Gardenista – My Garden on San Francisco Bay

This is an article I wrote for Gardenista, must-see site for anyone who loves gardening.

My 1946 hunting cabin is on a double block which is mostly under water.  The garden is to one side, ten feet level before a precipitous jumble of big rocks, exposed and south facing.

in the beginning

I tucked euphorbia and cuttings of geranium and rosemary into pockets of soil and let them battle it out.

the bank depends entirely on natural water


only pigface and pickleweed survive in the salt marsh

Coming from London I was starry eyed at the prospect of growing lemons, olives, figs!  I built a long bed against my high front fence and planted the trees in half barrels to give them some depth of soil.

first season

Fragrant pittosporum and oleander line the fence, tough enough to survive.  Since I planted for my neighbour at the same time I put a paulownia in her slightly deeper soil and against the odds it has grown healthy and tall.

Gardening is always the art of the possible, and some of my sentimental choices have not survived.  One week of Sirocco-like winds reduced my thirty foot clematis armandii to a bizarre wall of death, bronzed intact like a baby’s bootee.  A New Dawn rose struggles but rosa mutabilis chinensis is rampant.

Gophers wolf all the bulbs except for freesias, which have multiplied (taste no good?).

the fragrance reminds me of Sydney

My cosseted kadota fig remains biblically barren, but a mission fig rescued from a dumpster gives abundantly.


nepeta mussinii, catmint, which the cat ignores completely

I am not too proud to grow easy plants

Many of my plants started as cast offs and cuttings – iris corms, gazaneas, euphorbias – I am part of a local trade potlatch.  Thompson’s grapes, not roses, twine around my front door.
I propagate and pilfer, take in spent orchids, hoard seed.  In that sense I have a cottage garden, thrifty, haphazard and productive – just like me, and that is what it comes down to. 
My garden and I are compatible, intimate and interdependent.  Handing it over to a landscaper would be like renting out my children.

some mornings you just can’t wait

It roots me here, soothes me when I’m homesick, creates continuity with past gardens.  I pickle my own olives, give away tomatoes, cut my own herbs. 
So I planted Queensland Blue pumpkin too late this year?  I still have seed.  Do I feel jaded?  Water and weed.  Feel like splurging?  Buy more manure!

There is a dead branch outside my kitchen window but I won’t cut it.  That’s where the mockingbird sits.

About Tricia Rose

Not distracted by shiny objects.
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14 Responses to Gardenista – My Garden on San Francisco Bay

  1. Stefan says:

    Here’s the same article as published in Gardenista.

    You’ll see that Gardenista’s editor, Sarah, has had the good sense to move my favorite photo – the one of Tricia in her nightie up to the top. That’s what editors are for.

    Tricia’s passion and dedication (madness?) come through even at a distance from the camera.

  2. Gillianne says:

    The connection to gardens feels primal, doesn’t it? Nothing is quite so rejuvenating as time spent in my yard and garden, puttering about and getting grubby communing with the wind and the bees and the plants. Your gardens are lovely (I’ll take rambling cottage gardens over manicured expanses any day). Thanks for sharing.

  3. tammy says:

    a rescued dumpster fig . . . pigface and pickleweed . . .
    castoffs and shared cuttings . . . tomatoes and gorgeous green grapes. i love your garden!
    i love survivors. both in people and plants.
    i have a black thumb.
    no i really do. it’s tragic for the plant. so i have finally stopped inflicting myself on them and am happy to fall in love with others’ gardens such as yours.
    beautiful! thank you for the tour.

  4. Jane Coslick says:

    I love your garden .Mine is looking pitiful. great article

  5. jen says:

    Lovely–I am so impressed!

  6. Tricia Rose says:

    Thank you all so much for understanding – it’s not about the appearance of the garden, or even how productive it is. It’s about identifying with living things, and helping them on.

  7. Tricia says:

    It sounds wonderful there. A place where you can do a little of this and a little of that and just see what happens. I would love to live in an area where I could grow fruit trees like lemons and figs…someday.

  8. Miranda says:

    Ooooh… you are my kind of gardener. And the dead branch, I so understand.Enjoy your magical kingdom.
    I was a lazy gardener this year and never got around to planting several plants I bought. I ended up throwing a couple of big buckets of organic compost over them and to my surprise they all survived and flourished! Isn’t it magical what soil, sun and water can do all by its self?

  9. jessica says:

    I like the rock garden area in particular. Have always been impressed when nature allows plants to grow in areas where you do not expect them to flourish. (Alot like people)

    Thanks for the tag to Gardenista. I followed the link to an online store called terrain where I purchased a cast iron sign “please close the gate”. Somehow, when the gate is left open, our standard poodle decides to roam the neighborhood. She has been befriended countless times by other neighbors, children,and girlscouts selling cookies at the local grocer up the street. We have been fortunate that we always get a call telling us that they have found our family member wandering the area.

  10. kerrie says:

    I just love your wild seaside garden. I want one of your lemons! I have tried so many times to grow a lemon tree. One tree grew for two years beautifully but no fruit and then the frost and almost snowy winter killed it. Your garden does seem to suite you and I just love the photo of you in your nighty digging in. I wear the same kind of nighties and wander through my garden in it too, usually eating tomatoes fresh off the vine for breakfast. Mmm

  11. This is beautiful and you’ve given me some ideas for things I hadn’t thought to try to grow (freesias, for example). Your lemons are doing far better than ours right now!
    Also, thank you *so* much for helping last week with my research ;)

  12. My goodness, I felt like I was writing this post! I am also connected to my garden in this way. It has the ability to soothe me on a disastrous day, to make me smile with an unexpected color, texture, or fragrance, and the ability to sustain our summer (and sometimes winter) needs.I feel as if I have met a kindred spirit :)

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