The blog year in review, 2009

We began 2009 with a visit to UC Berkeley. The Garden of Old Roses enchanted, despite being half-dead.

Garden of Old Roses (UCB)

We went to the flea market where I didn't buy anything.

Alemany Flea Market

Listening to your comments, my dad finally agreed to cut down the Tragic Ash. Rest in Peace, Tragic Ash.

AfterTragic Ash

We wandered around in the Mission District. I showed you around where I used to live and my car got smogged. I popped down to the garden after watching the Obama inauguration.


The new president must rank high on this year's List of Big Things. I was happy for the change, but Obama doesn't do anything for me. I continue to not really get it.

We took a little jaunt around Nob Hill but the hike up Twin Peaks marked the first, substantial blog post of 2009. We took the 24 Divisadero bus to the Castro and walked the rest of the way.




We finished off January with a herbal medicine-making class I didn't care for at all, and a little visit to Chinatown.



I joined Twitter around then. It's been a disaster for the blog! You may recall the goal of 300 blog posts I made for 2009. I feel short by, ahem, 109 posts. In fact, I made 74 fewer blog posts in 2009 than I made in 2008. In light of that, what should my resolution for 2010 be? I'm reluctant to make any resolutions.

But to be clear: My commitment to this blog is permanent and steadfast. Doing this and hanging out with you is great fun and I never want it to end. So there!

February 1st was cool and crisp. We enjoyed some coastal vignettes.


I finally found the low, endemic form of Fremont's Camas on Bernal Hill

Zigadenus fremontii

and we used Adah Bakalinsky's book Stairway Walks of San Francisco to visit parts of my neighborhood I'd never seen before.


I especially enjoyed this picture of Tecomaria capensis, Ceanothus sp., Salvia leucantha, Euryops pectinatus, and Rosmarinus officinalis (blurry, in front) blooming all together in a community garden.

Five blooms

I won a poetry contest on Garden Rant for free seeds from Botanical Interests.

It rained on February 15, so I rolled out Bloom Day Ellis Hollow-style, using a scanner and black cloth.


I made bloom day posts every month in 2009: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.

I stayed up late one night to finish Julia Child's outstanding biography My Life in France. At the time, I didn't know a movie starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child was in the works. Of the few movies I saw in 2009, Julie and Julia was easily my favorite.

We hiked 3-miles on Pulgas Ridge and waited for the rain.



In March I was a tourist in my own city. We visited Fishermans Wharf,

Fisherman's Wharf

and the Musee Mecanique.

Musée Mécanique Musée Mécanique
Musée Mécanique Musée Mécanique

And then I was a tourist in someone else's city.


And by city, I mean remote tropical island.



Islands plural; we hopped.

Saddle Road, Hawai'i

Heliconia longissima (Hawaii Tropical botanical Garden)

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Kilauea Iki trail tree ferns (Sadleria sp.) and Metrosideros polymorpha

Ah, so nice. We're going back in March. I am counting the days.

We came home to spring in full swing.


Sparaxis Triteleia

Red Admiral on Nemophila menziesii

Stylomecon heterophylla, Arctotis IMG_6077

We took the stairs to the top of San Francisco's tallest building, 555 California Street, to benefit the American Lung Association. (Second tallest in absolute height, but 555 is built on a hill, so it stands taller.)


(I want to do it again in 2010, but we're catching that plane to Hawaii right afterwards and I don't want to push it. We'll see.)

April is usually the best month in gardens. 2009 was no exception.


We popped up to Seattle for a few days. The fascinating bonsai specimens at the relatively obscure Elandan Gardens in Gorst blew my mind.

Elandan Gardens

We also had a fabulous dinner in West Seattle and visited the Kubota Japanese Garden.

When I got home we went to lovely Capitola. The blogger even made a rare appearance, getting a kiss!


We watched the surfers and found what must be the world's largest specimen of Echium fastuosum.

Capitola, California

Going north this time, we stopped at Russian River Roses on our way to Healdsburg.

'Crepescule' noisette 1904

I did an East Bay garden tour and only enjoyed one garden. I was shocked. I don't think the gap between designer gardens and gardener gardens ever seemed so stark to me. I learned that I am not a designer gardener. Big surprise to you, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, my gardener garden got rain unusually late in May.

Carpenteria californica

Seattle visitors came to us and I took them to Point Bonita Lighthouse in Marin County,

Well, at least it's colorful. Point Bonita Lighthouse

and Telegraph Hill

Filbert Steps Filbert Steps
Filbert Steps

and North Beach in San Francisco.

IMG_7752 But of course!
IMG_7735 IMG_7758

Back home the garden seemed unseasonally wet for May


I used pictures to vent about something I read on Garden Rant. We recollected 2005, the year I began to garden.

We let the Bakalinsky book be our guide whenever possible. Here we are on Russian Hill.

Russian Hill

We visited an old haunt for a few hours right around the time that I got sworn in as a juror on a 5-week trial in federal court.

Blake Garden

I lost a lot of blogging momentum during those weeks, but I got this nifty trip to Preservation Park out of it.

Preservation Park

During a trial recess, we busted of town for a weekend and made it all the way to Mendocino, always one of my favorite destinations.

Mendocino, CA Mendocino, CA
Mendocino, CA Mendocino, CA

If you go, plan 2-4 hours just to explore the coastal cliffs around town.

Mendocino, CA

Mendocino, CA Mendocino, CA
Mendocino, CA Mendocino, CA

The garden didn't miss me very much while I was on jury duty, but I missed the garden.


Garden visitors

2009 was not a banner year for vegetables, but I enjoyed the first Magda squash.

Edgewood Park was beautiful in early summer.

Edgewood Park

Edgewood Park

According to the blog, I finished jury duty on June 24. and celebrated with Bloody Marys a the Cliff House with an old friend. We visited the Camera Obscura.

Recovering from jury dudy, I painted the garden door green and entertained many visitors.


I visited Filoli

Filoli Estate

and the Pulgas Water Temple right next door

Pulgas Water Temple

and had lunch at lunch at Rossotti's.

Alpine Inn

Back in the City we admired the giant urn in Forest Hills and took in the view from Mount Davidson.

Forest Hill

I hiked along the beach in Half Moon Bay and stumbled upon artist Michael Powers' incredible house.

Half Moon Bay Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay Half Moon Bay

We popped up to Seattle again for a couple days. I saw Ciscoe Morris's front yard, and had drinks in West Seattle.

We went to Guerneville again and played Pee Wee Golf under the redwoods.


It was nice to finally see the Moraga Tiled Steps. And the stairway walk around Golden Gate Heights ranks among my most favorite despite, or maybe because of, the foggy summer conditions prevailing on the day we did it. Four stars for the Golden Gate Heights walk.

Golden Gate Heights

We visit the Garden for the Environment all the time, but I saw some things in late July that I especially liked.

Garden for the Environment; San Francisco Garden for the Environment; San Francisco
Garden for the Environment; San Francisco Garden for the Environment; San Francisco

There were some great plant combinations below Twin Peaks

around Twin Peaks

and above the Castro.


I received gifts from FitzGerald Nurseries in Ireland including this bright red cordyline, and two new "black plants", Phormium 'Black Adder' and Ceanothus 'Tuxedo'.

summer chaos; 2009-08-10

By late August, the garden settled in to full repose. This is my favorite time of year, when the ground has gone bone dry for lack of rain and the adaptive qualities of our Mediterranean flora work their magic.


All summer long, the house sparrows who visited the bird bath reliably at 11:35 a.m.

The Green Gulch Farm Trail hike was been on my to-do list for years. In 2009, I finally crossed it off. I want to do it again in spring 2010. The hills were dormant by the time we saw them in August.

September was way too hot to lug myself around Potrero Hill for a stairway walk, but I did it anyway.


We welcomed the appearance of cool blue in the hot summer garden.



And I began to notice signs of fall.

Bloom Day; 2009-09-15

I offered to help my neighbor with some gardening, and he turned me down.

Blue skies and fog were the rule in San Francisco this September.


We had fun navigating the straw bale labyrinth at Arata's Pumpkin Farm.

Arata Pumpkin Farm

I gave you my take on freaky-deaky Bolinas and we made a pilgrimage to legendary Larner Seeds for wildflower packets.

Bolinas, CA Bolinas, CA
Bolinas, Ca Bolinas, CA

By early October, the light was getting awkward for taking pictures, but I had raspberries to show you and the Sea Squill bloomed (Urginea maritima).

Urginea maritima

A huge rainstorm blew in off the ocean mid-October, effectively ending summer.


We got 2.5" overnight, rare in California; the garden rejoiced.


I finally got a great picture of Miss Patty.

Miss Patty

We took our second opportunity to visit Guerneville in 2009, this time blogging nearby Monte Rio and Cazadero as well.

October ended with one of 2009's big highlights, a weekend in Calaveras County to visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We spent the night in Angels Camp, grabbed lunch in Murphys, and spent the day hiking the north and south groves.

Calaveras Big Trees SP Calaveras Big Trees SP
Calaveras Big Trees SP

Calaveras Big Trees SP Calaveras Big Trees SP Calaveras Big Trees SP

Calaveras Big Trees SP

Calaveras Big Trees SP

Calaveras Big Trees SP

Calaveras Big Trees SP

Back home, Bernal Hill was romantic at dusk.

On Bernal Hill

The frequency of blog posting declined with the decreasing amount of daylight.


We went to Ukiah, but there wasn't much to see up there either. I squeezed out another stairway walk in December. And that pretty much brings us up to where we are now.


Are you writing a year-in-review post? Mine was light on the actual gardening this blog is nominally about. I still have 2 days, so come back and maybe we'll talk about major developments in the garden, like removing the bamboo, and the experiement with gravel mulch. We also got a new compost bin and I fought off marauding attackers.

If we don't talk again before 2010, I wish you a fun, memorable, meaningful night. Do something special for yourself and your family. Enjoy the Blue Moon. Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

Oh your year in review was jam packed full of goodies, Chuck, whether it seems that way to you or not. I agree that twitter is stealing your thoughts away from the blog, most apparent when you bless us with another fabulous post. We love every word and photo, do give us more!!! The hummer photo with the passionflower is branded into my mind, wonderful! Have a happy new year, and I believe there is a lunar eclipse involved with that blue moon too?

Les said...

Happy New Year to you as well. This was a good idea to mark the passing of another blogging year. I will however, not borrow the idea, it looks like work. Plus I have a two year anniversary coming up in January and may do something then. Remember that the easiest way to avoid breaking New Year's resolutions is to never make one.

BTW, I was contacted by Annie's Annuals to use one of my Flickr photos taken in the Rockies of Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum). I mentioned I had heard of them, she asked by whom, and I mentioned your blog, which I think is where I found out about them.

rainymountain said...

Thanks for a great year of blogging. I look forward to your blogs with great anticipation and am rarely disappointed. Here's hoping another great year is coming up. All the best.

Bonnie Story said...

Mr. B, Thank you for the time I know it took to put this together - it's my alltime favorite blog post in a long time. Sheesh, what a tour-de-force. I appreciate your philosophy about not staging shots too much. I can sense the power of the unstaged in your pics. Your shots of people are somehow really intimate and I think it's because people don't have time to put on their game faces... AND the plants, the plants... I know I tend to gush about your landscapes but holy cow, I seriously appreciate how you capture scenes wherever you go. You zap me right back to my CA days, it's powerful. Sometime I would love to know how many shots you tend to take for each keeper, and what your publishing routine is like - is it Flickr-centric or do you run stuff thru Photoshop, etc? Anyway, thanks again for your dedication to this very excellent blog, I just love it. Glad to hear that Twitter isn't going to slurp you away from blogging. Damn Twitter. Cheers!! Bonnie

chuck b. said...

Just a quick note: Bonnie, I don't do any processing in Photoshop or Flickr or anything else. I don't even know how. I use every picture right as it comes off the camera. The reason they tend to look good, I think, is because I use the camera's pre-set 'foliage' mode. I think 'foliage' produces the most lifelike pictures of foliage, and everything else. Not so different than picking different kinds of film was, back in the day.

Ann Atkinson said...

Great Year In Review, Chuck -I saw some posts I somehow missed or maybe forgot? lol. I'm happy to hear you're keeping up your blog. I always look forward to a new Back 40 post. I haven't made the leap to Twitter. Thanks for your honest writing and inspiring photos. Have a Happy New Year!

Ann Atkinson said...

P.S. New Year's Resolutions are way overrated ;-) What a lousy way to start the new year...imho.

Christopher C. NC said...

Even limited, your point and click blogging is an asset to the city of San Francisco and the state of California Chuck. There I gushed.

Happy New Year to you and Guy.

Phillip Oliver said...

I always enjoy your posts and look forward to your 2010 blog. Happy New Year!

ryan said...

wow, gotta stay on your toes to keep up with all those posts. even at around 200, that's a lot of blogging.
i notice your blog isn't all that searchable. it would be cool to see the stair walks grouped together or the towns of northern california, oddities like michael powers and the tiled steps, that kind of thing. not to be demanding or obnoxious, but there's a lot of good stuff about the area in there. i guess this post kind of does that, maybe it should get into the sidebar or something? if not for yourself, do it for the children. or something. really, i'm just impressed at the mighty big archive. rock on and have a great new year.

JvA said...

A lovely year.

ryan said...

did i neglect to mention that san francisco rules? i must make it across the bay for the big wheels race and so many other things.

Katie said...

Your pictures and words are always a delight. It was great to meet you and Guy and share the Big Trees experience. Hugs and Happy New Year!

Town Mouse said...

Happy New Year! That was fun. I don't always have time to look at all the blogs I'm interested in, so reading this look back really was great. (I myself am lucky: Country Mouse reviewed my posts, and I reviewed her posts.)

Pam/Digging said...

Lots of good garden, city, and neighborhood tours there, Chuck. I hope you have a great new year!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

cdillon said...

Greetings in the new year, dear chuck b.
You make my world brighter with all your fabulous pix of your garden and the amazing shots throughout the city I love.
I can live in Redding and still feel the air there in S.F.
My impulses to thank you are as numerous as the stars in the sky!
You are the best. thanks for sharing. All good things to you and yours.