I climbed high in the hills of Oakland to the Cabot Park neighborhood to find my next garden on Garden Conservancy’s East Bay Open Days itinerary–although I am sure somewhere on this property there was a killer view toward the Bay, this garden was all about the plants.
CASA DE SUEÑOS IN OAKLAND
This house of dreams has been a garden journey for the homeowner and her son for 21 years since purchasing the modern fifties-something wood ranch house on almost an acre covered in eucalyptus and ivy.
My tour started at the bottom of a long steep driveway–I wandered the garden for almost 15 minutes before I even found the house. This rusted gate and fabulous textural tapestry of large scale plantings sets the stage for the lush tropical nature of the entire garden. Those of you who read my blog even occasionally know that my succulent and tropical knowledge doesn’t even rate a two on a scale of one to ten so it goes without saying that you are not going to see very many named plants in this post. That big spiky whopper is an agave and its almost furry neighbor to the left is a leucadendron, I think–maybe a few phormiums behind the agave?
At the top of the driveway I’m faced with a decision to go left or right–having no idea what lies in either direction and still with no house in sight.
I decide on the path to the right and find myself on what was apparently additional driveway circling the house to end at the garage. this stretch is now used as a veritable nursery installation packed full of potted specimens, rooting cuttings and quirky art.
This bloom spike (agave??) is coming from a very large specimen in a really small pot and it looks like a rocket launching against the backdrop of the tall cypress.
I get myself turned around and head toward what I can only guess is the interior of the garden. Every inch of earth and sky seems packed with foliage and flowers.
Piled rocks form low retaining walls and raised beds that weave in and out of sunlight.
This tiny but detailed shrine is tucked into the crotch of a tree. This is the first of many Asian and Indonesian influences seen throughout the garden, apparently the fruits of the homeowner’s travels.
Plants and found objects are tucked amongst the rocks. I loved this small moss-covered water bowl.
This path eventually brings me to a large koi pond which is sited just at the end of the house.
Rocks and logs outline the pond’s shape and all manner of plant material is tucked into every viable inch of earth. The koi pond goddess sculpture is the work of artist Vickie Jo Sewell.
From this vantage point you can see the shade structure protecting the path at the end of the house.
A narrow walkway circles the house, a low slung wood side rancher that blends into the landscape. This abutilon is one of several I saw and is easily the tallest one I have ever seen. It appears to rise out of this 4 foot tall urn but is actually planted behind it on the slope. Getting a little further from the vignette, the color orange runs through this grouping as it does through many in this garden.
A cool azure pool beckons visitors as this garden touring day heats up a bit. This high up the hill feels a lot closer to the sun, especially in this open sky space.
Fanciful ceramic blooms by artist Marcia Donohue are clustered at the pool’s far end. You might remember that I saw similar pieces by this Berkeley artist in a San Jose garden featured in Tech meets (very little) turf #2… last year. I have been told that Marcia opens her garden to the public several days a year and experiencing it is definitely on my bucket list.
The garden has multiple paths and most have a slope component of some kind. Rock steps and retaining walls with built in places to stop for a rest are plentiful. Clivia blooms continue the hot palette even in the leafy shade.
These remnants of broken pots are a pop of cool color amidst the greens.
A fierce fish swims through the trees near the pool house.
Not a clue as to what this is but it was amazing that the weight of the top does not pull the small pot holding it over on its side.
Colorful succulents are tucked in EVERYWHERE. Sometimes they are the star of the show and other time play the supporting roles.
Back near the sunny side of the koi pond and the path to the driveway downhill is this very happy planting of Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt’, a plant I have had zero success at growing. At first glance many of the planted areas could appear to be just a jumble of whatever fit in the space. The more time I spent in the garden it was clear that the selections were clearly curated for diversity in foliage texture and color.
Plants in the ground and in pots live happily with rocks and interesting found objects.
Another look at the upper driveway as I left this incredible garden. Although the tropical vibe of this garden is not necessarily my personal gardening style, I could not help but admire the love and care this gardener has invested in her property over many years. The sheer volume of plantings on the property is amazing. I did not get to meet this homeowner but I am sure she has many, many plant collecting stories to tell us all.
Next up–I head back to Berkeley to see a historic garden near the Claremont Hotel where I have a close encounter with a ring tailed garden mama.