Tech meets (very little) turf…

The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days final California offerings for 2017 were three suburban gardens in San Jose, the heart of the Silicon Valley. The majority of the California Open Days occur in April and May and so I was surprised to see San Jose on the docket for September. Although the previews for these three gardens led me to feel they would not particularly fit my personal garden aesthetic they were intriguing enough to point me toward the freeway and in close enough proximity to each other to make it an easy trip. All three promised a mix of garden materials that would not be as summer weary as my those in my own garden!


From street side it is immediately obvious that this garden is not just another neat suburban garden on a narrow street of bungalows of various ages and sizes. In fact, I am not even sure there is actually a house amongst the formidable walls, stones, urns and troughs. Cevan (pronounced Kevin) lives his garden design, embracing concepts and experiences gained from extensive Near and Far East travels and his background in stage set design. His highly stylized garden is probably not a garden suited for a young family or those of us who may need firmer footing but it clearly reflects his personality, playfulness and ‘more is more’ embrace of life.

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The patinaed iron gates confirm his garden as his private sanctuary.

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His mail is delivered in this unique repurposed copper box.

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The front garden is a maze of narrow walkways, many with interesting stone accents.

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Fortress like stacked stone acts as walls for the paths. There is almost no place in the front garden where it is possible to back up to get a wide shot.

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Succulents and perennials top walls and fill gigantic cement troughs. Much of the plant material is closer to eye level than the ground!

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The garden has a wonderful assortment of Coleus, primarily in pots. A  stone wall defines their own narrow garden room. It is hard to remember where I have gone left or right–there are vignettes, urns, statuary and decorative found objects at every turn.

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A cushioned stone bench provides a view of the peaceful koi pond. Above you see a young bald cypress planted directly in the pond. From the bench you get a narrow view of the Forristt home. Originally a modest Victorian cottage built from a kit around the turn of the century, it is clad on almost every surface with reclaimed materials and artifacts to disguise its nature and create the aura of an Asian dwelling.

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Traversing the pond on raised concrete piers to yet new views of the garden  I feel compelled to explain that I have now walked no more than 15 feet in from the from the entry gate–there is not a square foot unstructured or lying fallow.

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In this very small space exist areas of full sun, dappled shade and complete shade. The perimeter of the garden, front and rear, has been planted with very tall screening plants and narrow trees, virtually eliminating any views outside the garden and reinforcing its air of mystery and privacy.

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Stone, recycled and salvaged artifacts act as walls, pedestals and planters.

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The well shaded rear garden gate offers additional layers of detail.

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Very few of us would dare to nurture a towering stand of bamboo in our gardens–Cevan explained that this variety does not run aggressively.

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A number of colorful umbrellas offer high shade in the rear garden. Their poles are cleverly anchored in holes in large stones and in one case, a tree stump.

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I loved these large urns tiled with broken blue and white china.

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Ok–so this has really been a lot to take in! This very personal retreat like garden is not everyone’s cup of chai but there are strategies and elements here that when used on a less over the top scale will make a sanctuary space for anyone who embraces Asian design. If you would like to know more about Cevan Forristt Landscape Design and see  additional photos (far better than mine) check out or the write up in the book Private Gardens, pictured below.

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In  my next post I will take you to the Holden Garden which was designed by Cevan Forristt to meet the couple’s specific desires for an entertaining space inspired by global travel.



2 thoughts on “Tech meets (very little) turf…

  1. I’m happy to see you posting on this SJ Open Day, it coincided with a business trip for me so was not possible and even if my calendar was clear I wasn’t sure it would be worth the drive.This garden looks quite interesting I must say and I will definitely look at the link you provided. Looking forward to the next report. I’m heading out to the coast this weekend to get out of this awful smoke for a few days and Mendo Coast Botanical is on the agenda.


    1. Glad to hear you are ok up there! So jealous–missed the Mendocino Botanical Garden when I was up that way for the GC’s Open Day last year. The 5 gardens were a chock full day in their own! Then saw all of Pam’s photos on Digging and knew I should have stayed an extra day!


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