Two things yesterday: it was Mozart’s birthday, and it was a bright sunny day, cool but not cold, so after a long time away, Juan and I had an al fresco breakfast at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, which was packed with things in bloom (winter-blooming flowers and also spring-blooming flowers, since for plants spring starts locally in January) or simply flourishing (like many cool-weather food plants).

I had negotiated the emotionally tricky week earlier in the month that had both (on the 17th) the anniversary (the 31st) of Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s death (she was born in 1937) and (on the 22nd) the anniversary (the 74th) of my man Jacques Transue’s birth (he died in 2003).

Mozart was born in Salzburg on a wintry day in 1756 and died in Vienna, age 35, on a wintry day (December 5th) in 1791. In between he spun out the most amazing collection of music, in all musical forms, including operas.


(That’s a 10-CD box set.)

Still, the brevity of his life is stunning and distressing. (When Mozart was my age, he’d been dead 40 years.) Meanwhile, almost everything about his death is shrouded in mystery, though it now seems clear that he wasn’t poisoned, by Salieri or anyone else.

On to the plants. It was wonderful to come to the Gamble Gardens and be greeted by stands of narcissus in bloom. In colder climates these are spring-flowering bulbs, but spring comes very early in coastal California. Next up were stands of hellebores, all over the place. These are famously winter-blooming even in colder climates, where they are known as winter roses, Christmas roses, or Lenten roses, often poking up through the snow. Here we can grow lots of fancy hybrids, which will bloom in December and January. An array of these hybrids:


A posting of mine on 9/8/14 has a section on hellebores. Note that they’re called “winter rose” and the like only because their flowers are a bit like rose flowers; they are not at all related to the rose family.

Coastal California has many winter-blooming ornamental plants — pansies and violas, snapdragons, English daisies, English primroses, cyclamens, etc. — but Gamble tends not to feature these, because they’re found in home and street plantings all over the place.

The Gamble did have some winter-blooming ornamentals that I haven’t yet posted about: red hot poker, strawflowers, and Euryops virgineus (honey daisy) in particular. I’ll get to them in a later posting, a posting in which I’ll akso get to some plants from the Gamble’s Australian desert garden, plants that are probably blooming here now because they’re still on a Southern Hemisphere internal clock.

Not in bloom, but very noticeable, was an agave, much like this American agave:


Ah, Juan said: tequila!

I’ll post about agave plants in that next posting, but they’re moved us from flowers to food plants. Coastal California is ideal for growing all sorts of food plants that flourish in cool weather, including a number that are prominent in the Gamble Gardens, most of which I’ve posted about earlier: Swiss chard, mizuna, artichokes, parsley, broccoli, and more. Yum.

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