By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record
Native iris, found along the coast, are smaller than the bigger bloomers that thrive in the Sacramento Valley’s summer heat. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
I love the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens the way I love Disneyland. Both are magical places where I could return again and again. When I visit places like this I fantasize about accidentally being locked in overnight.
For some reason, when I visit out-of-the-way tourist attractions with a bazillion people, I see people I know. At Disneyland last winter I spotted a state legislator’s aide.
I did not flag him down. He looked happy with his family and I didn’t feel like talking politics.
At the State Fair last summer I bumped into Sheri, my coeditor from college newspaper days. I also had a brief chat with John Garamendi who was hanging out with the gang at the Colusa County booth.
When stomping around the Mendocino Botanical Garden, http://www.gardenbythesea.org, last week, we ran into Erin, my friend who sells beeswax candles a the Chico farmer’s market.
I’m glad she was there because she pointed out a snail on the chard and encouraged me to squish it with my garden clogs.
The visit to Fort Bragg was a gift from my father and step-mom, to celebrate both my birthday and the removal of cancer from my body.
I’m on this very “high-on-life” kick, which I’ve heard is a normal part of the healing process. Either that or the world really is more beautiful than it was before I had surgery.
One thing to love about botanical gardens in general is that each plant has a name plate.
This is important if you are one of those geniuses who is able to memorize every plant name you see.
My boyfriend and I made a point to memorize the names of two new plants. We did this by taking photos of the name plate and the plant, and reviewing the images several times during the weekend.
We already knew the names of rhododendron and heather (two of the most numerous of the plants in the garden collection).
It’s easiest to spend the whole day at the garden if you have a lunch stashed in the car.
While the gardens look wild and unkept, you can tell there is a lot of “keeping” going on. On this particular Thursday, crews of young and old were carting stinky piles of manure and compost to various locations. We also walked down a side road and found the piles of general soil amendment.
With the evidence of thousands of hours of work, I was surprised to see a familiar weed — the Velcro plant — hidden among the greenery. This was comforting in a way, because even the best gardeners can’t keep all the weeds out.
The garden also sells plants. I mostly ignored this section because the climate on the coast is dramatically different than Chico, which is exactly why people from Chico love visiting the coast in July and August.
However, rhododendrons can be babied if kept in the shade in the Sacramento Valley.
The grand finale of the garden adventure was reaching the bluffs at the edge of the property. Visitors exit the manicured section through a magical gate made of long twigs. A short distance farther is the ocean.
This admission-only seaside meadow was sprinkled with wild California iris and tall grass. The blooms of the ice plant were so bright I would wager the staff drags fertilizer out to the bluffs.
It had been a long day and we had photographed, touched and smelled thousands of living things.
This particular sliver of coastline was the most beautiful I had ever seen. Although, I had already said that about other slivers of coast over the past several days.
If I had to distill the trip down to a single best moment, this was it. Blooming ice plant at our feet, the distant roar of the blue sea, a slight breeze and a much-needed nap — you can’t help but be thankful for all of that.