January 2021

Photo Shoot

The end of summer 2017 had arrived. My husband and I were planting in our front yard. Walking to the shed, to retrieve a bag of bulbs, I came upon one of my neighbors. She was holding the hand of a young child. The wooden fence that separated her property from mine had an intentional opening to allow for neighborly visits, even though it was through a tangle of vines and shrubs. The previous weekend she asked my permission to schedule a photo shoot. She wanted pictures of her granddaughter playing in my garden. That was when I met Vida, a sprightly girl with the unbridled enthusiasm of a two-year-old. Without hesitation she thrust herself into examining all that she came upon, flowers, rocks, gopher holes, and pill bugs, all of which are typically in great supply in the garden.

I carried the last plants to the front yard, but peeked around the corner of my house as not to miss any of Vida’s antics. At this hour of the afternoon grasses were backlit. The child was standing...

Gerda Isenberg

On my desk sits a black and white photograph of Gerda Isenberg, the woman who founded one of the oldest native nurseries in California. Her eyes gaze out from the framed wizened face. The picture, taken in her later years, captures an earnest expression and the simplicity she sought in her personal and professional life. Yerba Buena Nursery was conceived in 1955 and named after the native herb endemic to Gerda’s coastal home, Satureja douglassii commonly known as Yerba Buena. When Gerda started her nursery, I was only five-years-old and lived three thousand miles away in Ohio. But when I moved to California in 1979 my husband took me for a visit to Yerba Buena Nursery to meet Gerda.

She was born in Germany on a feudal-like estate. There she spent her childhood, farming and working the land with her parents and thirty other families. Later, at an age when other girls were traditionally sent to finishing school, economic considerations caused her parents to enroll their...