An Alameda Garden: May 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rainier Cherries!

This is the first year that I've had any cherries on my Rainier cherry tree and ever since I noticed the tiny fruits starting to color up, I've been checking them daily. The sum total of my first crop: 5 cherries! I was certain that the birds were going to beat me to them, but today I plucked the reddest cherry to see if they were ripe enough and couldn't believe how perfect and delicious they were! They were unblemished and juicy with just the right balance of sweetness and tartness in the golden flesh.

You have to be patient when you grow cherries. It takes three or four years to get the first crop and another three or four years beyond that for the tree to reach maturity. And for most cultivars, you have to have another compatible variety of cherry tree nearby to pollinate it. I've been meaning to graft another variety onto my tree for cross-pollination, but never seem to get it done. Some neighbors have fortunately planted two Bing cherry trees in their front yard, so it seems the cross-pollination issue has been taken care of.

So yes, it's only 5 cherries this year. But over the next few years, I should get a bigger crop each year. Eventually, I'll have a big enough harvest for a pie, or some jam, maybe some chutney, not to mention eating fresh. But today, life is a very small bowl of cherries and I'm OK with that.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Garden Conservancy's Open Days in the Bay Area

If you've ever wanted a sneak peak into some of the finest private gardens in the country, you should be checking out The Garden Conservancy's Open Days program. Since 1995 this program has organized self-guided tours through gardens that you would never otherwise get a chance to view. There is a $5 admission fee to each garden but you don't have to register or buy tickets in advance.

In the East Bay two private gardens in Lafayette and one in Oakland will be open on May 31. These gardens appear to be a great combination of plants, sculpture, and amazing design concepts. Check out the East Bay Open Day page for information and a couple photos of what's in store.

In Marin County you can visit four gardens in Belvedere, San Rafael, and Tiburon on June 7. In addition to great landscapes, these gardens also offer some sweeping views of the bay and beyond. Check out the Marin County Open Day page for information and photos.

San Francisco's Open Day is June 21 and it offers up five gardens that show just how exciting and creative urban gardening can be. Most of these gardens are really tucked-away secret spots you'd never even know about but they have been expertly designed to make the most of limited space. Check out the San Francisco Open Day page for details on this tour.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Going to Filoli? Get Discounted Tickets Through Groupon!

If you've never been to Filoli or if you have guests visiting the Bay Area this summer, this is a great opportunity to get discounted tickets to visit this historic house and gardens. There aren't many estates like this on the west coast and I can't think of another estate in Northern California (with the exception of Hearst Castle, maybe) that can rival the beauty of Filoli.

It's name is taken from the credo of the man who built the 654-acre Woodside estate, William Bowers Bourn: "Fight for a just cause; love your fellow man; live a good life." In addition to the handsome stately house that Bourn left behind, Filoli boasts meticulously planned and groomed gardens, an orchard with more than 650 types of apples, an olive orchard, and a nature preserve. A day strolling through the gardens of Filoli is a lesson in horticulture all on its own, as well as a lovely retreat.

For the next three days, Groupon is offering admission tickets to Filoli at up to 55% off the regular price. If you purchase the tickets while deal is on, you can use the tickets any time up to September 23, 2014. (Be sure to read the fine print on the Groupon page before you buy.)

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