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.
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?
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
Since Tuesday we are officially ordered to ‘shelter in place’. So I like to take this time to introduce you to my series: ‘50 things to do’. I try to find 50 things to do in a city nearby. It is an interesting challenge and I enjoy discovering every aspect of a city.
In my latest ‘50 things to do’ I discovered Cupertino. Most of you might know Cupertino as Apple’s headquarters, but this is not all this city has to offer. I was really surprised to see how many interesting options for sports they have. From disc golf to archery, hiking in the hills, and yoga in the park. This city also has two bowling alleys and an ice rink!
There are some cool outings for kids, too, like the 16 feet wide aquarium in the library or the Deer Hollow Farm at Rancho San Antonio. If you like to explore local history you’ll be able to enjoy a few fascinating finds.
If you have any suggestions of places that I might have missed I’d love to hear from you!
The Three Creeks Trail is a relatively new addition to the paved trail system in San Jose. It connects to the Los Gatos Creek Trail and the Guadalupe River Trail.
I love to find these small, hidden gardens. When we recently checked out the Three Creeks Trail in San Jose we came by the Iris Garden.
This is a tribute to Ruth and Clara Rees who successfully crossed varieties of irises in the Willow Glen neighborhood. ‘Snow Flurry’ was created as a white iris with “broad, ruffled paddles, clear hafts, several buds in each spathe, good branching and excellent blue-green foliage.”
Snow Flurry became the parentage of all modern TB irises. The iris garden used to be a much larger development in Willow Glen, and this little strip is all but an homage to them; honoring the botanist and flower lover Clara Rees.
Have you noticed the iris garden along the Three Creeks Trail?
It’s always great to go see some art. If the admission is free and the art contemporary what holds you back?
The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ISA) is located in the hip SoFa district. They regularly participate in the South First Fridays Art Walk, a self-guided nighttime tour through downtown’s art institutions.
Currently there are four exhibits running till the middle of March.
Sense of Self – Bay Area photographers explore the subject of self. Artists are Marcela Pardo Ariza, Tammy Rae Carland, Erica Deeman, Jamil Hellu, and Stephanie Syjuco.
LGBTQ+ Youth Space – a continued discussion about self and identity by the LGBTQ+ Youth Space.
Mark your calendar: March 6th, 2020, First Friday will be co-hosted by the LGBTQ Youth Space and will feature performances, activities, and workshops around topics of identity, representation, and empowerment.
Clive McCarthy’s electronic paintings were my favorites. Large computer generated images, newly invented with each brush stroke of the pixel palette, creates a movie like assemble of an image. To mix up his generative art – art created by a computer algorithm – he will change the image sets every two weeks. You can even review his code in a separate room across from the lobby.
ISA is open every day of the week except on Mondays. Admission is free.
I usually try to find inexpensive things to do in the Bay Area. So I was reluctant to go to this little museum with a $20 entrance fee. But the sensory experience was totally worth it!
I’m talking about the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents in Berkeley. You can get tickets for this museum of scents online but they also welcome walk-ins. We were greeted warmly by Devon, who equipped us with some instructions, some strips to sample our own smells, and a wool cloth to neutralize our noses.
There are two apothecary cabinets with dried resins, woods and flowers. We spent most of our time here rubbing things and putting others up to our noses. The Elemi Resin, a dried tree sap, reminded my husband of the smell in an art studio.
Book aficionados will enjoy the hundred year old books on fragrances and creating perfumes, and the window bench to relax and carefully turn the pages.
Not all smells are pleasing here – some Hyrax poop anyone? – but you learn that to create a perfume you have to have three levels of depth.
The centerpiece of the archive is the perfume organ, hundreds of little flasks filled with natural essential oils. You can dip your three strips into some oils to take home.
The last experience is Mandy Aftel’s creation of edible essential oils that you spray onto chocolate, e.g. raspberry. These create the most amazing burst of flavor from the dark chocolate that is the baseline to the more floral or fruity oil.
The family business is only open Saturdays 10 am – 6 pm. Admission is $20.
During the week Mandy Aftel is a perfume composer. You can buy her creations online or on your visit.
Have you been to the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents?
It’s almost Thanksgiving and if you are looking for the perfect bottle to rise to the occasion you might want to consider going to a local winery and taste test some bottles/glasses.
One of the oldest wineries in California, the Picchetti Winery, sits above Cupertino and its tasting room is open from 10 am to 4 pm every day. The Picchetti brothers, Secondo and Vincenzo, established the ranch in 1882 and first sold their grapes to local wineries. In 1896 they decided to produce their own wine. During Prohibition the wine production sunk dramatically and prune and apricot orchards replaced most of the grape vines.
In 1976 the Picchetti family sold 308 acres to the Open Space District, the Picchetti Open Space Preserve was established. Hiking on the Zinfandel Trail might expose you to the surrounding orchards and vineyards. Overall there are about 4 miles of hiking trails.
Since 1982 the District leases the winery back to winemakers, currently about 9,000 cases per year get produced, many of them award-winning.
The tasting is $15 dollars for a flight of five wines. Wine bottle prices range from about $25 to $55, but a wine club is available.
The tasting room is nicely decorated, but you might want to enjoy your flight outside at the picnic tables. Maybe the peacocks will greet you.
Where do you go to taste test your wine?
Of course Napa and Sonoma are prime wine country. Have you ever been to Calistoga?
Seeing Picasso is the title of an exquisite exhibit at the Pace Gallery in Palo Alto. I urge every art lover to drop by and see the collection.
Currently the windows are covered up at the Pace Gallery. Only the front door is announcing the opening hours. It feels like some mysterious, secretive place.
When you enter you are greeted by the friendly staff. If you like, you can borrow an iPad and a headset to enjoy an audio tour for a “chronological survey of Picasso” led by Alexander Nemerov.
The audio tour was fun and informative. The poetic explanations definitely point you in new directions while admiring the artwork.
My favorite painting was The Dead Casagemas (1901) which is considered to be the start of Picasso’s Blue Period. Casagemas, Picasso’s best friend killed himself; he obviously left Picasso in sorrow.
After seeing a huge Picasso exhibit once in Berlin I highly recommend taking your toddler. Mine, at the time, had a blast and sometimes a better access to the art.
I liked the timeline in the foyer, starting with Picasso’s birth (1881) till his death (1973). Picasso’s milestones are interspersed with inventions and other important events at that time, putting Picasso in the context of his generation.
Seeing Picasso will be shown till February 16th, 2020 at the Pace Gallery, 229 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto. Admission is free.
I was early and most of the musicians were still setting up at 6 pm. But by 6:30 pm every corner of downtown was filling the air with music. All different styles are present from polka to rock and folk.
Livin la vida loca was the opener from a band that played on one of the larger stages on the corner of State and Main. To the side were the girls from the dance school, nervously awaiting their turn; around the picnic tables, people feasting on carry out; an elderly group enjoying wine and tapas; a couple dancing. Los Altos knows how to party!
I liked the Ruse, a trio of high schoolers that played next to the Tasting Room. Ready to rock, they were constricted by someone who thought the drums were too loud. They made the best of it while waiting for a damper. I’m sure they will play a lot of First Fridays, and who knows, eventually stand on a large stage.
First Fridays are, of course, happening on the first Friday of the month in Los Altos from 6 to 8pm. Some stores might be open longer and the two galleries in town usually have receptions.
What a great way to invite you to linger downtown.