SF Garden Show 2011

Mr. Mouse had actually planned on making a video of Town Mouse and Country Mouse going to the garden show. But, regrettably, other things came up, and he only made a photo as we were getting in the car, ears cocked, with good walking shoes and ready for our adventure. 

I was in desperate need of some plants for my much neglected garden, so we ignored the exhibition  and immediately went over to Gold Rush Nursery's booth, where we both aquired some fine-looking Penstemon heterophyllus, plus a few other little things. After a trip back to the car to drop of plants -- almost losing our ears in the fierce wind -- we returned to have another look at plants, furniture...and more plants! It was very encouraging to see the many vendors, and a few I talked to were not displeased with the results of that year's show. After a quick lunch, it was actually time for our tour of duty as booth-mice. 

Just as last year, we found the booth fabulous! Many posters of different California native plants, blooming ribes and ceanothus, vases with poppies, and the certain show stopper: a California Trillium, on loan from Bay Natives nursery (thanks guys!). We actually had a good spot just at the West entrance, and were delighted how many people stopped to chat, ask questions, and find out about garden tours and other activities in their region. The booth was well stocked with handouts, and we enjoyed making friends. 

Time went by too quickly, and soon it was 4 o'clock, the end of our shift but also just 2 hours to closing time. We decided to swing by Sproutopia first and enjoyed the different gardens the kids had put together. I was quite taken with this riot of color. 

And we also enjoyed the Dia de los Muertos garden with a small graveyard. 

And then the moment we had both dreaded and anticipated: A visit of the exhibits. I must admit my expectations were low. I had not enjoyed last year's gardens, which I found overdone and uninviting. In addition, a friend had reported he was disappointed with the bad lighting. 

But as we started exploring, I became more and more convinced this was quite possibly the best year ever! Of course we were both pleased that quite a few gardens featured California natives, but what I really like was that these gardens were inviting, and approachable. They were interesting and inventive without being over the top. The garden above, "Metamorphosis" was put on by West Valley College (among the four designers Tina Jauregui of West Bay Landscape company) which included the following description: 

What if you no longer had access to supplemental irrigation for your garden? What would your garden look like? A dedicated group of students from the West Valley College Landscape Architecture Program demonstrates for the home gardener that life in the California garden "after water," is not only feasible, it's more lush than expected!
Local average rainfall and rain catchment capacity calculations are carefully considered, ensuring plants remain healthy throughout the year. Creature comforts include an outdoor shower and a multi-use deck that doubles as a sleeping porch for your escape from those hot summer nights! We invite you to turn off your air-conditioner and let nature keep you comfortable. Enjoy your garden while you lower those utility bills!

The garden featured an outside sleeping platform with a comfortable bed under an awning, surrounded by different species of ceanothus (both blue and white), several shade-loving natives, and short green walls separating the different garden rooms that used native Dudleya, Sedum, and a few other plants. We were quite enchanted and would have gladly rested a while in such a pleasant spot, but time was short so we went off to see a few other gardens. 

Another favorite was Changes, a garden by Mariposa Gardening and Design and A Lost Art Stonework and Design, who said this about the garden.

Sanctuary is necessary for all of us, as we move through life with its many changes. Revitalization comes from tending to our need for space and solitude.

Walk through the spiral, and into the core of the space, where the outside world is temporarily closed from view. Allow yourself to take a minute to clear the cobwebs from your mind, and restore your energy for the rest of your day.

Inside, you will find a Rainwater catchment habitat pond. This is a specially designed feature that will accommodate your roof top rain water during the rainy season. The space below the feature is large catchment area, filled with drain rock. Water from your drain spout is diverted into the feature, and it fills, making it a seasonal pond.

The walls of the spiral are planted with a songbird habitat garden. The plantings are carefully arranged to make sure that all the elements birds need, such as: different heights for birds to “step up” within the planting; plants that provide nectar in the spring and summer, and berries in the winter; tall trees to provide cover from aerial predators; flowers that provide seed; and many places for a diversity of bird species to find shelter.

Inside, you will also find a place to write a word and add it to the piece. Perhaps you would like to make a wish for yourself or a loved one or a friend. Grab a pebble and throw it into the pond.
This is your chance to welcome the changes in your life.

Regrettably, this garden suffered even more than others from the bad lighting, so I have a few photos of the amazing stone work, but no photos of the equally amazing plants. I loved the subtle combinations of manzanita, columbine, and other "simple" plants, a wildflower look, maybe, but with design like that, even wildflowers can look like Monet's garden. 

What I like about most of the gardens was that everything seemed so doable, the small plants in the cracks of the stonework, the living walls in the other garden realistic, so different from last year's monumental square that I found alienating. 

But there was more to like in this year's show, and in my next post I'll show off a few more gardens we really enjoyed. 


James said…
Something looks different about you two this year...could it be...the ears? I definitely believe you when you say that you had fun this year. You can see it in the photos. Too bad there's not a full video of the mousecapades. Maybe next year.

I hope lighting was okay for the show this year. Nothing kills the feeling of enjoying the outdoors when the artificial suns don't shine convincingly on the scene. You sometimes feel like you're walking away with great ideas on how to garden inside a cave, not outdoors...
Chandramouli S said…
Thank you for the tour! Your photos makes me want to visit it for real.
Anonymous said…
Looks like fun! And Penstemon heterophyllus is such a great plant - I don't think it's possible to have too much of it.
Christine said…
You guys are just adorable! I'm sure you had crowds of people wanting to chat with you at the booth. I love your perspective on the gardens, too.
Carla said…
Just found your blog from a link on Curbstones. I am going to add yours to my blog roll. Really enjoyed reading.
Thanks for posting your views on the show.
Hopefully the director will read the few reviews that are floating out there in WEB land and take note of the reoccurring lament , " the HORRIBLE LIGHTING".
Vibrant electric blue ceanothus plants should have sent people swooning, instead the lighting was so horribly dialed in that it made those electric blue ceanothus look light a dead fart and people walked away with a bad stink in their nose and eyes .
There were so many wonderful details in many of the exhibits, I especially appreciated the quality craftsmanship and clean tight lights of Outdoor Environments work as well as the folks at the West Valley College, Pi r Squared and the stoneworkers at Mariposa and A Lost Art Stonework.
There were a few 'hot messes' too. But those are but a distant memory, thank gawd.
All in all, it's a great way to spend the day, it sure beats working !
err.... I really need to proof read before posting....
so for so many typo's.