For some of us ("of a certain age") certain songs resonate. Shall we say? The Mamas and the Papas have more than their share of resonating, almost resiniferous songs. California Dreaming is certainly one of those: if you are not "of a certain age", do click on the URL there, or better yet download the soaring melody and harmonies with Mama Cass's delightful tones and the rest of the motley crew...
California of course is America's golden promise--the land of illusion and delight. I seem to spend a lot of time there most years (three trips last year and at least as many this year...). For a horticulturist, the floristic province and the enormous range of gardens (public, private and nurseries above all!) are a never ending cornucopia. I was flitting through the images of my last trip last week--my cable for downloading them has disappeared, so you will have to wait to see them), but who needs pictures? Just listen to the song?
I spent spring break in California as a very young impressionable child--March after March of dry, brown, sere Colorado pockmarked with dirty snow patches. Brisk cold wind. Brash sunshine and scudding clouds. I would take the Greyhound with my mother to visit siblings in Oakland, Berkeley, Palo Alto, Albany, Piedmont (they kept moving around). I remember sleek dawns in Elko or Winnemucca, the surrounding mountains like dark sharks of blackness--an orange apricot dawn creaking along the east, and luminescnt, tumescent magenta, bright hot pink and scarlet neon lights on a casino looming closer, contrasting so with the dun distance. The Sierras almost always seemed misty or cloudy (Auburn felt like Alaska by contrast) and then the Bay: verdant. Some trips it would be raining and flooding, but the misty sun would eventually emerge and the Calla lilies, magnolias and a million mysterious plants I didn't know, all gleaming in the sunlight.
Southern California was out of the question (no siblings there), but for the last six years it means Christmas in Palo Verde and autumnal and vernal plant trips. The shock of leaving winter for California probably lies at the very core of my horticultural consciousness. I am back in blustery, snowy Colorado after yet another week in Paradise.
I knew instinctively as a child that the grandeur of the Rockies, Great Plains and Plateau country was every bit as wonderful as the Sierra, Central Valley and Coastal California. But I knew the horticulture in California was light years ahead. Much of my horticultural mission has been to bring some of that magic and diversity to the Rockies and High Plains...California shall always be a mistress, an escape and a wonderful dream. Even back home, can you blame me for a little California Dreaming?