Hello friends! In the short 32 hours since visiting the High Plains Environmental Center (In a daze near Denver…High Plains Environmental Center), the traveling Garden Bloggers Fling 2019 participants have toured nine private gardens, one public garden and the home of Botanical Interests, a family owned seed company known to gardeners across the US. All were in the communities outside of Denver proper. Tomorrow, on our last full day of touring we will stay closer into the city visiting the Denver Botanic Garden and one of its extensions, Chatfield Farms plus six more private gardens.
With over 500 photos to sort through already to do each garden justice, I am going to tease you with just one snap of each garden–sort of a postcard from me to you just to show you what I’ve been doing on my vacation. Each garden will get a full post over the next few weeks.
THE GARDENS ON SPRING CREEK IN FT. COLLINS
THE GARDEN OF JAN AND RICHARD DEVORE IN FT. COLLINS
THE GARDEN OF CAROL AND RANDY SHINN IN FT. COLLINS
Having arrived in Denver yesterday about 4 hours later than anticipated, I lost my half day exploring time to fatigue and dusk. As the 2019 Garden Bloggers Fling itinerary opens with ID badge pick up mid afternoon today followed closely by the evening welcome reception I have only a few hours this morning to wander the Lower Downtown Historic District of Denver–referred to by locals (or perhaps only the tourist maps) as LoDo.
Denver has a wonderful public transit system–I rode in from the airport on the A-Line commuter rail then jumped on the 16th Street Mallride which took me only a block from my hotel. The Mallride runs continuously for about a mile on 16th Street which is closed to other vehicle traffic, with stops every block in both directions. My plan for the morning is to ride it back toward its terminus at Union Station to see the Millennium Bridge then walk the way back to see what’s on this street packed with shops and restaurants.
First, a quick detour to visit an immigrant from my home state of California…
Entitled I See What You Mean but known locally as The Big Blue Bear, this iconic 40 foot bear stands peering into the wall of windows at the Denver Convention Center.
Clearly a favorite spot for tourist photos, the big boy weighs about 10,000 pounds and cost about $425,000 to install. Artist Lawrence Argent was tasked with creating a work which would represent Colorado without the clichéd symbols such as trees and mountains. The bear was inspired by a newspaper article in which a Colorado resident relates encountering a curious bear peaking into his home, the incident being representative of the everyday interaction between humans and wildlife in Colorado.
The bear, constructed in California and installed in 2005, was not always intended to be blue. The artist saw a mock up of the piece mistakenly printed in blue and the Big Blue Bear was born! Artist Lawrence Argent passed away in 2017 and is also known for two other mammoth sized creatures: a 49 foot giant panda in a Chinese Mall and a 56 foot long rabbit hopping through the Sacramento, CA airport.
A quick ride on the 16th Street Mallride takes me to the base of the Millennium Bridge.
The Denver Millennium Bridge is the world’s first cable stayed bridge built using post-tensioned structural construction. No water here–this bridge offers pedestrians and bicyclists a way across the massive railroad track system. Construction started in 1999 and the bridge opened in 2002. The white tapered steel mast rises 200 feet and is connected to the bridge deck and foundation anchored by steel cables. By the numbers the bridge is quite small–only 131 feet long and 26 feet wide.
First stop on my walk back will be Union Station where I arrived in Denver yesterday. It looks totally different this morning. I arrived a bit after 5 pm yesterday–rush hour AND just as the Colorado Rockies-Chicago Cubs game ended and very nearby Coors Field was spilling out its thousands of fans bound for dinner and drinks on 16th Street.
The historic and the modern co-exist peacefully at Denver’s Union Station. Union Station was established in 1881 as the hub of Denver rail traffic and it remains so today, its historic buildings beautifully restored and surrounded by modern shade sails and gleaming highrises. The stationary car is one of the domed cars previously running on the Summit View line.
Visible in the distance from the tracks and platforms was this interesting moving piece of art sitting high over the trains. I finally found the way up to the overhead walkway which offered an up-close view.
I wasn’t able to immediately locate any information about this piece of public art. It very much resembles a moving oil pump like those we see in California around the Bakersfield area.
Union Station’s interior is meticulously restored–like stepping back into time, only with free wi-fi. Also within the station is the upscale Crawford Hotel which offers tours of Union Station in addition to lodging and meeting rooms.
Having entered Union Station on the railroad track side I exited on the Wynkoop Street side where I found this art installation. There is no plaque or attribution but after surfing the net for a bit I located the website of the artist, Jim Sanborn. The piece is a bronze projection cylinder entitled Meridian and stands 12 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
Unfortunately there is no information on the website specific to the piece, other than a photo and its title. This artist has done many projection cylinders–when the piece is lit from the inside at night the words project on the ground around the cylinder. In this case the wording appears to be a chronological history of the area. Notice the words at the top of the piece are in Spanish and follow the date 1776. I will definitely visit this artwork after dark to see the projection!
A few other Denver transportation notes…wildlife apparently both ride bikes and skateboards and would like you to do so also–at least on June 26.
Yes, there are scooters…EVERYWHERE…and people, young and old, are zipping around on them. They not only ride but also take selfies and text at the same time.
Even though I learned yesterday that the absolute best photo op for Coors Stadium, home of the Colorado Rockies, is from a moving train (and I missed it!) I’m going to see what I can see of the stadium by wandering down Wynkoop Street–I think it’s down that way somewhere! I pass the old Union Pacific Railroad building, now a trendy eatery.
The back of the building now houses condos with easy access to the stadium on game day and a variety of dining options just a few floors down.
I’m heading literally toward left field thinking that is all I’m going to get to see of the stadium when a worker from a massive new development being built in the stadium’s west lot approaches me, thinking I’m lost, and tells me how to get to the stadium’s main entrance.
There were a number of these nicely shaped trees near the stadium. The leaves were two fairly distinctive colors–limey and medium green next to each other. I am sure by the end of my Denver daze I’ll know what these are.
Even without the game day activity it is an imposing building–all red brick with all its trim painted in a rich dark green which I have seen all over the historic district. Much like the blackish green known all over the south as Charleston green, I’m guessing this reminiscent of the forest green is known here as Denver green.
Denver’s got a lot going on in this part of town…
A local craft brewery is growing hops on cables up the side of their building.
A colorful herd of bison (buffalo??) is passing through.
Old and new words have found homes painted on their buildings.
Thrifty, eco-conscious drinkers have pooled their bottle caps to make cool, colorful planter boxes.
What other city has an informational cow?
Colorful planters are springing to life everywhere.
There is an iconic clock tower which can be seen from both ends of the 16th Street mall.
And a money museum at the local branch of the Federal Reserve. I wonder what you can get in the gift shop?
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
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.
Gardens themed with the use of saturated color are like living color paintings!
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.
A bronze couple bids you welcome and marks the way to Keeyla’s back garden. This would be a good time to buckle up!
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.
Just a step away is an ornate forged arch…
…and another of Keeyla’s fanciful bronze sculptures.
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.
Let’s stop my own ramble for a moment to peek in on parts of Keeyla’s Digging Deeper workshop.
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.
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: MakingGardens 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.
When the Garden Conservancy Open Days Directory arrives in the mail each April I can’t wait to read through the descriptions of the gardens included on any of the California days which I have already penciled in on my calendar. This garden preservation non-profit offers regular gardeners like you and I entre into beautiful private gardens to which we could never hope otherwise to have access. I don’t know if each garden’s preview paragraph and title are written by staff or by the homeowner but they always offer highlights not to miss and often historical information which enhances the visitor’s experience in the garden. Rarely are the profiles overstated–in the case of this third garden on my whirlwind Saturday in the East Bay–the title, at least, was understated. We all should be aging as gracefully or have lived as colorful a life as this garden has.
Having no real familiarity with Berkeley I was unaware of the the Hotel Claremont and its role in the development of the well-heeled, quiet residential streets which surround it. As I entered the area from south of the hotel I did not even see it until I had left the garden and then, having caught a glimpse as I was making a left turn, had no way to even take a quick photo for those of you who do not know it. I found this unattributed photo below to give you a flavor of its style.
Let me briefly tell you the tale of the home which this next garden graces as a way to set the scene to view that garden as it is today.
The Claremont Hotel was built on land formerly known as the Palache and Garber Estates, high in the Berkeley Hills. The vision was for a tourist hotel surrounded by 14 acres of park-like gardens, all seen from vistas around the Bay. The surrounding gardens were to set the scene for and encourage the building of beautiful homes in the adjacent gently rolling hillsides. Train and ferry systems recently developed would connect the East Bay to San Francisco, opening the area for refined suburban living by those who could afford it without limiting their access to doing business in the city. Residential lots would be large with significant setbacks, encouraging picturesque and park influenced front gardens. Ground was broken in 1906 and the hotel largely finished in 1915 after a number of financial issues and, ultimately, its sale to another owner.
Ten subdivisions of residential lots were released between 1905 and 1907 and many palatial homes in a variety of styles were built long before the hotel itself was open. The 4th release of lots was called the Hotel Claremont Tract and Mr. Howard Hart stood ready to purchase its prime lots, #1, #2 and #3 on which he planned to build a massive home in the Spanish and Italian renaissance style. These lots lay just southeast of the hotel on a street which curves back upon itself so tightly that they had street on all sides save the southernmost. Think of the letter U laying on its side–the curve of the U faces the Claremont and it would be prominent in the views of the 43 room manse. Lot #2 & #3 would allow room for a conservatory, ample gardens and chauffeur’s quarters built over garage space. Mr. Hart had made his fortune mining gold in the Klondike and no expense would be spared in the building of his new estate.
The first structure to be built on the property was the garage and its second story apartment. Built on Lot #3 with easy access to the street via a long curving driveway, this garage and the portions of the gardens developed adjacent to it are all that remains of the grand Hart estate completed in 1912. The balance of the estate has long since been divided again into smaller lots, now having homes of their own. Additional parts of the garden have been preserved at two of these homes but are not visible from the street.
THE HART GARAGE GARDEN IN BERKELEY
The current homeowner has characterized the property as “the ugly duckling in the neighborhood” and admits that she refused to even look at it when it came on the market. Neither the home (ok, the garage) nor the remnants of the once fabulous garden are visible from the street. There is nothing remotely translating to a “front door.” Living in an area starved for anything green and especially mature trees I knew it had to be beautiful back in there somewhere!
As you walk up the driveway there are lovely, primarily green borders undulating amongst lawn areas. Tall trees provide shade and shadows which only enhance the almost fairytale feel.
Classic boxwood globes enclose a spot filled with calla lilies, bergenia and oak leaf hydrangeas.
A lovely open sunny spot.
Cool and refined–perhaps what the Claremont Hotel builders had in mind?
To the right of the very wide drive is this first peek at the sweeping staircase leading to the apartment over the garage. the Harts lived in the apartment while the main home was under construction and perhaps that is the reason for such a grand staircase entry for a living space to be used as chauffeur’s quarters. Tall spires of Acanthus mollis are nestled in a very small footprint at the base of the stairs and what I think is a Phormium with its bronzy leaves is taller than I am.
I believe this open space leads to what was at one time the entrance to the lower area called “the pit” where car repairs were done. Directly to the right is a large paved area with parking for multiple cars.
A steep terraced slope filled with roses and edged in boxwood makes the transition from the concrete parking area up to the garden’s next level. The gaily black and white striped umbrella is one of several throughout the garden.
An interesting iron gate leads marks the stairway to the upper garden entrance.
From this angle you can see a bit of the arch belonging to the estate’s original porte-cochere which had been totally enclosed in an unfortunate past remodel. The current owner restored the porte cochere and cut in the wide staircase for easy garden access.
The next terrace runs fully across the garden and is home to another original garden feature-the pergola.
The sweeping pergola appears to have once connected the conservatory and farthest gardens to the main house. Sturdy circular columns support crossbeams cloaked in vines and lit a night. At the end you can see the current property line. I couldn’t tell if any of the pergola remains in the adjacent garden. Parts of this walkway needed replacement and the current homeowners commissioned custom brick, including its unique beveled edge, to make the best match possible.
Slightly downhill from the pergola is a lovely shaded sitting and dining area carved out of the existing shrubbery beds. The homeowner removed a wide swathe of old hydrangeas, added a couple of stone steps down and a gravel floor. She shared with us that this small change is one that made the most impact on day to day life in the garden.
The former flower bed is now home to a casual teak dining table and chairs on which she had placed welcome snacks and beautiful floral arrangements using materials from her garden.
This was a wonderful spot to relax for several minutes and look over materials detailing the history of the home and garden and some of the most recent renovations. The lady of the house was in the garden answering questions and made sure we didn’t miss this shady haven. Thank you to her and to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association for a wonderful booklet from which I took many notes from to be able to give you the area history which lead off this post.
I stepped through the pergola on the uphill side to enjoy a long and narrow koi pond built in a classic style with water softly trickling from an embedded fountain.
A shady resting point at the far end of the koi pond shelters a marble statue which was found under layers of greenery and dirt when the garden was renovated. The black and white stripe fabric playing off bright green backdrops is a theme carried through the landscape.
Clipped boxwood hedges and tall, pale roses soften yet another retaining wall holding back the significant slope.
The slope on the koi pond end of the garden is more shady and more formally planted. These sculptural tree trunks and their leaf canopies shield the pond and its dual chaise lounge resting spot from the vista when you are high on the slope.
Out of the shade of the trees the slope plantings become more eclectic and more waterwise/sun tolerant.
There are lots of small succulents in the foreground. The plantings disguise the packed gravel and stone paths that zigzag their way up the hill.
At the garden’s opposite, end bistro seating is placed in front of a small stone fireplace.
A peak through the gate next to the fireplace reveals a steep slope packed with agapanthus, bellflowers and cast-iron plant. A stepping stone path leads to who knows where?
I use the set of stairs closest to the fireplace to ascend the hill. Paths led both forward and to the left. Which way to go? I am going to wander my way up and across–let’s see what I find!
Large scale phormiums and fat agapanthus clumps cover a lot of real estate near the fence. This was one of only a few places where any other house (even the roof) could be seen. The sense of enclosure and privacy was wonderful–definitely in your own little world in this garden.
Reaching the uppermost cross garden terrace path I am in deep shade surrounded by acanthus, ferns, camellias and other low light classics. The home you can barely see in the background sits on a lot which was once part of this garden.
Looking across the garden pittosporum brighten up the shade and are clearly trimmed to keep them quite low. Much of the uphill side of the path is built up even further with rocks.
I am just about back to where I started my wandering adventure.
Beautiful roses, most but not all pale in hue, are a mainstay in this garden along with many classic plants from the era the Hart Estate was built. Many decades old shrubs, trees and perennials were refreshed adding to the mature feel of the space. The traditional mixes freely with succulents and salvias. The terracing of the slope provides ground to grow many much more plant material than if the slope were simply graded. The multiple paths spanning the entire width of the garden lead you to believe you have walk very far from home when, in fact, you are only a few feet away.
This garden is up there in my top ten private gardens I’ve seen on countless tours over a decade. The mixtures of formality and playfulness, old and new, leafy and spiny are all very appealing. Regardless of its size and complexity it feels like a manageable garden, in part due to the casual but not messy attitude of the terraced slope. The shady seating and dining housed in the reformed hydrangea bed and the serene koi pond are both perfectly done. I would have loved to have seen the restoration of the interior space; wiping out the sins of the 80’s and reforming it from garage to beloved family home over the span of seven years. I’ll be watching the Berkeley Historical Architectural website http://www.berkeleyheritage.com for any interior tours in the future. A++ on this one!
I climbed high in the hills of Oakland to the Cabot Park neighborhood to find my next garden on Garden Conservancy’s East Bay Open Days itinerary–although I am sure somewhere on this property there was a killer view toward the Bay, this garden was all about the plants.
CASA DE SUEÑOS IN OAKLAND
This house of dreams has been a garden journey for the homeowner and her son for 21 years since purchasing the modern fifties-something wood ranch house on almost an acre covered in eucalyptus and ivy.
My tour started at the bottom of a long steep driveway–I wandered the garden for almost 15 minutes before I even found the house. This rusted gate and fabulous textural tapestry of large scale plantings sets the stage for the lush tropical nature of the entire garden. Those of you who read my blog even occasionally know that my succulent and tropical knowledge doesn’t even rate a two on a scale of one to ten so it goes without saying that you are not going to see very many named plants in this post. That big spiky whopper is an agave and its almost furry neighbor to the left is a leucadendron, I think–maybe a few phormiums behind the agave?
At the top of the driveway I’m faced with a decision to go left or right–having no idea what lies in either direction and still with no house in sight.
I decide on the path to the right and find myself on what was apparently additional driveway circling the house to end at the garage. this stretch is now used as a veritable nursery installation packed full of potted specimens, rooting cuttings and quirky art.
This bloom spike (agave??) is coming from a very large specimen in a really small pot and it looks like a rocket launching against the backdrop of the tall cypress.
I get myself turned around and head toward what I can only guess is the interior of the garden. Every inch of earth and sky seems packed with foliage and flowers.
Piled rocks form low retaining walls and raised beds that weave in and out of sunlight.
This tiny but detailed shrine is tucked into the crotch of a tree. This is the first of many Asian and Indonesian influences seen throughout the garden, apparently the fruits of the homeowner’s travels.
Plants and found objects are tucked amongst the rocks. I loved this small moss-covered water bowl.
This path eventually brings me to a large koi pond which is sited just at the end of the house.
Rocks and logs outline the pond’s shape and all manner of plant material is tucked into every viable inch of earth. The koi pond goddess sculpture is the work of artist Vickie Jo Sewell.
From this vantage point you can see the shade structure protecting the path at the end of the house.
A narrow walkway circles the house, a low slung wood side rancher that blends into the landscape. This abutilon is one of several I saw and is easily the tallest one I have ever seen. It appears to rise out of this 4 foot tall urn but is actually planted behind it on the slope. Getting a little further from the vignette, the color orange runs through this grouping as it does through many in this garden.
A cool azure pool beckons visitors as this garden touring day heats up a bit. This high up the hill feels a lot closer to the sun, especially in this open sky space.
Fanciful ceramic blooms by artist Marcia Donohue are clustered at the pool’s far end. You might remember that I saw similar pieces by this Berkeley artist in a San Jose garden featured in Tech meets (very little) turf #2… last year. I have been told that Marcia opens her garden to the public several days a year and experiencing it is definitely on my bucket list.
The garden has multiple paths and most have a slope component of some kind. Rock steps and retaining walls with built in places to stop for a rest are plentiful. Clivia blooms continue the hot palette even in the leafy shade.
These remnants of broken pots are a pop of cool color amidst the greens.
A fierce fish swims through the trees near the pool house.
Not a clue as to what this is but it was amazing that the weight of the top does not pull the small pot holding it over on its side.
Colorful succulents are tucked in EVERYWHERE. Sometimes they are the star of the show and other time play the supporting roles.
Back near the sunny side of the koi pond and the path to the driveway downhill is this very happy planting of Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt’, a plant I have had zero success at growing. At first glance many of the planted areas could appear to be just a jumble of whatever fit in the space. The more time I spent in the garden it was clear that the selections were clearly curated for diversity in foliage texture and color.
Plants in the ground and in pots live happily with rocks and interesting found objects.
Another look at the upper driveway as I left this incredible garden. Although the tropical vibe of this garden is not necessarily my personal gardening style, I could not help but admire the love and care this gardener has invested in her property over many years. The sheer volume of plantings on the property is amazing. I did not get to meet this homeowner but I am sure she has many, many plant collecting stories to tell us all.
Next up–I head back to Berkeley to see a historic garden near the Claremont Hotel where I have a close encounter with a ring tailed garden mama.
I am back in the East Bay area–this time to enjoy the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days event showcasing five private gardens. If you haven’t been to http://www.gardenconservancy.org yet to learn about this organization’s garden preservation mission and Open Days events all over the US, take time to let the staff and volunteers of this great garden education non-profit introduce themselves to you after you finish this post.
MARY-ELLIS’S GARDEN IN BERKELEY
Homeowner Mary-Ellis worked with local garden designer Keeyla Meadows to create a “fun and whimsical garden that is water wise, deer resistant and colorful.” Those of you who have read my post Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah… have already met Keeyla and if you read the entire upcoming series of posts on the East Bay gardens you will get to visit her amazing garden which is packed full of bold saturated color and her personal metal and ceramic art.
The front garden of this pale pumpkin hued stucco cottage is truly the size of a postage stamp–but it is definitely a one of a kind commemorative stamp rather than your basic first class flag. The lot is probably about 5000 square feet and this front garden no more than 10 feet deep. Even at that diminutive size it packs a punch with an Alice in Wonderland pathway and a variety of foliage texture and color.
Planting islands outlined by boulders of varied sizes and shapes are home to small scale shrubs, perennials and reseeding annuals.
There were only a few blooms on this Leucospermum (maybe ‘Sunrise’?) but I loved the way the lighter green new growth almost danced above the more mature stems below. Can you imagine this exotically tropical plant in its full orange glory with the hot pink verbena nestled at its feet?
Leucospermum blooms at different stages of maturity.
Dear readers–please let me know if any of my plant identifications are way off here as none of this day’s gardens had any plant tags and my knowledge of many of the temperate climate plant material grown in both the Bay area and Southern California can be faulty!
Down a short driveway and through an arbored gate, the fairy tale continues with a path of large flagstones punctuated by cast concrete steps to accommodate the upslope of the back garden. The outstanding color combination of medium scaled shrubs in this wide foundation bed speaks volumes as to the care taken in plant selection by Keeyla–most of us could be paralyzed at the task of “decorating” a room with soft orange walls!
Directly across from the path and steps is this wall of black-eyed Susan vine, Thunbergiaelata. Hot pink, this time in the form of a common geranium, again complements orange.
Included in the foundation planting are a pair of Coprosma (mirror plant, cultivar unknown) flanking a fabulous Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Orange Hot Lava’. At their feet is an Alstroemeria whose coloration complements the apricot, orange and burgundy theme.
An additional Abutilon tucked up against the window offers yet another complementary bloom.
I think WOW is the only word to describe this palette–never would have chosen it especially with the stucco color but this just shows what happens when you open yourself to run towards color rather than away from it. I am inspired!
In case the point wasn’t clear, this contemporary metal table and chairs on the patio between the foundation bed and the vine-draped fence let’s you know that this garden embraces color without fear. The mature oak in the background offers a shady area for native perennials including bright Mimulus.
Additional rock stairs lead to the garden’s highest point and another colorful dining patio.
The reddish hues of the Japanese maple are in keeping with the garden’s palette while acting as a relief from more plentiful green foliage.
Slope plantings are casual and punctuated by large boulders. The incline grows sunnier as you ascend and color is provided by perennials and colorful reseeding poppies and nasturtiums.
Purple is used sparingly throughout the garden but absolutely makes a statement here in this rambling purple trumpet vine, Clytostoma callistegiodes, draping the fence like a living wall.
This stunning hand made pot with plantings selected by the designer absolutely glows. These blooms provide a bright spot of color near a door on the service side of the house used frequently by Mary-Ellis and her husband.
As I returned to my car–first visitor thus best parking spot-Mary-Ellis chases me down to make sure I saw this stunning plant which she called ‘cantua’ tucked back behind other shrubbery near her side gate. The fuchsia-like flowers on this somewhat sprawling loose shrub are easily 3 inches long. It has woody stems but they were clearly tied up for support. The flowers almost glow against the backdrop of her cottage’s stucco wall. A little research later over a quick lunch revealed it to be Cantua buxifolia, a native of the mountainous regions of Chile, Peru and Bolivia. Sometimes called the sacred flower of the Incas, it can apparently be grown from seed. I’m all over this one as long as I can find a spot in my garden where it is somewhat protected from frost.
I love going to gardens where I can see plants we do not commonly grow where I live whether due to climate challenges or other cultural issues. I happened to meet this gardener’s neighbor who was working in her front garden. We started talking plants and I commented on how lucky they were in Berkeley that they could grow many near tropical plants that won’t tolerate our colder winters. I told her I was from the Central Valley and she replied that WE were so fortunate as she despaired that she can’t grow a decent tomato or zucchini due to their summer’s cool, moist air. I guess the grass is always greener…
More gardens to come on this East Bay outing–next up a House of Dreams in Oakland.
We’ve arrived at our last Los Angeles garden on this 2019 Garden Conservancy Open Days event. If you are just joining us, you might want to go back and read about the other LA gardens–all post titles begin with “LA cruising”. If you still need information about the Garden Conservancy, its mission or programs http://www.gardenconservancy.org is the place for all the details, including more California Open Days events coming up in the next few weeks.
THE ZABEL GARDEN IN WINDSOR SQUARE
Landscape designer Nick Dean was on hand to answer questions about the front garden’s amazing transformation from overgrown shrubbery and an unused lawn to a vibrant low water landscape featuring wildlife friendly California natives and Mediterranean plants chosen for foliage color and texture as much as flower. He provided us with a postcard plant list which included before and after photos. Below is my photo of his before photo.
The pom pom of green seen mid photo is the aforementioned tea tree–a 90 year old behemoth whose snaking trunk comes from the ground just below the two windows. The identity of this Godzilla is still hazy to me. Mr. Dean clarified that it was a Melaleuca when I pressed him for a botanical name and seemed a little surprised that it was unknown to me–must be a very common tree in the area.
Although the angle of the photo is not quite the same my initial reaction was that this could not be the same property…but it is. First the lawn was removed and the slope terraced.
This street is blessed with parking strips that are larger than some urban front yards. The unthirsty plantings were continued here with gazanias, yellow and orange Anizoganthus (kangaroo’s paws), Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’ and other sturdy growers providing year round interest without much care.
The slope is densely planted with both shrubs and woody perennials which have woven amongst each other to form a tapestry of all shades of green, gray and blue foliage periodically shot with whatever is in its prime bloom. There are no ‘one ofs’ here nor any annuals lined up in soldierly rows–a big view landscape like this demands big swaths of texture and color to do it justice.
Wide cobbled steps were added leading visitors gracefully to the home. On the mid right you see the tea tree’s pom pom again.
As you pass by it there is a glimpse of a whimsical log table and chairs installed under it making use of its shade and creating fairytale quality. Is this foliage visible enough for a tree ID anyone? Mary C–can you ask Mark?
This attractive facade was invisible from the street until the staircase and cozy courtyard was added.
Feels like a romantic afternoon in Italy to me. Casual conifers in pots (maybe Thuja or Chamaecyparis?) are a nice change from clipped boxwoods or privet. all the elements enhance the beautiful arched window.
Nicely detailed shutters frame windows graced with lovely French balconies to complete the curb appeal. A left turn from this petite circular resting spot would take you to the front door which is actually on the driveway side of the home. We are going to go right to another new courtyard area.
A study footbridge was built over the massive earthbound trunk of the tea tree to allow the surrounding space to be used without disturbing it. The utilitarian structure was masked by wiring additional removed smaller limbs to the base and handrails giving the bridge a fanciful look. It is not until you are ready to step on it that you recognize there is a solid structure there, not just the branches. Fig vine scrambling over it adds another layer of make believe to the whole picture. A+ on this creative solution to a gnarly challenge!
As you step off the bridge there is a little path down to the little tea tree dining room–this gem has grandchildren written all over it.
Another new Italian feeling courtyard was created in the slope renovation. Formal hedges of Westringea ‘Morning Light’ cozy up to a variety of roses. The curve of the hedge mimics the curve of the darker hedge beyond which virtually hides this courtyard from street view, making it a truly personal space.
The decomposed granite “floor” enhances the Mediterranean feel and provides a great base for easy walking.
From the path behind the roses you can see it is a large space with lots of elements joining together to feel welcoming and comfortable.
Formerly a solid wall, two new gates in the shadow of blooming yellow brugmansias now connect front garden to back.
Through the gates, the decomposed granite paths continue into another distinct garden room which is a sort of sunny foyer to much more shady living areas yet to be seen. I am sort of obsessed with these succulent fountains and it took all my control to only include a single photo of them. They were perfectly placed in visual alignment with the French door into the home.
The inner wall between the gates is massed with blooming perennials, including both purple and white heliotrope, and is home to a tiny bubbling wall fountain. I am not sure if this area was redone at the time of the front renovation. The ambiance is similar although many of the core plantings are clearly quite mature.
Still moving toward the back of the property paths on either side of the next room lead you through shady, predominantly bright green plantings.
Both paths allow access to this magical fire pit area surrounded by comfortable cushioned seating. To call this dappled shade would be a lightweight analysis. Tall tropicals and tree like camellias create this room’s walls. Although you are only steps to the home it feels as though you are in another country.
This massive tree contributes to the deep shade, encouraging a number of large ferns to thrive on the room’s perimeter.
Another inviting seating area is tucked up against the home. A sturdy pergola supports a leafy wisteria. I’m sure the color play of the lime green cushions and the purple wisteria when in bloom is wonderful!
From the same vantage point there is a wonderful view of a broad expanse of lawn (not well represented in this photo) which would probably be able to host a gathering requiring 20-25 six foot round tables. At the far end of the lawn a rocky grotto offers another, more sunny, relaxing spot. The curvaceous branch acting as a holder for the hanging lantern is yet another repurposed tea tree trunk.
We walked to the back of the property (ending up at the rocky grotto) on the perimeter path rather than the lawn. Clearly older landscaping without the foliage color variety seen in the front garden, it was still lovely and leafy. From a practical point of view I loved being able to travel from front to back off the lawn and on a compacted surface. I can see using these margins to stash plant material awaiting planting, houseplants needing a bit a rehab, etc. It would make a pretty good tricycle track also!
A twin to the seating area pergola provides shade for a table and chairs to seat ten and a compact outdoor kitchen.
A nice job has been done of softening a lot of the hard edges with in ground and potted plants.
We were to exit the back garden at a service area gate where the homeowners had a number of potted succulents including this very tall jade plant. I also spotted this tiny tillandsia tucked into a low tree branch.
The circular patterned pavers seen at the top of the stairs continue on this side of the home which is the driveway side. These garden visitors admire this intricate iron work gate and its simple Anduze style urns. Elegant and understated, I believe this is actually the home’s front entrance.
I never meet a leafy thing crawling on a house that I didn’t like. On the other hand, my husband gets hives just thinking about all those little suckers worming their way into his stucco or under his roof eaves. Pointing out that Europe is full of buildings that have lasted thousands of years with ivy, fig vine and roses hanging all over them has not moderated his stance. I think it is Cissus of some species, a relative to Virginia creeper and grape. I’m resigned to living vicariously by looking back over my shoulder as we walk to our car and seeing that lovely green tracery making itself right at home.
I loved this garden not only for its beauty but for its day to day liveablilty. The placement of so many relaxing and dining spots close to the home guarantees they’ll be used more often. The variety of plant materials was appealing. It was not perfect, looking as though someone was at the ready 24-7 to nip a past its prime rose or snip an errant leaf. I like that–it looks like real people live here and that they like to spend time in their garden. Can’t beat that in my book.