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Festive East Bay Art, Garden & Nursery Day

Cheryl and I took a trip to the East Bay today. Her friends Heidi and George of Garden Delights Arts & Crafts were having a Holiday Gift & Art sale at their home in El Cerrito.

After, we headed to Flowerland Nursery in Albany, followed by lunch at Cactus Taqueria.

Late Lunch at Cactus Taqueria

Late Lunch at Cactus Taqueria

This was Cheryl’s maiden Flowerland voyage! Having recently discovered this fabulous nursery myself, I was happy for a chance to go back… especially at Christmas time.

The nursery was beautifully decked out for Christmas. In addition to the usual offerings, they had a friendly popcorn vendor serving herb-seasoned and cinnamon popcorn, piped Christmas music, fresh-cut Christmas trees, poinsettias, teeny little evergreens, amaryllis bulbs, paperwhites, Christmas greeting cards, and cool ornaments galore. The energy was bustling and festive.

I scoped out a few Christmas trees, which, by the way, are individually named. Cute and clever touch. I’m so looking forward to a return trip to Flowerland next week.

On our way back to the car, we stopped for the inevitable flower and garden pics. The fun thing about going out with a gardener friend is that he or she typically has the patience of a saint when it comes to picture-taking.

Cascadian Farm’s “A Bee Friendlier Flower Bombing” Video… and a reminder to plant wildflower seeds

Right now, after we’ve had our first real rain, is the perfect time for Californians to go crazy sprinkling wildflower seeds all over the land! I planted California poppies a couple days ago. What will you plant? I’m partial to Renee’s Carefree Annual Wildflowers Scatter Garden, and the poppies-only mix. Find the sunniest, most inhospitable part of your yard and sprinkle away.

I planted the poppies (pictured below) in a narrow crack between asphalt and concrete out front at Talini’s Nursery. Just sprinkled and forgot. No water. No work, because Mother Nature took care of the rest.

We may have paved paradise and put up a parking lot, but that doesn’t mean we can’t put a little paradise back into that parking lot!

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I’ve also had really good luck with the native CA bulk seed mixes from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

Watch this inspiring video!

2014 Jacques & Jill tulips from Colorblends

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in my house for five years, and that I finally transitioned from renter to owner. When I was renting, I was reluctant to invest time and money in a garden I knew I’d be leaving. Now we own the dang thing and suddenly I can see the potential again. That spot behind the garage? I’m thinking it might be sunny enough for a small greenhouse or cozy retreat. The patio area by the back porch? I want it to have a cafe vibe, complete with shade sails, a table or two and cafe lighting.

As a renter, I saw more of my yard’s shortcomings than strengths. For instance, it’s a smallish lot overall compared to my 1/3ish acre lot home in Carmichael. There’s funky, cracked concrete surrounding the garage that’s begging to be reborn as flowerbeds, and the dominating sycamore in the backyard was oppressively huge and messy and blocked space and precious light. As soon as we bought the house, we sent it to a better place with the aid of Clark @ New Helvetia Hardwoods. The sycamore out front is staying. It faces west and does a great job filtering late afternoon sun.

The existing landscape was clearly a slapdash effort to lure buyers, but it wasn’t built to last. A new blanket of sod concealed decades of Bermuda grass, nutsedge and oxalis. They’d installed a small patio cover with non-mortared cement pavers that is now showing its true colors as boards warp and separate. They’d also dropped in a smattering of cheap Home Depot plants, including wisteria, Spanish lavender and the ubiquitous fortnight lily which were all allegedly being watered by a demonically cursed irrigation system.

When looking at the positives of this property, I have to acknowledge the fact that it is nestled in an immensely charming, walkable, transit-friendly, bike-friendly neighborhood with mature trees, a park, every amenity a person could want, and high resale values. Our spot in East Sacramento is right on the border of the Fabulous Forties and the Thrifty Fifties. It’s bungalow heaven around here.

I also like the fact that I’m a stone’s throw from Trader Joe’s, the post office, two drugstores, restaurants, and pet supply stores. Hell, there’s even a parrot store should I suddenly develop the urge to raise parrots.

Unlike other parts of East Sacramento, my house is also safe from floods, far enough away from the freeway that I don’t hear it and far enough away from businesses that we don’t have customers’ cars parked outside our house much. It’s also far enough away from the controversial McKinley Village development. And the size of our yard, by “East Sac. standards”, is on the larger side. But I digress.

Tulips! Several Fab 40s homes have lovely and lavish tulip borders that are replanted every year. I decided to do a mini version of that along my front flowerbed. The secret to tulip success in Sacramento is to chill your bulbs in the fridge for six weeks prior to planting.

After doing online research, I decided to order my bulbs from Colorblends. I ordered 100 bulbs at a great price and  was very drawn to Jacques & Jill, a lively purple and orange blend.

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Jacques and Jill Tulip blend from Colorblends

Jacques and Jill Tulip blend from Colorblends

The first thing I noticed when my bulbs started showing color was that they were very much a clear hot pink instead of purple. Because pink clashed with my mustard-colored house, I freaked out a little and e-mailed Colorblends, wondering if I’d been sent the wrong variety. I got a prompt, friendly explanation from Hanneke on their support staff.

Hello Angela,

Thank you for your message and pictures. We appreciate to hear about your spring display.

As for the pink color, we call it a mauve pink, a deep rose color and maybe we should be more explicit next year. The picture in our 2013 catalog (pages 44/45) matches with the color tulip that grows in your garden. What happened with the picture on the web we are not sure, that should be changed and we are grateful you brought that to our attention. That picture need to be changed.

Depending on the weather the timing of the tulip blends can be a little bit off and we expect you will have some orange tulips blooming soon: on the picture we can see some buds peeking through.

We apologize if you are disappointed with the color match, however your tulips look healthy and beautiful.

Thank you again for taking the time to write us and for sending us the pictures.

The purples were much more pink than I’d expected, and the oranges lagged behind the pinks a bit, but the overall spring display was ever-changing and spectacular. I can’t wait to plan next year’s blend. I might even go with a tri-blend that puts on an early-, mid- and late-season display!











As the pink tulips faded, the orange blooms became larger and took on a lovely pink tinge and the pink blooms did take on a bit more purple as they faded. Mauve is still a stretch, I think. Somebody at Colorblends needs a lecture on the temptations of Photoshop! Jacques and Jill tulips are quite lovely without color enhancement and customers should know what they’re actually buying.


I would actually love to try the Jacques and Jill blend again, and since we’re remodeling our house, I think I’m just going to have to get rid of the mustard-colored exterior and go with something more pink-friendly. Pink is one of my favorite colors.



March 31st Update: I finally deadheaded these guys, just as a big storm is rolling in. The pansies I underplanted with are starting to fill out. The curtain is nearly closed on Jacques and Jill.