Cool Green Gardens

Come See The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

Hey, I’m at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show in San Mateo, CA. (Wouldn’t it be bizarre if in an alternate universe, San Francisco is holding the San Mateo Flower and Garden Show?) I was here last year and realized that one full day wasn’t nearly enough, so this year I booked myself a room through Sunday, and will be taking garden side trips. Here’s a peek at my itinerary so far.

Tuesday morning: I dropped Lin, my spousal support unit, at work and motored up the Pacific coast, never ceasing to be moved by the subtle strength of Santa Barbara’s native sandstone. Whether in its natural state or artfully used to adorn gardens and buildings, it’s the signature building material of my hometown.
That’s me stopping to appreciate the subtle bump and grind of nothern Santa Barbara county landforms. The generous rains we’ve had this year have the hillsides blanketed with grass and wildflowers. I made quite a few stops along the way, using a newly discovered iPhone app to upload audio recordings (I’m calling them “nanocasts” and you can look and listen at I’ve been interviewing celebrity garden writers, designers and some cool, green vendors. This is social networking at its most inventive, if I do say so myself.
My first scheduled stop was at the home of Rebecca Sweet, who I’ve befriended at Twitter at @sweetrebecca, a most appropriate “handle” for a delightful hostess with a picture perfect, understatedly elegant garden. That’s Rebecca on the right, with Susan L. Morrison, Bay Area garden designer, blogger and  cofounders of the Lawn Reform Coalition.

Arriving at my hotel after 8, the rest of the night was dedicated to putting the finishing touches on my hometown blog for You can check it out if you’re curious. It tends to get a bit silly.

As much as I wanted to jump out of bed and zoom to the show Wednesday morning, I had an appointment with Becky Rice, Executive Director of the Ruth Bancroft Garden across the bay and over the hills in Walnut Creek. I’ll be writing a special article about this ambitious garden where cacti and other succulents mix it up with low-water-using plants from around the world. Ruth, who turned 100 years old recently, still lives in the house.

The Monrovia display.

Back across the bay, I made a beeline for the San Mateo Event Center, flashed my prepaid ticket and zoomed into the first of two mammoth exhibit halls. I visit garden shows for design ideas and almost never buy a thing. But folks like me were totally outnumbered by smartly dressed ladies (the occasional husband dutifully in tow) wheeling wagons and balancing bags in search of plants, gizmos and gadgets. (The woman with the fork lift was politely asked to leave it in the parking lot.) I quashed my need for artistic inspiration and started my visit by perusing product booths.

I’ve known about Monrovia Nursery since I started in the nursery biz in the mid-70s and I’ve enjoyed watching them evolve. They supply gardeners with beautiful, well-grown plants for all needs. Their booth caught my eye, displaying  this tantalizing vignette of oranges, papayas, and a lively succulent and flax combination.

It’s great to see all the vendors thinking ‘green’ but there were a few standout products that align perfectly with my own philosophies of living softly on the planet.

Richard Massey builds solid, graceful outdoor furniture with a modern interpretation of Arts and Crafts Movement styling and wisps of Japanese timelessness. He uses reclaimed or sustainably harvested woods and long-lasting Sunbrella fabric to create practical, durable pieces.
It’s difficult to be a gardener and not have heard about Annie’s Annuals. Their booth was packed with show attendees, snatching four-inch pots of annuals, perennials (I guess they could have named the nursery Penny’s Perennials, but then Annie would have to change her name and the kids would get confused, so let’s forget about the whole thing), and receiving expert advice from the staff.
One more before I sign out and head back to the show. Ecoforms is a company that figured out how to take rice hulls, an agricultural waste product, and make them into colorful pots in mid-20th century styling. The pots are lightweight, have the hardness of plastic and last outdoors for at least five years (much longer indoors). When the pot has seen the end of its service, throw it in the compost pile, where it will decompose.

Hey, I’ve gotta run back to the show, but wanted to get this posted. I’ll be writing about a few garden trips, including more on the Bancroft Garden, a behind the scenes visit to the world renowned Filoli estate and a peek at the wild and wacky garden center run by Flora Grubb. And if you’re at Twitter, track me down @gardenwiseguy.

View Comments


  1. sweetrebecca 03/27/2010

    Wow - to get compliments like this from Mr. GardenWiseGuy himself is enough to make one's head swell to huge proportions.....thank you so much! And can you tell I just ADORE Susan Morrison?

    Looking forward to reading more about your fabulous trip, the gardens you visit, the people you meet.....

  2. Matt_M 03/27/2010

    Great stuff as always B.G. I am extremely impressed with the volume, diversity and quality of vendors and even more, the attendance looked great! Aisles were jammed all day as far as I could see. The crew at Annie's Annuals had a booth full of folks buying plants all day long. Looked like most of the vendors were having a good show. Keep the #nanocasts coming! Those have been great.

  3. Janit 03/28/2010

    Hi! Boo! Just wanted to thank you for the updates, Billy! It really was the next best thing to being there - loved the audio idea to add another dimension to it all... keep rockin' the garden world....;o)

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest