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Hot, Cold, and Wet Nursery Days

Articles: Hot, Cold, and Wet Nursery Days

A frequent contributor to Pacific Horticulture, Bob Cowden loved to tell stories from his forty years as a nurseryman in the Bay Area. Urged to share some of those reminiscences with our readers, he submitted the following, intended to be the first of several installments. Sadly, it will be the only one, as Bob passed away before completing more.
For three years after I began working at the then-new McDonnell’s Nursery in Walnut Creek, California, I lived in Berkeley and commuted to work. I had always liked Berkeley and found it had a wonderfully equable climate for all the plants I enjoyed growing—fuchsias, tuberous begonias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, wonderful roses, hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana), angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia), and even jacaranda.

Walnut Creek was another matter. Heading east in summer at seven in the morning, I felt a blast of hot air hit the car the minute I emerged from the Caldecott Tunnel, which passes through the Oakland hills and connects the immediate Bay Area with the suburbs of eastern Contra Costa County. In winter, there were mornings when the nursery hoses would be filled with chunks of ice,...

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