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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.

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.


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…)

Finally, A Plantiful Berkeley Nursery Fix

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!


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The Round Trip

“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. (more…)

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!).


 The Greenhouse Tour!


Visit to DIG Gardens Nursery, Santa Cruz, CA

I finally made it to DIG Gardens in Santa Cruz! Back in June, I made my maiden voyage to San Francisco’s Flora Grubb, another amazing, amazing nursery. DIG was next on my list of nurseries I wanted to visit in person after getting to know them online.

Because it’s a two- to three-hour drive from Sacramento (when you get lost like I do), I combined this trip with a self-guided UC Santa Cruz tour for my son, who’s looking to transfer there as a junior. He got to see UCSC again… I got to see Dig Gardens… and we had a very nice lunch at Cafe Limelight. Gorgeous weather greeted us and it was a wonderful day in all.

Elliot and I got a little “GPS lost” on our way to lunch, which I don’t mind because it’s usually a chance to explore the unexplored. Our getting lost reward was Santa Cruz City Hall, with its mini Santa Barbara style courtyard.

Santa Cruz City Hall

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Elliot standing next to a semi-uprooted palm tree