When my friend Cheryl told me she had some Byzantine glad bulbs for me… which I had originally shared with her years ago from my old Carmichael garden… I pondered when I’d see her next and seized the opportunity to invite her on a day trip to Berkeley to visit two places neither of us had ever been– The UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts Bookstore. The botanical garden and bookstore happen to be fairly close to each other, with the garden being just north of the bookstore, which is nestled in the quaint Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley.
The drive from Sacramento to Berkeley usually isn’t too bad… about an hour and thirty-five to forty-five minutes. This time, I decided to take 80 to 680 to 24 to 13, which I think of as coming in “the back way” to Berkeley. My aim was to find the most efficient route to our destination and avoid the interchanges and traffic on 80 near Berkeley. This turned out to be a good alternate route, as traffic was pretty smooth and we made it in an hour and thirty-five minutes.
Have I mentioned how much I love maps and GPS systems? I’m literally lost without them.
Google Map It!
“Where’s a public restroom?” is probably the first thing you’ll ask yourself upon arrival. We asked at nearby Lulemon and they offered theirs, which I must say was delightfully clean and luxurious. I perused the yoga garb earnestly for a moment while waiting my turn, but thankfully didn’t feel pressured to buy $98 yoga pants in return for loo privileges.
Next, we were off to silence our growling stomachs. A bit of Yelping and Urban Spooning showed me in advance that I’d have plenty of gluten-free-friendly lunch options. This time, I decided to try sandwiches from Ashby Marketplace. I had a hazy notion of getting sandwiches “to go”, but forgot we still needed to hit the bookstore before the garden, so we ended up wandering Elmwood looking for a place to sit down. Having spotted no shady benches or picnic tables anywhere nearby, we ended up carrying our lunch bags back to the car, which was parked in a cozy metered parking lot behind the shops on College Ave. With all the amazing bungalows and blooms in the neighborhood, Cheryl and I risked not ever making it to the garden. We stayed admirably focused on our turkey and pastrami sandwiches.
I want to mention that there were several other sit-down cafes and restaurants we could have tried, including the Elmwood Cafe next door to Mrs. Dalloway’s. Word of warning: the upper wall of the cafe is open to Mrs. Dalloway’s, so don’t go to the bookstore hungry unless you want to be tortured by the sounds of clinking dishes and the wickedly wafting scent of syrup and coffee and bacon.
I’m glad we got to try Ashby Marketplace this time. It’s a charming deli/grocery store, with options for both carnivores and herbivores and lots of gluten-free options. I even brought home a yummy gluten-free cherry chocolate cookie for later.
After our yummy car sandwiches, we walked back around to Mrs. Dalloway’s. Being a reader and gardener, I was particularly excited about visiting a bookstore that had horticultural leanings. Hell, I was excited to be visiting a brick and mortar bookstore at all because they appear to be going the way of the dinosaur. As an avid e-book- and occasional print-book-reader, I do still think printed books have a place in our world.
Shopping online just doesn’t convey the cozy warmth of being in a room full of books; nor does it give you the same type of browsing experience. At Mrs. Dalloway’s, you may find handwritten recommendations protruding from thoughtfully selected books, along with garden tools, bud vases, painfully cute sterling silver and paper origami earrings, French tea towels, book lights and more.
I like that they label shelves into gardening subcategories. Where I struggled was with prices. I’m frugal in certain areas and am reluctant to pay suggested retail for books. Yes, I know I am part of the problem. I get most of my books from the library, digitally. I have some ideas about how garden booksellers might adapt to the new market, but I’m hoarding those ideas for now, in case I implement them myself.
I didn’t buy anything here, but Cheryl bought a book she found on the “Sale” table.
Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts Bookstore
At the ding of my iPhone reminder that my parking space was soon to expire, we left Mrs. Dalloway’s and headed for the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. The view from the parking lot was breathtaking. While I wrangled with a parking meter, Cheryl walked down toward the entrance and came back with the shocking news that the garden was closed! “What?!”, you say? Yes, it was closed in one of those “We’re closed the first Tuesday of every month” sort of ways. Bummer! But we will be back. How did we not notice this on the website?
I am the Berkeley Botanical Garden and I am closed the first Tuesday of every month!
We didn’t spend long lamenting our luck, because Berkeley Horticultural Nursery (AKA “Berkeley Hort”) was just down the hill. Berkeley Hort is a wonderful nursery in a neat neighborhood and always worth a stop. I left there with a clay pot and a Pork and Beans sedum (Sedum rubrotinctum). Cheryl bought two tiny Echeverias for her “waterlily succulent planter project”.
Berkeley Horticultural Nursery
After browsing the nursery, we decided to get an early start back home. We almost made it to the freeway, when Cheryl was subliminally seduced by a Cactus Jungle sidewalk sign. Since Cactus Jungle was on our way to the freeway, we swung by there last and I’m so glad we did! I remember visiting this place a year or so ago, but it has really fleshed out its identity and they offer some really amazing and fun plants and products. I usually gravitate toward succulents over cacti, but this place made a cactus fan out of me. I just kept saying, “Oh, my God, wow. Oh, my God. Wow.” And then inside the shop it was, “Oh, wow. These are so cool. Oh, wow. These are so cool.”
The Cactus Jungle
Cactus Jungle has a really nice selection of cacti, succulents, bamboo, grasses, carnivorous plants, succulent wreaths, terrariums and terrarium supplies, pots, organic veggie starts and other fun indoor plants (epis, air plants, etc.), as well as tools and accessories for gardening with cacti and succulents. I found a couple succulents I’d been looking for, Aloe arborescens and Echeveria imbricata, and a purpley Echeveria named ‘Rosy Ghost’. Yay!
Traffic coming home was only slightly gnarly and we made it back to Sac. before 6pm. Looking forward to a return visit to the botanical garden!