One of the greatest gardening pleasures of living in Southern California is the ability to grow a great diversity of plants successfully. Being virtually frost-free in winter and having a significant coastal cooling influences in summer seems to be the best of both worlds. Tropicals and subtropical live companionably with perennials often pegged as “English cottage garden” and no one seems any worse for wear.
THE BRILLIANT GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK
Barely a car’s length away from a very busy 4 lane thoroughfare, the garden of this two story Spanish bungalow was created to provide and escape from the fast pace of the city. Indeed, having parked on the opposite of the street with multiple blocks to a traffic light in either direction, only the wide grassy median gave us (and other garden visitors) a bit of breathing room in the middle as we gauged the traffic and made the mad dash!
The hard surfaces of the paver driveway, the courtyard’s pillars and wrought iron gate were softened by multiple pots of hot hued pelargoniums and bold back aeoniums accented by lighter hued succulent rosettes. Remember this is me writing and I can identify probably 2 out of the thousands of succulent we are all so crazy about now!
You all know how I love a good courtyard and this one has a couple of the best elements–a Mediterranean-styled fountain and lots of pots to play with throughout the year.
In a very narrow planting strip up against the house is the interesting combination of a vigorous Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’ and and what was originally identified to me (and subsequently by me in an earlier draft of this post) by the designer as pair of eastern redbuds, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. A savy reader alerted me that they looked like Euphorbia cotinifolia, common name Caribbean copper plant. I did a little Googling and found a foliage close-up on a trusted host site that is a dead ringer for mine below.
Bougainvillea makes an immediate Southern California connection for me. They clamber all over the walls of homes, large and small, and of all architectural styles. The pink and red flowered varieties probably can be seen from space.!
Nothing screams Spanish bungalow like a bougainvillea gracing a second story railing. The soft green trim on the home really allowed the color to stand out without competition.
The garden is home to many Melaleuca trees, this one of which clearly had squatter’s rights when this trelliswork was added to the courtyard’s tall wall on the property line. The soft green from the bungalow’s trim is carried through in the garden structures throughout. Peak back at the photo of the fountain and you’ll see this tree right above the gate into the side garden.
Through the gate is a cool, leafy path to the back garden. The photo on the right is the view looking back toward the gate.
There are many species of Melaleuca, a tree of Australian origins. They all have narrow, sometimes needlelike leaves and bear clusters of flowers with prominent stamens, sometimes confused with bottlebrush. Many have bark that peels off in thick, papery layers. I’m hoping my reader, horticulturalist Tony, will identify this one for me!
As the shady path opens into the back patio and pool I can see that these same trees form a screen at the back, hmm…unfortunately right under the power lines…I’m not sure how this serious trimming affects their natural shape.
A partially shaded and cozy sitting area in front of the guest house (or office?) has attracted some weary garden visitors.
The stone patio carries through to the pool’s edge and provides space for the garden’s sunny dining area. The garden designer set up a notebook with before and after pictures from the relatively recent pool installation.
I thought the pool’s shape and size was appropriate to the era of the home and very appealing to jump right in on what had become a hotter than expected afternoon. Although beautifully executed, the stacked stone facing on the curved wall at the end was a little bit disconnected. That type of stone facing is not used elsewhere in the garden that I saw.
The loosely trimmed screening hedge was an interesting use of Polygala grandiflora, commonly called sweet pea shrub. This is a plant I’ve contemplated adding to my own garden but until today, never seen except in a gallon can at the garden center. It was really good to see the actual scale of the mature shrub in place. The taller screen might also have been Melaleuca based on the look of the trunk but the foliage seemed to be a little different. This small backyard had a wonderful sense of enclosure and there was much less traffic noise than I expected.
It was not until we had left the back garden that I noticed this group of ‘Forest Pansy’ redbuds, looking more as they should, planted in the small front garden adjacent the paver driveway. Note: given my edit to the information about the other burgundy leafed plant earlier in this post I am not at all sure about this ID! Readers–any thoughts?
A tiny bright green island of lawn with a slightly raised bed border is planted with roses, foxgloves, impatiens and other annuals and perennials with the romantic cottage garden vibe. Yes, gardeners just have it all in Southern California. Except the peonies–they just can’t do the peonies…ha!!
Last stop cruising LA is THE ZABEL GARDEN IN WINDSOR SQUARE–see you there.
Outdoor living and entertaining has never been a hotter trend–especially in Southern California where the temperate climate keeps folks in their gardens year-round.
THE DAVIS GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK
The fairly typical turf-centric front landscape of this 1918 Italian Renaissance villa gives way to modern backyard outdoor living, playing and dining spaces completed in a 2017-18 extensive garden renovation which reflects the needs of the homeowners’ grown-up family.
The backyard is approached through the home’s original porte-cochere. Homes of this era in Hancock Park typically have their garages placed far back on the property away from street view. Don’t we all long for the times when garages were not the focal point of our home’s facade? Except for the sloped driveway in front of the home which remains concrete, the balance of the hard surfaced approach was replaced with smallish round river rock–maybe the 1″-1-1/2″ range. Unlike pea gravel or decomposed granite, I found this surface very hard to walk on and can’t imagine having to negotiate it on a daily basis. When we had finally walked the depth of this substantial home, a state of the art outdoor kitchen came into view. The original back of the lot garage was removed and replaced with a modern indoor-outdoor playroom, complete with comfy couches and an extensive entertainment system. I guess it is a testament to my point of view that I never photographed the inside of this room–you can see it was a great hit from the crowd gathered at the entrance.
The new room was all about the trellises for me. Clean-lined, modern ladder trellises were installed on both the front and pool view facades of the room.
On the pool side the rose-covered trellis provided the backdrop for a cozy seating arrangement around a fire feature. The dark glazed glass doors of the outdoor room would have a perfect pool vista.
The corner where the two trellis were closest to each other was a flurry of pale pink.
Reminding me that having a garden doesn’t necessarily make one a gardener, this bevy of smallish blooms making their way up and over these lovely trellises were identified in the tour directory as ‘Eden’ roses. I am guessing they are actually the classic French bred polyantha climbing rose ‘Cecile Brunner’ but regardless of what you call them they were the garden’s horticultural star.
A tall stand of bamboo and other greenery provided a simple backdrop on two side for the rectangular pool. The dramatic new pergola seen past the pool is the star attraction of the landscape remodel.
Providing cover for living, dining and food preparation this modern structure is beautifully lit, has multiple heaters integrated into the design and certainly fits the fresh, modern design aesthetic the homeowners desired.
Stylish and comfortable outdoor sofas and chairs provide plentiful seating in a living room atmosphere complete with its own fireplace and coffee table. The tall bamboo acts as the room’s wall and a modern rug softens the floor.
Simple and predominately green potted plants and a few reading materials complete the decor.
This petite meditation garden is tucked between the pergola’s living room and the main house. Geometric and simply planted is has a slightly Asian feel.
The little garden as seen from the walkway between the home and the outdoor entertaining spaces.
A dining table for twelve is centrally located for easy access from either the cook working in the outdoor kitchen or the guests relaxing in front of the fireplace. This is probably the best accidental view you’ll get of the interior of the new room which replaced the garage.
This backyard entertaining space is beautifully outfitted with high quality finishes and furnishings. It will surely be a space enjoyed by these homeowners’ family and friends for years to come. These types of spaces always look beautiful in magazines and on tours but I constantly wonder about their ability to stand up to the everyday rigors of just being outside. The tables, chairs and chaises I have in my own garden are perennially covered with pollen, leafy junk from the surrounding trees and shrubbery–and, lest I’ve blocked it out–handfuls of cat hair left from the neighborhood felines who think my garden is their personal paradise. It seems as though I spend more time and effort trying to keep these furnishing clean and accessible for family and friends than I do actually entertaining those same people. If anyone out there has worked out this tricky dynamic, I am waiting to hear from you!
The actual garden part of this space plays only a supporting role but is nicely done–not everyone is, or wants to be, a hands on everyday gardener. The goal must be to make whatever space you have meet your personal desires for its use and I think this renovation has certainly done that for the Davis family.
Another neighborhood garden extra–there are several Italian Renaissance style homes lined up in a row on this street. This one is right next door!
If you have not read LA cruising…terrific terraces please take a quick look at it to get details about this Los Angeles garden tour. I’m recapping these fabulous residential gardens one at a time–each one is deserving of its own post!
THE RHEINSTEIN GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK
The garden rooms of this beautiful traditional Georgian red brick home were designed by LA garden designer Judy M. Horton. Both the home and its serene, predominantly green and white palette are reminiscent of many homes in the historic Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta.
We entered the back gardens via the long driveway to the left of the front door. A wide sidewalk offers approach for visitors from the street side and they are welcomed by a pair of clipped boxwoods in beautiful traditional greenish-black planters. An almost hidden herringbone pattern brick walk is adjacent to the driveway, its opening marked by an identical pair of stately square planters bearing twin trimmed boxwoods. This walkway is shielded from street view by a tightly clipped boxwood hedge.
A Southern magnolia is loosely espaliered on the driveway end of the house–a feature very commonly seen in Atlanta landscapes. Note the working shutters on this historic home, sized and hung correctly to actually be closed and latched over each window if desired.
The view as the shaded driveway opens into the first of several garden rooms was beautifully calm and peaceful as well as welcoming.
Looking back toward the driveway reveals the true perspective of the hedge of Podocarpus gracillior which delineates the property line. Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’ rambles and scrambles the brick wall.
There are multiple varieties of climbing roses in this garden–virtually all are either white or white tinged with pale pink. While the designer provided visitors with a plant list including the rose identities most were too high up the walls for me to tell one from the other. This home had exquisite exterior woodwork and wonderful attention to detail and repetition of classic elements.
I loved this beautifully furnished porch complete with comfy sofas, a rocker and a small table with a pair of chairs. The interesting garden art piece on the wall merited a close-up photo–I have often seen old garden tools used in this way but never the entire grouping then painted out and antiqued. Its style fit perfectly with this classically clipped and planted garden room. Note that the porch ceiling is painted a pale blue which Southerners universally refer to as ‘haint blue’, believed to keep bad spirits at bay.
Yet another pale climber headed up the brick wall to the second story. These roses were magical. Even my husband who has an irrational phobia about plant material attached to any permanent surface of our home, admired them. Clusters of pots contained clipped globe boxwoods of various sizes.
On the porch steps, these massed pots of salmony hued Pelargonium stellata played off the brick work at their feet.
Looking across the geometric lawn from the porch is a petite lawn level pool with a quiet bubbler. You can see the opening to what the homeowners call the Tree Room.
Home to a huge Chinese elm, this room’s wall are formed by a Ligustrum texanumjaponica (privet) hedge and its gravel floor a perfect spot for more pots with specimen plants interesting to the homeowners.
Today’s blue sky and puffy white clouds are almost art through the airy canopy of the elm.
A robust Acanthus mollis stands as a sentry to the room’s entry–possibly the best looking specimen of this plant I have ever seen.
This Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ (purple pineapple lily) stood out as a spot of color surrounded by cool greens.
Looking almost like a chessboard whose pieces were in motion, this veritable bevy of trimmed and shaped shrubs is a crossroads between the Pool Garden and the Secret Garden. Which way to go?
We chose the Pool Garden, all but hidden from sight behind beautiful painted lattice fences fronted by greenery. Much of the home’s trim and all the exterior fencework is a color at first glance appearing to be black but actually I think what we called Charleston Green in the south–a green so dark that it appears black in some light. Geometric clipped low boxwood add symmetry to a not so symmetrical entry. You can see the facade and roofline of a to die for family living area which also houses a bath for the use of pool goers.
The long rectangular pool is surrounded by bluestone paving, The back of the property has another very tall podocarpus hedge at whose base sit several lovely traditional English garden benches.
At the far end of the pool a piece of statuary depicting a young man standing on his head seems almost to act as a trunk for the ‘Gold Nugget’ loquat tree. This tree, however desirable for the fruit, was the first element of this exquisite garden which gave me pause. Sited almost overhanging the pool, its crop was mostly on the bottom of the pool!
A pineapple guava tree near the loquat was bursting with colorful blooms.
These great looking chaises lounges are the envy of any pool owner–including me.
Looking back over the pool’s leafy walls I caught sight of this retracted wide awning on the home’s upstair’s patio area–fashioned from the same fabric as the pool chaise cushions.
The well-appointed family living area was accessible to the pool through two sets of french doors and was open for us to walk through. The family had requested no photos taken to include this area but you will be able to see the back of the building from our next stop, the Secret Garden.
A ‘Black Mission’ fig is espaliered on the outside lattice of the porch and provides a leafy lane to the Secret Garden.
The Secret Garden is a courtyard created by the main house, the side of the living area off the pool (the back of which is seen here), and the property’s fence line. If you were to enter this door you would be in a tiny kitchen equipped for flower arranging and potting up indoor plants which is located directly behind the living area which opens to the pool. I suspect this building to have originally a guest house or possibly servant’s quarters.
Several kinds of germander are clipped as low hedges in the parterre style garden. The beds overflow casually with perennials, annuals and bulbs, plus a few veggies.
The frame of an old Turkish tent is covered seasonally in annual vines. Everywhere in this cheerful space you see the continuation of brick paths as flooring and simple clay pots as are used elsewhere in the garden rooms. The tall backdrop is the property line with the next home. Then sense of enclosure throughout this garden is amazing. The extremely tall screening hedges on three sides block out the view of any surrounding homes or structures and you feel as if you are out in the country rather than in downtown Los Angeles.
My Secret Garden favorite were the abundant clumps of Nicotianasylvestris, an old fashioned annual known as flowering tobacco.
We ended our visit to this amazing garden out the small side yard where the homeowner had tucked in a variety of red clay pots, breaking up the very tall expanse of leafy wall.
This home and garden were classically beautiful and exceedingly welcoming to the eye. It must be a delight to spend time, both quiet and active, within the serenity of the garden’s high green walls, rocking on the porch or enjoying a tall, cool drink with friends. I would live here in a heartbeat–the only caveat would be the need for a full-time gardener to assist in its maintenance. The garden’s feel is casual and relaxed, not fussy or buttoned-up but I imagine the hedge trimming alone to be a career, not to mention all the shaped potted boxwoods and roses requiring ladders to tend to them. My sun hat is off to both the designer of this garden of delights and to those who keep it looking as if it takes care of itself.
One of the bonuses of tours with gardens in close proximity is strolling from one to the next and seeing what other beautiful homes and gardens are on the way…this lovely Spanish influenced home was just across the street and its very wide parking strip was bursting with succulents and color.
It’s Garden Conservancy Open Days time again! If you’ve not read any of my previous Open Days posts (I’ll add their links at the end of this first 2019 post) let me tell you a bit about the program. Open Days is a nationwide community of gardeners with a passion for teaching and inspiring each other. Since 1995 Open Days has welcomed more than a million visitors to noteworthy private gardens in 41 states, all under the umbrella of the non-profit Garden Conservancy’s mission “to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public.”
As a Garden Conservancy member I receive a directory each spring listing, state by state, the gardens and landscapes included in the year’s Open Days offering. As a rule, the California gardens are amongst the earliest of the season although in the last few years a Bay Area day has been scheduled in the fall. Some years I barely have received my directory before I have to get on the road to see as many as I can fit in my schedule. All of the information is also available on the Garden Conservancy’s website http://www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays along with more details about their Garden Extras and Digging Deeper events and their local partners. The directory itself is great resource and I keep mine from year to year.
California’s first Open Days event took place this past weekend and showcased five gardens in the Hancock Park and Windsor Square neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The drive from my San Joaquin Valley home requires a crack of dawn departure to ensure I am ready and waiting at the garden I have designated as first on my route to ensure that I get to see them all by 4 pm closing. This year’s Los Angeles selections are all quite close to each other so there is at least a possibility of finding time for lunch. My husband has opted in so I might even catch a nap on the way down. The morning air was cool and crisp as we navigated off a busy urban street to a small neighborhood where most of the homes were shaded by the canopies of mature trees. I think it’s going to be a great day!
THE MEADOW LANE GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK
This 1907 painted shingle historic home sits a stone’s throw away from very busy Wilshire Avenue but feels as it it is miles away. The front garden is simple and snuggled up against the large covered porch draped in wisteria.
This front door and the entrance to the back garden are reached via the motor court which is shade by this magnificent eucalyptus tree.
I’ll take any corrections on the tree identification–my guess is based on the smooth slightly mottled bark. I simply could not back out into the street far enough to capture the actual height of this tree which offered shade to a large part of the home’s facade.
A petite, wooden playhouse sits just outside the back garden’s vine covered entrance, along with a few pots and an old-fashioned rocking chair.
The garden is very narrow and falls off to the back in a steep slope which has been extensively terraced to offer level ground at several elevations as you descend. The brick path leading you into the garden is set in gravel and curves around another huge tree. You are seeing the full width of the garden at this point.
A couple of steps up to the house level reveals a wooden deck (again built around another very large tree) with a casual dining area screened from the neighbors yard with trellis and lattice work.
The brick path opens into a small terrace of the same material with a shaded dining area. I have purposefully not adjusted the exposure on any of these photos to give the a true sense of the intimacy and sense of enclosure these very large trees offer in this long narrow garden. The masses of greenery, both in the ground and potted, effectively disguise how close the property line fencing is to this cozy space.
A small utility space is hidden between the garage and a foliage covered lattice screen which is also seen in the far right of the photo just before this one–again an indication of the garden’s size.
The ornate iron chairs on the right mark the end of the brick terrace level but the slope down is again camouflaged by the abundance of plant material in the ground and in pots.
Looking down into the lowest part of the garden from the brick terrace.
The staircase railing disappears into the vines draping it.
A few steps down the wooden staircase offers another level to sit and enjoy the garden from a slightly different vantage point. A small fountain gurgles in the background and pops of color stand out amongst the primarily green landscape.
Seen as you descend the steps into the meadow part of the garden at its lowest level.
Looking back uphill from the small Carex meadow to the back of the garage. Not easily visible are the several extra terraces created by piles stone and broken concrete which step the plantings up giving them more depth.
The Carex meadow acts as a wee front garden for this petite rose covered cottage furnished as a sitting room.
A massive and gnarled bearing fig tree towers above the cottage with closely planted perennials and shrubs beneath its canopy.
A Philadelphus, or mock orange, covered with sweetly scented white blooms lights up the shade created by the fig.
The stone path through the meadow offers a shady swinging spot and a bit of bright potted color.
Looking back up towards the house which is totally hidden by the tree cover. On the right is the back of the garage.
A spot of bright sun across from the swing is the perfect place for a few veggies, in this case blueberries and brussels sprouts.
A couple of cushioned Adirondack chairs stand at the ready for anyone who is just tired out after making the descent!
View from the furthest point of the garden back uphill to the tree canopy. This charming garden warmed my heart with the attention to detail and its frowsy country charm. It is clear evidence of homeowners who not only love but also live in their garden. I think the basic geography of this lot would have scared off many of us as being just too much to deal with but these homeowners have created a garden with classic, yet casual style, using the elevation challenges to their advantage in creating very useable space.
This gardening girl is happy to have this project finished–even happier to have the boxes of parts off the floor of my quilting studio.
If you missed my recent post Tuteur-ial…, check it out to see the first few steps of this DIY project. Back from my travels for a few days I get back to it.
In the first project post I stopped short of adding the final side having run out of energy, daylight and time.
My trusty rubber mallet tapped that final side on each tuteur.
Did a little paint touch up here and there in preparation to tap on the ball finials.
At 72″ tall I need a step stool for that final construction step.
Every dowel held joint got a 3″ long screw for stability.
Each tuteur required thirty-two screws–plus 4 in each finial base. The instructions caution against over-tightening these screws and I am proud to report the drill only got away from me twice out of 72 screws total. For now I have decided to forego adding the slender upright extra bar on each side. I think the look is a little more contemporary without them.
Et Voila! In place flanking currently unplanted hayrack window boxes, the tuteurs help to carry the purple front door and trellis work theme to somewhat colorless area adjacent to the driveway. The awning over my studio windows is actually a small stripe containing beiges, browns and the purple, although the purple doesn’t leap out–they painted wood certainly draws the eye! The last step is the selection of a climber or tow that can co-exist. Full sun, adequate water and hopefully evergreen. Any thoughts?
There are lots of examples and instructions to build various styles of tuteurs or obelisks on the web. Lacking the tools and skill to do a lot of accurate lumber cutting I went with a kit with all the hard tasks accomplished by someone who knows what they’re doing. Had it not been for my desire to paint the wood I could have assembled both in the matter of several hours. Thank you, Mr. deJong of Woodbrute Designs in British Columbia for your great directions and all parts included.
The last day of my long Bay Area weekend was devoted to a Garden Conservancy Digging Deeper program at Berkeley community farm Urban Adamah.
Urban Adamah was founded in 2010 by Adam Berman as the first urban Jewish community farm in the United States. The farm’s seeds are rooted in a Connecticut farm-based residential leadership program. Adam envisioned an urban farm that would provide a fellowship program, offer Jewish agriculturally based experiential programs for youth and families, and contribute to food security in the East Bay. The farm moved in 2016 to its permanent home near Codornices Creek in Northwest Berkeley after five years in a temporary location. The word adamah in Biblical Hebrew means ground or earth.
A little hard to decipher as the metal sign over the entrance has aged–it reads “Love…all the rest is commentary”.
Berkeley artist and landscape designer Keeyla Meadows was brought in to design a city required swale when the 2.2 acre parcel was a blank slate. She went on to design the Pollinator Garden, the Children’s Garden and work with staff as other parts of the garden have been developed. Keeyla (on the left below) and Emily, the Urban Adamah Landscape Coordinator were our guides.
We gathered in the center of a large circular planting bed to learn a bit about the farm’s history and philosophy. The core tenants of Urban Adamah are stated in this Mission Statement: “Urban Adamah seeks to build a more loving, just and sustainable world. We ground and connect people-to themselves, to others, and to the natural world. We do this by providing farm based, community building experiences that integrate Jewish tradition, mindfulness, sustainable agriculture and social action.”
Keeyla points out that almost every area of the farm has a central open area designed for small groups of people to meet and build relationships. This was a specific request made by Urban Adamah’s founder–places to gather as a community must be plentiful, welcoming and comfortable. The farm is open to the public most week days and is a lovely environment in which to enjoy the outdoors and observe nature at work–plus volunteer workers are welcome! We will explore most of the farm’s major areas, stopping to observe the plantings and ask questions as Keeyla and Emily share the design philosophy and challenges in developing this very young garden.
We start at the Blueberry Meeting Circle where a ring of sturdy upright logs provide both seating for us and a podium for Keeyla.
Without sharp eyes you might miss the ring of blueberries planted around the meeting circle, nestled amongst freely self sowing California poppies. Several native penstemons, blue-eyed grass and salvia also make their home here along with many Douglas iris.
Gardeners are good multi-taskers. As Keeyla describe the soil building and design process for this area, one of our group pulls weeds as she listens. The farm is organic and weeding is a never ending task, especially in areas where self-sowers are allowed to have their way.
The Blueberry Meeting Circle is a charming front garden to the Aquaponic House where four levels of plants are stacked, producing lettuces, basil and other leafy greens.
This buttery lettuce is planted with only a small amount of bark like material and its roots reaching down into the water below.
The bottom trays now hold a variety of plants being grown for their leaves textural experience, such as the gigantic Gunnera leaf and the surprising soft, almost furry, leaf of its neighbor.
This tank is home to fish whose waste provides the natural fish emulsion nutrients to the plant via the circulation system of pipes.
We circle out of the Aquaponics House and return to the Blueberry Meeting Circle, a great vantage point to see the full length of the Urban Swale. the farm is adjacent to Codornices Creek which is in the midst of a civic restoration plan. The city of Berkeley required the installation of a swale on the farm’s property to prevent runoff of both rainwater and farm waste water into the creek.
The Urban Swale, planted entirely in California natives runs from just beside the Blueberry Meeting Circle and along the farm’s front fence line almost to the entry gate.
Hooker Creek boulders and Sonoma stone were brought in to form the bank stabilizing structure of the swale. Plantings were designed in repeating color bursts to keep your eye moving down the length of the swale. Keeyla calls this ‘weaving color’ throughout a space. Native plants requiring more moisture are planted lower on the bank while the more drought tolerate plants are higher up. The shape of the swale allows accumulated water to percolate slowly back into the ground. Keeyla’s choice of native plantings in part was to relate the swale to the creek and to honor the area’s indigenous peoples and their stewardship of the land.
Several varieties of California poppies were included in the original sowing of reseeding annuals. Subsequent seasons have produced some interesting color variations as the result of natural hybridization.
As we walk to the far side of the farm to see the Pollinator Garden, Emily shares that this Administration Building was the first permanent structure built on the site; a great accomplishment after five years of a trailer office. The passionflower vines on the office trellises (and on the fences in the Urban Swale) were a concession to a former farm colleague who was instrumental in the early planning days. He loves passionflowers and would regularly harvest the fruit for use in tea and other edibles.
Urban Adamah gives away 90% of the food it grows. The remainder is used on the farm for events and for use by residents of the farm. They host a weekly farmer’s market for anyone who needs food. Local grocery stores, including Whole Foods, contribute goods not yet produced on the farm. At any given times throughout the year they will produce all kinds of vegetables, herbs, stone and pomme fruits, potatoes, onions, eggs and milk.
Crops are rotated regularly–vetch, Fava beans and crimson clover are planted as nitrogen fixing cover crops to be tilled back into the ground (after bean harvest, of course).
The Pollinator Garden is our next stop–a melange of seasonal veggies surrounded by plants chosen specifically for their attraction of certain pollinators. Emily worked closely with Keeyla on the implementation of the design and credits this garden as awakening her desire to not only plant, but also be a designer. As we visit not much is in prime bloom. Emily explains what different shapes and colors are attractive to specific kinds of pollinators–tubular for the hummers vs flat for the butterflies, etc.–and the importance of having something for everyone if you want to maximize pollination.
The Children’s Garden entrance is home to arbor seating–I haven’t been counting seating areas but I’m sure there at least 10. A young vine is on its way up to give visitors some shade while they get to know each other.
Urban Adamah has a full schedule of family friendly activities, including summer camp. The goals for children are the same as for adults; to build community; to foster Jewish traditions; to learn and practice sustainable agriculture and living.
The Children’s Garden is only a stone’s throw from the creek and has its own swale to serve the same purpose as the first built Urban Swale. Keeyla also designed this garden and the swale is similar in planting with the exception of possibly more native wildflowers–sowing seeds is a popular activity on this side of the farm. Here you can see the swale emerging from under the bridge to the Earthbench meeting place.
With the guidance of an educator from the Peace on Earthbench Movement (POEM) children built this garden gathering space using plastic bottles and other recycled materials over several camp sessions. Locally based POEM’s international mission is to encourage youth to turn plastic waste into artistic community gathering places. This is a project I would want to participate in–what fun!
Looking down the Children’s Garden swale you see art created by children and displayed on the fence.
Leaving the Children’s Garden we pass a newly constructed grape arbor tucked up against the street side fence.
As yet unplanted, the arbor will be home to several grape varieties (you can see the barrels just outside the fence awaiting the vines) for a nascent partnership with the kosher winery directly across the street. The structure was built by local Eagle Scouts–notice every section has seating for several people.
We make a quick detour to the goat pen to meet Lev and Ivy and give them a snack pulled right from the field–and right in front of the Do Not Feed the Goats sign.
These two clearly recognize Emily and know she comes with goodies. They will not let her out of their sight!
On our way to talk about the Seven Sacred Species Garden we stop for a brief art activity. Keeyla has provided us with paper, colored pencils and markers, and string and asks us each to make a wish or a prayer to hang on the farm’s olive tree, telling us our thoughts will be released into the wind. The olive tree is the farm’s focal point, visible as soon as you enter the gate. A universal symbol of peace and one of the Seven Sacred Species, this tree was 42 years old when it was selected for the farm 18 months ago and the variety is one preferred for its oil. It actually sits mounded high because the farm’s electrical and water utilities are underneath it. Rocks were added to stabilize the raised planting area. I’m not sure how much of an olive oil crop you can get from one tree but I’m giving the farm extra credit for covering all the bases.
Had to make a quick trip back to the goat pen to retrieve an errant paper prayer from Ivy!
The Seven Sacred Species are plants which deeply link spiritual beliefs to the natural world and play prominent roles in the Bible. They are olive, fig, date, wheat, barley, grapes and pomegranate. It was important to the farm’s founder to include these species on the farm and at this writing they have 6 of the seven, lacking only barley.
Several are represented around the entry gate.
There is a lone date palm near the Blueberry Meeting Circle and wheat planted in the crop beds. It is fitting that these species closely linked with the Bible would be at home in this place deeply rooted in Jewish traditions.
Our group had thinned a bit by now–many, including me, did not know the extent of the experience and had planned for less time. Those of us remaining took a break to gather fresh herbs, berries, greens and edible flowers to add to salad ingredients Keeyla had provided.
Keeyla had made grape leaf dolma stuffed with barley and currents, polenta, small white pastries with dates, and a blueberry tart. A wonderful challah was the highlight for me–delicious.
We filled our plates and gathered at a circle of benches to break bread and get to know each other a little better–exactly what Urban Adamah founder Adam Berman would have wanted.
This day was a wonderful experience and I would encourage anyone in the vicinity of Urban Adamah to take a few minutes to see the farm. I will close with a few more photos and several websites for you to get more information if you desire.
The owner of this historic Professorville cottage in Palo Alto wanted a garden to honor his father’s garden in the family’s native Vietnam. The result is an eclectic mix of tropical and traditional plants nestled amongst paths, gates and art pieces fashioned from driftwood and salvaged antique bricks.
The fully enclosed front garden is a potpourri of shrubs and vines nestled underneath a canopy of mature oaks.
The first of many unique driftwood creations crafted by the homeowner greets visitors near the front gate.
Mature rhododendrons grace the front walk–the only ones I saw on the tour this year.
The piece of driftwood perched atop this gate’s frame is reminiscent of a bird stopped for a rest on its daily travels.
Multi-colored antique bricks laid were laid in sand to make this rustic path.
A vine covered arbor..
…and another driftwood gate open onto a brick path to the back garden.
The back garden features a brick floor with accents of stone and driftwood. The single sunny spot in the garden is home to a raised planter with its own ‘found wood’ fence.
A raised gazebo is dressed in driftwood style and its comfy couch offers a great view of the garden.
A huge orchid in bloom, Dendrobium kingianum, is perched atop a waist high stump.
A rock waterfall, once part of a koi pond whose inhabitants sheltered under the raised platform of the gazebo, is home now to tropicals and ferns. The pond itself is now a brick floor, a bit of which you can see in the lower right corner.
A neat stack of materials stands at the ready for future projects! The beauty of this garden for me was the homeowner’s obvious affinity for the space and enjoyment in creating his garden with his own hands.
A FEAST FOR THE SENSES
As much as I admire landscapes with sophisticated green and white palettes, perfectly poised pots, and every detail dedicated to the theme; I am at heart a gardening girl who loves a riot of color and texture, prefers her shrubs in naturalistic shapes and adds things to the garden just because I want to try them out rather than that they fit some prescribed color or category. This last garden of my day on the tour spoke to me in terms I not only understand but see as achievable and possible to maintain in my slightly messy, do what you will vibe.
My dream home and garden would be an authentic Spanish bungalow tucked behind wonderful courtyard walls–a little bit of public garden street side and the rest of it nestled privately inside where I could play to my heart’s content in raised beds reached by stone and ground cover paths. Although the garden of this third generation landscape professional is very visible from the street side, it checked almost all my design boxes.
Red brick walks are the front garden’s floor and series of geometric beds harbor most pf the plants. The raised beds are capped with red brick and are perfect sitting walls. I love a good sitting wall!
The beds have a definite East coast influence is throughout and are densely planted with a mixture of roses perennials coming in and out of bloom amongst a formal structure of evergreen shrubs.
This neighborhood has sidewalks and wide parking strips (called something different everywhere-the area between the sidewalk and the curb)–masses of agapanthus and daylilies and other strap leafed perennials will make this the prettiest ‘hell strip’ in town when they are in full bloom.
A mature tree canopy provides dappled shade to the front walk.
The homeowner enjoys flower arranging and makes use of many blooms from her own garden. The front plantings were originally designed to serve as a demonstration garden for her clients.
A narrow planting strip along the driveway offers vertical gardening opportunities, both softening the look of the property line fence and providing additional privacy.
The driveway as seen from the garage which is placed far back on the lot. The combination of brickwork adds interest and just feels softer and cooler than concrete.
A small guest house with a pergola whose columns mimic those on the home’s front facade separates the back garden into rooms. I thought this little sitting area was one of the most charming I saw on the tour and I know I would be relaxing out there every day.
The red brick fountain tucked next to the sitting area is presided over by a Korean acolyte sculpture the homeowner has named Yoda. The glass balls are meant to deter raccoons from fishing in the pond!
Green Goddess calla lilies share the spotlight with papyrus and other water plants in the pond.
Raised beds and pots in the sitting area are massed with nasturtiums and other edible flowers.
The sitting area and pergola provide a lovely view of the rectangular lawn with its wide compacted gravel walkway–the original brick walkway was replaced after the homeowner’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in preparation for a time when a wheelchair path might be needed. Railings were also added to any areas having even a step or two.
The lawn leads to a raised patio from which to dine and enjoy the garden. Kiwi vines cover the the arbor and abundant roses are within reach of the house for easy cutting.
A brick walkway between the guest house and the garage draws visitors back–anxious to see what other delights they will find.
The lot is remarkably deep and easy to walk compacted gravel paths wind around beds filled with annuals, bulbs, perennials and herbs. A green screen along the back property line offers the sense of being all alone in the city.
Ornamentals give way to edibles in raised beds. I could sooo…live in this garden. It feels cool and colorful without being fussy or overly regimented. This is a gardener’s garden.
So ends this year’s Gamble Garden Spring Tour. The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden deserves a post of its own and I’ll save that for the dog days of the summer when my spring travel is over and my own garden looks like scorched earth.