Thank you .. ‘Dirt du Jour’

for the glowing review! "Go ask Alice ... where all the best vineyard gardens are. She's an erudite charmer; you'll have fun!"

California Wine Country

Raymond Vineyards ~ Wine Tasting Joie de Vivre

A satisfying afternoon combined garden touring and tasting fine wines at Raymond Vineyards ~ ruby red Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. I awoke with a smile on my face the next morning, still savoring the aftereffects of a heady joie de vivre that characterizes a visit to this St. Helena winery.

Theater of Nature © Alice Joyce

The spirited ambiance emerging throughout the Raymond property is colored by the elegance and humor of CEO Jean-Charles Boisset of Boisset Family Estates, the driving force behind the Vineyard’s insightful use of solar power, its commitment to organic farming methods, and a lavish aesthetic sensibility. Receiving kudos for Cabernet Sauvignons distinguished by a silky depth, Raymond Vineyards recently garnered the Wine Enthusiast ‘2012 American Winery of the Year’ award.

Unique tasting opportunities at this Napa Valley destination are designed to excite all the senses: Consider reserving an unparalleled offering ~ Raymond’s velvet draped, Baccarat embellished Red Room ~ click on the link to learn more.

Raymond Vineyards ‘Frenchie’ detail © Alice Joyce

Stroll through the  extensive biodynamic gardens and you’ll come upon a “shady dog suite’ … aka Domaine Frenchie!

A perfect place to park your pooch.

‘Frenchie Winery’ © Alice Joyce

For a self-guided tour of The Theater of Nature gardens, there’s a very cool app available to all!

Enter the following into your smart phone

… and click on ‘play’ for an explanation for each of 60 or so distinctive elements of the garden’s organic and biodynamic guiding principles. Among the topics you’ll learn about: Building soil, nurturing goats, chickens and sheep, and planting to attract beneficial insects.

Theater of Nature – Photo Courtesy Raymond Vineyards

RAYMOND Flow Fountain © Alice Joyce

Flow fountains like the one pictured are an integral aspect of biodynamic gardens; designed to move water in a vortex motion that replicates the infinity symbol.

Raymond Exterior Courtesy Raymond Vineyards

Winery displays celebrate the multifaceted sensory pleasures of wine. Below: An array of aromas to increase awareness of the complexity you might experience in a fine glass of wine; floral and spicy, fruity, earthy and spicy.

Aroma Display Photo Courtesy Raymond Vineyards

The Crystal Experience is one of the sparkling spaces at Raymond Vineyards. The glittery decor casts an enticing, theatrical spell; icing on the cake, so to speak, as you enjoy a tasting while learning about the art of decanting wine.

Raymond Crystal Cellar Photo Courtesy Raymond Vineyards

Botanical Gardens

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers: Glorious, Historic Greenhouse

A detailed restoration true to the roots of its historic architecture sets apart the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park,  a glorious structure standing as the country’s oldest public glass and wood greenhouse.  You’ll doubtless find it easy to spend hours roaming through the Lowland Tropics and Highland Tropics rooms teeming with rarities both towering and tiny. Tropical specimens in the moist environs of the lowland gallery include a 100 year-old philodendron and ‘economic’ plants like bananas reaching skyward.

Potted Plants Gallery © Alice Joyce

I’m drawn to the lush Victorian displays in the Potted Plants gallery, with its wooden arbor acting as a focal point that draws visitors to enter and explore arrays of fabulous foliage and flowering species.

The current exhibit beguiles with an educational foray into the life cycle of butterflies and moths. The atmosphere is pure magic, as butterflies swoop and flutter about the gallery. One sweet creature landed on my hand and rested there for minutes until I made a slight movement. In a case filled with butterfly and moth pupa, visitors may observe the transformation taking place when a chrysalis begins to vibrate, and an adult emerges.

S F Conservatory Butterflies and Blooms © Alice Joyce

My visit coincided with a very special get-together …

The Garden Bloggers Fling 2013 celebrated a delectable dinner gathering in the Conservatory’s event space.

The Conservatory of Flowers provided a perfect setting for the group, coming together from near and far to relax after the Fling’s first day in the City by the Bay. A brilliant evening … enjoyed by all!
San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

Exotic orchids abound…

Orchid © Alice Joyce

Overhead in the Aquatic Plants gallery, a beautiful rendition of the giant Amazon water lily, Victoria amazonica ~ hovers in space;  an eye-catching sculptural highlight of the gallery.

Victoria amazonica Water Lily Sculpture © Alice Joyce

These wondrous lily pads can grow to 8 feet in diameter; one of the wonders of the tropical watershed.

SF Conservatory of Flowers © Alice Joyce

Verdant displays offer delightful experiences in each of the Conservatory’s gallery rooms.

Anthurium cultivar © Alice Joyce

Shown below on the right: A living green wall constructed by Chris Bribach ~ Plants On Walls ~ welcomes you upon entering the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. The colorful, textural expanse of flora creates just the right note as visitors prepare to experience the communities of plants awaiting inside each of the five distinctive galleries.

Conservatory Green Wall © Alice Joyce


Butterflies Blooms Exhibit © Alice Joyce


San Francisco

San Francisco Welcomes .. the Garden Bloggers Fling!

The Garden Bloggers are coming to town!

After the bloggers have visited a trove of the Bay Area’s great gardens, all lined up in a stellar itinerary that includes Filoli to the iconic landscape of the Ruth Bancroft Garden and The Wave Garden,

Wave Garden Vista View © Alice Joyce

… there are a few more special settings the bloggers might consider squeezing into their visit to the City By The Bay:

Thomas Church-designed pocket park ~ one of San Francisco’s Secret Gardens … Fay Park

Fay Park – Thomas Church Design Photo © Alice Joyce

Another must-see: the city’s beautiful community effort mosaic work ~ the Tiled Steps … 

San Francisco Tiled Steps Photo © Alice Joyce

Perhaps if you’re reading this and you’ve recently seen Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire in the Presidio

Goldsworthy – The Spire – Photo © Alice Joyce

you might leave a comment to tell me how it’s holding up.

That’s all for now.

Check back for a report on the Fling Dinner to be held this Friday at  The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

Click here to read my 2004 Garden Walks column, when the Conservatory of Flowers celebrated its 125th birthday!