Scenic coastal views along Highway 1 in Northern California


A road trip gives you the freedom to explore along the way, to make detours or just stop at an overlook to enjoy a view. In early August we made a family road trip up the coast of Northern California, a region we’d never seen beyond Stinson Beach just north of San Francisco. Driving up Highway 1, which hugs the dramatic coastline, gave us many opportunities to get out of the car and gaze at the wild Pacific Ocean.

Goat Rock Beach


One of our stops along the way was Goat Rock Beach near Jenner. We carried a sack of bread, cheese, and apples to a wave-smoothed log (high up and away from the water), sat in a row, and enjoyed one of the best-tasting meals on the trip. There’s just something about eating outdoors amid beautiful scenery. Out past the surf, Arched Rock invited views through its wave-carved peephole into the great beyond.


Artfully stacked beach stones defied gravity all along Blind Beach (on the north side of Goat Rock). Someone had been busy! I understand there’s controversy over these Zen-like cairns, since it disturbs the natural ecosystem and is a constant reminder of human presence. But we hadn’t seen many and were charmed.


Numerous painted rocks were placed for discovery along the beach too, including this face added to a driftwood log.


Flipping a stone over, we found a message:

Post on FB
WCPR
Keep or rehide

Searching on Facebook later, I learned there’s a group called West Coast Painted Rocks that encourages people to paint rocks and hide them outdoors for people to discover to “promote random acts of kindness.” We found a couple of hidden ones and many out in the open, and we debated keeping one but decided to leave them for someone else to discover.

Along Highway 1, somewhere between Goat Rock and Mendocino


After Goat Rock, we spent the night in charming Healdsburg, then picked up Highway 1 after lunch the next day. A highway overlook tempted us to stop, and we were rewarded with this view.


So different from the flat, sugar-sand beaches I grew up visiting in South Carolina.

Mendocino


We spent two nights in Mendocino, a tiny town of charming 1800s-era buildings perched atop a headland overlooking the ocean.


Located 3-1/2 hours north of San Francisco, it may as well be in a different time zone, so different is its slow pace and old-fashioned charm.


Along the edge of the headland, just across from town, walking trails wind through grasses and coastal scrub…


…offering dramatic vistas of sheer, crumbly cliffs and roiling surf.


A beach below was littered with water-smoothed, sun-bleached trunks of trees, many of which had been stacked by beach-goers into shelters and low-slung forts. What is it with West Coasters and their stacking mania?


Only 894 people live in Mendocino, and among the houses we saw this colorful, fenced garden. I believe the tall building may be a water tower.


Notice the driftwood flowers? I wonder if the homeowner made them.

Russian Gulch State Park


Heading out of town we stopped at nearby Russian Gulch State Park and admired the view of an arched bridge we had just crossed. The fog had rolled in, softening the light and creating a feeling of autumnal melancholy that was emphasized by tawny grasses.


We followed a trail along the cliff’s edge…


…and I stopped to admire wildflowers (California buckwheat?) clinging to the crumbling soil.


Below the cliff, a sea cave led into the bluff. See the paddock-like fence in the distance?


It encircles the Devil’s Punchbowl, a blowhole formed when the interior of the sea cave collapsed.


The tide was low, so we didn’t get to see much of the frothing and blowing that occurs during high tide, but it was an impressive sight nonetheless.


The Pacific Coast has a windswept, lonely beauty to it, and also a sense of danger. Numerous signs near beaches warn about sneaker waves, steep drop-offs, rip currents, hypothermia-inducing water, and tsunamis. These are not swimming beaches (although we saw plenty of people playing in the surf and taking their chances). As you drive Highway 1, you’re constantly entering and leaving tsunami danger zones, as indicated by signs at low points along the coast. It was all a strange and beautiful world, an unstable landscape but a majestic one.

Up next: Perennials, heaths, and heathers at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. For a look back at the garden of Gary Ratway and Deborah Whigham, owners of Digging Dog Nursery, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Ai Weiwei and ATX sculptures, dazzling public art in Austin


I love seeing public artsculpture, murals, earthwork, any kind! — and often drag family members out to see new works.

Last evening, I headed downtown to the Waller Creek boathouse on Lady Bird Lake to view a trippy new work by Chinese artist and human-rights advocate Ai Weiwei. Forever Bicycles, a crystalline tower of 1,254 silver bicycles, seems to radiate into space like rays of light.


According to Waller Creek Conservancy, which is sponsoring the exhibition in partnership with The Contemporary Austin:

This sculpture takes as its subject the Forever brand bicycle, once ubiquitous on the streets of Beijing. A means of not only transportation but also social mobility and a coveted luxury item when the artist was growing up in China, in contemporary times the Forever bicycle has given way to aspirations of car ownership. Given this context, the installation here imparts poignant commentary through 1,200 of these nostalgic objects assembled into a gorgeous, dizzying sculpture, whose wheels are now frozen in perpetual cycle.


A path runs through the sculpture, allowing views from inside.


Wheels and sky


Austin is a biking town, and the sculpture overlooks the popular hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.


Forever Bicycles is on long-term loan, as well as another of Weiwei’s works, Iron Tree Trunk, which is on display at Laguna Gloria’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park.


On the way home, we stopped at the Whole Foods at 5th and Lamar Blvd. to see the colorful atx — a popular abbreviation for Austin, TX — that appeared recently on the street corner.


Sponsored by Whole Foods and created by Ion Art, the rainbow-striped sculpture is already a popular spot for selfies and sharing Austin pride.


Which is exactly what we did.


Public art adds beauty, joy, wonder, and a feeling of creativity to our public places, and maybe even makes you think. I appreciate individuals, businesses, arts organizations, and cities that sponsor it.

Fellow Austinites, do you know of any other interesting public artworks that I should go visit this summer? And if anyone’s looking for cool works to go visit, here’s a link to public art I’ve written about in Austin and elsewhere.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Turning a neighborhood median strip into a garden


A few years ago I toured Colleen Jamison’s beautiful garden in central-west Austin, and a few days ago I had the pleasure of a revisit. It is still wonderful! But here’s what wowed me before I even stepped foot in her garden: a median strip down the middle of her street that she’s transformed, little by little, into a garden for her neighbors and passersby to enjoy.


Wow, just look at this lovely space, with staggered benches inviting one to rest under an allée of crepe myrtles. Colleen says she started planting the median years ago to block an unwelcome view of trucks parked directly across the street from her house. And then she just kept expanding it.


As you’d expect, the median lacks a water source for irrigation, so Colleen chose tough, mostly native plants that can thrive without regular watering once they’re established, like Mexican feathergrass and crepe myrtle, shown here, as well as retama, Texas mountain laurel, iris, blue mistflower, prickly pear, and agave. (Note: she does water new plants by hand until they’re established.)

Colleen’s eye for design is evident in the repetition and massing of relatively few species of plants, which also makes maintenance easier, and in the way she breaks up the bowling-alley effect of a long, narrow space by zigzagging benches along the length and creating a focal-point mound of blue mistflower in the center of the path.


The blue mistflower mound marks the end of the crepe myrtle allée and the start of a retama allée.


Turning around and looking back toward the middle, you get to enjoy the effect all over again.


So inviting! And so well maintained too.


The allée pathway widens in the midsection of the median to embrace both sides of the street, inviting access.


Directly across from Colleen’s garden, the median is more densely planted in cottage-garden style — the better to hide those trucks! Actually, the trucks may be long gone now, but this was the earliest section she planted, and it’s lush with Texas mountain laurel, prickly pear, iris, and agave. A metal sunflower makes a cheerful accent.


From the median, here’s the charming view of Colleen’s house and front garden. What a gift she’s given to the neighborhood with her own garden and the median garden.


For fun, here are a couple more images from Colleen’s garden, including a ruffled kalanchoe in a mint-green vase…


…and this peaceful side-yard garden with a classical fountain, a pillow-strewn bench for comfortable lounging, and masses of pretty shade-garden plants.

Don’t you wish you were Colleen’s neighbor?

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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