San Francisco Fling Debriefing

Photo by Saxon Holt, PhotoBotanic
Photo by Saxon Holt, PhotoBotanic

Finally caught up on my sleep after a red-eye into Baltimore, I’m ready to savor my photos and memories from the 6th annual Garden Blogger Fling, which was fabulous.

The gang posed above for the traditional group photo – this time by Saxon Holt, who also gave a workshop for the photographically challenged.  Speaking of which, I’ve learned from experience the humbling lesson that the place to see the best photos of Fling gardens is the Fling website, where links to dozens of blog posts will be compiled.  My own photos?  Meh.

So rather than a photo array of the truly awesome gardens we were lucky enough to tour, here are some random thoughts on the experience.


The generosity of the Fling organizers led by Kelly Kilpatrick (above left) cannot be overstated.  It was a humongous amount of (volunteer) work.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Shown with Kelly is Annie of Annie’s Annuals, the fun garden center that lived up to the raves we’d all been reading about it for years.   Same goes Flora Grubb.


The gardens we saw were outstanding, like the one here in Richmond.  Not only did we get to see this and other world-class private gardens; we got to talk to the gardeners themselves, like the one above.


This garden taught me that I need more purple and chartreuse together, with a turquoise sculpture added to the mix if I can afford it.  What I definitely can’t afford is to do what the homeowners here did – buy an ocean-view home and then also buy the lot between it and said ocean to make sure the view is never blocked.  Next, hire a designer to create a garden in that lot with the simple instruction to make it beautiful.  Mission accomplished.


Blog-readers will recognize the fabulous Rebecca Sweet of Gossip in the Garden.  We loved her garden, her garden shed, the refreshments and her.


We got really lucky in the weather department – no rain or fog at all.  Though outside of downtown SF it was hot enough to want to do more than dip our feet into this pool.


Above, the wild and crazy garden of artist/garden designer Keeyla Meadows is unlike anything I’d ever seen before.   See, regular tourists would totally miss this Oakland treasure.


Above, another garden in Oakland, as seen from the dining room.


Contrast those images with what regular, nonFling tourists see, which I discovered during a seven-hour mostly-walking tour that I took the day before the Fling started.  Above is the iconic Lombard Street with its hydrangea-filled switchbacks.  It’s all maintained by a burned-out banker-turned-gardener who’s paid $1k/month plus free housing on the street by the other residents.


Here’s one of many “parklets” I saw around town.  They’re parking spots converted into mini-parks where passers-by can have a seat.  Apparently other cities are liking what they see here in SF and copying the concept.


And some fabulous murals.

San Fran7

Okay, these last shots have nothing to do with gardening.  They’re of the Pride Parade, which proceeded just yards away from our hotel, the very week that Prop 8 and DOMA were overturned, and it’s San Francisco, after all, so how could I miss it?  So I blew off two gardens in favor of the parade…and I wasn’t the only Flinger who did.

San Fran6

My fellow Parade-goers were Ryan Schmitt, Lorene Edwards Forkner and Clint Albin.  On the right is your everyday clothing store mannequin.


Five of the Supremes made an appearance.  Their recent majority opinion was the dominant theme in the parade, which included the actual plaintiffs in the case against Prop 8, and dozens of “just married” couples, many in full wedding regalia.  Pretty darn moving.

Final thought

If you’re a gardenblogger, DO treat yourself to a Fling.  You’ll see fabulous gardens and even better, make friends from across North America and England who share your passion.  Next year the Fling moves to Portland, OR and in 2015 it’ll go east to Toronto.


  1. I’m glad you got to go to the parade as well as the Fling – what a result. I learnt lots of little things as well and I think that is what is so great about the Fling that you pick up tips from gardens, gardeners (I had a quick lesson in pruning Jasmine at one garden) and flingers.

  2. Gardening can be a very solitary occupation, so one of the greatest benefits of going to the Fling is getting to meet so many other garden bloggers from all over. And even if you’re in a totally different climate than your own and looking at plants you can’t grow, there are still lessons to be learnt from the plants and the gardens. Going to flower and garden shows with their indoor, under-theatrical-lights gardens just cannot compare to seeing real gardens.

    Thanks for including pictures from the Pride Parade. Such a historic day, not to be missed.

  3. Very sorry I missed this fling. The gardens Kelly organized tours of looked fantastic. So far, I’ve made it to every other fling. I’m hoping to keep that record. If the fling ever returns to Buffalo, we’ll have to organize a parade for you.

  4. Have you thought about having a Fling in Central Florida? You could bill at as The Epic Garden Failure Fling. Come see our dead tomatoes with root knot nematode damage! Look at all our year-round fungal diseases! See our citrus groves and backyard citrus decimated by citrus greening! Snort at our feeble attempts to grow peaches! Watch our neighbors’ sprinkler systems full blast during a torrential downpour! View those stately palm trees that have Texas Palm Decline Disease! You’ll feel so good about your own gardens after viewing ours.

  5. Thanks for sharing! So far I have only seen the Fling in pictures but never really made the effort to go — young children and a fear of flying (courtesy of 9/11) have stopped me from joining but, the children are no longer that young and the fear of flying will have to be conquered one way or another. May the fears all be gone by next year so I can join the flingers because I can’t think of a better incentive than to be with gardeners who get gardening and plant obsession.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  6. I think Keeyla’s home garden is actually in Albany, which is north of Oakland. I’ve visited a couple of times. I’ve never seen a more colorful garden. Her whimsical ceramics are essential to the overall effect of the garden.

    You did luck out on the weather. We’re now back to our usual summer fog and overcast. How does Keeyla achieve so much color in this weather? It’s a mystery.

    Next time you’re in the Bay Area, I would love to give you a tour of some of our “natural areas” where tens of thousands non-native trees have been/will be destroyed to accommodate the fantasy that native plants will magically emerge from their herbicided ashes.

    • What a beautiful tour! I understand the group also went to Flora Grubb Gardens in SF but I don’t see any photos? Would love to hear what you all thought of the exotic plants! You did luck out in the fog department this time of year (the warm, sunny weather was more typical of Sep/Oct in San Francisco), but it was not technically “lucky” that you had no rain. In fact, rainfall in July in SF averages 0.00″. This is the middle of the dry season. I’m surprised that none of the garden tours touched upon the Mediterranean climate cycles of rainy (Nov-Mar) vs dry seasons (Apr-Oct) to a group of out of towners, or the fluctuations and unreliability of the rainy season in California, its effect on wildfires and native plants, or the movement towards drought tolerant gardens (which include all of the above).

      Note to Mary above: the bayside climate is perfect for these colorful drought-tolerant plants from similar Mediterranean climates such as Chile, Australia, or South Africa. In fact, I recognize a number of plants in the photos as stemming from those regions. Actually, the mild summers should make it easier, not harder, to grow all those beautiful flowers; my parents who live in Walnut Creek actually have their flowers decimated by the inland summer heat. Oakland’s average in the mid-70s through the summer months is like a perpetual spring from these plants. The inner East Bay truly has one of the best gardening climates in the world!

  7. I had so wished I could go to this year’s fling, but it was right on the heels of my trip to England. Next year, though…next year.

    • Benjamin, as a member of the Fling’s advisory committee, I can tell you that we would love to receive some proposals to host from bloggers in the Midwest, Mountain West, Southwest, and Southeast — areas of the U.S. that have been under-represented so far. But since it all depends on having volunteers ready and willing to host, we’re still waiting. And don’t forget we did go to Chicago for the 2nd Fling in 2009.

  8. Great recap, Susan! Looks like everyone enjoyed colorful, intriguing gardens that illustrated their owners’ personalities…while in the company of like-minded friends. Sounds like the perfect work-vacation.

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