More postcards from Denver…

The Garden Bloggers Fling 2019 is all in–we closed our final full day of touring last night with a delicious meal together in wood clad barn surrounded by beautiful landscape and rollings fields. Today folks are heading home with their heads and hearts filled with hundreds of garden vignettes and even more inspiration for their own pieces of paradise–and so far uncounted photos which they will share with the readers of their blogs. We’ll gather again next year in Madison , Wisconsin and do it all over again.

To learn more about the Garden Bloggers Fling go to http://www.gardenbloggersfling.blogspot.com where, in addition to general information about the Fling, you’ll find lists of participants and links to their blogs, a list of our wonderful sponsors, and photos from all the past Flings.

My last postcards from Denver…

THE GARDEN OF KIRSTEN AND SCOTT HAMLING IN DENVER

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THE GARDEN OF ROB PROCTER AND DAVID MACKE IN NORTH DENVER

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THE GARDEN OF JIM AND DOROTHY BORLAND IN DENVER

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DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS

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THE GARDEN OF PANAYOTI KELAIDIS IN DENVER

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THE GARDEN OF DAN JOHNSON AND TONY MILES IN ENGLEWOOD

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THE GARDEN OF KEITH AND RETHA FUNK IN CENTENNIAL

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CHATFIELD FARMS IN LITTLETON

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll post on the three public gardens and 15 private gardens we saw in a whirlwind 3-1/2 days. Make sure you look back at In a daze in Denver…morning walkaboutIn a daze in Denver…GrowHausIn a daze near Denver…High Plains Environmental Center, and Postcards from Denver… to get the full Denver story!

 

In a daze near Denver…High Plains Environmental Center

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The High Plains Environmental Center (HPEC) is a non-profit (501c3) organization located in the Lakes at Centerra neighborhood in Loveland, Colorado. HPEC manages open space for the Centerra Metro district, homeowner’s associations and other landowners. In the simplest terms, revenues from those management fees support the operation and projects of the center. The organization’s website http://www.suburbitat.org has a wealth of information about the vision that inspired the center and the road it has taken to result in the current method of operation.

THE MEDICINE WHEEL GARDEN

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The under-construction Medicine Wheel Garden is an ethnobotany garden which features plants that are used by Native American tribes of the Great Plains for food, medicine, and ceremony. The site also hosts powwows with regional third grade classes. The plants in the slightly raised, cut stone bordered beds which form a circle are just recently planted and very small.

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Looking back toward the HPEC’s office building it is obvious that this is not a manicured garden space but a natural space whose primary goal is that of environmental stewardship and education. They are focused on community outreach rather than elaborate structures. Executive Director Jim Tolstrup shared that everything on their site, save the actual buildings, has been built by volunteers.

The geographical area known as the High Plains or Front Ridge enjoys 300+ days of sunshine a year and rarely more than 15″ of rainfall. It is a rich habitat for both wild life and plant life.

Centerra is a 3500 acre mixed use, master planned community in which people can live in harmony with nature, work and play. Seventy-six acres of land, three miles of trails and two lakes totaling over 200 additional acres are managed by HPEC. They work to create sustainable landscapes, restore native plant communities, and provide habitats for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. In addition to the Medicine Wheel Garden, the site includes a Native Plants Demonstration Garden, an Heirloom Fruit Orchard, a Community Garden, a Native Plant Nursery and a kids area they call the Wild Zone.

NATIVE PLANTS DEMONSTRATION GARDEN

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We don’t always co-ordinate our outfits to the border colors!

The Native Plants Demonstration Garden showcases Colorado native plants and promotes a regionally appropriate style of horticulture that celebrates the natural beauty of the state, conserves water, reduces reliance on pesticides and fertilizer, and provides habitat for birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

This very long double border contains trees, shrubs and perennials. This area had snow only a couple of weeks ago and thus is having a very late spring. Lots of healthy foliage throughout the border but not as many blooms as I had hoped for.

Although the Falugia paradoxa, commonly called Apache plume, on which these flowers and seed heads were born was pretty well past its prime, there were still many of the clear white blooms and even more of the fluffy, plume-like developing seed heads. I first saw this shrub in Austin and have lusted after one ever since.

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The mountain ninebark, Physocarpus monogynus, was in full bloom.

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Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’, the Montgomery spruce, is not only structural and sturdy but also provides a pop of blue gray to the border. Denver gold columbine is seen in the foreground.

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Several nice colonies of showy milkweed caught everyone’s eye.

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A logistically lucky shot caught its flower in all stages.

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I think the penstemon were the stars of today’s show. I think this is Penstemon strictus, the Rocky Mountain penstemon.

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Penstemon grandiflorus

THE HEIRLOOM FRUIT ORCHARD

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Northern Colorado was once a significant fruit growing region. Apples, plums, cherries and blackberries with historic significance have been collected and are grown here, celebrating and preserving a piece of Colorado history.

THE COMMUNITY GARDEN

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The Jeffers barn at the far end bears this banner–Nourishing Children Through Nature–what an inspiring thought

Garden plots here are cultivated by local families and the garden serves as an outdoor classroom for instructional the cultivation of food crops.

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A living willow tunnel connects this garden to the Native Plants Demonstration Garden

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Talking red wigglers with staff member Lauren

THE NATIVE PLANT NURSERY

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The NATIVE PLANT NURSERY works in conjunction with the demonstration garden to help local homeowners establish their own native plant focused landscapes–they can see what mature plants look like and how they perform and then purchase their own small starts. The nursery grows over 80 species and propagates much of what is planted throughout the center. Plant sales provide an additional revenue stream for the HPEC.

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THE WILD ZONE

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The Wild Zone is an area dedicated to letting kids be kids in an unstructured natural environment. The signage says, “Please DO climb on the rocks, wiggle your toes in the water and create your own art projects using natural materials found here. Go Wild!

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The High Plains Environmental Center is both proud of and passionate about its commitment to the community and Colorado’s natural world. Jim Tolstrup shared that Centerra has been registered as Colorado’s first National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat–way to go!

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In a daze in Denver…GrowHaus

The Garden Bloggers Fling 2019 kicked off with a welcome dinner and tour at GrowHaus, a non-profit indoor farm, marketplace and educational complex in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.

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GrowHaus makes its home in a renovated 20,000 square foot historic greenhouse on a neighborhood street.

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Lovely tables were set for us. The leafy pergola at the far end of this large room is a very large bearing fig tree, supported partially by overhead piping and partially by a couple of huge potted banana trees.

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Large diameter black corrugated pipe sent on edge provides soil depth to support plant growth while using vertical space to its best advantage. This one is planted with hops.

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A filling Mexican buffet was enjoyed by all–including a lovely creme filled churro for dessert!

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We’re welcomed by one of this year’s organizers who introduces her committee and recognizes first time Fling attendees–20 this year. Emily Hoel, GrowHaus Director of Operations, is introduced and gives us a bit of the organization’s history. I’ve added to her presentation with facts from their website because I believe they are doing such important work in this economically challenged part of Denver. The Elyria-Swansea area was established around 1880 as a working class neighborhood and has historically lacked access to fresh food as, even today, they have no grocery store within a 2 mile radius. It has the lowest household incomes in the state of Colorado and faces the challenges which come with the lack of money and nutritious food. The vision of GrowHaus is “a world where all communities have the means to nourish themselves.” Their mission is to create “a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system by serving as a hub for food distribution, production, education and economic opportunities.”

They have a three pronged approach to achieving their mission: direct marketing of food; a full schedule of educational classes and opportunities for youth and adults focusing on nutrition, food production and preparation; and production of food in a sustainable indoor setting .

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The Market Next Door offers fresh fruits and vegetables plus a selection of processed foods. Proceeds from the organization’s 3 production farms’ sales to local restaurant and grocery stores are used to stock the market with products not grown or produced on site.

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In addition to classes, educational opportunities abound in the ongoing endeavors of GrowHaus. Here you see a worm farm, complete with hanging spade, made by neighborhood participants.

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And what, you ask, does this pile of bikes have to do with food security? Each summer, teens from GrowHaus fan out through their own neighborhood to construct raised beds for residents to grow veggies and they use these bikes for transportation.

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The big green pegboard attests to the numbers of participants actively involved in the day to day activities of GrowHaus

The food production component of GrowHaus is divided into three farms: aquaponics, hydroponics and mushroom cultivation. Please note we were not able to enter the hydroponic growing area and thus these photos were taken through the glass. The walls of the large aquaponic growing area were semi-opaque–no photos from there possible.

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Bibb lettuce is the major crop grown using hydroponics

Hydroponics and aquaponics are both soil-free methods of cultivating crops. The major difference between the two methods is that aquaponics integrates a hydroponic environment with aquaculture, the process of cultivating fish. It’s all in the fish!

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This little demo set-up with its planting space and small fish tank is a small scale example of an aquaponic system.

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The catch of the day board lets visitors know what fresh fish are available for sale.

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A fellow blogger trying to get a shot next to me commented that she was “going for a moody ambiance.” A small window, sweaty with humidity, was the only peek available of the mushroom operation, in full swing since 2015.

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I don’t know that we could have found the ‘shrooms without the sign!

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We closed our evening with drawings for great products donated by Fling sponsors, including a whole box of stylish hats from Austin-based Tula.

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Happy hat winners!

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Throughout the GrowHaus there are positive affirmations about community and neighborhood. Most off them hand lettered just like this one. The work of children’s hands is seen everywhere and this is clearly a safe and welcoming environment in which a place is found for anyone who wants to take part, make a contribution, and help shape the future of their neighborhood. My own city, despite being in a valley of agricultural wealth, ranks very high amongst the nation’s cities with massive pockets of poverty. I can’t help but think that we must have the resources to establish neighborhood centers similar to GrowHaus and must only be lacking the will.

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Please go to http://www.growhaus.org to find out more about the outreach and programs (or to offer support) of this community based indoor farm.

 

 

Easing into the East Bay…Keeyla Meadows Gardens & Art

I am going to end the Garden Conservancy Open Days East Bay posts with a bang as I take you to the home and studio of renowned painter, sculptor and garden designer, Keeyla Meadows. You’ve met Keeyla and seen some of her garden design in my posts Easing into the East Bay…fearless color and Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…. If you’ve not read those posts, make sure to go back to them as a chaser for this visit. I am not sure you could ever get too much of Keeyla–from her cowboy boots and headful of springy curls to her color rich garden and whimsical sculpture she revels in her life filled with art and nature.

KEEYLA MEADOWS GARDENS & ART IN ALBANY

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Keeyla makes her home and some of her art in this 1910 wood framed bungalow on a small lot in a cozy neighborhood where I imagine everyone knows everyone else and someone probably periodically drags their grill out front for a block party. There is no doubt that this colorful house is the home of an artist! Keeyla works in many mediums–bronze, paint, ceramics and of course, plants plus all the other elements which enhance gardens. Her uninhibited use of color makes her gardens giant scale works of art.

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Gardens themed with the use of saturated color are like living color paintings!

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Keeyla has changed the dynamics of her once flat front garden with huge slabs and boulders of native stone which she used to create drama and additional square footage in a small space. Rocks add stability and the varying elevations add interest. In addition to the time I spent in Keeyla’s garden on my own, I took part in her Digging Deeper presentation along with about 25 other tour goers. The walking workshop opened our eyes to her design process and how to translate our personal color preferences into tangible form in our own gardens. I’ll try to weave bits of that workshop in amongst the garden pictorial. The exuberant gardening lady above is one of many figures created by Keeyla throughout her garden.

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A bronze couple bids you welcome and marks the way to Keeyla’s back garden. This would be a good time to buckle up!

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Garden gate forged by Keeyla
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Narrow stone path takes you into the heart of the garden

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As the space opens up the raised porch leading to Keeyla’s door (she doesn’t use the front door!) is to the left and on the right this small roughly circular patio area sports an Alice in Wonderland glass table and fairytale benches for casual dining. Several of the huge boulders found in this area were originally destined for further back in the garden and if the crane man could have gotten them over the house to place them Keeyla would have been able to have the larger friends and family outdoor table and chairs she longed for. The boulders in their current placement form a sort of second story planting opportunity–taking the plant materials up in layers.

The side wall of the small garage offers a backdrop that invites this fanciful gardener to join in any group gathered around the table.

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Ceramic works grace a stone topped console
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Cast stone retaining walls work in tandem with large boulders to create the garden’s varying elevations–this vignette is adjacent to the blue ceramic fruits seen a few photos back
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One of Keeyla’s many color themed ceramic pots–this one has my name written all over it!

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Just a step away is an ornate forged arch…

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…and another of Keeyla’s fanciful bronze sculptures.

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Looking back from the arch, the checkerboard porch leads to Keeyla’s kitchen where she was preparing a special snack for her Digging Deeper participants.

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Flowing skirts are an oft-explored subject, these fashioned in metal
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Faces, purses and sunglasses, too

Let’s stop my own ramble for a moment to peek in on parts of Keeyla’s Digging Deeper workshop.

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Because our group was quite large and there were still many visitors in her small back garden Keeyla gathered us up and we stepped across the street to the driveway plant sale captained by master plant propagator Susan Ashley. She began the discussion by throwing out the question, “What function do you want your garden to serve in your life?”, and many participants voiced hopes specific to their own spaces including: respite, recreation, dining, entertaining, growing food, providing habitat for wildlife and making an appealing environment for pollinators. Keeyla used plants from the sale to make suggestions filling various roles in the garden.

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I think I’ve already convinced you that Keeyla loves a big rock–not just for defining spaces, creating visual interest and multiplying available planting space but also for a good podium from which to address us all. What is not really visible either in this shot or in similar ones at the beginning of the post is that Keeyla has placed HUGE squarish slabs of rock almost directly against the railing (or maybe wall?) of her front porch. This once very flat front yard has tremendous dimension now and is home to hundreds of plants. The curb appeal of her bungalow is not the structure itself, but the garden which almost obscures it. She is in the gradual process of changing over the plant materials in the front garden to emphasize natives and already many of the reseeding native annuals are making their presence known.

We take a few step walk to what was once her driveway, now home to many large planters of edibles which are favorites of the neighborhood children, then we take the back garden by storm! Keeyla explains that each area of her garden has a color theme and that she designs using a tool she has dubbed as a ‘color triangle’, sort of a reinvention of the traditional color wheel. Keeyla has written two books: Making Gardens Works of Art (Sasquatch Books 2002) and Fearless Color Gardens (Timber Press 2009)–it is in Fearless Color Gardens that she lays out the color triangle process as a tool to create both harmony and contrast. She challenges us to select a color–red, blue, green, yellow–and walk through the garden gathering flowers and leaves in all tones and variations of that color.

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Not the greatest photos in a small space filled with many participants (and quite dark with the red painted ceiling!) but we lay out our gatherings using red, blue and yellow as the triangle’s points, then layering in the combinations and gradations as on a color wheel. The flowers were a great visual to see how color combinations can create both harmony and drama in your garden.

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Our garden findings made a great backdrop for the lovely mixed fruit tart Keeyla had made for us along with several other healthy bites. I didn’t think to take any photos of them but we ate our shared meal on a variety of Keeyla’s one of a kind original plates in all colors and designs.

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A peak at some of Keeyla’s vibrant paintings stacked up in what would be her living room
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Back to wandering the garden–annuals, perennials and succulents all live companionably

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An exquisite forged arch dripping with delicate angel’s trumpet blooms stands in tribute to the living plant barely seen to the right. This was perhaps my favorite piece in the garden–delicate and organic. I would love to have an arch like this over my half height interior garden gate.

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The yellow angel’s trumpet–inspiration for the arch or added because of the arch?
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A little closer view of the arch
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This raspberry clematis scrambles up to meet the forged bronze flowers

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A raised path just beyond the beautiful arch leads to one entrance of Keeyla’s garden art studio and its yellow and purple themed garden.

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These last six photos from the yellow and purple garden where taken by simply standing in place and making a 360 degree circle–it is a very small area but packed with plants of all textures and sizes–each chosen for its ability to contribute to the color theme.

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The garden studio
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Several of a series of dresses-not sure if these are ceramic or real dresses which have been coated with something to allow each to stiffen as Keeyla has arranged it

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Leaving the studio through French doors which face the interior of the garden there is  a rock waterfall whose ‘banks’ are canvases for arrangements of huge filled pottery and all manner of blooming color. The pink and purple bench offers a spot to not only relax but view the design from uphill looking down.

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A wire bird perched on the studio’s roof sips nectar from a wire bloom
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Bronze figure tucked amongst the bank plantings
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Close-up taken while perched on a big boulder!
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Looking back toward the studio

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Hands down my favorite part of the garden–possibly because my color preferences tend to not be as bold as Keeyla’s and more so that she designed this pastel corner in memory of her mother who taught her about flowers and encouraged her interest in the natural world. The hues of the lavender, pink and yellow mosaic bench are echoed, in larger scale, in the mixed media floor beneath it. This garden room lies directly behind the bungalow and is visible from her kitchen window.

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A motherly angel hovers over a mosaic background
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The art installation–reminiscent of a shrine–is topped with a wild haired girl/woman
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Closer look at the mosaic
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Pinks and lavenders reign in this part of the garden but Keeyla always loves a pop of yellow

Keeyla Meadows believes that gardening is an act of gratitude–appreciation for all that nature has given us. Her reverance for the natural world and acknowledgment of how small a part each one of us plays in the whole is expressed in her garden and her art. She is young at heart, exuberant, and generous with her skills and talents. I aspire to having a piece of her work grace my garden and it would be all the more special by having spent a little bit of time with her at both Urban Adamah and in her own personal space. What could be better than a gallery in a garden?

Keeyla’s website http://www.keeylameadows.net has many close-up photos of her art in all her mediums plus gardens she has designed. I encourage you to visit it whenever you feel the need of a smile that you can’t seem to come to on your own! Contact Keeyla at keeylameadows@gmail.com if you would like to make arrangements to see her garden in person next time you are in the Berkley/Albany area. Please note this a correction for those who may have read the original post a few days ago–Keeyla’s garden is no longer open on Sunday afternoons as stated on her website.

NOTE: those of you who have been counting the Garden Conservancy Open Days East Bay posts will know I am one short, having presented only four of the five. I am going to keep the last one in reserve for a dry spell when I am not traveling anyplace interesting and my own garden is not worth writing about. Tomorrow I am off on a road trip with garden girls Ann D. and Glee M. to Greenwood Daylily Gardens in Somis, CA. Wednesday next I fly to Denver for the Garden Bloggers Fling in Denver, Colorado–three and a half days of non-stop private and public garden touring with lots of food and fellowship mixed in. Having only been stranded in the Denver airport in a blizzard and never actually in the city I’m taking an extra day before and one after to allow me to see as many sites as possible. I’m gonna be in a Denver Daze…I’m sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LA cruising…terrific terraces

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

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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.

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This front door and the entrance to the back garden are reached via the motor court which is shade by this magnificent eucalyptus tree.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The staircase railing disappears into the vines draping it.

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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.

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Seen as you descend the steps into the meadow part of the garden at its lowest level.

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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.

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The Carex meadow acts as a wee front garden for this petite rose covered cottage furnished as a sitting room.

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A massive and gnarled bearing fig tree towers above the cottage with closely planted perennials and shrubs beneath its canopy.

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A Philadelphus, or mock orange, covered with sweetly scented white blooms lights up the shade created by the fig.

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The stone path through the meadow offers a shady swinging spot and a bit of bright potted color.

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Looking back up towards the house which is totally hidden by the tree cover. On the right is the back of the garage.

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A spot of bright sun across from the swing is the perfect place for a few veggies, in this case blueberries and brussels sprouts.

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A couple of cushioned Adirondack chairs stand at the ready for anyone who is just tired out after making the descent!

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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.

Previous Garden Conservancy Open Days gardens can be seen in these posts: A little Mendocino madness…Mendocino madness…#2Mendocino madness #3…More Mendocino madness…#4Mendocino madness #5 at last…LA dreaming…Tech meets (very little) turf…Tech meets (very little) turf #2…

This year’s Los Angeles gardens are deserving of individual posts so next up will be THE RHEINSTEIN GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK.

 

 

Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…

The last day of my long Bay Area weekend was devoted to a Garden Conservancy Digging Deeper program at Berkeley community farm Urban Adamah.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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As we start our day together, Zumba teacher Kat leads us in noticing our surroundings and getting in touch with the wind and sky

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.

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We start at the Blueberry Meeting Circle where a ring of sturdy upright logs provide both seating for us and a podium for Keeyla.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hummingbird Sage

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.

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A little closer look at the beehive end. Notice the enormous Verbena ‘De La Mina’!
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Visitor to the ‘De La Mina’

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.

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Looking back as we wander the Urban Swale
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Fledgling bee colony
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Looking across the farm from the Urban Swale end

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Looking down the Children’s Garden swale you see art created by children and displayed on the fence.

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A surprisingly unafraid hummingbird

Leaving the Children’s Garden we pass a newly constructed grape arbor tucked up against the street side fence.

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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!

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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.

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One of several young fig trees on the farm
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Pomegranate in the background–in the foreground is Etrog, a yellow citrus used during the Jewish holiday Sukkot
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Grapes will cover the entry trellis

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.

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A fresh dressing was made…
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Our table was set…

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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.

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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.

Here we go–

For more information about Urban Adamah, its mission and programs go to http://www.urbanadamah.org

For more information about Keeyla Meadows, her art, books and gardens go to http://www.keeylameadows.net

For more information about Garden Conservancy Digging Deeper programs go to http://www.gardenconservancy.org then click on Open Days, then Digging Deeper

For more information about the Peace on Earthbench Movement go to http://www.earthbench.org

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