A Plant Lover's Fantasy Field Trip - October 2003

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Barbara and John Hopper worked their magic again on behalf of some three dozen Cal Hort members and friends who accompanied them on two crisp, sunny days of garden visits in and around Watsonville, Carmel and Santa Cruz.. Almost every host commented on the fine weather and absence of fog that the group seemed to have brought with them!

The first stop on Saturday was at Suncrest Nursery in Watsonville, dating from 1991 and open only to the trade, where not only were we welcomed by Jim Marshall and invited to purchase at a courtesy discount, but treated to morning coffee and goodies as well. An hour and forty-five minutes was hardly enough to cover some 42 acres of shrubs, trees, native plants and bulbs, all laid out in meticulous rows and columns, and several greenhouses with many bamboo varieties and specialty plants to examine.

Bob Jones, of Town and Country Landscape, next led the caravan to Pebble Beach to visit two very different private gardens in woodsy settings. The first had many ferns and unusual trees around a spacious lawn surrounded by strong deer fencing but adjacent to a colorful garden area from which the deer were not excluded---a “live and let live” philosophy that said a lot about the owners. The second house was quite different, almost palatial (and on the market for $13.7 million!). Much credit goes to Bob Jones for creating a landscape that respectfully married the woods with the large traditional home.

After a leisurely lunch around the pool and under the shady pergolas of a home in Sleepy Hollow, the caravan visited Griggs Nursery in Carmel Valley, then set out down the coast to see another garden with spectacular ocean views.

On returning to Carmel, the next visit was to a charming small French Manor House, surrounded by a series of garden rooms that were inspired by a visit to Sissinghurst. Roses in enviable colors were all lovingly labeled.

The last visit of the day was just across the street, where the ample wine and hors d’oeuvres were enthusiastically welcomed by a tired group.

Sunday was a leisurely start at 8:15 a.m. at “Seedhunt,” Ginny Hunt’s home and gardens where she collects and grows some 250 different seeds, from Abelmoschus manihot to Wattakata sinensis. Everyone wanted to buy her spectacular restios that were, unfortunately, breeding stock and not for sale.

Jeff Rosendale of Sierra Azul welcomed the group with a brief history of the nursery and the new directions he hoped it would take in coming years. Although not yet labeled and in the shopping area, he had plenty of restios on hand. With urging by many Cal Hort members, he got in his truck and went to fetch them. Such determination and such a gracious response!

Mid morning found the group in Santa Cruz at a garden entitled “A fantasy of the tropics” with a recently installed water feature billed as “A fantasy of a sub-alpine Sierran lake at around 7000 feet.” All this on a modest city lot, plus a new greenhouse in the rear for cacti, succulents, caudiciforms and tropical fruits. The owner and his wife were generous with information, use of their home and even cuttings for some envious Cal Horters.

An extraordinary home near the UCSC Arboretum was the setting for a shady lunch before a tour of the garden that filled the ravine behind the house. Many different kinds of bamboos, fuchsias, ferns and water plants grew there, and most notably the largest monkey-hand tree (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon) in the United States towered overhead. Another “accepting” gardener, our hostess grows bamboos “because the gophers like to eat them,” and she trusts that they will leave other tasty plants alone!

Another large woodland garden featuring plants used today and in former times for medicinal and nutritional purposes was the next stop. Much information on horticulture was shared by our hostess as we saw, smelled and sometimes tasted the plants she grew.

The last visit of the day was at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum, which specializes in Southern Hemisphere drought-tolerant plants. The proteas from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are truly impressive, but for many the great variety as well as the beauty of the grevilleas in the Arboretum was the most rewarding revelation.

This truly was a “fantasy field trip” and another good reason to be a member of Cal Hort.