One perfect day in Half Moon Bay

Get your garden on in this Northern California town

Kathleen N. Brenzel

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.

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