The entrance to the sensory garden.

Relish with all Senses – Sensory Garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt

Squirrel drinking out of a fountain at the Sensory Garden, Lake Merritt.

I did give you a little break before I write again of yet another garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt. You enter the Sensory Garden through a tile covered archway. It right away heightens your senses. You smell the mint and other herbs and notice all the colorful flowers. The whole garden is planted in raised beds that make it easy to touch the plants. The smoothed edged bricks are guidance for the visually impaired. The path meanders towards a shady seating area. We were delighted to watch a squirrel drink from the beautiful fountain. 

The former Herb and Fragrance Garden, established in 1978, got a makeover in 2004 through a collaboration of members of the Oakland East Bay Garden Center, the City’s Public Works Agency, and members of the Hillside Gardeners of Montclair. If you wish to help out and further experiment with your senses you are welcome to volunteer every third Saturday of the month in the morning.

Mint at the Sensory Garden.

The Sensory Garden is part of the Gardens of Lake Merritt at

666 Bellevue Ave, in Oakland, located near the South-West gate.

Which one is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Previous posts of the gardens were:

An ice cream taco on parchment paper.

Experience ice cream tacos, Rocko’s in Santa Clara

Ice cream taco with white chocolate and pistachios.

Yes, you read that right, ice cream tacos. This is not your usual decision between cup and cone. If you insist on a cup you can get this here too, but where’s the fun in that?

Jars of sauces for the ice cream tacos and a bunsen burner.

The cones at Rocko’s are shaped like taco shells. You pick your flavor of ice cream. (By the way, they also offer vegan ice cream flavors.) Some liquid nitrogen makes sure this stays in place. Sauce? Sure! Three kinds of chocolate or peanut butter. For me white chocolate, please. For some fun crunch you can have this dipped into some nuts. Et voilà – an ice cream taco!

An ice cream taco gets a dip in the liquid nitrogen at Rocko's, Santa Clara.

Nitrogen, vegan ice cream, a love for real ingredients. It should not surprise that behind Rocko’s is Lori Phillips with a PhD in Immunology. Rocko’s evolved from an idea in 2013 to an ice cream cart that grew into a food truck. The food truck is still around, ready for your next party. The brick and mortar stands in Santa Clara, near the university.

Rocko's food truck.

Rocko’s currently operates with limited hours. Please check their website

Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos

2905 Park Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050

All of this is my personal opinion. I did not receive any form of payment for this post. 


And if Ice Cream Tacos are too much for you, you can always search for the classic ice cream experience – Burlington’s It’s It!

Bonsai next to a sign for the Bonsai Garden of Lake Merritt.

Pick your Favorite Bonsai, Gardens of Lake Merritt

Maple bonsai at the Bonsai Garden, Lake Merritt.

In last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt I mentioned there was more to come. The bonsai garden, the only all volunteer based bonsai garden in the U.S., is an outstanding display of this Japanese tradition. Over a hundred little trees in a pot are presented. The oldest is over 1,600 years old!

A large stone shaped as a bunny at the bonsai garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland.

Open since 1999 the Bonsai Garden also features a collection of suiseki stones. Suiseki stones, also known as viewing stones, are stones that suggest a scene from nature. They are usually displayed as found and not modified. 

The cedar entrance gate to this garden is by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi from Northern California.

The gate to the bonsai garden by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakuguchi.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are free, but donations are appreciated.

What is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Here is a link to last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee.

AirBeeNBee with blooming native California flowers.

Stop by the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt, Oakland.

There are a lot of different garden types at the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland. One structure stood out to us as we enjoyed the grounds: the AirBeeNBee. It is home for some of California’s 1600+ species of native nesting bees. 

Wooden hives and logs at the AirBeeNBee.

These bees don’t have a queen, or hives, or make honey. They are solitary and ground nesting. The AirBeeNBee was installed since many of the solitary bees usually nest in the ground. In this public garden the grounds are cleared, so this habitat was created with varied sized holes for different sizes of bees. They enjoy the flowers of the gardens, especially the Native Bee Pollinator Garden. Here flowers are planted for an all year long bloom since California native bees hatch year round.

Bees are not the only residents. Nearby is the dragonfly habitat and the monarch butterfly garden.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are divided into 17 specialty gardens. I will highlight more of the gardens in later posts. 

The Gardens at Lake Merritt are located at 666 Bellevue Ave in Oakland. 

COVID open hours are Mondays to Fridays 7:30am – 3 pm, weekends 8 am – 4pm.

The Bee Hotel is near the South-West gate of the Gardens. 

Admission is free.

Have you been to the Gardens at Lake Merritt?

If you enjoy insectaries you should check out Foraging Island at Byxbee Park in Palo Alto. An ecological sculpture to invite insects and rodents to live there.

Sign for the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center in the background is the boardwalk.

Hope there is Strength in Numbers of the Swallows of Baylands Park

The Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, and on Saturdays, from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm. We happened to stroll by on a Sunday and enjoyed the Baylands Boardwalk. Wide enough to keep socially distant, the newly constructed boardwalk overlooks the Bay.

Boardwalk at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center looking out to the Bay.

The most interesting part were the residents of the Center. Two species of swallows nest at Baylands Park from March to August. The barn swallows nesting under the deck, the cliff swallows prefer the eaves. A constant chirping from above and below. Young swallows asking for food in their nests. One nest right next to another. Little heads peeking out from the openings. You see the parents in their frantic flight in search of food. 

Cliff swallows peeking out of their nests at Baylands Park in Palo Alto.

While the saying goes: “One swallow doesn’t make a spring (or summer)”, explained by Word Histories as meaning “a single fortunate event doesn’t mean what follows will also be good”, we can still hope that the future will have multiple fortunate events. And if you see multiple swallows doesn’t this mean a great future?

Part of the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, one swallow flying to it.

Do you believe in strength in numbers?


Another bird watching opportunity on the Bay is in Sunnyvale’s Baylands Park.

Two women hugging each other. Rise in Solidarity.

Declare Solidarity in Oakland’s Chinatown

I came to Oakland’s Chinatown to see the Moments of Expressions exhibit by Peter Gee at the Oakland Asian Culture Center. From May 1st to June 20th, 2021 the OACC is showing a window and gallery exhibit. To see the inside gallery you have to schedule an appointment on their website, no walk-ins are possible.

Sign for Peter Gee's exhibit Moment of Expressions.

I wasn’t sure what time I would be able to go over. Therefore I decided early to skip the inhouse option and just see the window display. The OACC is located in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza nestled between Franklin and Webster and 11th and 9th. I walked up the stairs to the OACC and saw a collection of the pictures in one window. I wandered around to see if there were more displays, but if there were I missed them. 

Murals in Oakland's Chinatown

Going down the escalator opposite the Center I noticed the murals. These paintings are hiding the fact that a lot of businesses boarded up their stores. With an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans many businesses took extra precaution by boarding up their storefronts and shortening their hours. A lot of the paintings are expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. However, there are also thoughtful and funny images. 

Murals in Oakland's Chinatown.

Have you been to Oakland’s Chinatown?

If you like murals you might want to check out another of my posts: the 100 Murals project in San Jose.

Resources:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/09/california-arrest-attack-oakland-chinatown-asian-hate-crimes

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/man-charged-with-assault-hate-crime-for-attack-in-oakland/ar-BB1gkmXV

Wildflowers at East Glenwood Preserve

Cherish the Wildflowers at Glenwood Preserve, Scotts Valley

Grazing cow along the Glenwood Preserve, Scotts Valley.

Glenwood Preserve has two entrances – the east and the west, that lead to over seven miles of trails. We decided to go to the East Glenwood entrance and followed the red path. A short 1.2 mile hike, not too hard in elevation changes and with some shade along the way. The trail is open to hikers and horses, but because of the grazing cows, no bikers or dogs are allowed. The red trail leads you by a pond with a lot of water lilies in it.

Lili pad in the pond of the East Glenwood Preserve.

I misjudged the sun’s intensity and came back with a sunburn. So, make sure you bring plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen. Bathrooms are at the adjacent park. We did not see the endangered Ohlone Tiger beetle that is endemic to the Santa Cruz Mountains. They come out late January to early April to mate and lay their eggs. But there are a lot of wildflowers still in bloom. 

California poppies at the Glenwood Preserve, Scott Valley.

I found the wildflowers plentiful – not like a superbloom, but many varieties, like the California poppy and lupine. If you like to look up what flowers are blooming, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District has published the Sierra Azul Wildflower Guide with 100 of the most common species. 

East Glenwood Open Space Preserve is open sunrise to sunset.

Lupine at the East Glenwood Preserve.

Where do you go to see wildflowers?

For more ideas on wildflower hikes you should check out my post: Hunt for wildflowers.

Or these websites:

https://hilltromper.com/article/spring-wildflower-hikes-santa-cruz-county

https://www.openspace.org/visit-a-preserve/plants-wildlife/wildflowers

Entrance of Nola's Iris Garden, San Jose.

Admire the Multitude of Irises at Nola‘s Iris Garden, San Jose

Iris in bloom.

Nola’s Iris Garden is an insider tip for iris lovers. The garden is only open April – May. So, mark your calendars if you like irises!

I drove up Sierra Road, the east foothills of San Jose. Halfway up my ears started popping and regretted that there is no place to stop to admire the view over San Jose.

Fountain surrounded by irises at Nola's Iris Garden.

Nola’s Iris Garden sprawls a whooping 5 acres of irises of all colors and sizes. I counted four different garden areas. If there was a pattern to these areas I was not able to see it. They all had a mixture of colors and great names like Pass the Shades and Wishful Thinking.

There is no admission to see the garden. In fact, it is not obvious that you could purchase these irises. They definitely have their website set up, so you can browse and contact them if you made a purchasing decision. 

Iris at Nola's Iris Garden, San Jose.

Opening hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Nola’s Iris Garden is located 4195 Sierra Road in San Jose.

Do you have an insider tip for me?

Read the post about the iris garden in Willow Glen. It has a fascinating history! 

Streetview of the fairy houses at Fairy Glen, San Jose.

Spot some Fairies at Fairy Glen, San Jose

Fairy house with 'open kitchen' in Fairy Glen, San Jose.

I like finding these enchanted places in the neighborhood. Fairy Glen, is a tiny community of fairy houses nested in the Willow Glen neighborhood in San Jose. While driving down Celestine Avenue I noticed something that I first mistook for birdhouses. On closer inspection I could almost encounter the residents. Traces of their busy lives all around, from shiny stones to a complete open kitchen!

Fairy door in a tree at Fairy Glen.

There are doors to open at the height perfect for little kids. Some houses seem to float in the trees. It is really a magical place and a welcome distraction from the real world when you enter Fairy Glen.

Fairy houses hanging from a tree.

A few rules for the Fairy spotters:

You can bring a little token and leave it for a fairy to find.

There is even a mailbox. So if you have a wish or hope write it down and who knows?

Leave everything in place, the fairies get distracted if something moves or is missing.

Thank you, Lili Ghazian, the fairy godmother. I spotted her working on a new housing project across the street. You have inspired me.

Her latest fairy development is in Sunnyvale, on Pome Ave off of Fremont. 

Resources:

https://abc7news.com/san-jose-fairy-house-wonderland-coronavirus-shelter-in-place/6126186/

Check out my blog post about neighborhood walks for more ideas!

Sign at the entrance of Valley Verde, San Jose.

Buy Seedlings from Valley Verde, San Jose

Herbs at Valley Verde. The sign reads: When you purchase these seedlings you are actively supporting Valley Verde's work to foster Food Sovereignty in our local communities!

It’s spring time. Perfect time to plant some vegetables. Valley Verde in San Jose not only sells multi-ethnic, hard to find seedlings, like bitter melons and okra, they also offer food justice programs for the community. The Food Justice Movement improves access to healthy, nutritious food in food insecure areas and recognizes the structural barriers communities of color face reaching food sovereignty.   

I remember when the pandemic started I saw some news report that Valley Verde had to cancel their annual seedling fair. Instead they gave away seedlings to underserved members of the community, encouraging them to grow their own healthy food. They managed to deliver seedlings to 400 families. To make this generous idea even more sustainable they partnered with the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition to deliver the seedlings by bike.

Tomato seedlings at Valley Verde. Sign lists available tomato varieties.

If you don’t have your own garden (yet) but feel like you should contribute you can of course donate time or money and spread the word. In fact their event calendar makes it real easy for people to sign up to volunteer.

Now in a location that allows them to sell every day you can find Valley Verde’s seedlings at 59 S Autumn St, San Jose. Valley Verde is open from 9 am – 4 pm.

Are you a supporter of food justice?

Other food programs you might consider volunteering for are Village Harvest or the Forge Garden.