Charles Jensen Botanical Garden

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IMG_3765Nestled back a bit, but still right on busy Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael, California lies a three and a half acre peaceful refuge called Charles Jensen Botanical Garden. Originally created in 1958 and now lovingly maintained by volunteers, it is a hidden gem. Lush garden beds are full of rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, dogwoods, and other shade loving plants, and every year one of the beds is planted with masses of tulips to greet visitors upon arrival. Paths invite you to meander around the park and benches are thoughtfully placed throughout.

This time of year in early August, it’s a tranquil, shady oasis, a perfect spot for reflection while strolling the paths or sitting on a bench. Come March and April though, the garden transforms, donning dazzling spring finery while the seasonal creek babbles.

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In any season, it’s a sanctuary to behold.

San Luis Obisbo Children’s Garden

Not long ago I had the good fortune to be visiting one of my favorite cities, San Luis Obisbo, along the central California coast. While there, I spent a relaxing morning at the beautiful Botanical Garden. It’s true, that during my travels, looking for interesting gardens to visit is always high on my priority list, but because of my background in the child development field, it’s impossible for me to hide my excitement when I come across a thoughtfully and well designed children’s garden, such as this. I loved strolling through the botanical gardens, but this was a surprise bonus!

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I wandered alone with a big smile on my face, wishing I had a couple of little ones with me to explore the alphabet soup garden, kitchen garden, the sensory garden, the herb spiral garden, and more.

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Look at the tree stumps painted to look like toad stools!

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A tree with low branches and even an invitation to climb. What child could possibly resist?

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This little fort is called the Oak Den Hideaway.

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Around the bend, I came across the Zoo Garden planted with Monkey Paws, Cat Mint, Lion’s Tail, etc.

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Oh, look at this Dig It Garden and all the tools!

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Why, there’s even a worm box to learn about vermiculture!

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Here’s the sensory garden. How many colors can you find? Can you find a plant that is fuzzy? How does that leaf smell? Can you describe the way lemon balm tastes? Oh, and listen… do you hear the birds overhead? It’s all here.IMG_3702

The entire garden is made up of useful and edible plants.IMG_3701Well, it goes without saying that this enchanting hands-on environment was created by people who know children very well. What a delightfully fun space for children to explore and experience nature and gardening!

Pesto

One of my favorite dinners in summer is pasta made with pesto and home grown cherry tomatoes. Simple, healthy and full of garden goodness, it is the epitome of the taste of summer. Here is the recipe ( found in Cooking Light magazine years ago) I use:

4 cups fresh basil leaves

2 pine nuts

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons butter, softened

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Combine the first five ingredients in a food processor; process until finely minced. Place in large bowl. Stir in grated cheese and softened butter.

 

IMG_5004I cook pasta according to directions, drain and add to the large bowl of pesto. Stir and then add in cherry tomatoes. Serve with sliced, grilled ciabatta bread. So delicious. So quick and easy. Dinner is served.

 

Pretty in Pink

The flowering shrubs and plants that I have in my garden are a palette of pinks, purples, blues, yellows and whites. For me, it’s a harmonious combination that works beautifully together. This morning while doing a bit of dead heading in the garden, I noticed the sea of pink flowers that are blooming right now. Come join me in a little walk so I can show you.

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As we step off the porch theses happy echinaceas greet us. The variety is Magnus. They are dazzling, yet hardy, with long lasting blooms. I am also loving my Green Jewel and Green Envy echinaceas that are also blooming right now, but I’ll show you those another time.

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To our left, this cleome is begging to be noticed. This is an annual in my foothills garden, but I love their bold, long lasting, fire-works blooms and so I plant them as seedlings in the spring, and look forward to their show throughout the summer season.

IMG_4521I wish I could remember the variety of this pink floribunda rose. I planted it at least fifteen years ago and it does well every year. It’s definitely a stunner.

IMG_4689Just look at this double blossom hollyhock showing off her pink, ruffled petticoats! Those petticoats were made for dancing. The hollyhock and the rose above are both in the same garden bed as the cleomes. Just beyond the hollyhock is Clematis Jackmanii.

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Further along the path in a shady area, this pink foxglove with her freckly throat peeks over the trellis. It’s late in the season for foxglove blooms; all of her sisters have already bloomed and have been cut back, but this one had an extra gift to give! And I thank her!

IMG_4682Now we’re back by the porch but on the other side. This ballerina variety of fuchsia lives in a pot in yet another shady area. Because it’s close to the house and in a pot, it’s protected from the snow and freezes we get. I cut it back each winter and by spring she’s ready to don her tutus and pirouette through another summer! The little garden stake in the pot was given to me by a dear friend, Sharleen, as I became a grandmother. Thanks for coming along with me. Enjoy your day.

Around Here 7/22/15

Here we are in late July, already half way through our summer season. With our water restrictions from the drought, coupled with our high temperatures, many of my garden beds are looking a bit bedraggled and some of my shrubs are sporting some deer damage. However, I want to focus on and share a few areas around here that are still putting on their own spectacular show, not quite ready to call it quits just yet.

IMG_4986Blooming in this shady spot in front of the fountain is Hydrangea Limelight. Blossoms start out chartreuse, then turn creamy white, and finally deep rose by autumn.

IMG_4987Putting on a show behind the bench and picket fence we have a few roses, some spindly double hollyhocks, black eyed Susan’s, and cleome.

IMG_4983This just makes me smile! It looks like my statue of Saint Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners, is holding a Shasta daisy.

IMG_4924Echinops, black eyed Susans, Shasta daisies, and pink Veronica, along with pink sapanaria and verbena light up this garden bed. I love this combination of tough, hardy, drought tolerant perennials. Together, they are a sight to behold.

 

IMG_4779Here’s a happy little corner with pots of shrubs that overflow with purple wave petunias, alyssum, bacopa, dianthus and lobelia.

IMG_4953And many thanks to these two swallow tail butterflies who provided great entertainment to our grand babies and us on Sunday morning for at least fifteen minutes with their dancing, swooping and chasing. Thank you all for the sensational show!

Gather ye Roses

IMG_4840When my sons were very young we lived in Sacramento, and one of our favorite past times was to pack up the children and drive to McKinley Park in East Sacramento. There, we would feed the ducks, play at the playground, picnic under the many stately shade trees, and visit the enchanting rose garden. IMG_4841Now, many years later and living quite a distance further away, I still love to take a drive to visit this park that holds a special place in my heart. Through the years, the playground was completely rebuilt (and then recently even rebuilt again due to a fire), the duck pond has been refurbished and the rose garden too, has been ever so lovingly refreshed. IMG_4843

IMG_4842In 2012 work was completed on the rose beds, benches, and irrigation, and even half of the 1200 rose bushes were replaced. In spite of the busy roads and neighborhood surrounding it, a peaceful and beautiful sanctuary, just bursting with colorful climbers, floribundas, hybrid tea roses, and grandifloras beckons you. Go ahead, breathe in the enticing fragrance of these glamorous beauties and fall for their alluring charms. A love affair awaits!IMG_4844

Scenes From a Day in Tahoe

Sometimes it’s best to set aside the to-do lists and the usual busyness, just let it all go, and head out for an adventure. Yesterday we loaded up the dog and a picnic lunch into the car to do just that and drove up to breathtakingly beautiful Tahoe.

Greeting us upon our arrival were cool refreshing temperatures, and spectacular scenery everywhere we looked. Majestic mountains, the truest blue skies, and towering pines surrounded us. We played with our sweet Gemma in the lake, took walks on the beach and on trails, drove to some of our favorite spots, but mostly just relaxed and soaked up all of this beauty Mother Nature gifted us with. Well, it was just the tonic we needed and we’re now planning our next visit back.
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Naming My Blog

IMG_4388Why the name Hollyhocks and Heart Shaped Rocks, you ask? Well, I love all kinds of gardens, but my all time favorite type is a cottage garden just bursting with blooms. No cottage garden is complete without the old fashioned charmers, Hollyhocks to add color, height and even a bit of dancing in the summer breeze.

IMG_4812As for the heart shaped rocks — I first started collecting them many years ago. I find them often on walks and hikes, but sometimes they’re right in my path on a busy sidewalk, just waiting to be picked up and treasured. Some have even come home with me from as far away as Ireland, Mexico, and British Columbia! I also have dear friends who’ve given me their found rocks to add to the collection. I’ve never counted them all, but their numbers are perhaps as many as 100. I’ll get back to you on that someday. I have them displayed on window sills, in window boxes, some mingle in a tray or dish together, while others are placed around the gardens on our property. They really present themselves everywhere. Their message? Love is all around us. It’s up to us to open our eyes to nature’s masterpieces and receive her bounty.

 

Sunflower Fields Forever

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Who doesn’t delight in the sight of sunflowers? A single stem of blooms along the highway, possibly “planted” by a bird, or a whole field of happy yellow faces. To me, their presence exudes radiance, strength, happiness and warmth.

IMG_4774I recently had the opportunity to stop and admire an entire field of these dazzling beauties just past Woodland on I-5 heading north. What a sight to behold! Standing proud under the brilliant sun were row upon row of gorgeous blooms. I wasn’t the only visitor; busy bees were buzzing all around them. I was a little concerned that I might get stung, but it didn’t keep me from getting up close and personal with them to take some photos. Now, I’m inspired to get some seeds in the ground pronto so I can enjoy some sunflower glory right here at home in the coming months.IMG_4735