Sunset Celebration Weekend

sunset plant logo

Sunset planter logo (wooden letters filled with succulents)

We had a terrific time Saturday at Sunset Celebration Weekend.  Located on the grounds of Sunset Gardens in Menlo Park, the festival featured wine and food, travel, home design and the incredible garden’s they’re known for.

One of my first, and still beloved, gardening books is a Sunset Publishing classic:  The Sunset Western Garden Book. I used to pour over that book for hours.  The original came out in 1954. I bought my first copy in the mid-eighties, and later received an updated version as a gift. I still refer to it as the standard for gardening in this corner of the world.

At the festival, we sampled Torani soda and iced coffee, avocado and key lime cupcakes and MorningStar Farms vegetarian samplers, all free. Food truck offerings included several vegetarian options as well. Yeah me!

sunset gardens free samples

Top: Mike grew up drinking Torani Italian sodas Top Center: Avocado cupcakes with key lime butter-cream frosting Bottom: MorningStar crew serving tasty vegetarian morsels

The crowded test gardens made it challenging to get good shots, so I’ve promised myself a trip back.  Everything looked healthy and well-maintained. Here are a few highlights:

Outdoor Dining Room designed by McKenna Landscaping

Outdoor Dining Room designed by McKenna Landscape

Reuse of old materials highlighted this design. Stacked, reclaimed wood covers the entrance.   Reclaimed wood appears throughout the dining area in the planter boxes, the benches and the table. Sycamore trees form a natural ‘wall’ on two sides of the garden. The rest of the plantings are drought tolerant succulents.

A clever berry garden grew next to the dining area, the perfect way to eat summer dessert al fresco. A pair of curved trellises covered in berries, with strawberries at their feet in a semi-circle bed. Blueberry shrubs flanked either side.

sunset vegetable garden

Mike in front of the vegetable garden

The tidiest vegetable garden you’ve ever seen bordered the berries, then made way for compost bins, a mason bee house and finally a chicken coop.

bee house

Bee house


Happy, productive bees

Flowering gardens and herbs made up the rest of the garden, with lovely benches and seating areas throughout.

herb and perennial garden

Herb and perennial garden

I could have lingered there all day.  In addition to the gardens, the presentations and the demos, we saw two tiny houses, part of the minimalist movement afoot.  We rested our tired  feet for a bit while learning the best way to mix the ingredients for a cake.  Hmmmm…isn’t that what bakeries are for?

I’m already looking forward to attending again next year.

Do you have an annual favorite you like to attend?



Blooming Thursday: Garden Friendships

My friend Liz has been back in the States for several months, but it took her imminent departure for us to finally get together.  Our friendship is such that we can simply pick up where we left off, regardless of time passed.  Liz is also a gardener I admire and look up to.

Liz has the unique distinction of gardening through one spring and two summers.  She spends part of her year in California, the rest in beautiful New Zealand.  She taught me and some friends how to felt on one of her trips home.  I hope to learn how to eco-dye from her one day, too.

On her visit today, she came bearing gifts…and lunch!  So much for my hosting skills. We enjoyed delicious, home-made, vegetarian burritos while sitting on the patio talking shop.

You probably need to be a gardener to fully appreciate the first gift: a bag of worms and worm castings. I feel like a real gardener.  I have a worm bin, a kitchen scrap container, and soon my tumbling composter will arrive at my door.  I’ll be brewing garden goodness all winter long.

Worm Bin

Worm Bin

In addition to worms, I am also the lucky recipient of several eco-dyed pieces, one-of-a kind art made with natural dyes, leaves and flowers. The small pouch is made from reclaimed materials, printed with leaves, dyed, then hand-stitched.

Eco-dyed Pouch

Eco-dyed Pouch

The three pieces pictured below use a similar technique, but with paper. I love the artistry.

eco-dyed print

Eco-dyed Art Print

Eco-dyed paper

Eco-dyed Paper

My dear friend is not a fan of pictures, but she did let me take a closeup of her t-shirt. She bought the shirt at a thrift store, wrapped it around rose leaves, and dipped it in a natural dye. It’s exquisite.

Eco-dyed T-shirt

Eco-dyed T-shirt

You can learn more about eco-dying from India Flint.