Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Study in Texture

Tufts of grass undulate and hopefully hold tasty morsels for a hungry coyote.  I love how this looks soft yet scratchy at the same time.
This building facade in downtown San Rafael seems superfluous, but I find myself fascinated.  How wonderful that the architect decided to add these aerodynamic rock-studded panels.  The repeating pattern sets an imposing tone by visually elongating the height of the building.

First grass, then rocks and now grass with rocks!  I know the owner of this garden meant for the rocks to suppress the weeds, but the harsh edges of the rocks are softened by the thin blades of grass and create layers to the surface.  Serendipity. 

How funny to have come across this composition of gravel and Fescue a week later at Osmosis spa in Freestone.  It's the varying sizes of grasses that really captured my attention, spreading as if they were a contagious condition.

This fuzzy fence at the Pierce Point Ranch in Pt. Reyes combines two of my favorite textures:  weathered wood with the ruffled softness of mosses and lichens.  Here's a detail.

I love the juxtaposition of the deep, clear lines of wood grain and the tiny details of the different plants growing on it.  The closer you get to look at it, the more you see.  It also doesn't hurt that it's following my favorite new color palette that I can only describe as faded dull. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Contemporary Admidst the Chaos

While most of the East Bay is awash in Arts and Crafts style homes, more contemporary spots peek through the dark wood shingles and redwood lintels that dominate our area.  This '60s style home needed a garden to match its architecture.  Out go the roses, boxwoods and Japanese Maples (poor things- Japanese Maples in a West-facing garden seems so cruel).  The chaos of the existing garden becomes clean and exciting- spots of red dominate in summer with ribbons of ZauschneriaMimulus aurantiacus and California Poppies Maritima form lift their orange faces to the Spring sunshine.  Calamagrostis foliosa and Senecio mandraliscae (String Bean Succulent) provide an evergreen (and everblue, respectively) background.  

In keeping with my current fascination on the theme of "clashing colors are beautiful colors," Verbena lilacina flowers happily alongside the reds of Summer and oranges of Spring, giving off its light scent year-round.  Hummingbirds are gonna flip out over all the new choices they'll have, while skippers can sip the Verbena's nectar and drop their eggs over the grasses.

 photo taken from

It's not always about the plants, however.  The traditional bread-loaf shaped mailbox gets switched out for a sleeker version.  I found this local designer's mailbox and love the simple yet functional shape.

Another colorful, low water garden to better match the surrounding landscape, its visitors and most importantly, its owners.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Updates and New Things to Click On!

Well aren't I just full of news today?  Not only did Idora HQ experience the first Monarch sighting in the front garden (seen here sucking on a Malacothamnus flower), but the website's been updated with pretty new pictures and Facebook folks can now visit a brand new spiffy Facebook page.  (You can also "like" any of the posts you see here with the button dealie at the bottom.)

I forgot how big Monarchs are!  Hopefully this one will enjoy the puny Asclepias fascicularis I planted a few months ago.  An exciting start to the morning and motivation to get all those plants and bulbs in the ground that I've accumulated over the past two months! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Oh My Gosh, Oh My Gosh, Oh My Gosh!!!!!!!

The title of this post is the soundtrack anyone within a mile radius was treated to as I experienced my first tarantula sighting on Mt. Olympia in Mt. Diablo State Park yesterday!!!!!  We walked along the North Peak Trail/Road, hoping for spectacular views on a clear day and maybe, just maybe a chance meeting with a fuzzy-legged spider.  How perfect that we encountered both!
After a warm Autumn rain, male tarantulas emerge from their underground burrows to look for a mate.  I should note that the hand in the photo above is not mine- the fascination/fear of spiders keeps me close, yet at a safe distance.  I have a hunch that getting over my fear would lessen the fascination factor that I feel.

He crawled along robotically on the side of the trail in a mix of dried grasses, rocks and discarded Bay Laurel leaves on a sunny North-facing slope.  I wonder if the fact that we couldn't see his eyes lent to the idea that he was more machine than arachnid.  Perhaps there's too many insect-meets-post-apocalyptic movies out there! 

While the spider-sighting took center stage, the remainder of the hike provided plenty of opportunities for breathless exclamations and happy discoveries.  A few examples:

The muted color palette bowled me over- golds, grays and greens mixed among dark silhouettes of pines and oaks.

The Bay Laurels had produced their pear-shaped nuts, which I just read can be roasted and are relished for their unsweetened chocolate-like flavor.  As the sun fell upon the leaves, the aromatic scent surrounded the trail.   

The golden skeletons of Spring remained all across the hills- dried bulb stalks and seedpods.  This Clematis vine decided to dress as "Cousin It" for Halloween- flufferifous!

Not sure how we're going to top this hike, but I'm determined to try!