Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Summer Vacation

We recently spent eleven days enjoying the pleasant weather and beautiful sights on California's Central Coast. Here's how I spent my time by the sea:

Beach Walks and Rock Collecting

I spent some time walking along Moonstone Beach collecting the colorful jade, 'moonstones,' and other pebbles that are found there.  Even though they are not precious gem stones, there is something very soothing about sifting through the pretty pebbles polished by the ocean waves.

Beach Reading

 I had been looking forward to reading Ruth Kassinger's A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered that Flowers have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants©2014, so I brought it along as my summer "beach read." 

The author reveals many fascinating facts about plants that are not always taught in school. But the book is written with so many humorous and amusing anecdotes that it doesn't seem like a science book. The author's intention was to learn as much about botany as she could in order to become a better gardener.

I especially enjoyed reading about her quest to find a 'fruit cocktail tree,' a tree grafted with five different types of citrus. Her observations will make you laugh out loud. It really is a fun and entertaining book. I highly recommend it!

A Purple Tree

On another day we traveled a few miles south to the city of San Luis Obispo for a movie and dinner.  I always like to visit SLO (as it is known locally) in June when the jacaranda trees are in bloom.  The purple flowers are spectacular. The one below is planted in the sidewalk by the post office. It is a marvel that it grows in such a small planting hole! But apparently the city gardeners know what they are doing, because the trees seem to thrive and produce beautiful flowers every year.

Jacaranda mimosifolia

How does the tree grow in that small space?

And the bougainvilleas were marvelous, too. This one was covering a chain link fence.


A Movie

I regretted that we didn't have time to shop at SLO's wonderful downtown Farmers' Market, but we did have time for dinner and the movie, Chef,  which featured some gorgeous shots of farmers' markets and  delicious looking food. The movie is about a chef who loses his job as a chef in a famous restaurant and starts over with a food truck.  Even though there was some coarse language (which seems typical of movies these days), I thought it was a funny, lighthearted, warmhearted  movie. Well worth viewing.

A Visit to the Gardens at Hearst Castle

It had been several years since we visited Hearst Castle, the mansion and ranch of William Randolph Hearst, the late newspaper publisher.  It's located on the Central Coast and is a  State Historical Park and one of the most visited tourist attractions in California. (click here for more information). I was curious about how the gardens were holding up during the severe drought conditions that all of California is experiencing.

So we spent an afternoon touring the grounds. I knew that the famous Neptune pool and fountains had been drained earlier in the year. But other water conservation measures were also being used.  Flower beds were heavily mulched, and there was a noticable lack of annuals.

The roses and azaleas were mostly finished blooming. Hydrangeas were still in bloom although they were looking a little stressed. But the coastal live oaks were still magnificent and offered welcome shade. Those oaks are the stars of the garden in my opinion!

empty Neptune Pool   June 2014
filled Neptune Pool April 2009

Coastal Live Oak Quercus agrifolia

Hydrangeas looked a little stressed.


a guest cottage

citrus tree
rose beds were heavily mulched

distant ocean view

The gardens were designed in the Mediterranean style, so most of the plants are accustomed to the dry conditions of Central Coast summers. But this time of drought is especially challenging. Hopefully the toll will not be too great on these historic gardens! 


  1. Oh, Dorothy, how lucky you are! Summer is not a summer for me without a big water! It's interesting to see Hearst castle in summer. I've been there several times, but always in spring. Thank you for the pictures, and you have a great July!

    1. Hi Tatyana, We have usually been there in spring as well but have been there at least once in summer, and as I recall, the garden was much more colorful. I guess because they didn't plant annuals, it looks a little more drab. Still nice though.

  2. Dear Dorothy, sounds like you had a wonderful vacation! Many years ago my husband and I also visited San Luis Obispo and Hearst Castle and I remember that I liked SLO quite a bit and would love to go there again, Hearst Castle on the other hand didn't won my heart over. But I agree with you the Coastal Live Oak there are just magnificent. It is good to know that they take the drought so far. Wishing you a nice rest of the Sunday,

    1. Hi Christina, It was a very relaxing vacation. The Castle is interesting and a place that I like to occasionally visit. I guess I was just a little disappointed in the gardens. But maybe this drought will finally end and our plants can flourish again!

  3. Welcome back. We kept the place warm for you while you were away. Note: if I am ever diagnosed with a terminal disease, I am hoping in the car and heading to the castle. There I will stand by the Neptune pool and strip naked before making an impressive dive into that delicious water. My family has instructions to never restrain me nor hinder the handsome policemen that issue my citation (that I have no intention of paying).

    1. Maybelline, You are so funny! This has been a hot spell hasn't it? And no relief in sight. Now this would not be the year to go diving into the Neptune pool since it's empty! It is certainly not as attractive without the water! Of course the other pool, the Roman Pool, still has water. They have to keep it filled in case it is needed for fires.

  4. What a great vacation and the castle grounds actually look great considering the situation on water there.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. Hi Cher, Yes, at least there is some greenery. I think the emphasis is on just keeping the existing plants alive. I was surprised that they are still growing hydrangeas, but they were probably part of the original plan so maybe that's why they keep them. But they are such thirsty plants!

  5. Thank you for sharing your vacation photos. Those moonstone pebbles are so pretty! I have yet to visit the Castle so it's nice to see someone's photos. The pool and the gardens look very beautiful. What an amazing view. I can only imagine being able to look out the window and see that every day. Your book also looks like it was an entertaining read!

    1. Hi Danielle, You're welcome! There are several different inside tours of the Castle, which are all very interesting, and I think they all end with a tour of the gardens. But this time we only visited the gardens. That was enough walking for me! And yes, the book was actually a fun read. Science made fun!