The Covid-19 pandemic began as spring started, but spring was not cancelled – only humans needed to stop and think about our every move.  Public gardens needed to close as the virus peaked and needed to assess risks to staff and visitors, but the plants kept up their show.

Even if lawns went unmowed:

Wildflower ‘weeds’ (Buttercups and English daisy Bellis perennis) overtaking unmown lawn grass; San Francisco Botanical Garden

I have received special permission from a number of gardens to work on the Summer-Dry Project as a photojournalist doing time sensitive grant-funded work.  I am taking full advantage of the media as an essential service.

The Summer-Dry Project goes on.  The Timber Press book that was due to be released in June has been postponed to January 5th when we all hope bookstores will be recovering and authors can be making presentations if only by Zoom.

Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates – by Nora Harlow and Saxon Holt; Timber Press book cover

But I continue work on the upgrade to the California WUCOLS* plant database which is why I need to use my media credentials. There are lots of plants I don’t know:

This Quercus cerris, Turkey Oak, photo taken Many 11 in SF Botanical Garden will be part of the WUCOLS update:

Quercus cerris Turkey Oak or Austrian oak tree in mediterranen basin section of San Francisco Botanical Garden

I am grateful to Ruth Bancroft Garden, San Francisco Botanical Garden, UC Santa Cruz Botanical Garden, and Tilden Regional Parks Botanic Garden for granting me special access.

I promised to share and happy to do so.  The photos following are not necessarily photos that are part of the Project but are some what caught my eye.

Ruth Bancroft Garden:  More from this garden in their PhotoBotanic Gallery

Leucospermum ‘Succession’ orange flowering Pincushion Protea South African shrub; Ruth Bancroft Garden

Senna artemisioides, Feathery Cassia, yellow flowering drought tolerant, summer-dry Australian shrub in Bancroft Garden

Agave parrasana, Cabbage Head Agave, with flower stalk among California poppies at Ruth Bancroft Garden

Echium candicans (syn. E. fastuosum) Pride of Madeira flowering with yellow Fremontodendron in Ruth Bancroft Garden

UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden: More from this garden in their PhotoBotanic Gallery

Banksia grandis – Giant banksia Australian t flowering in UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden with Callistemon ‘Harkness’

Dodonaea viscosa ssp. angustifolia Sticky Hopbush with Melianthus major – Honey Bush and Leucospermum cordifolium in UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden

Leucospermum lineare x glabrum ‘Tango’ flowering Australian pincusion shrub in UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden

Banksia victoriae Woolly Banksia, new leaves unfurling in rock garden; UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden

San Francisco Botanical Garden: More from this garden in their PhotoBotanic Gallery

Entry to Rhododendron Garden with flowering Rhododendron ‘Midnight’ in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Hermannia hyssopifolia (Eight Day Healing Bush), South African section of San Francisco Botanical Garden with Thamnochortus insignis

Davidia involucrata, Dove-tree, handkerchief tree with white bracts flowering in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’ flowering California native shrub in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Tilden Regional Parks Botanic Garden: More from this garden in their PhotoBotanic Gallery

Stipa diegoensis San Diego Needlegrass, native grass flowering in sunlight Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, California

Eschscholzia californica – California Poppy flowering against rock in Regional Parks Botanic Garden

Cornus glabrata, Brown Dogwood, California native shrub flowering in Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, California

Styrax officinalis var. redivivus Snowdrop Bush, flowering California native shrub; Regional Parks Botanic Garden

Bonus photos.  With so many California native shrubs at their peak here, I treated myself to a bit of fun to work on a personal project – the Extraction Series.

Calycanthus occidentalis, California sweetshrub or California spicebush flowering native shrub in Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, California.

Before and After Slider


More on this extraction process.

Some the gardens are open to restricted access, others are opening soon.  Check their websites in the links above.  Go visit, pay for an admission, buy a plant.  All public gardens have suffered due to the pandemic.  Lost revenues in admissions, events, and rentals has been nearly catastrophic in this normally busy season.

Do get out and enjoy our public gardens.  With a minimum of precautions, the out of doors is really safe.