Monday, October 31, 2011

Flower Power

If you've never been to a Monday morning class at Loot in Lafayette, you're in for a treat. Ron Morgan, the star and owner, missed a career as a stand-up comic when he chose flowers. Lucky for us.
He has the funniest stories! and great delivery - and he puts together six or eight flower arrangements while telling stories that will make you pee your pants.
He has a fantastic shop full of treasures and inspirations, and while he is making these stunning arrangements...
...he's also showing you how to do it.  Even if you don't have any talent (that would be me) you will learn how to put together a credible flower arrangement. If I can (and I can - finally) anyone can.

Call Betsy at Loot, make a reservation, and go! Oh - and the best part? The arrangements are all for sale. Take a class, give a party. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Garden Thru Her Eyes

Diedre the fabulous photographer took some photos of my garden a while ago, and I'm looking at them to reassure myself that:

1. Spring will come

2. My garden will be beautiful again

3. Things really are growing - Sometimes it seems nothing is happening, then I look at a photo and realize I can't see that view anymore, it's filled in. Or overgrown, depending on your point of view. But I can't see the growth day to day, and it is a joy to see my garden thru Deidre's eyes.

After a long summer in the Big Black Boot that passes for a cast these days, the garden has run riot. I planned to hack some of the thugs back today - the salvia, a rose that spreads like a bad rash. Then a wasp got in my hair, panicked, stung me, and I've spent the day sleeping off the Benadryl and icing my head. But it was beautiful not so long ago...
And tomorrow I'll try again. Weed by weed, plant by plant. 

I must confess I love to garden - I find it soothing, the hours fly by. I like being sweaty and working hard, I like seeing a bed transform from and overgrown jungle into a place where plants have room to show off and are not mugging their neighbors. And I love to sit and catch my breath and listen to the Acorn Woodpeckers argue and the mockingbird singing his heart out and the neighbor's dog barking his head off (okay, that one not so much). I love to feel the breeze come up in the evening, to walk around as the sun is setting and see what I've done, what's blooming, who needs a haircut. This last part is best done when the light is fading or I'll never make it inside.

Last week I dug out some iris that were in shade (who knew the Tulip tree would grow so fast?) and planted icelandic poppies in the brightest oranges and pinks I could find. Now I'm thinking cornflower blue pansies to go with them, the ones with just a dot of yellow in the middle and no faces. I hate faces on pansies. And of course there is always clover to weed out and that nasty little annual grass that can set a zillion seeds without peeking over the alyssum. And the tomatoes are over and the dahlias need dividing. 

A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall into Yosemite

It's fall in Yosemite. Morning mists rise from the golf course at Wawona,
deer feed in the meadows, unafraid. 

Either it's not hunting season or they know they're in a national park - the best national park. Wawona Hotel is a throwback: wide porches...
...and lovely cottages. 
Old fashioned, charming, recently updated. Get a room with a bath or share with really good friends. 

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is close by...
... and you can't comprehend how enormous these trees are until you see people standing on a fallen tree.
The leaves will be at their best this weekend - the last of October. Go now, before the snow falls, while the dogwoods are still bright red and the poplars are shaking their gold onto the river. And it's not crowded. 

What are you waiting for?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gift Wrap

Best tissue: at Bags and Bows. Whether you're in the mood for birds...
(my favorite) or beasts...
or funny colored zebras
they've got it all.

Toiles and stripes, 

And lots more - these are just the ones I'm ordering. Share with a friend, they come in huge packages. A lifetime supply, except I'm almost out.

They bring a smile to my face when I'm wrapping. And at this time of year we need all the smiles we can get! (and yes I know it's not even Halloween yet).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Benches and tables and garden design

Wondering about where to put that garden bench? At the end of the path where you can see it from the window? Or would it be better under the oak tree? And how to mow around it?
Problem solved. Look at the Andrew Crace website for more ideas. Like this wonky bench...
...with the extra-tall back. Or this fabulous table. 

Why doesn't any American company make stuff like this? A table where you never have a leg in front of you - brilliant. And so simple.

Function. Comfort. Humor. Every design needs those three things. If it doesn't have all three, you're not there yet. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Year

It only took a couple of days after the first rain, and the world began to turn green. At first it was just a thin green shadow under the dried grass, and then suddenly one morning the world was glowing green, as if lit from within.
Even the vineyard is greening...
...the new year starting while the old one is still on the vine.
I count the new year not from the calendar, but from the first green shoots of grass. I have a friend who has had a horrid year, she says she can't wait for this one to be over. Ellen: the grass is growing, it's a New Year! 

I still have tomatoes
Huge and meaty they are from seeds Mike at Forli Restaurant in Alamo gave me. The seeds came from his brother in Greece. No idea what they're called, but they are Ginormous. I start them from seed on heat mats in winter. If you come for Christmas dinner you'll have to work around the seedlings. 

One year is beginning while another is winding down. Leaves coat the surface of the pool, acorns ping off the metal horse and wake us. Squirrels thump onto the roof and harrumph across to raid the apple tree. There is not enough net in the world. But the apples are almost over, the grapes will be in this week, and we're having the last of the tomatoes for dinner. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The French Laundry and Garden Envy

I don't have a lot of sun. My garden slopes down, and faces north. It's damp and gloomy in the winter, in summer the ancient oak trees shade everything. Tomatoes struggle. The soil is thin, the water runs off, the oaks steal the sun. I try, but every year brings disappointments. I read about the Beekman Boys smacking seeds in the soil and harvesting bushels of yummy stuff, and I am green. With envy. Here seeds rot, seedlings wilt, there are leaves on the tomatoes and pumpkins but few fruits.

So a level garden in the sun? I covet it. In an old river bottom with deep rich soil? I drool. With raised beds, organic compost and a host of busy gardeners? Oh dear. And grass paths.

The French Laundry has such a garden. I would like to lie down in the compost and stay. I would like to adopt the garden - or have it adopt me. The well worked raised beds are lined with drip irrigation (or as we used to call it in Landscape Architecture school, irritation).
When planted you can't see the drip, just the lovely labels...
...and the gorgeous chard. Or peppers.
Or salsify...
or pumpkins
and chickens!!
they have a chicken tractor! Check out my old blog posting on Chicken Tractors

I should back up. The French Laundry in Yountville is one of the two best restaurants in the world. The other is Per Se in New York, and they are both the creation of Thomas Keller who has changed the way we all eat. And how we eat - from courses (many and small) to plates (many and stacked. All white sculpture with your food). 

In France people travel and stay in hotels (sometimes in unattractive towns) to eat splendiferous food. Not so here - until Thomas Keller. Altho the Napa Valley isn't ugly...
Thomas Keller has three other restaurants in Yountville: Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc. Try all three - breakfast at Bouchon Bakery, lunch at Bouchon (oysters and shrimp and a glass of rose - quick before Indian Summer is over).  Ad Hoc for dinner (it's really hard to get a reservation at the Laundry) or get take-away at Ad Hoc Thursday thru Saturday. Fried chicken or barbecue. Get the chicken.

Bon Appetit and happy gardening. I will be in my shady garden shedding tears on the thin soil.