You can Gamble on this spring tour…


And you will always count yourself as a winner!  The last Friday of April on my calendar will always belong to the Gamble Garden Spring Tour in Palo Alto, CA and this year’s event was as inspiring and beautifully done as the many I have attended in the past.

I discovered the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden and Historic Home not long after we returned to California and my husband was spending a lot of time in research discussions with a group of physicians at Stanford Medical Center. With several days and nights to fill every few weeks I explored much of Palo Alto and the South Bay Peninsula.  Palo Alto’s climate is much more temperate than that of my Central Valley home and the city is home to innumerable beautiful private gardens as well as impeccably landscaped and maintained public spaces.  It is also Sunset magazine country–until just last year the corporate headquarters, including both the test kitchens and test gardens, was  just a stone’s throw away.  For my Southern readers– Sunset is the west coast’s Southern Living!

Left to the City of Palo Alto upon the death of Miss Gamble in 1981, the property has been established as a privately funded non-profit foundation which is managed as a community resource.  The Gamble Garden contains formal, woodland and demonstration gardens.  It is the site for both adult and youth educational programs and a hotline/plant clinic operated by the Masters Gardeners of Santa Clara County.  This amazing garden also partners with Children’s Librarians from the Palo Alto City Library in hosting monthly children’s story times.

The 2016 Spring Tour included 5 private gardens, the Gamble Garden, a Marketplace and plant sale and much more.  This year’s theme was “Gardens are for Living” and highlighted activity filled and family friendly outdoor spaces.  One of the most appealing and rewarding characteristics of the homes chosen each year has been their ‘walk-ability’.  This year three private homes plus the Gamble Garden were all within a 6-8 block radius.  The Gamble Garden is in a jewel of a residential area with interesting homes of all shapes and sizes, many dating back to the 1920s.  The neighborhood clearly values its outdoor spaces and is tremendously proud of the beautiful gardens on every street.  It is a mecca for interesting fences, gates and garden art.  So as you walk along with your tour booklet in hand, anticipating the next garden stop, you have the opportunity to see close-up all of the other homes and gardens along the way!  It’s a time to take photos of plants or architectural details you admire, chat with your tour companions on a lovely spring day and meet and greet other folks doing exactly the same thing.  My little group of four spent about a block chatting with a painter headed to a job site and also got a sneak peek at a monumental renovation as one of the construction bosses headed back to work in inside the gates.  As our last two homes would take us to a different neighborhood requiring a new parking place there was the perfect opening for a little lunch on the way.

Garden tours are never optimal for taking wide view photos as the gardens are filled with visitors, many of whom are trying to do the same thing.  Here are a few highlights for you to enjoy just as if you had been strolling along with us!

A single residence blends this very traditional arbor successfully with this unique sculptural fence and gate.  This homeowner has developed a very personal garden space which includes a front yard labyrinth, many stone and metal sculptures, a diverse array of perennials and mature trees and an underground cistern which stores rainwater captured from the gutters.  The zipper sculpture/fence was featured on HGTV in 2004—the tab on the zipper is the gate!

A narrow lot and side set front door makes the entrance to this lovely home’s back garden not much wider than a footpath.  I was amazed when the vista widened to a beautiful and large open space which included a pool, small playhouse and many interesting plantings.  The owners enjoy a serene outdoor eating area tucked up against the house where adults could mingle while the young ones have a spacious area to run and play.  This gigantic bougainvillea climbing the front facade gives you a hint at the tropical flair throughout the property.

Ok, guys, are you listening out there?  This landscape designer/homeowner redesigned his back garden as a series of rooms for year-round outdoor living as a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife.  The spaces include an intimate fire pit close to the house, many stone sitting walls and a stunning kitchen flanked by a gracious dining area, both covered by a pergola.  The view you see above left is from the dining area back toward the home.  The homeowner chose many California natives and designed the landscape to provide food, flowers and shade.  Loved this entire space!

Traditional architectural elements in the garden echoed those found on this stunning gray shingled colonial home.  Above you see the side yard transformed into a kitchen garden using raised beds and gravel pathways.  The back garden featured an outdoor kitchen and play structure.  I loved these very cool permanent bike racks placed just off the garage wall.

Now here are a few of the beautiful homes and garden elements we passed as we walked the tour route–I hope we will get to see some of these on future Gamble Garden Spring  Tours!



One thought on “You can Gamble on this spring tour…

  1. Palo Alto is such a great place to see beautiful gardens. Thanks for letting us in on your ‘secret’ places!


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