How does the garden grow? A pictorial from mid-July to early August

A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space – a place not just set apart but reverberant – and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.
– Michael Pollan, American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, from Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

When one talks about his or her garden, it’s best left to pictures. So I’ll do that. I’m picking up from my last blog post and displaying photos of the bouquets beginning with July 14th. But first, some solo shots in the dahlia garden.

This petite tri-color dahlia has tight tubular petals.

Another petite dahlia with spikey petals.

One of my favorites – a deep maroon dahlia, which was one of my prolific bloomers.

One of the two Korematsu bouquets for July 14th.

Closeup with heliotrope alba trailing down the vase and rudbeckia “Prairie Sun” on the left and right.

The second Korematsu bouquet for July 14th.

Closeup with the rare white dahlia and a tiny orange zinnia in attendance.

Front car seat loaded up with flowers, with my daughter, Isabella, dutifully assisting me on all my deliveries. And Sammy, too.

A July 16th bouquet for my friend Kelly, with the birthday gift that keeps on giving.

This petite orange dahlia has been a productive flower all summer.

Because I can’t get enough of this rare white dinner plate-size dahlia. Perfection.

The July 18th ECHS bouquet with a pink and burgandy theme.

The other side of this same bouquet looks like a different bouquet – with carnations, daisies, helipterum roseum “Pierrot,” and cosmos bipinnatus “Snow Puff.”

A tiny arrangement that will keep my friend, Joann, happy because these echibeckia Summerina Yellow daisies will look great as a dried arrangement.

My bonus bouquet for Tuesday, July 18th, was given to my LUNAFEST chair and community leader extraordinaire, Joann.

A closeup with a big beautiful yellow dahlia, which is original to the first owner of our home, ol’ Joe Broglio. Also starring centaurea cyanus blue, alstroemeria, and Love in a Mist.

I only had one delivery for my July 21st Korematsu bouquets because one of the families went away on vacation. So I call this bouquet my stuffed dahlia arrangement.

Bear with me, as I couldn’t curate the pictures for this particular bouquet. Another angle with one of my favorite and also rare salmon, orange-colored dahlia in the middle.

A closeup of this beauty of a dahlia.

And another closeup, but of the pink variety, which looks beautiful next to the trailing heliotrope alba.

Magenta and burgundy.

And the pale yellow dahlia with pale pink streaks.

The day that I was leaving to take a red-eye to Portland, ME, for my business trip, I couldn’t resist making two last bouquets. To whom to give them? This went to my neighbor Carla.

Closeup of the brash and showy bi-color dahlias.

My neighbor Faith got the yellow and orange dahlia arrangement.

When I got back early Monday morning, July 31st, the garden was bursting with flowers.

I got back to work with gusto. Look at all these blooms!

I made four bouquets in all. First, the August 1st ECHS bouquet.

It’s really a rare dahlia, though I take a million pictures of it.

This compact bouquet of maybe only six dahlias was a statement piece nonetheless with the dinner-plate size of the blooms. The recipient of this red, purple, and yellow bouquet? My friend Joann.

Even though it was a Tuesday, August 1st, I had enough for the Korematsu auction winners. This pale but bursting beauty was one of the Korematsu bouquets.

Closeup of the spikey pale yellow dahlias with scabiosa atropurpurea “Florist Blue.”

This is the second Korematsu bouquet. Because of the lighting and its resulting moodiness, this picture reminds me of a Dutch still life, a Vermeer.

The same bouquet in bright light.

Back to the Friday delivery of the Korematsu bouquets. Here is the August 4th first bouquet, anchored by a ginger plant and flanked by Helichrysum bractetum “Monster Rose” on the sides.

The second August 4th Korematsu bouquet.

We celebrated my college roommate Susan’s birthday on August 5th. I wanted to do a big bouquet for the celebration.

There were many stunning dahlias in this bouquet. One of my favorite dinner plate-size burgundy.

Magenta beauty.

The white dinner plate.

Yellow spiked dahlia.

What a pair.

Dahlia love.

A different view of the bouquet.

This magenta dahlia is perfectly formed, underneath a purple dahlia.

Two bouquets for the August 8th ECHS delivery. Here’s the smaller of the two – and a non-dahlia bouquet at that.

The other side of the smaller bouquet.

The second bouquet – an explosion of dahlias.

The other side of the bouquet.

Accompanying the dahlias are scabiosa atropurpurea “Florist Blue” and the venedio arctotis daisies.

Rose-colored dahlia.

Helipterum roseum “Pierrot” (white flower with black centered rimmed in yellow) and catananche caerulea “Cupid’s dart” flowers hidden in between the dahlias.

Two bouquets ready for delivery!


Second home in summer – Portland Maine

We sat bathed in luscious darkness, Casco Bay’s thousand islands spread out before us like a diamond quilt. ‘I don’t get enough of this,’ she said.
– Mike Bond, novelist, environmental activist, poet, war and human rights correspondent, and international energy expert

Every summer, I am treated to a week in Maine, thanks to the fact that my company is based in Portland, Maine. Every summer, I fly into Portland, and I immediately fall in love all over again. The bay, the islands with the homes dotting the shore, the billowy clouds floating across a brilliant blue sky, the fresh air, the fantastic restaurants, the cute shops. I gush about moving to Maine. Or at least summer in Maine.

This year, the out-of-towners at my company got to stay at the Press Hotel, which is a boutique hotel that was once home to the Portland Press-Herald newspaper. But not only is the building an historic building, but the owners got it right by decorating the interior of the hotel with a newspaper theme. The sales team at my company, who are just great to work with and for, thanked me for my service to them in a very sweet call-out before my boss’s presentation on our department. And they presented me with two Press Hotel mugs and ceramic tray, which now sit on my desk to remind me of my stay there and the wonderful memories from this year.

My picture of the building didn’t turn out because the sun wasn’t on my back. But here’s info on the history of the newspaper and building.

In the lobby, one of the walls displays typewriters from all eras.

In the lobby, an old-fashioned typewriter and complimentary stationery.

Mod carpeting and tables with enlarged old newspaper clippings.

In the hallways, the wall paper is taken from actual headlines found in old microfiche (yes, look up that word).

The room across the hall from me. I love the detail of the room number being illuminated.

The chair and its quote in my room.

My last night at the Press Hotel: lobster rolls and homemade potato chips.

My Press Hotel gifts and souvenirs….

Meals for the week! Portland is well known for its great restaurants. And I was lucky to hit a number of places. Some new, some welcomed me back.

Marcy’s Diner, if you want a hearty meal, with my colleague Julie.

Boats pointing to Casco Bay.

DeMillo’s on the Bay, Portland.

Branzino at Scales, with a great view of the Bay.

The tradition for dinner the last evening of our summer sales summit is taking the ferry to Peak’s Island and having a lobster dinner. Fun was had by all. And, of course, my colleague and partner in crime, Deb, accompanied me as we shopped in Old Port, the old part of town.

One of my favorite shops in Maine. From jewelry to unique clocks and other furniture to whimsy decorations like these bookish birdhouses.

I read about Flea-for-All in the local magazine in my hotel room. What a fun place to browse. This is where I discovered Michelle Estell jewelry.

Beautifully curated Flea-for-All on Congress Street.

The interior of Flea-for-All.

Maine Potters Market in Old Port has beautiful pottery made by artists from Maine.

Selfies on the ferry ride to Peak’s Island – with Erin and Claretha.

A mix of sales and editorial staff – with Jane, Kelly, Gus, Julie, and Deb.

Claretha and I bonded last summer with our love for big earrings. The pair that I’m wearing was given to me by Claretha on the first day of summer summit.

Peak’s Island lobster – a tradition.

On the way back to the ferry – a familiar sight of colorful hanging lobster floats.

Farewell, Peak’s Island!

After the summer sales summit concluded for me, I spent the weekend with my good friend Jack and his wife, Fay, and their daughter, Camille. But first, we walked around Portland, as I discovered for the first time since I’ve been coming here, that Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow lived here and his home is an historic landmark. We walked around the gardens.

Longfellow’s statue in Portland.

The lush Longfellow’s Garden.

Tranquil setting.

Vibrant greenery.

Colorful bouquet.

At the Portland Hunt and Alpine Club for drinks with Eric and Jack. Love the simple green bouquets on the table. This place is all scarred wood, clear glass, greenery, and old-time maps. And good drinks!

Still bad at doing selfies, but I guess that’s a good thing. With Eric and Jack.

First time at Empire – one of the favorites, Peking duck buns. To. Die. For. If you ever go to Portland, you must eat here. The hour wait is worth every second.

Jack and his family moved to Brunswick in 2015, but since we went directly from Portland to Stonington Island, where they have a home there, I never spent time in their new abode until this year. Brunswick is lovely, and I had a relaxing time exploring the historic town.

The picturesque Brunswick Inn, in the main street of town.

This is a great shop, though pricey and questionable customer service. But still a great place to browse.

Wyler’s of Brunswick, a charming shop with jewelry, clothes, housewares, toys, locally crafted gifts, and accessories. You can spend a lot of time browsing here.

Hatch on Maine is a cute vintage and antique shop. There are a few vintage/antique shops on the main street. This one was a favorite of mine.

The shores of Brunswick.

The Frank J. Wood Bridge, which spans the Androscoggin River between Topsham and Brunswick, at twilight.

Contemplating life, Fay and Jack overlook the Androscoggin River.

Can’t get enough of the clouds here.

Brunswick is home to Bowdoin College, a lovely private liberal arts college established in 1794 when Maine was still part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Bowdoin College Chapel.

Inside the chapel.

Hubbard Hall.

Lovely white hydrangeas all over the campus.

The second majestic lion.

Illuminated clouds.

Along the way, we walked through the local cemetery, in which Joseph Chamberlain, hometown hero of the Civil War, is laid to rest.

Walking through the Brunswick cemetery.

Something about headstones in a cemetery that draws me, especially when the cemetery is an old one.

Joseph Chamberlain’s headstone.

A row of headstones.

A family of headstones like rows of old teeth.

Knowing that I love gardens, Jack took me to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, where I took upwards of 200 photos at least. Here are just a few, though it was tough to narrow them down.

Adirondack chairs await visitors at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

A view of the Back River.

A field of daisies with monarch butterflies, if you look more closely.

Charlie’s bench.


One of the more inventive interpretations from a visitor to the Fairy House Village.


Rabbit sculpture by Lisa Becu.

Lush lime green greenery.


Slater Forest Pond.

Vayo Meditation Garden pool.

Close-up of the Basin sculpture by David Holmes.


Wind Orchard by George Sherwood.

Colorful hostas.

Windsound by Val Bertoia from Bertoia Studios.


Ethereal plants.

I had another great time in Portland and Brunswick. Thanks to my great friends and hosts, Jack and Fay. Looking forward to next year!

It looks like I’m wrestling with Holly, the Beaudoin Family dog, but I’m really awkwardly trying to do a selfie with her.

Last meal in Maine in Portland at, of course, Empire.

Fay and me at Empire.

Brunswick architecture. Love the homes here in Brunswick, in Maine.

My last attempt at a selfie with Jack and Fay in front of their lovely Brunswick home.

Abundant garden

Why try to explain miracles to your kids, when you can just have them plant a garden? – Robert Brault, American author

Since we had our dahlia garden rejuvenated and backyard landscaped, we have been blessed with an abundance of beautiful flowers. Seems the last time I posted, May 28th, nearly six weeks ago, I have made myriad bouquets. Apparently, too many to try to keep track of, as I try to label them for this blog. Alas, let’s just say that all of these flowers were either a continuing birthday present for a good friend or an auction bouquet for the winning bidders from Korematsu Middle School or El Cerrito High School.

While I have an abundance of dahlias, which I am absolutely giddy about, I have been experimenting with a number of different kinds of flowers. Gaillardia, rudbeckia, echinecea, helenium, helichrysum bracteatum, osteospermum, to name a few. And I have been lurking in and out of the various nurseries in our area. Of course, Annie’s Annuals, but also Flowerland, East Bay Nursery, Westbrae Nursery, and my first foray into Berkeley Horticulture Nursery. I’ve been trading jewelry and clothes for nature’s jewels, so to speak.

So without further ado, my weekly bouquets – at least four a week, sometimes more – up to the 4th of July. Enjoy! Even though I consider the 4th of July the midpoint of summer, there is so much more summer to bask in.

I had so many cut flowers that I was able to make four bouquets on this Sunday, June 4th, so everyone got a bumper bouquet for the week.

First bouquet’s other side – it looks like a completely different bouquet. I love gerbera daisies, but after the initial impressive blooms, the blooms grew smaller, and then they just withered.

The second bouquet with the mighty ginger plant in the middle.

The third bouquet.

Close-up of the third bouquet. One of my favorite flowers – scabiosa “fama blue.” I bought several small plants at Annie’s Annuals to ensure a larger crop. I’ve not had success getting more than a handful of these beautiful flowers all season. We’ll see what I get next year.

The fourth bouquet, anchored by an ongoing crop of ginger.

Early June Korematsu bouquet in monochromatic burgundy, magenta, and pink.

Ginger plant, dahlias, scabiosa, dianthus (carnation), osteospermum (African daisy), and hydrangea.

Another close-up. This spikey deep burgundy dahlia has been a strong performer this season.

The second Korematsu bouquet in yellows and oranges.


And zinnias, gerbera daisies, scabiosa, and alstromeria for a dwarf bouquet.

A June 11th bouquet for Kelly – orange and yellow with a hint of burgundy.

June 13th El Cerrito High School auction winner’s bouquet.

An extra dwarf bouquet in burgundy and pink.

Close-up with chocolate cosmos, dahlia, daisies, and featuring African daisy “Zion Copper Amethyst,” so named because these daisies are prolific at Zion National Park.

June 16th, first Korematsu bouquet.

Close-up featuring a delicate miniature pinkish creamy calla lily.

A tiny arrangement with chocolate cosmos and Zion Copper Amethyst cape daisies.

Close-up overview.

Second Korematsu bouquet.


Second miniature bouquet companion for the second Korematsu bouquet. Hot combo of purple and orange.

June 18th ECHS bouquet.


June 18th bouquet for Kelly.

Close-up featuring gaillardia “Arizona red shades” at the lip of the vase and frilly red geums on the left and top.

Close-up showing off the gaillardia, geum, alstromeria, and, of course, dahlias.

June 20th saw a bumper crop. Four bouquets when I usually only deliver one for the ECHS auction winner.

Close-up of a ginger plant and hot pink and deep burgundy dahlias.

Second bouquet featuring the very pretty helipterum roseum “Pierrot” and scabiosa caucasica “Fama Blue.”

The second bouquet with a rare dahlia, which is one of my favorites.


Favorite dahlia in the light.

Another close-up of the favorite dahlia.

The third bouquet.

Close-up of the third bouquet.


After all was said and done – four floral arrangements.

June 24th Korematsu bouquet. The light yellow dahlia on the left, right, and below the one on the right, is also a strong performer.

The same bouquet on the other side – it’s like another bouquet.


Second Korematsu bouquet.

June 25th bouquet for Kelly.

June 27th’s ECHS bouquet with alstromeria, dahlia, venedio arctotis, sacbiosa, and featuring helipterum roseum “Pierrot.”

Close-up. One of my favorite but rare dahlias in the garden is the pink variegated version in the middle.

I succumbed to three dinner-plate-size dahlias from Costco – white, deep burgundy, and pink. An extra bouquet was happily given to Joann, our fearless LUNAFEST film festival chair.

A close-up.

And another close-up, which never gets old for this photographer.

I made a bouquet to greet my cousin Janet and her husband, Tim, when they arrived for their annual 4th of July visit. Against the backdrop of my favorite painting (by Gary Stutler) The Lamp Lady, this bouquet complements its setting.

Close-up. It never gets old.

I made two large bouquets that I gave away to my friends Jane and Raissa after our 4th of July party. I forgot to take pictures of them. But I did make a lot of small arrangements that I sprinkled throughout the patio and house. Here is an arrangement destined for the patio bistro table.

This red-and-white beauty has been a staple in our dahlia garden for years. It is just now popping up. And how!

My cousin Janet and I checked out Urban Ore in Berkeley, one of our traditional destinations over her 4th of July visits. I found this heavy beautiful rectangular vase, which was perfect for displaying the dinner-plate-size white and pink dahlias.

Luminous. The small bouquet for Janet and Tim’s guest room.

More luminosity.

One of two Korematsu bouquets for July 7th.

The second Korematsu bouquet – with the first gladiola of the season. Usually gladiolas come up in early June, but they were disturbed during the front yard landscaping. On the upside, there are a lot of little blades of gladiola leaves popping up!

Korematsu bouquet close-up.

The garden transformed

May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.
– Abraham Cowley, 17th century English poet

So it begins. Spring has arrived and after last year’s disappointing gardening season, I knew a new beginning was in store this year. We are in the midst of a big landscaping project. We started with the side garden in late February – revitalizing the dahlias by digging them up, separating the tubers, replanting them in amended soil, and installing a new sprinkler system. I anxiously checked out the side yard every few weeks. In April, to my great delight, the soil broke as the dahlia plants slowly made their way to light. With great care, I sprinkled Sluggo and diatemaceous earth around the sprouts. I even came out in the evenings and early in the mornings to scrap slugs off the leaves onto the flagstone.

Dahlias sprouting in the pots.

Fledgling dahlias in the side yard in April.

Dahlias in pots and in the ground in the side yard.

Nurturing the dahlias with Sluggo and diatemaceous earth rings around the plants.

Then I hurt my back playing with our dog, Sammy. I couldn’t walk, drive, or move much. So for weeks I was unable to tend to my garden. And then after Mother’s Day I came down with a nasty virus. I’m still not quite over it, but I was able to get out this Memorial Day Weekend to work on the yard – placing the pots in the backyard, weeding, and pinching back buds so that the dahlias will give me big blooms. The leaves are still being eaten, so I need to take care of those insects, but after being absent from the side yard for weeks, I was pleasantly surprised to see how strong the stalks are.

An April birthday bouquet for Kelly – the calla lilies were starting to expire and the alstromeria were going bonkers.

Mother’s Day bouquet for my mother-in-law, Ann. One for Kelly and one in my heart for my mom.

A May 21st bouquet for Kelly reveals the first dahlia from the garden!

Close-up of the first dahlia, surrounded by hydrangea, dianthus, and alstromeria.

Another close-up with a delicate hydrangea.

One more close-up.

To date, 88 plants have sprung up. One dahlia – the orange and yellow ones in a pot – has bloomed. And more will be ready within a week or so. I have committed to the two school auction bouquets this year – my last year with Korematsu Middle School (as Isabella enters high school in the fall) and El Cerrito High School. One of the moms who got the Korematsu weekly bouquet is a repeat winner. She got it two years ago. She split with another family, so even though they agreed to have a bouquet every other week, I’m going to see if I can do two bouquets for each family each week for 10 weeks. And then the third one will be for the high school auction winner. And finally, this year I gave as a birthday present a weekly bouquet to my friend Kelly. Let’s see if 88 plants can give me four bounteous bouquets for 10 weeks, starting the first full week in June. Fingers crossed.

I was asked to make three bouquets for the graduating senior baseball players’ families, which I happily obliged for the May 3rd game.

I was able to use the watsonias from our front garden, even though the flowers were on their way out.

A little scabiosa and our neighbor’s succulent purple plant.

Just enough to make three bouquets at once.

The alstromeria will soon be giving way to the dahlia bouquets.

The ginger plants are sprouting like crazy, too. This ginger plant anchors this Memorial Day Weekend arrangement.

I’m really looking forward to this gardening year. In the backyard we will have six planting beds. Two for vegetables and four for flowers. I’d like to expand my dianthus garden. We’ll see what else the garden will grow this year. It should be a beautiful, colorful summer of flowers.

A healthy crop of dahlias.

A bit uneven as not all of the tubers sprouted.

I spent the weekend weeding and pinching back buds. I was heartened to see how thick the stalks are.

Even the dark corners are sprouting dahlias!

Fingers crossed for these vigorous dahlias!

The side yard dahlia garden is resembling the healthy garden of 2013.

Talking about the Filipino American experience at UC Davis

Ethnic studies may be effective because it is an unusually intensive and at-scale social-psychological intervention.
– Thomas S. Dee, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, director at the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis, and co-author of the report The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper

The University of California at Davis is my alma mater, and while I was an English major, I was one class shy of having a minor in Asian American Studies. So I was very excited to have the opportunity to do a talk for Professor Robyn Magalit Rodriguez’s Asian American Studies class 150: the Filipino American Experience this past Thursday, April 27th.

The quad at UC Davis, where I spent many a sunny afternoon reading and having lunch with friends and classmates.

Another view of the quad. Lots of political signs up. I remember listening to Desmond Tutu speaking to a capacity crowd on the quad. Those were the days.

My older sister Heidi is also an Aggie alum. Here we are posing with some Aggie swag.

Professor Rodriguez showed Marissa Aroy’s documentary, The Delano Manongs: the Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement. Then I read an excerpt from my novel, A Village in the Fields. Afterwards, we did a Q&A session, which included my talking about the importance of Asian American Studies in my life – personally and with my writing. Professor Rodriguez and I both stressed the importance of recording the stories of our families, and emphasizing the value to our parents and grandparents of their stories. They need validation of the importance of their stories.

Reading an excerpt from the novel.

Talking about the process of writing A Village in the Fields.

Talking about the importance of Asian American Studies in my life.

I had the opportunity to talk with a number of students after the class. I am uplifted every time I spent time with college students, especially those in Asian American Studies. I was energized by their passion and commitment to AAS and the history of Filipino Americans.

Getting to know one of the AAS students who is majoring in history.

I really enjoy talking with students after events. Here, Rebecca is an English major who is minoring in AAS.

Who doesn’t enjoy signing books?

Thank you, Professor Rodriguez, for a great, enlightening evening!

Celebrating Cesar Chavez Day, University of CA, Office of the President

On Wednesday, March 29th, I was the guest speaker at a lunchtime event sponsored by the Latino Staff Association/Asian Pacific Islander Association affinity groups at the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP). The event, entitled, “When Mexicans and Filipinos Join Together: The Farmworker Movement and Unity in the Making,” was in celebration of Cesar Chavez Day. After reading an excerpt from my novel, A Village in the Fields, I sat down with Belinda Vea, Policy and Program Analyst in Student Affairs for UCOP who did her graduate work on Filipino literature, in an “in conversation” question-and-answer session. Belinda is also co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Association.

Among other topics, Belinda asked me about the research process and my family’s story within the novel. The floor was opened up to questions from the audience, which numbered between 45 and 50, which was really nice to see. It was gratifying not only to respond to such thoughtful questions, but to see the interest in people’s faces. In addition to UCOP employees, the event was also advertised to employees from Kaiser Permanente, whose building was across the street in downtown Oakland.

I’m posting photos taken of the event, with gratitude to the photographers, Juliann Martinez, Employee Relations Specialist and chair of the Latino Staff Association, who kindly extended the invitation to speak, Alina Tejera, Pamela Palpallatoc, and Ben Tsai, co-chair with Belinda of the APIA.

The flyer advertising the event.

A wonderful poster welcoming the audience.

A nice spread of Filipino and Mexican cuisine.

A very nice slide show of Filipino and Mexican farm workers was shown before the event.

Reading an excerpt from my novel.

A close-up of my reading.

Belinda Vea “in conversation” with me after my reading.

Belinda at the ready with her questions.

One of the things I talked about was the value taking Asian American Studies classes at UC Davis both in my personal life and in my writing.

An animated me answering a questions while the audience leans in.

A beautiful basket of vegetables and two of my books were raffle prizes at the end of the event.

Me with Pamela Palpallatoc, who works for UCOP and is a UC Davis alumna.

Talking beyond the lunch hour about Filipino American history.

My hosts – Belinda Vea, Ben Tsai, and Juliann Martinez.