Three’s A Charm: San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

On the first day of Spring this year I joined my friend Candace for the annual San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. We’ve decided that after attending for three years running, it’s officially a tradition. This year’s theme: Mother Nature Going Wild

Tumble leaf 4

Tumble Leaf No 4 Sculpture

The display gardens are the heart and soul of this show and they are really something to behold. Although they aren’t all necessarily my style, I appreciate the thought that goes into each one. It takes tremendous time and energy to install the garden displays in the middle of an indoor event center. They haul in plants, trees, soil and structures and in many cases paving stones, gravel and tile.


As you walk through each one, it’s fun to imagine what it might be like in the ‘real’ world.

There were fewer gardens then in past years with many of them focused on succulents or low-water use gardens. I also spoke with a gentlemen who designs a lot of water features  and learned that a properly installed water feature uses less water than drought tolerant plants. Of course flowing water attracts all sorts of birds and beneficial insects and is a key component of a healthy garden. Who doesn’t want a garden filled with butterflies, birds and bees? I’ve already designed one…in my head anyway.

Here are three of my favorites:

2015 garden show where the wild things are

Transformation: Hugelkultur Technique Garden Designer: Nathan Beeck and Juan Chavez Garden Creators: Clearwater Design

Transformation is based on the landscape elements of Hugelkultur

“using landscape waste into new organically rich soil and an underground sponge that holds moisture and encourages the development of a mycorrhizal web of life. – Program Statement

2015 garden show growing an artful garden

Growing an Artful Garden, Garden Designer: Max & Joanne Nagaele Garden Creator: Foothill Design

Growing an Artful Garden was full of whimsy and charm. We’re sitting at a table with a garden cake made of greenery. If you look closely you’ll see a slice. The program statements says:

The vibe is serendipity. The ornamental garden, vegetable garden and the vintage potting shed provides the viewer with a vibrant tableau.

Don’t you want to stay awhile?

2015 garden show waterfall

Beauty Gone Wild Garden Designer: Benjamin Goulart Garden Creators: Goulart Designs

Beauty Gone Wild’s design features

Gaia, the great mother of all: the primal Greek Mother Goddess, creator and giver of birth to the Earth and the Universe. She is the personification of nature itself, and we are creating her with nature itself in our garden.

I fell in love with this gorgeous fountain, and haven’t stopped thinking about it for a week. The soothing flow of water held me captive.

In addition to the garden displays, there are two other pavilion halls housing plants, trees and seeds for sale. A couple of hobbyist groups showed off Bonsai plants that were upwards of fifty years old. If those plants could talk!

There were plenty of gadgets for sale too, but nothing I couldn’t live without. We did leave with several bags of freshly made kettle and caramel corn, and put a serious dent in one of the bags during the 45 minute ride home. Yum!

Have you ever been to a garden show? If not, I highly recommend it.

Opening Night: San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

at the show

With my friend Candace wearing our beautiful Hawaiian leis.

Last night was great fun.  I attended the opening night celebration of the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.

We were ravenous when we first arrived, so we took a cursory look, then found the buffet.  Sated, wine glass in hand, we sat near the podium where they announced the winners.  Then we were off.

She showcase gardens are incredible works of art, combining plants and trees with hard-scaping. The effort it takes to install one of these gardens is monumental, but by the time we arrived, all was in place and looking fabulous.  These shows are always crowded, so one of the best parts of attending last night was the smaller gathering of people. The downside is that we missed the commerce portion of the show, vendors selling garden-related fare as well as plants and seeds.  I don’t *need* a thing, but it’s always fun to look.

There are 16 gardens displayed this year.  American Community Garden Association created one of the designs.  Three colleges, including  Academy of Art University, Arizona State University and Foothill College presented collaborative efforts.  The rest of the garden creators are professional landscapers and designers.  They were all beautiful and incredibly diverse.

Here are a few (Note: the photos are mine, the descriptions come from the show program).

Sanctuary Steppes

Remember how excited you got as a kid when you used Mom’s bed sheet to make a tent in the backyard? You and your buddies thought it was the coolest thing ever. Yurts will have that effect on kids. As adults, our needs are more. Imagine a garden sanctuary where you enter a realm that soothes and calms. The healing plants or herbs are not just ornamental. Inside the yurt you touch the earth. You can even gaze at the stars through that opening. The paths are for walking meditation. The open courtyard and fire pit are for story telling late into the night. Other sculptural elements awaken us to be mindful of many things.

garden yurt
Sanctuary Steppes
Garden Hortica, Jeffery Lim
Healing Spirit Plants, Richard Koenig
Village Yurts

The idea of a yurt in the middle of a garden sure sounds like fun. I love the surrounding paths and the beautiful plants.


We are Inspired by the boatyards of the Northern California coastline. Like these yards, we use materials that are readily available, practical, and that we can find at low-cost. These materials include discarded decks, arbors, play structures, tailings, and concrete forms, and many, many fence boards. We bind these materials with metal fasteners and use them in new ways to create space, pattern and texture in our garden. Inspired by marine spirit, practical materials and modern lines, our garden introduces a refreshing style to the Bay Area garden.

McKenna Landscape Leslie McKenna

Anchored: McKenna Landscape
Leslie McKenna

garden bench

Anchored: Trying on the garden for comfort


Anchored: the long view

There were so many clever ideas in this garden. The top of the outdoor bar incorporated nautical rope under a piece of glass (see photo collage, bottom right). They used anchors and seashells throughout the design and beautiful reclaimed wood. The garden was warm and comfortable.

Days Gone By

Days Gone By demonstrates how a garden can embody the unique character of a place’s heritage while incorporating modern details that evolve and enliven it. All details were selected with functionality in mind. The paving in the garden is original cobble used in San Francisco streets in the 1800s, evoking a feeling of wandering through the city in humbler days.

We both took a turn on the garden swing and loved the cozy appeal. Everything in the garden is edible, including the cat grass planted beneath the swing.

Days Gone By

Days Gone By
Hortisculpture Landscape, Rebecca Pollon
Extol Construction, Edwin Moriarty

Days Gone By: Espaliered fruit trees

Days Gone By: Espaliered fruit trees

I have more to share, so please stop by again soon. Meanwhile, what do you think so far? Can you picture yourself in one of these gardens?

San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

Guess where I’m going tonight?

I’m off  to the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.  It’s not longer in San Francisco, but in nearby San Mateo, but that is beside the point.  It is so much fun.

I’ve attended this event in the past, but tonight is different. It’s the opening night celebration and a first peek at all the show gardens.  Here’s is what the show coordinator has to say:

Be the FIRST to stroll through the fabulous gardens and gorgeous floral designs BEFORE the Show opens its doors. The party takes place right in the showcase gardens. Be greeted to the gardens with a floral lei compliments of the Hawaiian Islands.  Sip a glass of wine as you stroll among the flowers. Listen to music by Grammy-award winning musician Ken Emerson and his band. Chat with the designers, enjoy hor d’oeuvres and watch the presentation of the coveted design awards before they are announced to the public.

Proceeds from tonight’s event supports the American Community Gardening Association: “Creating Community Through Gardening

ACGA is a national organization of professionals, volunteers, grassroots gardeners and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities. The Association recognizes that community gardening improves the quality of life for people by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy, employment and education. To learn more about the organization visit their website at

I’ll have lots to share later in the week so be sure to check back.  Meanwhile, here are a few photos from last years show.

succublent globe

Larger than life globe covered in succulents

garden seating

Garden seating


Whimsical waterfall

sleeping spot

Restful sleeping under the stars
It always sounds good, but about those bugs…

succulent garden

Succulent garden


Garden Dahling: New Kid in Town

Dahlia Stella J

Dahlia Stella J

Isn’t she a dream?

I brought home my first set of Dahlia tubers in March from
the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. Grown in Oakville Washington, Dan’s Dahlias boast “We Grow the Best.” I have to say, they’ve definitely lived up to the hype.

I’ve never grown Dahlias before (why I couldn’t tell you) but they’re a new garden favorite.  You can order them online for shipping around the world, though I find it great fun buying them at the garden show.

Dahlias grow from tubers, so you can dig them up and divide them year to year.  Your flower garden grows and grows.  I bought three tubers this year to see how they would fair in my garden soil.

What do you think?

Dahlia, Cosmo, and Bachelor Button

Dahlia joins the family

garden triangle

New This Week!

Dan’s clever logo was born from adversity. According to his site:

Besides their beauty, variety and heartiness, one of the reasons that many gardeners love dahlias is that they are deer-resistant but, an unfortunate incident back in June, 1994 proves they are not cow-resistant. My parents and I headed to California for the weekend as I was a groomsman in my cousin’s wedding. Sometime during the night, 28 of our neighbor’s Holstein heifers broke through their fence and came into the dahlia field; the cows went undetected until morning. I returned to a disaster. The cows ate three acres of dahlias to the ground, they broke the wooden stakes, and ate the plastic identification ribbons. The field looked like it had been rototilled. That year, Dan’s Dahlia’s was almost completely wiped out. Many years later, I could make light of the incident and created a unique business logo, “Cow Eating a Dahlia.” The logo is a symbol of the obstacles that Dan’s Dahlias has had to overcome. But with family support, hard work and determination, it’s a booming, blooming business.

His story certainly puts my sunflower-thieving squirrels in perspective.

Mid-Week Trifecta at the SF Flower Show

Wednesday, was opening day at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.  It was also the first day of spring and a day out with good friends, the perfect, mid-week trifecta.

So…two out of three ain’t bad.

The mere mention of the word ‘spring’ puts a bounce in my step.  Seeing two girlfriends for a day of hang time was awesome as well.  It was the much-anticipated show that left me feeling a bit deflated.

The show changed venues over the years and seems to have decreased in size and spectacle, perhaps a sign of the times.

At the heart of the show are display gardens.  This year’s theme, Gardens Make the World Go Round, featured the ‘World’s Largest Rotating Succulent Globe.’  That was pretty cool, though not something the average gardener could reproduce out back.  It’s been entered into the Guinness Book of Records.

Rotating Succulent Glove

Rotating Succulent Glove, Designed by Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens

Beyond that, only two gardens caught my eye.  The first was ‘Thailand,’ a silver-medal winner designed by Bay Maples, featured below.  The second, ‘Mexico: Inside Out’ swept the awards.  More on that later in the week.

I spoke with designer Alan Hackler who, coincidentally, also lives in San Jose.  He’s passionate about re-purposing resources, and is known to stop at construction sites, to reclaim materials for use in client projects. Hackler’s show entry featured planter boxes made from old garage doors, reclaimed lumbar, a used pond liner and other reclaimed materials.  The ‘temple’ also features the window panels from former garage door.  Fun!  I loved the aesthetic and his enthusiasm for his art and craft.  The design was restful and inviting.

Alan Hackler, Bay Maples

Alan Hackler, Bay Maples

Thai Temple garden show

Thai Temple Garden

Temple built with reclaimed materials

Temple built with reclaimed materials

From the program:

Inspired by the Buddhist temples of Thailand, our garden is intended to evoke the tranquility and simplicity of an ancient meditation space. Ecological gardening techniques featured are salvaged and re-purposed materials, locally sourced materials, and water efficient plantings.

Thai garden water feature

Recycled pond liner, boxes made from old garage doors

The garden features only California native plants to demonstrate that water conscious, climate appropriate plants can be used to achieve nearly any garden theme or motif. All Redwood logs were sourced from two downed trees salvaged from the Santa Cruz hills. Another water-smart feature about our garden is the recirculating aquaponic vegetable beds. This is inspired by the flooded rice fields of Thailand.

thai garden edible garden

Thai Edible Garden

Bay Maples: Wild California Landscapes

The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show runs through Sunday, march 24th, 2013