A few years back our friends Chris and Todd bought a place on top of a mountain in Forestville, about a half hour’s drive from the Schoolhouse. It’s a sunny location, hot and dry in summer and often clear even in winter. For some inexplicable reason, the previous owners’ landscaping included a variety of shade loving, water hogging plants. Chris and Todd are re-landscaping with stone walls edging beds filled with California native plants – mass plantings of carefully selected species – and have offered us some of the plants they’re taking out, which include five giant tree ferns, perfect for our forest dell location.
We spent the first Sunday of our vacation driving up the mountain, lunching on gourmet BLTs, loading up the truck with ferns – some of them 6 feet tall – and a Sago palm, bringing them back down, and planting them.
Chris showed us a whole separate grouping of plants that are on the “maybe” pile – he wants to keep them; Todd and Lindsey, who designed the new landscape and will be here for the weekend to supervise the planting, don’t see a place for them. We promise that if a place can’t be found, we’ll take good care of those as well.
The New Zealand tree ferns look amazing in front of the Schoolhouse, like they have always been here (actually we cut them back and give them a little vitamin B1, so – they WILL look amazing when they settle in and start growing again). On Friday night Chris and Todd stop by with Lindsey to tour the Schoolhouse. Todd and Chris aren’t lightweights in the remodeling department (a few years ago they moved out of their San Francisco flat for ten months, took it down to the studs, and brought it back). Still, they seem a little taken aback by how much we still have to do.
We move on to dinner at Bistro des Copains, a gorgeous little place in Occidental, just twelve minutes (if Steve’s driving) up the Bohemian Highway. At dinner Lindsey and Todd joke about Chris’s plant separation anxiety and Lindsey marvels at the previous owner’s gardening style as totally random: “It’s like every time she went down the hill to buy a half gallon of milk, it came with a free azalea, and she just took it and stuck it in the ground somewhere!” Steve and I exchange glances – what’s wrong with that? Clearly, Lindsey is on a higher plane when it comes to gardening.
When we part after dinner Chris asks a bit wistfully if we meant it about the other plants. I tell him that Lindsey has described my gardening style exactly – yes, of course, we will take good care of anything that doesn’t make the cut and he can come visit them anytime. He calls Saturday. We pick up a second load on Sunday, because who can resist free azaleas, hydrangeas, gardenias, and ferns – even in a driving rain?