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Vancouver 101

We’re halfway through our trip to Vancouver B.C., and I have to say I’m more relaxed than I’ve been since we were in Italy last fall. Travel and I are the best of friends, and I find myself going back to familiar and favorite places over and over again.

Vancouver feels like home, but in a much-cooler-and-damper-than-Bakersfield way. We come here in winter for the weather, the dampness, the chill in the air, the occasional snow flurries at sea level. We come to walk outdoors, side by side with people who take this temperate four season climate for granted.

Where we live, in the southern San Joaquin Valley, outdoors is pretty much defined as “the space between an air-conditioned building and your air-conditioned car.”  And there is nowhere to walk to. There are no village-type neighborhoods, with local merchants, small diners and bistros, mom and pop businesses, or communal gathering spaces. No sidewalk cafes, hundred year old trees, or dog parks. No homes with history, no shipyards, no coastline, no buildings from the 1900s. Vancouver has all these things, and more.

And so we come to Vancouver to walk, to breathe in the fresh air, and to live like locals — albeit privileged, non-working locals — for a week or two, whenever we can.

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Here’s a list of 101 things we love in and around Vancouver, that keep us coming back at any time of year:

  1. Fresh air
  2. Expansive views of the mountains and the sea
  3. Stanley Park
  4. English Bay
  5. Coal Harbor
  6. Walking in the rain
  7. Hiking, regardless of the weather
  8. Community gardens
  9. Carrying an umbrella
  10. Wearing a jacket, a hat, a scarf, and gloves
  11. Commercial Drive
  12. The Tiki Bar at The Waldorf
  13. Salumi and imported Italian pasta from Santa Barbara Market
  14. North Vancouver
  15. The West End Senior Center thrift store, in the mall beneath our hotel
  16. The Sunshine Coast
  17. Sleeping under a quilt, with the windows and patio doors open
  18. Buying fish right off the boat
  19. Fog rising off the Lost Lagoon
  20. Greengrocers that display fruits and veg on the sidewalk
  21. Coffee shops — real coffee shops
  22. Diners
  23. Ethnic markets
  24. Walking along the Sea Wall
  25. The Rhodendren Garden in Stanley Park
  26. The West End
  27. Denman Street, where we stay
  28. Davie Street
  29. Kitsalano
  30. The Parthenon Market for feta cheese, pesto hummus, and olives on our way to the hotel from the airport
  31. Street musicians
  32. Comedy Sports
  33. The Stanley Theatre
  34. The Daily Catch, a fish market with 100% sustainable seafood
  35. Victoria Day
  36. Indian restaurants with buffet lunches
  37. Watching sea planes land
  38. Queen Elizabeth Park
  39. Value Village on Hastings
  40. Lions Gate Bridge
  41. The Vancouver Aquarium
  42. Thai food
  43. Sushi bars
  44. Ethiopian restaurants
  45. Korean BBQ
  46. Houses with basements
  47. Noodle houses
  48. School kids in uniforms
  49. Toddlers ice skating at the Community Center
  50. Fort Langly
  51. Live crabs
  52. Abbottsford Tulip Festival
  53. Smoked salmon and feta cheese on crackers for breakfast
  54. The Fringe Festival
  55. People watching at the Granville Island Public Market
  56. Staying in my pj’s until noon
  57. The Richmond Public Market
  58. Window shopping on Robson Street
  59. Stevenson
  60. Working out at the Denman gym
  61. Craigslist for estate sales
  62. Vanier Park Space Center Museum & Planetarium
  63. Taking pictures with my cell phone
  64. Main Street
  65. Farmers Markets
  66. Quiet time for writing, journaling, reading, and reflecting
  67. Reading magazines at the Joe Fortes library
  68. Taking the ferry to Vancouver Island
  69. Buskers on Granville Island
  70. UBC – fabulous hiking, museums, and scenery
  71. Church rummage sales
  72. Indie music and dive bars
  73. Zulu Records in Kits
  74. Mediterranean Specialty Foods Market on the Drive
  75. Chinatown
  76. Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden
  77. Food trucks
  78. Independent book stores
  79. Night Markets (Chinatown, Richmond, Shipyard in North Van, summer only)
  80. The rain forest
  81. Museum of Vancouver in Vanier Park — neon signs, the 60’s & 70’s, much more
  82. Lunch at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, prepared by cooking school students
  83. PICA bakery
  84. Fraser Valley Wine Trail
  85. Grouse Mountain
  86. Chinese New Year
  87. The talking parrot in the Maple Ridge antique mall
  88. Whistler
  89. Bollywood movies
  90. Capilano Suspension Bridge
  91. Artisanal cheese
  92. Canadian Royal Museum in Victoria
  93. International Film Festival
  94. Culinary walking tours
  95. Kite flying
  96. Cocktails overlooking False Creek
  97. Bard On The Beach
  98. First Nations artists and carvers
  99. Pocket parks
  100. Vintage clothing
  101. Front yard cottage gardens

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How about you … where do you like to go, that feels like home?

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It’s been very busy in the garden so far this year, as it was all of last year, and the thirty-something years before that. I take dozens — sometimes hundreds — of garden photos each month, and have faithfully taken photos for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for close to two years. But, somehow, I am almost always too busy — gardening, cooking, traveling, living — to get the photos edited and posted on the 15th of the month. A day passes, then two days, maybe four, and I decide it’s too late.

My new motto is better late than never.  C’mon, say it with me … better late than never Didn’t that feel good?  If you’re reading this (and I’m glad you are), I bet you want to see what’s going on in my garden almost as much as I want to share it. Especially since it’s February, and many aspiring and dedicated gardeners have weeks or months of non-gardening weather ahead.

Here in Bakersfield — USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b, Sunset Climate Zone 8 — we have very little rain, and winter temps rarely drop below freezing. My summer garden holds on until mid-December most years, and last year was no exception. After four years of serious drought, we’ve been thrilled to get a few inches of rain this winter.

While we’ve enjoyed the rain, we’ve also enjoyed the fact that the fall and winter months have grown increasingly warmer and sunnier in recent years. As a result, my bulbs are coming up a full month earlier than usual this year.  My crocus have already come and gone, my paper-whites are fading, my daffodils popped open this week, and the grassy weeds have already set seed and are taking over the front yard.

I’ve spent most of this week on my knees, pulling clumps of crabgrass and invasive bermuda, chickweed, pig weed, mallow, and extra-early spurge, while also trying to get the spring and summer veggie and herb gardens going. 15 years after my early retirement, I am truly busier than I’ve ever been. I have several major garden projects in the works, which I be sharing soon. I double dog promise and pinky swear. It’s time to get back to blogging.

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It’s now Friday evening, and I am settled in front of the computer with a well-deserved glass of Prosecco. Here’s what was blooming in my gardens, on Monday February 15th.

This year’s first daffodil opened on Valentine’s day, in the sidewalk flowerbed outside the picket fence. I am still planting daffodil bulbs, to prolong their season. Because of our warm winters, I chill the bulbs indoors and bury a couple dozen each week, from early January till early March. They rot in the ground if they’re planted too soon, though most multiply and come back for many years.

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Paper white narcissis — taken Monday 2/15. By Friday 2/19, these were wilting and turning brown.

Johnny Jump Up Violets — I have these scattered throughout the herb garden and in all of the flower beds. Do you see the tiny seeds in the star-shaped pod on the lower left? Like many of the annuals in my gardens, these are prolific self-seeders.

A happy honey bee enjoying rosemary blossoms in the front yard.

Chrysanthemum paludosum is literally everywhere in my gardens … in the front yard herb garden and cottage garden, in the back yard raised bed veggie garden and the “back garden” tucked away behind the master bedroom, in flowerbeds and planters, and popping up on gravel paths, in between stepping stones, and even in the cracks on the sidewalk and curb. Seedlings appear in mid November, and the plants begin blooming in early January, brightening up the winter and springtime gardens. This hardy annual eventually succumbs to the high temperatures of June and July, though I usually pull most of them out sooner to make space for other plants.

Volunteer Chrysanthemum paludosum seedlings on the ground between raised beds in the veggie garden. I bought one — ONE — six pack of this daisy style plant two years ago, and now I am rewarded with hundreds of baby plants that can be moved wherever I want a cheerful ground cover. Each plant spreads 8″ to 12″ wide, and is 8″ to 10″ tall. They’re great at hiding fading foliage from spring blooming bulbs, making them perfect for my happy-go-lucky garden style.

Yellow pansies and alyssum outside my bedroom window.

Volunteer Chrysanthemum paludosum, next to pale lavendar flowered lemon thyme, in the front yard herb garden.

Frilly white ornamental kale, peeking out from beneath a rosemary bush in the cottage garden.

Volunteer pansies/violas. Their leaves have been nibbled, either by earwigs or baby snails.

Shasta Daisy, between roses in a mixed bed. This variety grows 12″ to 20″ tall, and the clumps double in size each year.

Iceland poppies are so cheerful and dramatic on their long, willowy stems.

Yes, more of those crazy volunteer Paludosum daisies, making themselves at home in the midst of a clump of perennial Gaillardia Pulchella. The long narrow leaves at the top of the picture are Mexican Salvia.

This ground-hugging lantana is just putting out its first shoots of the year, between two iceberg roses in the front yard cottage garden.

Part of the “back garden” behind the master bedroom. There are two new lemon trees here (one is still in the pot) … both will be espaliered to save space. There are also several varieties of Salvia lying low for winter … they bloom in purple, pink, and red during the rest of the year.

Pansy in the back garden.

Sweet alyssum, with a pale pink dianthus hiding in the upper left corner. Dianthus and alyssum are in all of the gardens year-round, and self-seed without taking over.

Nemesia fruticans ‘bluebird’ — in the back garden.

My favorite pink camellia sneaked into bloom last week, without me noticing. It’s tucked away in the shade at the north end of our front porch. The “sunny” side, which straddles the neighbor’s hedge, blooms a week or two before the shaded part on our side. We’re still waiting for the blossoms on our side to open.

Another look at the paludosum daisies and lemon thyme. I couldn’t choose between the two photos, because the short and delicate thyme is so pretty in bloom.

The inexpensive landscape timbers in the back garden are coming apart after 10+ years, just like they did in the veggie garden. They decompose nicely and enrich the soil, so we will leave them in place, and wrap them with 2″ thick redwood planks, just like we did to the raised veggie beds (click here to see veggie garden photos).

I took this pic right before I pulled out the volunteer sunflower —  and a couple dozen just like it — that is standing so proudly in the winter sun, another zealous self-seeder that comes back each year. I don’t want 9 foot tall sunflowers here this year, competing with the perennials I planted last fall. Plants in this bed include pansies, violas, the ubiquitous Chrysanthemum paludosum daisies, Galliarda (blanket flower), sedum, and several varieties of Salvia (sage).

That’s it for Monday, though the garden changes for the better daily. To see what other gardeners have blooming this month, visit the list of this month’s participants at Carol’s May Dreams Gardens.

Thanks again for visiting my garden! Please say hello so I’ll know you stopped by, I love reading your comments.

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In the third week of January, tomato seedlings arrived at our local Lowe’s. Less than a month into what passes for winter in Bakersfield, our days were cool, dry, and sunny. I couldn’t resist bringing a few plants home to get an extra-early jump on tomato season.  I limited my selection to seven smallish plants — bush, patio, and determinate — that would produce small fruits, which ensures an early harvest and a fairly tidy garden. I didn’t want wild and rambling ten foot tall vines, since these plants were going in my front yard, where the north side of our lawn used to be.

On February 8, I planted six of the seven in a U-shaped raised bed near the picket fence, where they’ve been enjoying our warm sunny weather. They’re quite content there, growing rapidly to shade out the weeds, happily sharing their space with cheerful low-water Gazanias I planted last summer.

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On Monday, March 23 — while caging the plants — I discovered this year’s first baby tomatoes.  Baby tomatoes, I say, on the third day of spring!  Once again, I am a proud Tomato-Mother-To-Be, always one of the finest gardening moments of the year. Am I strange, or do most people get this excited at the arrival of the first baby tomatoes?

Here are two of the beautiful bouncing babies:

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Baby Heat Master tomato

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I place used foam cups around tomato seedlings, to avoid damage from cutworms.

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Baby Roma Tomato

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Bonnie’s Roma Tomatoes did poorly for me in my backyard last year, so I am cautiously optimistic that they will like this new location better.

How about you? Which moments in your garden make you feel like jumping with joy? I’d love to hear about your big and small gardening celebrations!

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This year’s first front-yard ladybug … another yearly “first” that makes me smile!

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It was a warm winter here in Bakersfield, no doubt due to global warming and the ongoing drought.  We had tomatoes and fresh herbs until our first hard frost, a few days before Christmas.  As always, I waited until  mid to late January to plant my spring bulbs.  If I plant them during the autumn heat, the majority will rot in the ground.  Those that don’t rot will generally produce foliage only — no blossoms — due to the ground not providing an adequate chill time.

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Chrysanthemum paludosum

You’ll notice a lot of daisies (Chrysanthemum paludosum) in the photos.  We have bushels of these compact daisy plants (6″ to 12″ tall) right now, all volunteer offspring of half a dozen small plants placed along one end of two raised veggie beds early last spring, to add a little color until the veggies filled in.  They self-seeded prolifically, carried by wind and birds to most of the veggie beds, as well as the compost pile, the flower beds, and between stepping stones and gravel in the garden paths.  I love plants that come back year after year, and have made liberal use of them throughout the front and back yards.

Here’s what was in bloom on March 15th at our Bakersfield, California home, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b, Sunset Climate Zone 8.

Front Yard – The herb garden, raised beds, and sidewalk flowerbeds

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Urn in center of herb garden – Paludosum Daisy and Pansies

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Dianthus (pinks) at the base of the herb garden urn, with flowering thyme to the right. Dianthus have always been an annual in my back yard, but they spread and grew wonderfully throughout the winter in the herb garden … many of these are nearly a foot tall.

Since most of our front yard beds are less than a year old, the flowering plants there are mainly bulbs, perennial herbs, some fill-in-the-spots garden center flowers, and a few annuals in the herb garden that somehow came through the winter unscathed, including petunias and alyssum. The petunias are particularly amusing, since I have terrible luck with petunias and generally can’t keep them alive during our hot summers.

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Petunias and alyssum.

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Potted Shasta daisies and pink geraniums dug out of other beds, waiting to be replanted. The clump of lavender is three plants purchased last summer in 4″ pots, now approx. 18″ high, and bushy enough that the winter pansies are hidden.

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There are dozens of bees on the lavender all day long.

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Johnny-Jump-Up violas. The tall grassy-looking blades are garlic chives.

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Paper-white Narcissus.

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Yellow Iceland poppy.

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Orange Iceland Poppy.

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Potted purple Lantana, will be transplanted into a new flowerbed.

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First bloom on roses planted in mid-February.

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I love these Gazanias, the flowers are 4″ wide and look like sunflowers!

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Orange Gazanias – a bit smaller than the yellow ones, and a lovely contrast. Gazanias outline the U-shaped raised bed on the northwest side of the front yard, which is planted with tomatoes.

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Tomato blossoms – I have 8 determinate and patio-sized tomato plants in the large sunny raised bed that’s edged with gazanias. These will be our early summer tomato crop … with this warm weather, we should have cherry tomatoes around the end of April.

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We have a huge Rosemary shrub that’s in bloom in another part of the front yard that will be completely replanted sometime this year.

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Miniature Iris in one of the sidewalk flowerbeds, outside the picket fence.

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Iris, daffodils, and daisies.

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Sidewalk flowerbed.

 

Back Yard – Garden Beds & Flowerbeds

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Yellow ranunculus, pink geranium – my favorite back yard flowerbed, visible from the bathroom window.

White Ranunculus

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English daisy (Bellis perennis) – the strappy-looking blades are mini-Irises that came up by the dozen, but didn’t have flowers … this bed is against a 7′ cinder block wall, and the soil must have been too warm for the bulbs to make flowers. The same thing happened with the daffodils in this part of the yard.

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Calibrachoa, another trailing ground cover planted last spring, in the same super-hot bed as the English daisy and the Lithodora. Hardy in zones 9 to 11, though I did lose several of these to the summer/fall heat.

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Lithodara Carrasquilla (L. diffusa), a perennial trailing ground cover I planted last spring. The flowers are about the same size as purple Lobelia, but a wee bit bluer. It did well in the heat against the block wall.

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Tall yellow snapdragons – another surprise from another flower that traditionally has done very poorly for me. I planted a dozen or so of these in January 2014 (yes, last year!) and they not only survived a the long hot desert summer, but they also made it through the winter and are now more than a year old. This particular plant is sharing it’s home with a self-seeded neon yellow Swiss Chard that’s approx. 2 1/2 feet tall. It’s a great color combo!

Thanks for visiting my garden! This is my first post to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, which is officially on the 15th of each month. A lot has changed in the herb garden is the past few days, and I will be posting updated photos to celebrate the beginning of spring, along with some terrific springtime recipes.

To visit other gardener’s blooming posts for March, click here … there are nearly 100 happy gardeners who would love to show you around. Many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting.

Please say hello so I’ll know you stopped by … and tell me where you garden.

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Where has the time gone? And where are all those fabulous blog posts I’ve been composing in my head each and every day?  Am I really that busy, or am I just a restless girl who can’t or won’t sit still long enough to blog?

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Filoli Estate & Gardens – Woodside, California, February 2015

The truth? I’m more than a little bit of both. Every day is jam-packed with activity: I garden year-round, blessed by Bakersfield’s mild winters. In recent weeks and months, I’ve spent many full days in the kitchen — including a whirlwind week of cooking classes in Italy last October — practicing the art of gluten free baking. I make a mighty fine sourdough baguette, crusty dinner rolls, chewy bagels, tender focaccia, and pizza crust that’s everything a pizza crust should be, but a simple boule or Pullman loaf still eludes me.

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Tuscany, Italy, June 2014

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These are tiny sourdough breads, the boule is about 6″ across. My kitchen, January 2015

I have nurtured my winter garden, drooled over seed catalogs, planted springtime bulbs in my front yard herb garden, and plotted and planned this year’s veggie and flower gardens on paper as well as online. I have traveled, toured, taken trips short and long, seeing the sights, hunting for treasure, and sharing laughter and meals with family and friends. I have photos, souvenirs, postcards, notes, recipes, gardening tips, and precious memories to share.

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Flowers & veggies, ready to transplant into the backyard garden – Bakersfield, California, March 12, 2015

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Arugula seedlings, 1 day old – Bakersfield, California, March 12, 2015

And now? Now I am here, centered, totally and completely in the moment. I have my jiggly bottom firmly in the chair, my hands on the keyboard, and I am ready to write. The time has come to throw open the gates, the doors, and the windows, and to let the best things in life flow in both directions.

If this is your first time here, welcome. And if you’ve been here before, welcome back. Either way, I’m glad you’re here.

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Snapdragons & Swiss Chard in my backyard garden – Bakersfield, California, March 2015

What’s going on in your garden and your kitchen this week? I love comments, so please let me know you stopped by!

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