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Lotusland - Forever More, We Will Dream On the Lotus Shore....

Putti

...softly sing in the dark'ning air

Though other lands of earth are fair

Forever and forever more

We will dream on the lotus shore

~ Mrs Gregory Smith, Atla: A story of the lost island, 1886.......

Lotusland Euphorbia Ingens 

Lotusland. 

Behind the elegant wrought iron gates and aged pink stucco wall, this classic Mediterranean villa wears a sunny tuscan hue.  It reclines near the base of the chaparral-covered mountains in Montecito, California, and seems all the more vivid for the turquoise dome of sky that shines above it most days.   Weeping euphorbia ingens, tall plants that grow in long, twisting loops, stand dramatically along the front of the house and form a fantastic and rag-tag assemblage.

This is an environment extraordinaire. 

Exquisite.  Edgy.  Wild. 

Vibrant life - 37 acres of it. The very air is tinged with a portent of discovery and drama, where mysteries are sure to be revealed, and more enticingly, secrets must surely be kept.

Within the wall, surrounding the house - are the legendary Lotusland gardens.

The story of Lotusland began in 1882, when Ralph Kinton Stevens, a transplanted Englishman, settled here. 

Lotusland House Entrance

Stevens was enchanted by the arid, dry landscape of Montecito.  He loved the plains, foothills, and mountains covered with chaparral.  He admired the indiginous plants - the coastal live oaks, California sycamores, manzanita, ceanothus, sage, toyon, and grasses that proliferate along the southern coast of California. 

Although he admired these natural surroundings, Stevens was not limited by what he saw - he was inspired by what it could become.

He was a natural plantsman, an avid horticulturist.  He preserved many of the old-growth oaks and sycamores that continue to thrive on the property today.  He also began filling the land with plants from around the world:  palms, avocados, lemons, oranges, olives, bananas, mangos,  and more.  

Stevens called his estate "Tanglewood".   He built his family home here, raised his children, and reveled in the life he had created.

 He worked closely with other local plantsmen, and became something of a horticultural goodwill ambassador.  He encouraged Southern Californians to create gardens using exotic varieties of plants that had never been seen in America before.   Stevens furthered his mission when he opened a nursery at Tanglewood,  providing local access to plant material that had been, only a few years before, unobtainable here.

Early Lotusland 1896 - Kinton Stevens - Out West Mag

The frontispiece shows some of the finest specimens to be seen in the country. The slender growing, feathery-headed palm in the center is Cocos plumosa from Brazil; on the right corner stands the Sabal Palmetto from our Southern Atlantic coast; on the left,  Palma Azul or Blue Palm,  Krythea armata from lower California, while in the background are to be seen two huge specimens of the Palma de miel or Coquito Juba a spectabilis from Chile,  and of Phoenix Canadensis from the Canary Islands , which has become so popular all over California.   Under the Cocos is a young clump of giant bamboo,  Bambusa vulgaris from India.

This picture was taken in El Montecito near Santa Barbara at the residence of the late Kinton Stevens who was one of the most enthusiastic pioneers to enrich California with plants from other lands ~Santa Barbara, Cal.

~ Dr F Franchesci, Out West Magazine, 1896

Euphorbias

When Stevens' died, the estate languished.  For years, it was rented out, then leased, until it was purchased by George Owen Knapp in 1913.  

Knapp and his wife were generous philanthropists who loved theater, art, and travel.  They roamed the world, but always loved to come home to Montecito, where they could relax, entertain, and share their home and beloved garden with family and friends.

In 1916, Palmer Gavit and his wife purchase the property, and named it "Cuesta Linda" - Beautiful Hill.   They were inspired by the gardens and siting of the property.  They commissioned Reginald Johnson, renowned architect, to design and build the home of their dreams - the very house that stands today. Construction was completed in 1920. 

The Gavits hired George Washington Smith, another luminary architect, to design the signature pink wall, the pool and pavilion, garages, and other buildings scattered around the estate.  The Gavit's dream coalesced with the help of Johnson and Smith.

 Pool House

It had been more than 50 years since Ralph Kinton Stevens first purchased the property and began its transformation.  By 1941, home and garden had grown into a singular and lovely creation.

And yet, the greatest transformation of all had yet to occur.  In 1941, Madame Ganna Walska first appeared at the property on Sycamore Canyon Road. 

Ganna Walska was born in Poland of relatively humble beginnings.  As a very young woman, she set about to transmute herself into a world-class beauty who could beguile even the most worldly(and wealthy) of men.  Her dramatic and sumptuous life played out on the world's stage.  Her charm, allure, and powers of seduction were legendary.  She insisted she be addressed as Madame Walska.

Madame Walska traveled extensively.  She collected famous friends - especially handsome men. She took up opera.  She wrote.  She was feted by her admirers in every corner of the world. She was like a little tiny stick of dynamite - an petite but explosive package.   Although society was scandalized by her outré behavior, the world was secretly delighted by her escapades and unconventional lifestyle.

She had numerous and well-publicized affairs - and a total of six marriages.  Ganna Walska had voracious appetite for luxury and finery.  She was bold, audacious, and she always cut a glamorous figure.   

Madame Walska owned Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, along with dozens of bespoke costumes that Erte created for her to wear during her operatic performances.  At home, her closets were filled with Lanvin, Patou, Ferragamo, Chanel, and Balenciaga designs.  She had all manner of exotic feather and furs, gems and jewels.

Ganna Walska 1929 from LOC

Her tastes - and appetites - were legendary.

When Ganna Walska and husband #6, Theos Bernard, found Cuesta Linda, they were thrilled. They purchased it and  named the estate  "Tibetland".  Bernard,  known for a time as “The White Lama”, was a yoga master and guru. Together, Walska and Bernard planned to create a spiritual retreat at Tibetland. 

However - the guru was revealed to be a charlatan, and the marriage fell apart.

Now, it was just Ganna Walska and the Garden. 

She named her estate, Lotusland, in 1945.

Madame's passions, formerly reserved for men, travel, luxury - were soon subsumed by her love of the garden.   She cared less for fashion and frivolity these days - although she still dabbled.

She dug her hands into the black earth.  She walked barefoot on the grass.  She swam naked in the pool in the bright sun of the morning, and the soft coolness of moonlight.

Lotusland Pool

She imagined, designed - then installed - outrageous displays of plant material in the garden.  She traded jewels for rare plants.  She picked apples, apricots, lemons and clementines from the orchard.   She woke early, and worked alongside her gardeners until late in the afternoons. She filled baskets with rose blooms she clipped from the garden. 

She amassed a library filled with rare books about the historic gardens of the world, and more prosaic editions addressing architecture, landscaping, plant culture, and garden pests. She potted and pruned her geraniums, and had an aviary filled with birds. She built an outdoor theater, where she hosted musical performances and theatrical masques.    Madame pulled weeds, spread manure, clipped hedges, pruned tree limbs. She became a gardener's gardener.

She engaged Lockwood de Forest, artist and landscape architect, to help implement her newest ideas. He designed the succulent garden, the cactus display in front of the house, and various other gardens on the property.

Shaded Path

She engaged Ralph Tallant Stevens to join in planning her garden.  Stevens, Ralph Kinton Stevens' son, had grown up on the land, and understood all the transformations and incarnations of the property.  He was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Horticultural Society, and an important figure in the horticultural development of Santa Barbara County.  He designed the iron gate that faces Sycamore Canyon Road, the Blue Garden.  He helped to obtain and install the giant garden clock that has been restored as the centerpiece of the Topiary Garden.

 Eventually, Joseph Knowles, a well-known local artist and teacher, worked with Madame in designing the Aloe Garden and the pool that is edged with a ring of abalone shells. 

Aloe Garden 1

In the 1960s, Madame installed the Japanese Garden with the help of Frank Fuji, who recently retired from his 50-year tenure in the Garden.  He worked at Lotusland until he was 90 years old.

Japanese Garden 3

Madame Ganna Walska filled one of her three swimming pools with mud - and lotus plants.  It was a bold move of genius.  Every August, the shaded pool is transformed with statuesque lotus flowers that are held aloft on six-foot-tall stems.  The nearby pools are covered with delicate waterlilies. 

I think of her there, standing amid the rich, rosy colors that kaleidoscope in the dappled shade.  I imagine her in the quiet summer heat that hums with life.  Dragonflies  (metallic cinnbar and bottle-green) flicker above still water.   Liquid reflections of sky appear - a  sharp china-blue.  Flowers bloom.  Birds dart into sheltering branches.  A single leaf falls.

What did Madame think, in moments alone, about her true life's partner - the gardens of Lotusland?  Although Madame's original vision of  Tibetland as a spiritual retreat were not exactly realized, I assure you, this is the playground of the mystic and divine.  

After Madame's passing in her 97th year, the dream continued.  Her garden lived on as legacy.   The Lotusland Foundation was formed.  The Foundation restored the gardens and buildings that had been neglected in Madame's last years.  Lotusland was opened as a public garden.  

Lotusland docents, an intensively-trained and passionate lot, offer guided tours of the garden, twice daily, from February through November.  

Japanese Garden 1

I worked for a season in the Garden Shop at Lotusland.  I would arrive early in the morning to open the shop, and prepare for the 10am Saturday tour.  Often, I was the first person in the garden, alone with squirrels and quail and rabbits in the fern and begonia gardens.  Deeply shaded, the garden beds were flecked on either side with pink and peach-colored blossoms that nestled in the dark, textured leaves of prized begonias; the fragrant blooms from the huge angels' trumpet (datura) dripped with the remnants of last night's fog.

Garden Shop Fountain

Walking through the Japanese garden, I would notice azeleas in bloom, or camellias, or the reddening Japanese maple leaves, each in its season. One morning,  I saw a pair of blue herons in the pond, feasting on glittering red koi, while nearby, life-sized statues of cranes stood sentinal.

Lotusland Garden Shop

 Between tours, I would sweep, and clean, and then sit on the patio and read the newest gardening books:  The Gardens of Columbia, Seaside Gardening, The English Cottage GardenSanta Barbara Style, The Trees of Santa Barbara, and many others.

In the late winter months, the paths were chilly, muddy and puddled in places, with rain dripping, like falling gems, down the columned cypress trees;  in the heat of summer, I would linger in the cool tropical garden, where large philodenrons and bananas mingle beside the soft bark trails, and dozens of epiphyites hang above the pathways. 

Tropical Pathway

 In the springtime that year, we all watched as a pair of tiny towhees nested in a potted plant on the patio.  There, within the rim of the black one-gallon pot, beneath the leaves, they hatched their eggs. K was there when the babies had grown old enough to flutter, and hop up to the lip of the pot.  They flapped and faltered amid great bird fanfare - and suddenly - they could fly.  Just like that, they were gone.

The Lawn

All around this magnificent estate, there are daily treasures, small and large.  There are gardens galore to discover: the Blue Garden, the Cycad Garden, the bromeliads.  The cactus garden was planted during my season at Lotusland.  I thought the cacti out of place - too stark.  And now, I see - it belongs.  It is breathtaking and beautiful.   The garden continues to evolve.

Cactus Garden 5

  There is never a bad day to visit Lotusland.  It is a living creature, a place of many faces and guises. 

Butterfly Garden and Aviary

I was passing through the butterfly garden one afternoon, when a cloud of monarch butterflies drifted over the hedges and tumbled above the flowers as they flew along.  I was mystified.  From whence would a cloud of butterflies appear, and where could they be going?  It seems almost anything is possible at Lotusland.

Lemon Allee

Lizards live here, and rabbits wild - and animals created from the plants themselves. 

Lotusland is a shifting fata morgana of delight - illusion and actuality slip, shimmer, change places  - and take on new shapes entirely - from moment to moment. 

Visit the Lotusland website.  It serves as your personal invitation.

Topiary Kingdom

View the map, learn about upcoming events, make a reservation to take a real-life tour.

Poseidon

Lotusland was created - for all of us - by some of the world's most interesting and visionary gardeners.  It is lovingly tended and maintained today, by an entirely new group of interesting and visionary gardeners, scholars, volunteers, and trustees who oversee the health and vibrant life of the garden.

It is a community resource, a teaching garden.  It is a living legacy, a labor of love,  a world-class  historic and horticultural preserve.

Shaded Pavilion

You must come and see it for yourself.

Giant Blue Agaves


The Old Pueblo Trail - Montecito

San Ysidro Trail 2

Clouds and fog jockey with the blue sky above us, and obscure the tips of  the Santa Ynez Mountains. 

We drive through Montecito and turn on to Park Lane.   At the end of the residential street, we find the San Ysidro Trail, and walk to the trailhead, in the company of other small groups of people who are beginning their hike. Kids yell and shout to each other, and run past us; their dogs join in the chase.   We step aside until they, and their parents, have all gone ahead.  The trail is quiet again, and all ours.  

At this period,  traveling through Alta California was over trails,  some of which were broad and well worn, but few of which attained to the dignity of roads - even after the introduction of the cumbersome ox carts....

Old Pueblo Trail 3

The trail is shaded, and lush with shrubs and vines.   We capture glimpses of sprawling homes, hidden among the shadows.  The path winds above the edge of the little creek.   Water tumbles below us, coursing over and around large boulders, an exuberant flume that rushes into swirls and eddys.  It pools in places, still and deep. Sycamores dip their lanky branches into the dark water.

Extending,  however, along the coast from Mission to Mission was one well-traveled highway known as the Camino Real, or Royal Highway,  which connected at San Diego with the system of Mission highways of Baja California known as the Gulfo Camino Sierra Camino, and Pacifico Camino.   All of these highways were constructed by the padres as a means of communication between the Missions, and over them a mounted mail carrier bore the dispatches from the City of Mexico.

Old Pueblo Trail 2

We ease off the main San Ysidro Trail to the narrower path marked, Old Pueblo Trail.  The trail is edged with a crazy, twisted fence.  The path bisects the backside of private gardens here, and tumbles with truckloads of blooming nastursiums. 

 The rough little trail is also embellished with the wild forms of Pride of Madera, large protea bushes, breath of heaven, jasmine vines, and other flora, interspursed among the native landscape. 

It's added a dash of caprice to the natural beauty, these purposeful touches - incongruous, certainly intentional. Beautiful.  We peek through the hedges and fences, hoping for glimpses of the garden.  We spy a huge aviary, full of chattering birds, that is bigger, by far, than either of our own apartments.

The Camino Real was the road over which Junipero Serra regularly traveled when he visited the Missions which he had established in Alta California, and in later years, it became the principal highway along the coast. It would be impossible,  now, to locate with absolute accuracy the course followed by the Camino Real throughout all its length.  In fact, for short stretches, the route traveled must have varied slightly with the seasons.

Old Pueblo Trail Hummingbird Sage

Soon, though, we hike above the lower gardens, until we are surrounded only by what nature has grown.  We skirt the base of the foothills at an elevation that allows for glimpses of the Montecito Valley, the Santa Barbara Mesa - we can even see a little passel of sailboats from here.   They look to us no bigger than grains of rice as they glide around, atop the slick bluegreen sea.

It was not concerned with government section lines nor neighbors' fences, but followed the course most convenient to travel from Mission to Mission.  In the immediate vicinity of Santa Barbara, it is not probable that it followed the beach westward from the eastern limits of the city, as in those day there would have been much difficulty during many months of the year in reaching either Mission or presidio from that direction...

View from Old Pueblo Trail

The trail is narrow, hard-packed earth.  It is embedded with small stones and the old, earthen imprints of horseshoes.  I had tried to find out more information before our walk today, but I could find nothing definitive about the age and origin of the trail.  I did find the except, included here, in a book written by Walter Hawley in 1920.  It is entitled The History of Santa Barbara, California.  

The plat which accompanies the patent of the Pueblo of Santa Barbara from the United States in 1860, represents Mission creek emptying into the estero which was then part of the lagoon. During heavy rains, the creek forced its way to the ocean and was difficult to cross, but after the heavy rains were over, the drifting beach sands barred the passage of the creek to the ocean, and the waters filled the estero...

Old Pueblo Trail 6

Walking this trail brought to mind his description of the original Camino Real. And,  whether or not this is the actual path he described, it bears the flavor of the original, certainly.  I imagine them here, the Chumash, the Spanish, Mexicans, and the early Europeans of this area, traveling from one pueblo, one village to the other, one mission to the next.

They would have wound slowly at the base of the foothills, beneath clouds and fog as we are now.  They hiked along the front country in hot autumn afternoons, and later made passage in cold winter winds.  

Along their journey, they would have stopped at a high point in the trail, like we are doing, to admire the curve of coastline, the distant rise of the islands, the ancient backbone of mountain behind us.

 Later in the year, when the creek ceased to flow in its lower stretches, the flowing springs of the De la Guerra Gardens fed the lake. Further eastward, the old racetrack recently bought by the city [Bird Refuge Lagoon - cb] was under water during winter,  and the overflow from it, as well as the waters from Sycamore Canyon, forced channels across the beach where the yielding sands would make crossing dangerous.

Old Pueblo Trail 5 

There are only a few other hikers out on the Old Pueblo Trail today.  But I can almost see those earlier hikers, travelers, soldiers, and families who walked here with horses and mules and dogs.

The camino was a supply line, a mail route, a social network.  They would have passed low, springtime waves of clover and thick patches of opuntia cactus, as we are today.  

The most direct route from Montecito to the Mission would have been to the north of the old racetrack and skirting the foothills, and during part of the year, it would have been the only practical route.  

~ Walter Agustus Hawley, The Early Days of Santa Barbara, California, 1920

I imagine them, those old-timers, picking the sweet red cactus fruit in the full summer sun.  I see them travel beneath the live oaks, spreading large and dark, even then.   This front-country trail is more than a path above the city - it's a direct route to the past.

Opuntia Patch 2


Downtown San Luis Obispo

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The sun is almost overhead and the doves have scattered again.   We seek one of the shaded springs of which San Luis Obispo County has so many,  and eat our luncheon,  washing it down with cold spring water with such zest as only a crisp morning in the California hills can give.

After luncheon, we explore a bit and come across the ruins of an old adobe hacienda,  reminder of days of romance gone these fifty years.   From the hilltops ...we look out over a vast expanse of country,  a beautiful country hemmed in to the east by one range,  and to the west by another of the picturesque Coast Mountains.Intervening,  lie rounded hills and fertile valleys.   

Oaks are everywhere,  great spreading oaks,  where half a herd may seek shelter from a too friendlv sun.  There is plenty of color in the scene:  the rich brown of the upland,  the deep green of the thick-leafed oaks,  the brighter green of orchard and pasture,  and here and there,  some housetop peeps out from amid the trees.   This is not a bare,  desolate land  - every acre is rich in something.   Any season of the year in California gives to the lover of nature the freedom of out of doors, and today after luncheon,  some of our party indulge in a siesta,  spreading themselves comfortably in the shade while the others gathered, with wonderful views to examine....

~ Sunset, Vol 5, Southern Pacific Company, 1900

 

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The little city of San Luis Obispo is situated in the midst of unique and beautiful countryside.  There is a decidedly NorCal flavor here - a refreshing contrast to the SoCal feel of Santa Barbara.

Situated along the coastline and extending well inland, San Luis Obispo County borders Santa Barbara County to the south, and Monterey County to the north.  

The Pacific waters along the coast have fostered a tight-knit commercial fishing community, and sport fishing is a favorite pastime, too.   Halibut, abalone, crab, lobster, shark, prawns,  red snapper,  cabezon and other varieties of seafood are available in season.  Lopez and Nacimiento, large inland lakes, offer freshwater fishing opportunities.  It's a great environment for the outdoorsman -fishing, hunting, hiking, surfing, horseback riding, off-roading, and other outdoor sports can be enjoyed almost any day of the year.

San Luis Obispo is also home to a deeply embedded ranching culture that began with the Spanish vaqueros who arrived here not long after Padre Serra.  This is where cattle is king, and you are sure to see more cowboys here than in the state of Texas.  If you want to experience a celebration the cowboy way, plan to visit the annual MidState Fair.  There are pro-rodeo events, livestock shows and sales, cowboy art, authentic local barbeque,and you'll meet lots of folks who actually wear spurs and chaps to work.

The  California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, is another important influence in this area.   "For 18 years in a row, Cal Poly has been rated the best public-master's university in the West by U.S. News & World Report, in its 2010 America 's Best Colleges guidebook."  Wow.  Cal Poly educates future superstars in the agricultural, architectural, business, and environmental fields who will soon  lead and change our world for the better.  Their influence in the county is everywhere, and they impart a decidedly collegiate flavor throughout.

So, you see - the San Luis Obispo community is a diverse and interesting one.

Recently, K&A invited me to go along  to spend the afternoon in San Luis Obispo.  We rolled up Highway 101, admiring  the hillsides covered with lush green waves of wild grasses and tall drifts of yellow mustard blooms.  The road also skirts the coastline much of the way; my mind drifted above the indigo water that reflected the bright vault of sky.  White puffs of downy clouds punctuated the scene aloft.  It was the perfect day to explore the town of San Luis Obispo.

SLO Mission

The community grew up around  Mission San Luis Obispo, the fifth of 21 missions built by the Spanish during their colonization of California in the late 1700s.  The San Luis Obispo Creek, dappled with the shade of sycamores other riparian lovin' trees, runs alongside the mission property, right through the middle of the downtown area.   There is a little recreational area along the creekbed.

The city is known as SLO, by those who love her.  

SLO Creek

The historic district of Downtown San Luis Obispo is a colorful, lively place full of stores, bars, restaurants, galleries and coffee shops.  The city streets that make up the downtown district, Higuera, Monterey, Marsh, Palm, Garden, Morro and the others, are surrounded by charming neighborhods where many of the Victorian, carpenter gothic, craftsman, and California cottages are beautifully maintained.  Many of them have old, flourishing gardens that were planted about 100 years ago.   Much of  the downtown area is canopied by large old trees that cast a deep, cooling shade over streets and sidewalks. 

Linnea's

SLO has dozens of restaurants downtown, serving everything from sandwiches, seafood, barbeque, and bakery goods, to Italian, Chinese, Thai and Mexican cuisine. Pubs and breweries are popular here, and are sprinkled throughout the area.  Linnaea's Cafe , a long-time favorite of locals, has a sunny little garden hidden from the street, the perfect place to meet for an afternoon latte, or enjoy a pastry and cup of tea on a warm summer evening.

Ah Louis SLO

 The residents of San Luis Obispo have preserved many of the architectural treasures from the earliest days of the city's history.   The Ah Louis building, once a general merchandise store, provided goods to the Chinese residents of SLO.  It is still located in what was once the heart of Chinatown in San Luis Obispo.

The Chinese came to this area originally as laborers on the Southern Pacific railroad project.   They built tracks along ocean cliffs, and bore immense tunnels through the coastal mountains for trains.   Other buildings in this part of town pay homage to the early Asian residents who helped to shape the future of California. 

In addition to the Chinese, in the 1800s SLO became home to many Swiss, Italian, Mexican, and Portuguese immigrants.  Descendants of those earlier residents still call this area home; their roots are deeply entwined in the ranching, fishing, and farming communities that are so important here.

SLO Chinatown Mural

The residents of San Luis Obispo favor a decidedly green, environmentally thoughtful attitude.  Everyone, from traditionally conservative Wrangler-wearing ranchers to patcholi-scented neo-hips agree - they want San Luis to retain its healthy, abundant natural environment.

EcoSlo, a local non-profit agency, oversees special projects like docent-led nature hikes, adopt-a-park and adopt-a-trail programs, beach clean up events, as well as educational opportunities and symposia.  Their aim is to encourage residents and businesses to maintain SLO as a sustainable, healthy, and vibrant place to live and work.

And for those who favor an alternative to traditional society that is maybe just a bit farther off from center field, the annual SLO Holistic Living Expo and UFO Festival has something to offer them, as well.  This event will introduce you to local psychics, shamen,  and UFOlogists.   In attendance will also be a number of holistic healers who offer  an eclectic selection of healing arts.  Many of them have offices in the downtown area, and offer massage, chiropractic, reiki, aura cleansing, acupuncture, and wu shu tai chi, and a variety of other practices.

SLO 6

 I made a new discovery on our most recent trip to downtown SLO.  I found The Growing Grounds Nursery.  Tucked away on a little strip of real estate between two tall buildings, the Growing Grounds has created a luxurious environment, where green and blooming things thrive.  I learned that the nursery and gift shop is sponsored by the Transitions - Mental Health Association of San Luis Obispo.  

The actual commercial nursery, Growing Grounds Farm , is located just outside of town.  It was started to assist those suffering with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other major mental illnesses, and to help thembenefit from horticultural therapy.   The results of their hard work are on display - and are for sale - at this beautiful, colorful downtown shop.

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You will find chubby succulents, flowering bedding plants and a great selection of vegetable starts, as well as houseplants in the downtown shop.  They have unusual gift items, cards, and souvenirs, as well as patio decor, pots and planters.  It's a must-see shop on your next trip to SLO town. (Located at 956 Chorro St / www.t-mha.org)

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Then, as our afternoon lengthened, K & A led me toward their favorite store in town, their local game-lovin', comic-book-obsessin'  mecca: Captain Nemo Comics.

Captain Nemo SLO

Next door to Captain Nemo is Cheap Thrills, an old school record store that offers thousands of LPs, CDs, DVDs, and video games.  Nemo's and Cheap Thrills are local traditions, bringing the best of music, movies, comics and gaming to SLO since 1971.  I used to frequent the place when I was in high school, and brother, you can't get more old school than that.

Cheap Thrills SLO

San Luis Obispo is a great little city whose vibrant personality results from a blend of youthful energy mixed with deep ties to history and tradition.  It's a great place to live, and a most excellent vacation destination, as well. 

SLO 12If you haven't been SLOd recently, maybe the best way to see the town is to visit the Thursday night San Luis Obispo Farmers' Market.   Growers from the San Joaquin Valley come each week to bring their freshest seasonal favorites, and local farmers offer fruit, vegetables, flowers, grown right here.   You'll also be able to purchase fresh seafood, beef, lamb, eggs, and some of that great, summertime Cal Poly corn.  There are lots of street food vendors, as well as live music, kids' activities, and theatrics - whether planned or spontaneous.  The whole community comes out to spend one evening a week together, to revel in their great good fortune to live in this strong and beautiful community known as  SLO. 

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To learn more about visiting San Luis Obispo, visit the San Luis Obispo website.