This garden season was full of adventure! I would have never imagined I'd get to travel to both the DC area and California for garden related events this summer. Getting to meet you and attend this year's Garden Bloggers Fling was absolutely incredible. Then, being able to travel alongside each other again while exploring California during the veggie trials was such a wonderful opportunity. I have to thank the National Garden Bureau for making my dreams come true and allowing me to become a certified NGB Plant Nerd!
So first came the Garden Bloggers Fling that took place in the DC area - Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland back in June. This year was hosted by the fabulous Tammy of Casa Mariposa. Bloggers from all over the globe attended, and I was so thankful to meet so many talented folks who are just as crazy about plants as we are. When I first arrived in the hotel lobby for our meet and greet, I had no idea what to expect. The long drive that started at 5am was exhausting and I was pretty nervous. My nerves were instantly put at ease when I found out just how friendly garden bloggers are in person!
We have all been chatting online for months, and that connection definitely carried over in real life. I can be a bit shy at first. Sometimes it takes me a bit of time to open up to others. I was very thankful for everyone's kind demeanor and friendly greetings. Meeting you was great - I instantly felt like we've known one another for years. Pictured with Jen & me is Jennifer of the 6ftmama blog and Still Growing Podcast and Julie of the Garden Delights blog.
Talk about a full on lesson in garden design! I came home with a plethora of plant combination ideas, container garden projects for the future and even sculptural accents I want to add to my landscape. When we visited Hillwood Estate, it really made me want to create a giant cutting garden. Marjorie Post really thought ahead, designating a large portion of land to fresh cut flowers for indoor arrangements! I'm thinking every home should have this, right?
The cutting garden at Hillwood Estate in Washington DC
The highlight of the trip for me was definitely getting to explore all of the private gardens. Each one was so vastly different and unique in style. You could see the amount of care that went into every plant and the imprint left by the hands of each gardener. The amount of gorgeous water features, hardscaping ideas and tropical succulents were a breath of fresh air. Such a contrast to the New England style of gardening. It's so great to travel to a different location and get that different perspective. Taking that home with you is truly something money can't buy. What was your top highlight from the trip?
I love how we both took similar pictures on the trip with different lenses. I used my 50mm and you used your 100mm. We saw the same flowers and designs while taking shots with a slightly different view. No two photos are the same!
Exploring the garden of Scott Brinitzer in Arlington, Virginia
Touring the garden of Ellen Ash in Great Falls, Virginia
I absolutely adore this quote
I really enjoyed seeing the use of these fun Fish in the Garden by Tyson M. Weiss. Hoping to add some to my garden in the future. Did any garden art during the trip catch your eye?
Each and every day of the Fling was jam packed with different stops and events. The most important thing I learned is to stay hydrated and drink water. It's so easy to get caught up in all the fun and forget to just slow down and relax. I also learned to make sure you delete all the photos off your memory card the night before. I was snapping so many images that it was only a matter of hours before my card became totally full. I went back to the room one night and because of pure exhaustion, I totally forgot to do this. It wasn't very fun sitting on the bus deleting each photo INDIVIDUALLY because I had already snapped some shots from that day. Ugh, never again.
I really enjoyed visiting Brookside Gardens and exploring the Wings of Fancy exhibit full of butterflies. Despite the maddening heat, I forgot all about it when we became surrounded by butterflies. I think they all noticed I was covered in a slick layer of sweat since none of them seemed interested in landing on me. It was such a kick watching those butterflies land on your pretty red hat! That was definitely a really cool moment! Being surrounded by all of the butterflies was truly amazing.
I did take many photos on the last day of the Fling. Sadly, I decided to put them all on my backup drive for safe keeping. That wouldn't have been bad, but then my backup drive fell and mourning ensued. It was such a punch in the gut when I realized I had lost all of those photos. It was an important lesson to learn though. From photographer to photographer, always make sure you keep your important photos in at least two places. Even though the photos may be lost, the memories will stay with me forever! Pictured above left to right is Tracy of Plants Map, Bren of Creative Living with Bren Haas, Beth of More Than Oregano, Me, Jen and Alison of A Home in the Garden.
It was such a spectacular trip full of gardens to remember! I appreciated the friendly gardeners who were nice enough to share some garden knowledge with a newbie like me. I'll always adore the awesome bus driver who handed out water at every stop and kept our giant plants up in the front seat with him. My mind will forever be filled with visions of fabulous plants like the hydrangeas, daylilies and elephant ears we saw. Oh, and the giant garden centers...take me back. The only thing I am glad we left there was that pesky tick that tried to stow away on our bus!
Did you enjoy the Garden Bloggers Fling? What was your favorite flower or plant you spotted while exploring?
The second trip of the season was the Vegetable Trials that took place throughout California back in August. We were both lucky enough to be invited by Diane of The National Garden Bureau. A group of garden professionals and bloggers joined us as we traveled by van to have a first hand look at these trials. As soon as my plane took off as the sun started to rise, I knew we were both going to be in for something special. I was so excited to be visiting California for the first time ever. It's such a different climate than the Northeast. Honestly, even the weeds excited me just because they were so different! That sounds nuts right? Well, it's the total truth.
Visiting PanAmerican Seeds in Woodland, California. From left to right: Jen, Brienne of Brie Grows, Diane of National Garden Bureau & All-American Selections, Cheni of PanAmerican Seed, Josh of PanAmerican Seed & Mike of Sunset Magazine. Photo Credit: Gail of NGB/AAS
We started in Salinas, California where the temperatures were in the low 60's and ended in Woodland, California where the temperatures were in the high 90's! It was really amazing to drive through different parts of California and see the different climates and temperatures. Certain locations are perfect for cold weather crops while others are perfect for growing those heat loving peppers! As a New Englander, were you as shocked as I was about this?
The highlight of the trip for me was receiving such a large amount of knowledge in such a short amount of time. Being able to taste test each and every vegetable and having that hands on experience was incredible. Visiting the Heinz Seed factory and learning about their global production was really impressive. Gaining knowledge about the development of the tomato varieties and how they have research trial sites all over the world was really amazing. From extraction to fermentation, all of that hard work that goes into making my favorite ketchup is very impressive.
At Syngenta I felt like we were completely surrounded in beauty. All of the gorgeous flowers and tasty veggies were such a treat! My new favorite is the 'Athena' melon. Before this trip, I honestly didn't even think I liked melon that much. The taste compared to a grocery store melon is night and day! There is nothing like trying it when it is straight from the garden. As an east coast girl, I thought the view of the mountains was breathtaking.
It was really fascinating to see how these same peppers grew when planted right in the ground vs. in a container. Some of these containers had three varieties growing together in perfect harmony. This is how global seed companies perform tests so consumers can then buy a variety at the store with all the qualities needed to successfully grow.
I became completely immersed in the world of vegetable growing while on this trip. As the hot midday sun was beating down on my shoulders and I frantically took notes on my phone, I realized just how lucky we were to be observing all of these plants growing right in front of us. I did take some moments of just being in awe of everything growing around us. It hit me that no matter what level of gardener you are, there will always be something new to learn. I think that's what makes me so interested in the business of agriculture. Production is constantly changing and becoming faster, disease resistance is growing stronger and flavors of new varieties are even better!
I really am so thankful I was able to experience California with so many talented garden professionals. The trials really showcased the breeding process, the developments being made to our favorite homegrown edibles and the efforts being made to make healthy food available to the masses. What did you take away from the veggie trials? Are you dreaming about your next trip to California like I am?
Both trips were absolutely amazing! I feel like the Garden Bloggers Fling made me want to up my landscaping design, while the Vegetable Trials gave me a whole new list of varieties I'm now planning on trying. I also learned that while it is fun, driving can be just as much money as flying with all of the tolls you encounter! I really didn't think about that in advance. It's really fun to be able to see so much on the road. Driving through New York City over bridges and through tunnels was a cool experience.
Now, my sights are set on The Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, Texas coming up in May. I'm so excited that we are both attending! I feel like we will both be more prepared now that we aren't newbies anymore. I've learned that sunscreen is essential, portable chargers are a must and having your business cards on you when you need them makes life so much easier. What are you looking forward to on this next adventure?
I'm ready to continue wandering through new garden paths, gathering more great ideas and meeting new friends along the way.I'm so glad I finally was able to meet you in person! Thank you for being my bus buddy and my roommate. Oh, and for bailing me out when I lost my charger somewhere between San Jose and Sacramento. A part of me will always be in California, along with that broken mirror. Whoops! Who knows where our travel adventures will take us in the future. I'm certainly ready to find out!