparagus really came through...

  The lunch on our second visit to the island was awesome...I believe we had some grilled veg, or at least a salad with the pasta, but somehow I don't have photos. Could it be I was enjoying my meal so much, I just put the camera aside? Could be. Could be I ran out of battery life...who knows?
  I do know that the asparagus lasagna was so good, I wanted to order another plate.
  It was a wonderful way to end a nice day out on Lago Trasimeno. Don't even hesitate, just treat yourself to a boat ride out, a walk around, a slowdown for won't regret a moment.

 For more on Lago Trasimeno, visit  Ciao Trasimeno, our friend Katia's wonderful website.
 For more of Johnny's 2012 Umbria paintings, visit The Green Heart Paintings.