One perfect day in Half Moon Bay

David Fenton
Visit Alena Jean Flower Shop & Nursery for garden necessities and unique accessories like a garden gnome with a hidden key compartment.
Get your garden on in this Northern California town

Why go now?: Purple ceanothus, bright red New Zealand Christmas tree--it's like the whole town goes high-def in the spring.

Why plants love it: The fog. It keeps the coastal valley from getting too hot or cold.

Why surfers love it: The waves. The best board jockeys in the world come for breakers bigger than your house.

Why the rest of us love it: The small ag-town atmosphere feels worlds away from the nearby city (Half Moon Bay is an easy San Francisco day trip), replete with road-side farmstands and some of the best nurseries in the Bay Area.

Sweet April deal: Baskets of plump strawberries, now in season, at Andreotti Family Farm (329 Kelly Ave., 650/879-1032) or pick your own at Phipps Country Store and Farm ( 2700 Pescadero Rd., Pescadero, 650/879-1032).

Glazed container heaven: Hundreds come in all shapes and sizes at Fabbri Home & Garden (501 San Mateo Rd., 650/712-1050).

Street smarts: Forget trying to park on busy Main Street, where there's a two-hour limit. Instead, grab a spot on one of the side streets downtown.

On the hunt for a garden gnome: Housed in a refurbished 135-year old barn, Alena Jean Flower Shop & Nursery is a funky alternative to the big-box garden stores. Sure, it carries the usual suspects like sweet peas and pint-size perennials--all well cared for. But the shop also has the unusual, like a garden gnome with a secret compartment for hiding house keys. A gazebo hidden behind the nursery has a mini train chugging around it. 340 Purissima St., 650/726-3662.

The mothership of Peninsula nurseries: Spread over 3 acres, Half Moon Bay Nursery has everything you could possibly need to kick off your spring gardening. Walk through a network of greenhouses, each with a different botanical theme: perennials, succulents, tropicals. Forgot to plant spring bulbs last fall? They've got you covered, with rows of potted callas and freesias, all blooming and ready for the hatchback. 1191 San Mateo Rd., 650/726-5392.

50 ways to fill a pot: Five miles north of downtown, Nest Gallery stocks glass marbles, broken pottery, and tumbled sea glass in buckets and barrels among fishnet floats and aged trellises. Fill a bag of the colorful nuggets to use as mulch for potted plants. 131 California Ave., 650/563-9139

The fountain den: Sun Studios Statuary is loud. As in the-roar-of-500-fountains-gurgling-in-unison loud. Asian fountains, tiered Italiante gushers, Buddha birdbaths--if it spews water, it's here. But if your backyard is already awash in decorative dribblers, pick up a Mexican star lantern, perfect for the patio. 12001 San Mateo Rd., 650/172-7731.

Make it a weekend: With a garden of 200 well-manicured rose bushes all screaming for your attention, it's a wonder anyone makes it inside the Mill Rose Inn. The six-room B&B charms with genteel service, complimentary wine and cheese, and a private hot tub, which sits sheltered in a tropical flower-filled gazebo. From $230; millroseinn.com

3 more reasons to hug the coast

Pasta Moon Ristorante & Bar is a Main Street mainstay whose locally sourced ingredients come together in such standout dishes as seared scallops with baby greens, avocado, mango, and cucumbers. $$; 315 Main St.; 650/726-5125.

Know this: If you stop by the San Benito House Deli around noon, you will wait in line. The sandwiches are that good. Why? It's all about the homemade bread. Get a sammy on thick-sliced olive-walnut bread, take it to the leafy courtyard out back, and eavesdrop on the locals. $; 356 Main St.; 650/726-3425.

In this new location, the Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese Company carries a variety of boutique bottles, including more than 120 California and Oregon Pinot Noirs. Feeling spendy? Ask to see the big-sticker Bordeaux in the "jewel bin." Also on hand: cheeses, olive oils, and picnic baskets. 421 Main St.; 650/726-1520.

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