Villa Montalvo, a historic landmark built in 1912 by James Duval Phelan (1861-1930). Phelan, a passionate Californian who had been a three-term progressive mayor of San Francisco, went on to become California’s first popularly-elected U.S. Senator.
Senator Phelan’s favorite home was Villa Montalvo, a center of artistic, political and social life in Northern California. Phelan invited leading writers and artists to Villa Montalvo to work on individual artistic projects in an environment rich in dialogue and fellowship. Jack London, Ethel Barrymore, Mary Pickford, Douglass Fairbanks, and Edwin Markham were among Phelan’s many guests.
At his death, Senator Phelan was explicit in his bequest of Villa Montalvo. ”I would like the property at Saratoga, California, known as Villa Montalvo, to be maintained as a public park.”
Villa Montalvo is nestled in the beautiful foothills above Saratoga with 175 acres of hiking trails. After hiking in the hills we discovered gardens with rare and wonderful specimens of trees throughout the grounds. My favorite were the gardens showcasing a wide variety of exotic succulents with a combination of textures, shapes and colors.
I was thrilled to explore the urban farm and gardens at the Homeless Garden Project. The farm is crafted by workers, staff and volunteers as part of the Women’s Organic Flower Enterprise. The garden is located near the beautiful Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz.
The garden project provides job training, workshops and meaningful work in organic gardening for helping people find ways to build a better life. The garden opens its gates to the public and offers fresh organic produce you can harvest yourself.
They offer a menu of crops available each day including flowers, herb wreaths, onions, kale, salad mix, herbs and vegetables. The public can stop by, harvest organic produce and pay per item.
Also visit the store at 30 West Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz. Call 831.426.3609 for day and time the store is open to buy fresh organic produce.
The Women’s Organic Flower Enterprise (WOFE) was established to provide additional work opportunities for homeless women through creating organic gardens.
Unassuming and modest from the gate, my small native plant garden creates an impressive impact. One of the best ways I relax is to have a quiet, peaceful place to go. My backyard garden is an excellent way to have my own little oasis of calm. Everyday the garden changes, I never know what I will discover in among the plants and trees. The possibilities are endless.
The creation of my garden is a tension reliever as the plants have evolved through the years. I have enjoyed adding the varied colors of flowers and succulent plants that create an interesting layout. The trees offer shade and beauty when the afternoon sun is full.
I use the garden to relax and create a world of simple peace. I welcome coming home and stepping into my sanctuary of nature.
Sitting quietly soaking up the sun, listening to the birds singing, and admiring the simple calm beauty. The wild small creatures come and go. I watch them as they study me and I welcome their daily visits.
This month I have spent hours of weeding, transplanting, cutting, and thinning, the over grown plants from last year. And there is so much more to do! Quickly one hour in the garden turns into five hours. I do love the warm sun, the fresh air and the buzzing of the racing hummingbirds. Life is good and nature is fascinating. At the end of the day I need a massage…I’m sore.
I love my garden. I am often having a struggle with moles and gophers. I have found a solution by building raised bed gardens. I simply add metal screen to the bottom of each garden structure. The wire screen blocks out the rodents and becomes a savior for my plants.
The basic idea of a raised bed is that instead of battling against poor soil conditions, you build above ground, where you have absolute control over the soil texture and ingredients.
You can build a wood or stone structure to keep the bed intact. A raised bed garden is built on top of your native soil. You can plant anything from herbs and vegetables to perennials. They drain better and they require less maintenance than a conventional garden.
Add interest to your garden by collecting pots of all shapes and sizes. Unique pots and containers can introduce a creative design element in any garden with minimal space.
Nasturtiums - Are my favorite edible flower. The blossoms have a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress.
Pansy – A slightly sweet green or grassy flavor. I add them to desserts for color.
Calendula - Also called Marigolds. A wonderful edible flower. Flavors range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Sprinkle them on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads.
Carnations - Can be steeped in wine, candy, or use as cake decoration. Use sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads or aspics. Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that has been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.
Chrysanthemums - Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange. They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. They sould be blanched first and then scatter the petals on a salad. The leaves can also be used to flavor vinegar.
Clover - Sweet, anise-like, licorice flavor.
Cornflower - Also called Bachelor’s button. They have a slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor.
Dandelions - Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads.