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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.

Shifting Gears

As I’ve mentioned on my About page, Kim and I were getting bids on a major home and landscape renovation. What a roller coaster process that was. The general consensus from contractors and architects was that we should add on in the back, but that conflicted with my desire to preserve gardening real estate. In other words… please don’t cover up my precious dirt with house; It’s that simple.

Then we started looking at going up, which seemed like a great solution since we’d end up with more house and the same amount of yard. Unfortunately, the bids came in prohibitively high since we’d essentially have to gut the existing house in order to add on a second story. After much agonizing, and a decision not to accept the generous renovation loan for which we qualified, we decided instead to use some savings to start my new business. Yes, it’s still a risk, but it’s a calculated one that won’t hinder Kim’s retirement plans and won’t tie up our other income and assets. Ah, if only money did grow on trees.

For years, I’ve dreamed of having my own nursery. I’ve really enjoyed working for Talini’s Nursery for the last 4.5 years and have learned day-to-day things about the business that nicely complement my schooling. But when you work for someone else… well… you work for someone else. You are helping to create their vision and promote their business and while you receive a wage, you receive no profits.

On the plus side, you don’t have their headaches and responsibilities. That said, I reached a point where I realized I don’t mind the additional responsibility, and I’m confident I can tackle the headaches. It’s important to create a work environment that excites you and your cohorts, and that’s a big part of my drive. Entrepreneurship has its perks.

Since most of my favorite nurseries are outside Sacramento, I’ve decided the time is ripe for creating a place that brings together the cool things I’ve discovered in my travels (and online), and to create the kind of nursery I’d want to hang out at, a quick bike ride away from my house.

I don’t want to give too much away yet, but stay tuned! I’ll let everyone know when we’ve got an opening date. We’ll have a grand opening shindig, fo’ sho’. Once we see how the business is doing, we will revisit the house and yard and those granite countertops I’ve always pined for and that game room on Kim’s wish list.

Another Visit to DIG Nursery and the UCSC Botanical Garden

(NOTE: I finally got around to publishing this draft post from late June!) I’d made much overdue plans to visit my friend Lynette in Santa Clara this Sunday and since we both love Santa Cruz, we decided to drive a little bit farther and spend our day there. Arriving around lunch time, we decided to hit Cafe Iveta first. I’d chosen the cafe based on its gluten-free friendliness and 80+ positive Yelp reviews. My turkey sandwich with Havarti and bacon was delish. Yes, I know gluten-free bread looks a little funny, but it tasted great. Fresh, soft and flavorful.

IMG_0003Next, we were off to DIG Gardens Nursery. Lynette had never been to DIG, and I think it’s only my third visit. Nurseries never get old to me, because they’re always, always tweaking things. Since my prior visit, I spotted the book display in another part of the shop, saw a D.I.Y. Bubble Terrarium station that I don’t remember from before. Fun, fun, fun. Nearby shelves hold air plants and empty glass terrariums. Terraria? Pshhh…. I dunno.

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I returned home with a couple adorable greeting cards for future use, and an irresistible succulent. Lynette went home with her first air plant! (more…)

Visit to Flowerland Nursery in Albany, CA

“You are the garden”, professes the entry marquee at Flowerland Nursery in Albany, CA. Heck, yeah, I am. I am often in need of weeding, have untapped potential, and every now and then in the right light and after a lot more work than should be necessary, am tinged with loveliness.

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This was my first visit to Flowerland Nursery, another wonderful East Bay nursery with a unique hook– its own airstream trailer coffee shop on site. The coffee shop is operated by Local 123, serving espresso, coffee and pastries. Being able to buy coffee and plants in one place is a marriage of two of my favorite things in life. Add in the mellow music and delicious gluten-free peanut butter cookie I bought and I am one happy camper.

Flowerland is a magical place. My hurried phone pics don’t do the place justice. I’d love to see the nursery in the early morning or late afternoon when the light is softest; I must return with the intent to have no intent.

We visited on a Friday, a time when many nursery workers have that frenzied, “gearing up for the weekend” look. Believe me, I know the feeling. Customers also tend to be task-oriented on Fridays at many nurseries.

“Gotta get those bags of mulch before the party!”
“Gotta replace that broken hose!”
“Gotta feed those tomatoes!”

Gardening can sometimes feel like a chore, and it can take on an edge of competitiveness at times; It needn’t. At Flowerland, I’ve never seen a more mellow-looking group of employees and customers. It’s a place where you can buy stuff to feed your plants, but it’s also a place where you can feed your soul; where you can sit down in the retro chair of your choice and just chill the heck out. Catch up with a friend. Read a book.

A great big thanks to East Sac Edible for recommending this gem of a nursery. I can’t believe it didn’t register on my usually keen nursery radar before now. An added bonus is that it only took about an hour and nineteen minutes to get there from my house. (more…)

2014 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

I’m still getting used to the newish location at the San Mateo Event Center, and while we felt the absence of a few designers and vendors this year, there was still plenty to see and buy at the 2014 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. As usual, I snapped iPhone pics of everything that caught my eye as we wandered the grounds. Our visit was on Friday. Fridays are a good day to visit because the show is up and running, but you avoid the weekend crowds. The weekends get some of the best speakers and seminars, though, so it’s a trade-off.

It was around lunch time when we arrived, so we decided to fuel up first. We scoped out the food vendors, which included everything from kebabs to teriyaki, and decided to go with Indian food. Cheryl had the samosas and I ordered vegetable pakoras, which I was told contained no wheat.

With my newly discovered food allergies, I’d hoped the vendors would post allergy info on their menus. For the most part, they didn’t. Nor was I able to find this info on the website ahead of time. The pakoras were delish and not overly filling. I’m hoping they were dairy-free as well, but when you’re standing in line with people waiting behind you, you can’t spend forever grilling the counter person. I greatly appreciate restaurants that take the time to let patrons know which menu items are gluten-free, dairy-free (vegan), vegetarian, etc.

M’lunch!

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I exhibited my usual self-restraint at the vendor booths, but did come home with a wee haul.

M’haul!

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By the time we left the show, it was just about the worst time a person would want to cross the Bay Bridge. I decided, in what was either a stroke of genius or complete madness, to take the scenic route home via the Golden Gate bridge and Napa. Well, it didn’t turn out to be a time-saver, but it was lovely and allowed us to meander through some cool neighborhoods over by SFSU. Traffic was so slow, we were also able to observe the native vegetation and identify an unfamiliar tree. The alternate route also afforded me the opportunity to take Cheryl, a native Sacramentan, on her first trip across the Golden Gate bridge!

We stopped for dinner at the Oxbow Market Pica Pica on the way back to Sacramento. Everything at Pica Pica is gluten-free and they will make it dairy-free as well.

Everything we make is 100% GLUTEN FREE, because our core ingredients –corn, yuca, plantains and taro root – are naturally so. We also offer vegetarian, vegan and non-dairy options with the same slowly-simmered, home-cooked flavor of our traditional offerings.
Respectful of nature, Pica Pica favors local and sustainable ingredients wherever possible and serves its take-out menu in 100% biodegradable containers. – Pica Pica

M’dinner!

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If you have a chance to check out Oxbow Public Market, do. It’s an amazing enclosed food bazaar, with everything from oysters to ice cream. There’s often live music and it’s very family-friendly and offers ample convenient parking.

All in all, it was a fun excursion and we look forward to next year’s F&G Show. I do hope the missing vendors return. We missed seeing B&D Lilies, Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, the “silk scarf lady”, Patsy’s Pottery, Sunset Publishing, and several more artists and plant vendors. We also missed the scope and caliber of the designs from the Cow Palace era. It’ll be interesting to see how the show, under new ownership, evolves. Have to wait another year!

Fredriks Wholesale Nursery Customer Appreciation Day

Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend Fredriks Nursery’s “Customer Appreciation Day”. Since Fredriks is a wholesale nursery, its customers are retail nursery owners and employees from all over California. Audrey and Michael and I… who are beginning to feel like The Three Nursery Musketeers after our recent outings for Talini’s… made the one-hour drive from Sacramento to Ripon. Ripon, CA is a small town south of Manteca, CA.


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This was a great opportunity to see the growing operations of one of our primary suppliers of bedding plants, vegetable starts, gallon plants, mixed pots and hanging baskets. Upon entering the grounds, we were quite simply wowed. Fredriks is big. Fredriks is immaculate. Fredriks is well run. Fredricks’ employees are extremely personable. On top of all that… it’s chock full of horticultural color. Their thoughtful attention to detail at this event was impressive, and made us think a lot about how we do business.

We enjoyed our visit and the opportunity to meet everyone and see the greenhouses. It definitely helped to reinforce the reasons we carry Fredriks plants at Talini’s. On the retail end, we get so busy that we probably don’t take as much time as we should to become better acquainted with our suppliers. It was also really great to get a sneak peek at some upcoming plant varieties that will be showing up at local nurseries in Spring of 2014!

The Wake-Up Coffee

We had our choice of cookies, coffee and smoothies to start our day off right. Audrey enjoyed the cookies and we all enjoyed the coffee; I appreciated that they had soy milk as an alternative creamer but had to skip the cookies since I’m gluten- and dairy-free (wah!).

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 The Greenhouse Tour!

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