Impressions of beauty and delight

A garden adorns the stark concrete of a spiral walkway in the Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, January 2004

A garden adorns the stark concrete of a spiral walkway in the Embarcadero Center,
San Francisco, January 2004

“There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight.”Gertrude Jekyll

Among the things I love best about San Francisco are the unique garden spots tucked away seemingly throughout the city.  Though they lack the appealing open landscapes of more rural areas, urban settings have an allure quite different from the charms of the countryside.  Some cities are uglier and more damaged than others, but almost all of them have hidden jewels of rooftop gardens, small but well planned parks, and tiny splashes of color provided by enterprising city dwellers who understand how to transform a nondescript space into an oasis of visual delight.  I can easily spend hours on a sunny day wandering around downtown areas with my camera, in search of such discoveries.  Wherever you are today, I wish for you the surprise of a refreshing encounter with unexpected beauty.


  1. Reblogged this on

    • Thanks so much! I am glad you liked it.

  2. Me too Julia, that’s what we really enjoyed in California. The gardens there are so well manicures. We are traveling to San Francisco in early May. I’ve never been and we’re really excited to see the sites. I loved the quote you included too.

    • You are in for a real treat! Be sure to see the flowers on Lombard Street – it used to be mostly hydrangeas, but it may be different now. SFO is one of the most walkable cities around, as long as you don’t mind pulling some steep hills. And when you get tired, there are the cable cars, street cars, BART and the buses. You might want to get a transit pass for a day or a few days, since parking in the city is quite expensive and usually pretty difficult unless you are a pro at parallel parking on hills (and I’m definitely not). And if you have time, it’s great to see the Golden Gate Bridge from many viewpoints – the one most people visit, plus Fort Point (at the base, below the main visitor center) and up in Marin Headlands, just across the bridge. If you have time, you can walk across the GG bridge (be sure to dress warmly) which is a lot of fun. The Bay Bridge (from Oakland) is also very pretty, but take it INTO the city for a top-deck view, if you have a car. So many cool things to see! I hope you will have a lot of time there.

      • Ohhhhh, exciting! Thank you for all the great tips Julia. I’ve been creating a board on Pinterest and the photo’s are so fantastic. We are planning 4 days, then 3-4 in Napa, then 4 in San Jose which is the really exciting part as we are spending time with Alys (from Gardening Nirvana) and her family. We’ve become great friends. It’s been just a joy.

        We have been told about the parking issue and hope to stay where we can easily walk or bus to most of the highlights. Lombard street will be a ‘can’t miss’ for sure! I can’t wait 😀

        • Be sure to see Sonoma as well as Napa. They sort of compete with each other (sit side by side) and each has a long highway through their respective counties, but I think I like the Sonoma trail a bit better than Napa’s. Both are great, though. There is a lovely historic mission in the town of Sonoma and a wonderful cheese factory shop where we always got the best cheese! Alys will know all the good places, I’m sure, especially in the Carmel/Monterey/Pacific Grove area not far from her. It’s great to have a local tour guide!

          • I’m sure we’ll have to go more than once to catch all the sites! My goodness, I so appreciate all your input too. Our plan is to rent a car on the way out of San Fran and so we will for sure do both Sonoma and Napa…have you stayed at any local hotels there that you really liked? We generally enjoy small and quiet. I have so many bookmarked it’s hard to decide.

            • We lived in the county right next door to Napa, so we never had to get a hotel. Sorry I can’t be more help there.

              • no no, you’ve been a great help, and gotten me so geared up! Wow, I bet it was hard to relocate but like you said, it’s nice to be near to family and Virginia is beautiful as well. xK

                • I spent about three years in mourning for northern California, and we had just about decided to move back there when I realized I was really fond of Virginia. The great thing about moving around a lot is that every place has its charms, and once you begin to feel at home there, it’s always hard to leave. I hope you have a fabulous time in the Bay Area; I’m guessing you’ll want to go back often!

                  • Thank you Julia, I’m thinking you’re right about the return visits and ‘Home is where you heart is’ 🙂 It’s no wonder they’ve been cross stitching that one for a century, it’s truer than we know. xK

  3. Sheila

    Julia, we only have to look, take the time to look! The colors of the beautiful sunrise dance across the swiftly moving waves this morning as I look out at the ocean. I promised God when we moved here in 1985 that I would never take this beautiful ocean for granted. Many blessings and much strength to you, Sheila

    • Sheila, it must be so wonderful to be able to see the ocean each morning. I am sure you never tire of it. Thanks so much for giving me a mini-snapshot in words, to start my day on a beautiful note! Thanks for your visits here.

  4. Mike Bertoglio

    Nothing like this in Seattle. I like it, but think it would look better without the concrete. In Seattle there is a quote “sculpture,” called Zonal Denial right under the I-5 freeway. It is a Coconut palm planted in some decent soil with a couple of special heat lamps over it. Last time I visited, it was not doing that well.

    • Yes, the concrete is the practical part; the garden just takes away from the harsh look of it by adding a spot of color. Although the spiral walkway is a bit more interesting (and accessible to wheels) than a typical staircase would be. A Coconut palm in Seattle is ambitious indeed! Maybe the tree will grow accustomed to its new surroundings and flourish eventually.

  5. Thank you for the wish!

    • You’re welcome! Thanks for visiting.

  6. Rene

    We spent four days of our honeymoon in San Francisco, and are going back for out 30th anniversary in June. Last time we camped in a motor home in some big parking lot (it seemed like). I’m hoping for a hotel this time!

    • Rene, hotels in SFO can be quite pricey, but Jeff and I used to have some delightful “staycations” by staying just south of the city, along the coast going toward Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel. If you can possibly make the time, I highly recommend a day or two in this area. But there are also places closer in. Once we stayed in Pacifica where we got a really good price on an oceanfront room and ate at what must be the world’s only beachfront Taco Bell (hey, I have very pedestrian tastes in food 🙂 and the view was top notch! Check the photos at the link.) Hope you have a wonderful time!

      • P.S. The original Taco Bell, the first one ever built, sits right on the coast in Laguna Beach, CA, but it does not have ocean views. I went there as a young girl and by the time I returned over 30 years later, I was stunned at how the town had grown up around it. It used to sit in a fairly barren stretch.


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