Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back home

Gum trees (Eucalyptus sp.) towering over the rolling hills of Marin County, north of San Francisco.
Late yesterday, we arrived home from a trip to San Francisco and coastal California. It was my first trip to this part of the United States, and despite having heard of it countless times, it was still surprising to see how much it reminds of South Eastern Australia. The hills rolling down to the sea, the sun-parched nature and the arid flora of California made me quite homesick for Melbourne (can one be homesick for a place one was not born in…?), feeling like being almost there, but still thousands of miles away. I grew quite tired of myself repeating the mantra “…just like in Australia” over and over; what does it matter, when both places are so amazingly beautiful?
Australian plants at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in the Golden Gate Park.

It was lovely to see gum trees (Eucalyptus sp.) cover both parkland and forests, feel their scent and listen to the rattle of their tough, leathery leaves. Many of them were huge and old, certainly over 100 years, their bark and leaves shedding off and covering large areas around them. I read that they were introduced in California around the 1850’s, sold by nurseries for both ornamental and practical purposes as firewood and hardwood for building. They look so well-adapted that it is difficult to imagine the landscape without them. Unfortunately, being extremely easy to catch fire, they have increased the forest fire danger in California, which together with Victoria tops the bush fire statistics of the world.

Landscape with Eucalyptus trees, also in Marin County.

Another acquaintance from my time Australia, the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), was actually native to the Monterey and Carmel area where we were staying for a while. In Australia it was often planted by seaside roads, so now the trees form a strong visual accent in their environment; I especially think about the road leading to Apollo Bay by the Great Ocean Road, one of my favorite places in Victoria... I love the sculptural, dramatic form of Monterey cypresses; unfortunately, it has a bad habit of loosing its branches and dying suddenly, just when it gets to its most mature and beautiful stage. All these visual and botanical ties; plants travelling afar, connecting different countries and places…

Australian Kangaroo paw, Anigozanthos flavidus, thrives even in California.

Now, I am sorting out the over 500 photos I took during our trip; tomorrow I’ll hopefully be writing about the garden related highlights, which include the new Californian Academy of Sciences with its much photographed and published grass roof, the stately but intimate estate of Filoli and the mid-century modern Sunset Garden.


Daniel Mount said...

It's amazing how close and yet exotic California is. I should go more often. Thanks d for the reminder.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Daniel, I agree, this continent is just such a vast treasure chest for us garden people. I have decided to try to see as much as possible during our time here (how long it will be, we still don't know). I loved your book tips, many of them new to me. I am a squirrel too in that area...

Bay Area Tendrils said...

How wonderful that you were able to visit the Bay Area! I am sorry we were not able to meet - it looks like you were in my back yard, so to speak.

It's fascinating to hear that you were reminded of South Eastern Australia. I feel such a kinship with Melbourne, and the people I've connected with from that area on twitter and in the blogosphere. Yet, I've never visited Australia, but rather, have a sense that Victoria and environs mentioned would feel familiar to me in the same way as you describe.
Cheers, Alice

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hi Alice, lovely to hear from you. This time we spent all the time with some old friends from Sweden, who moved to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. Next time, I would love to meet you and talk gardens together, if you have any time over. I was so inspired by the area, that I hope to be able to do that soon!