Too Busy: A Haiku

Life is too busy
my brown garden parched and sad
summer, hot and long

What a complainer, eh?

I miss my gardening nirvana, that blissful state that comes from weeding, pruning, planting, bug-picking, harvesting, and all things gardening.  Today after work and before an evening engagement, I soaked my sore muscles in a hot bath, then saved all that water for the trees.

I used a one-gallon jug to bail the water, then carried it outdoors with a lightweight trash bin to catch the drips. It is so blazing hot that I raced back inside for gallon after gallon, knowing our trees are in a bad way. I bailed about ten gallons that would otherwise go down the drain, and delivered guilt-free water to the tree’s roots. They’re in a lot of distress.

bailing water

Bailing water to water trees

The city-imposed water restrictions allow for two days of watering a week, regardless of the circumstances. On a cool, cloudy day evaporation is less of a problem. With the start of another heat wave however, (high 90’s F or 34 C) my garden droops.

On the plus side, yesterday’s water bill shows decent conservation: We’ve reduced our water usage from 403 gallons a day (for a household of four) to 318 gallons. In 2013 we were using 515 gallons a day.

July, 2013  515 gallons per day

July, 2014 403 gallons per day

July, 2015 318 gallons per day

The discouraging part: we’re still over our allotment, thought not by much. We’re allocated 10.012 ccf for this period, and we used 10.229. So close!

Additionally, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is raising rates by 6.44% effective July 1st. So our usage is down, and our rates are up.
Here’s the latest from the Santa Clara Valley Water District:

For the first time in state history, the Governor directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25%.  Please remember that most areas in the county have a restriction on irrigating ornamental landscape with potable water to two days a week.

The rainfall year that ended on June 30th was another below-average year in the county.  The California Department of Water Resources found no snow during its April 1, 2015, manual survey at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada.  This was the first time in 75 years of early April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there.

The District will continue to conduct limited groundwater recharge using available surface water.  However, total groundwater storage is predicted to fall in the Severe Stage at the end of 2015 if water use reduction for the rest of the year is similar to that in the first five months of the year, highlighting the need for continued water use reduction at the 30% level or above.

And so it goes. What’s the weather up to in your neck of the woods? I think it’s off kilter all over the globe.

Boomdeeadda, Boomdeeadda

Welcome Boomdee and Mr. B.

A Fairy Garden Welcome for Boomdee and Mr. B.

I once marveled at friendships forged by letter-writing, the back and forth exchange of lives via the written word. What fun it would be to share the minutia of life with a kindred soul.

I’ve found that kindred spirit here on WordPress at Boomdeeadda!  Instead of forging a paper friendship, we’ve connected through our blogs. It started simply enough, with an exchange of comments. Before I knew it, I was following Boomdee and checking in every day. We connected on Facebook, Pinterest and finally Skype.

It’s been an extraordinary journey, one of affection and discovery, leading the Boomster to my doorstep this week. The odds that we would ever meet seemed improbable: she lives in Alberta, Canada; I’m in San Jose, California. But connect we did and due to this amazing blogging community, we found ourselves together in a cozy tea shop swapping stories and sharing our mutual admiration of our fellow bloggers.

Boomdee is warm and kind, generous to a fault, clever, creative and fun. I wish you could hear her laugh or collect one of her spontaneous hugs. Like a couple of school girls, we found something to laugh about around every corner.

Beautiful Boomdee Near the Fairy Garden

Beautiful Boomdee Near the Fairy Garden

Alyster dropped by for a visit.

Alyster came with!  What a nice surprise.

Lisa's Tea Treasures with Boomdee and Sharon

We donned wigs and false eyelashes, then went out for tea.

I’ve been teasing all week that I would like her to move here, but in reality, well… I would like her to move here.  Sure, it’s impractical with jobs and family and lives, but the alternative meant saying goodbye at the curb. Alas, with heavy hearts, we did.

Safe travels my friend. You’ve filled me with joyful memories…until we meet again.

Boomdeeadda is…

No need to take my word for it.  You can go see for yourself. 🙂

San Jose: Green in all the Right Places

Though San José is known globally as part of Silicon Valley, we have greener reasons to be proud.  According to Bright Green San Jose, our city recycles 71 percent of the waste we generate. Wow!  Further:

San Jose’s collective recycling helped the Recycle Plus program win the 2012 Green City Award from the national magazine Waste and Recycling News.  The award honored San José for having the most effective residential program for a large city in the United States.

One of the programs San José offers is composting workshops and bin sales.  I just started composting yard waste and kitchen scraps this year.  Our yard is small, and packed with plants and flowers with limited space for growing veggies.  I assumed composting required a lot of space and full sun. I purchased a Tumbling Composter earlier this year, which allowed me to compost kitchen scraps in a small space, diverting them from our landfill.

Tumbling Composter

Tumbling Composter

The tumbler filled quickly, so I started a second bin using an old Rubbermaid storage box. Now that’s full, too.  You can’t rush compost, so while I wait for nature to rot its course, I’m pondering my next move.

You know what’s funny?  I used to toss kitchen scraps or put them down the garbage disposal.  Now that I’m composting, throwing out the food waste feels wrong.

I’ve decided to attend one of San José’s free Backyard Composting Workshops to pick up some additional tips. The first workshop is March 27th, 2013.  They also sell Wriggly Ranch worm bins and Soil Saver compost bins at a steep discount.

In the meantime, any tips on composting in small spaces are welcome.  My counter top bin is filling rapidly, and those coffee grounds and pepper cores need a place to call home.

Gardens of Santana Row

Cyclamens at the RowA decade ago, a sleepy San Jose shopping center called Town and Country Village morphed into a mixed-use, upscale complex known as Santana Row. In this era of indoor malls, it’s a treat to walk “The Row” where European-influenced architecture compliments the beautiful greens.  Gorgeous pots brimming with blooms line the sidewalks year round.  Several outdoor restaurants sit under graceful trees.  Even the sidewalk strips brim with life.  Santana Row earned two major design awards including:

“the CELSOC Engineering Excellence Award in 2004, and Builder Magazine’s Project of the Year in 2003.

Judges from Builder Magazine noted the street’s European atmosphere that was achieved by employing a variety of architectural designs for the structures as well as sophisticated landscaping details. These details focused on the use of mature oak and palm trees, shaded grassy plazas, courtyards, and fountains, intimate public seating areas, extra-wide sidewalks and street medians, and mixed-use destinations such as Park Valencia, which hosts live music, a farmer’s market, and other public gatherings.” (Sources: Wikipedia and Builder Magazine)

I lunched with my sister today at Santana Row’s The Left Bank. The grounds were newly planted for the holidays.  I love the liberal use of whites and purples throughout, along with the more traditional reds. I’m dying to go back to see more. Here’s what’s in bloom at The Row.

Red and white pots
Paper White Narcissus
Succulents and Annuals
Planters full of PurpleRed and Green pots

Christmas at Santana Row

Tree branches painted red look like birds nest ornaments

SummerWinds Nursery Rebuilds

SummerWinds Acer

SummerWinds Acer survived the fire

It was a sad day for the community when SummerWinds Almaden Nursery burned to the ground in late August.  They’d done business in that neighborhood for 40 years.  The outpouring of support following the loss was amazing.

A few weeks after the fire, the nursery sold what remained of the undamaged plants and pottery at a three-day fire sale, with 10% of the proceeds benefiting the San Jose Firefighters Foundation.  Shoppers turned out in droves, contributing to the $14,000 raised for two of the foundation’s programs.

I learned this week that rebuilding plans are already under way.  The remains of the building are now in a heap.  The lot should be cleared in short order.  As the new building is under construction, the nursery will open an “Enhanced Christmas Tree Lot” on Tuesday, November 20th.  In addition to fresh-cut trees, they’ll be selling poinsettias, fresh wreaths and garland along with seasonal bedding plants.   They’ll have other holiday goodies for sale as well.
Summer Winds Demo

Enhanced Christmas Tree Lot

If you live in the community, please consider stopping by.

SummerWinds Nursery
4606 Almaden Expressway, San Jose
Corner of Almaden Expressway and Branham Lane

Opening Tuesday, November 20, 2012

For regular updates, visit their website at SummerWinds Nursery San Jose  or follow SummerWinds Almaden on Facebook.

SummerWinds Alyssum and Begonia

Alyssum and Begonias surrounding the nursery sign

Morning Glory Vine

Morning Glory Vine growing along the fence in front of the nursery

Halloween Countdown

Spooky Pumpkin

Spooky Pumpkin

Summer Winds Nursery Fire

Summer Winds, a local nursery in the Almaden area of San Jose, burned to the ground late last night. I’m stunned.  The cause is under investigation, but they think it was an accident.  Summer Winds, formerly Woolworth Garden Center, has been there for 40 years.

Nurseries, I fear, are a dying breed.  Many of the big box stores have garden centers, but it’s not the same as a nursery dedicated to all things plants.  The Summer Winds gift shop was also a lot of fun.  I especially enjoyed browsing there around the holidays.  The nursery sold a wide selection of decorative pots, along with annuals, vegetables and garden fountains.  In May of this year, I was shopping at Summer Winds when a hummingbird darted into the store.  Oblivious to me and a handful of employees, she landed on a decorative arbor.  She was busy building a nest right in the middle of the store!  I couldn’t get my camera phone out fast enough to capture her flight, but I did take a picture of the nest.

Hummingbird Nest at Summer Winds Nursery

Hummingbird Nest at Summer Winds Nursery, May 15, 2012

Summer is at an end, so I’m taking comfort in the fact that the nest would be empty by now.  She may have reconsidered the location in the first place.  With all that activity she probably decided to nest elsewhere.

The after-hours fire started around midnight with no reported injuries.  Although the fire department was quickly on the scene, they took the unusual step of letting the fire burn itself out.  Knowing the store was full of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, they wanted to avoid ground water contamination of nearby Guadalupe River.

It’s a sad day for gardeners in the Valley.  I hope they rebuild.
Details of the fire in the Mercury News.

Sarah Winchester’s Garden


We toured the perplexing and historic Winchester Mystery House last week, in the heart of Silicon Valley.  I wrote about our experience here.

Before the tour, I strolled the well-groomed gardens.  Mrs. Winchester planted trees and shrubs from around the world, beautifully maintained for over a century.

I hope to go back one day and follow along with the self guided tour, listening to the recorded messages along the way.  Here is a small sample of the grounds.

Winchester Mystery House Garden Entrance

Winchester Mystery House Garden
Winchester Mystery House Hibiscus

Winchester Mystery House Garden
Winchester Mystery House

If you make it to Silicon Valley, be sure to put this on your list. If you live nearby and you’ve never gone, you are in for a treat.


Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House is one of the most unusual landmarks in my city.  The sprawling mansion covers four acres and stands three stories tall.  Sarah Winchester, mired in grief, was convinced that the spirits of innocent people, killed by the Winchester rifles were responsible for the death of her husband and infant daughter.  Under the advice of a physic, she continuously built on to her home to confuse and appease the spirits. We took a tour there today with friends and had an interesting time.

I arrived early to take photos of the gardens on the spacious estate, before embarking on the house tour.  Sarah Winchester, born in 1884, was ahead of her time.  She built an amazing room for watering her house plants, while at the same time conserving water.  The second story room has a non-oxidizing metal floor covered with removal wood planks.   The floor has a gentle slope, a faucet and a working sink.  After removing the planks, plants are set out on the floor and watered in place.  The excess water followed the slope of the floor and then drained outdoors to water the garden.

Here is a bit about the house from the official website:

Winchester Mystery House™ is an extravagant maze of Victorian craftsmanship – marvelous, baffling, and eerily eccentric, to say the least.

Some of the architectural oddities may have practical explanations. For example, the Switchback Staircase, which has seven flights with forty-four steps, rises only about nine feet, since each step is just two inches high. Mrs. Winchester arthritis was quite severe in her later years, and the stairway may have been designed to accommodate her disability.

The miles of twisting hallways are made even more intriguing by secret passageways in the walls. Mrs. Winchester traveled through her house in a roundabout fashion, supposedly to confuse any mischievous ghosts that might be following her.

This wild and fanciful description of Mrs. Winchester’s nightly prowl to the Séance Room appeared in The American Weekly in 1928, six years after her death:

“When Mrs. Winchester set out for her Séance Room, it might well have discouraged the ghost of the Indian or even of a bloodhound, to follow her. After traversing an interminable labyrinth of rooms and hallways, suddenly she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into another, and unless the pursuing ghost was watchful and quick, he would lose her. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out, not into the open air, but on to the top of a flight of steps that took her down one story only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again, all inside the house. This was supposed to be very discomforting to evil spirits who are said to be naturally suspicious of traps.” – Read more on the Winchester Mystery House® website

Winchester Mystery House Spider Web windows

Spider webs figured prominently in many of the homes architectural features. An actual  spider made a home in the garden just below these windows.  I think Sarah would be proud.

Gardens of San Jose Tour

What a day!  I toured three private gardens in the historic Rose Garden Neighborhood with a long-time friend along for the journey.  We picked up our tour map in the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, run entirely by volunteers.  From there we walked the route to each home.

The first garden, and the most unusual was a Xeriscape, a New Mexico arroyo-styled theme garden.  There was so much to take in.  The center of the garden houses a yoga room, surrounded by native plantings, dry river beds, a vertical vegetable garden and walkways.  The home owner keeps bees on the property in a hive resembling a tall bird house.  The hive sits behind trellised berry vines, and receives a regular visitor: a neighborhood blue jay.  The bees “clean house” each day, tossing out the dead bees and the jay stops by in the morning to eat them.


As an organizer, I was intrigued by the efficient use of space throughout the property.  Baskets, crates, wire shelves and hooks lined the entire back side of the garage.  The narrow space served as storage, with a beautiful Jade and Fuchsia intermingled with the tools.

The mid-day sun wasn’t optimum for good photos.  That said, the collage below captures the flavor of this incredible garden.

Xeriscape Garden

Next on the tour was a spacious 1923 home with a California Woodland garden.  The first thing you see is an 80-year-old Redwood tree with an equally magnificent Spruce dominating the side garden.  The paths open up to a wide expanse of lawn, with “woodland plants such as ferns, lichens wildflowers and grasses” nearby.

A few highlights below:

Woodland Garden

The House of 53 Roses was the final home on the tour.  While I appreciate roses, they don’t grab my attention the way other flowers do.  The show-stopper for me was the charming cat in residence, a mellow fellow named Curtis.  He let me scratch his chin as he rested in the cool grass and seemed indifferent to me and my camera.  Look at that face!

53 Roses and 1 Charming Cat

We capped our day with garden salads and the comfortable conversation of old friends on the outdoor patio at Aqui in Willow Glen.  Garden nirvana indeed.

Old Friends

Proceeds from today’s tour benefit San Jose Parks Foundation, a membership-based, non-profit organization that:

  • Empowers neighborhood and community groups;
  • Helps to recruit, train and retain park and trail volunteers;
  • Works in partnership with the City and others to maximize access and use of San Jose’s parks for families and youth; and
  • Advocates for our parks and trails on behalf of the community.

The Gardens of San Jose: Come Take the Tour

Hey Bay Area friends!  Come join me this Sunday, June 3rd for a tour of several private gardens in the beautiful and historic Rose Garden neighborhood.  San José Parks Foundation presents The Gardens of San Jose 2012 tour.

My friend and colleague Jim Reber is the Founding Executive Director with deep roots in our community.  Many will know him as the founder of San José Repertory Theater in the early eighties.  San Jose Parks Foundation vision is:

Founding Executive Director, Jim Reber

To establish innovative vibrant parks, trails, and recreation programs by building a permanent charitable endowment that will provide sustainable resources in perpetuity for San José.

Their Mission

To enhance the recreational, educational, and cultural life of the San José community by encouraging and soliciting support for our City’s parks system.

The San José Parks Foundation is an independent not-for-profit organization that:

  • Inspires passion and community involvement in our parks, trails and recreational programs.
  • Helps build and develop a world-class parks system by providing private funding for park programs, as well as acquisition, capital improvements and beautification and landscape enhancements.
  • Collaborates with the City of San José Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department, and other community partners.
  • Provides a planned giving vehicle for residents to leave a lasting legacy for future generations

To learn more about the garden tour or order tickets in advance, click here.