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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 6…National Gardening Exercise Day

June 6 is National Gardening Exercise Day. I am not sure what authoritative body decides on all these special days and I am sure they don’t mean to lead us to believe that we only have to get some exercise in our gardens just once a year! My June Gamble Garden membership newsletter says, “Research shows that gardening for just 30 minutes a day can help increase flexibility, strengthen joints, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lower your risk of diabetes, and slow osteoporosis. So go ahead and dig those holes, shovel that dirt and pull those weeds. The true celebration is when your garden rewards you for all your hard work!”

Gardening maven Hyacinth and her friends from the Clovis Botanical Garden 2018 Scarecrow contest are not necessarily demonstrating good garden exercise form but are loving playing in the dirt, surrounded by nature.

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MAKE PLANTS YOUR PERSONAL TRAINER!

Easing into the East Bay…fearless color

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

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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.

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Planting islands outlined by boulders of varied sizes and shapes are home to small scale shrubs, perennials and reseeding annuals.

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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!

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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!

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Directly across from the path and steps is this wall of black-eyed Susan vine, Thunbergia elata. Hot pink, this time in the form of a common geranium, again complements orange.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Additional rock stairs lead to the garden’s highest point and another colorful dining patio.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Spring Plant Sale…

The second day of this Bay Area road trip is devoted to a visit to the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley to take in their spring plant sale. The sea mist was still hanging in the air as I made my way up into the Berkeley Hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. All I can say is thank goodness for navigation–a mere four miles from my hotel must have had 2 dozen lefts and rights to get to the 2 lane road into the hillside campus.

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The garden’s parking lots were full and signage led me uphill to the overflow parking some 3/4 of a mile away at Lawrence Hall. A free shuttle awaited to ferry us back down to the garden.

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It didn’t take long for me to realize I could not take photos, peruse plants and pull my wagon all at the same time so pictures are few because in this case, plants rule. The garden’s collections are all closed for the sale so only the main walkway seen here is accessible with all secondary paths being roped off.

The Botanical Garden was formally established on the UC Berkeley campus in 1890 with its current 34 acre location in Strawberry Canyon since the property was purchased in 1909. Ten thousand plant types are organized in 9 geographic regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a major collection of California native plants. With the little bits I could see from the sale site I know I want to schedule another visit to see all there is off this beaten path.

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Here are a few vignettes visible from the walkway…

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The fabulous royal blue Ceanothus below was the backdrop for a display of varieties for sale.

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It was identified as Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus ‘Kurt Zadnik’ and it was no surprise to me that all of this particular one had sold in the few minutes since the sale opened. It is such a benefit to us to be able to see a plant we buy in a gallon can at its mature size and in excellent health. The common appellation Carmel creeper could lead you to believe it is a prostrate variety–not so!

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There were areas for trees and shrubs, California natives, succulents, shade lovers and sun cravers, houseplants and tropicals but the table with the biggest crowd was the collection of carnivorous plants. Amazing!

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I gathered up and paid for my precious cargo. All but one of the plants I purchased was propagated onsite from the garden’s collection. My booty includes 4 salvias, two of which have been on my acquisition list for a few years, a coveted Campanula incurva to add to a dappled shade area and a pelargonium with interested red patterned foliage. A day with new plants is a very good day for me!

A not so memorable road trip to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show…

My years in Georgia allowed me to be a regular attendee of the Southeastern Flower Show–a fabulous explosion of color, creativity and educational opportunities, not to mention pretty good garden world shopping. I have also been lucky enough to experience the Philadelphia Flower Show and Canada Blooms! in Toronto.

With those memorable garden show experiences in mind I have literally gnashed my teeth that the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show always seemed to fall when other commitments took precedence. From 2009-2012 my hopeful heart actually purchased advanced tickets which went unused because I just couldn’t seem to get there! A week or so ago a whim took me again to their website to check the dates and I was excited to see that the other goings-on in my life had left an open spot to make that road trip for a day at the 2019 show. I was also confused by the fact that this year’s show was to be held at Cal-Expo in Sacramento. More about that was revealed as I read through their website which includes a brief history of the 34 year old event.

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The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show started as a fundraiser in 1985 for the SF Friends of Recreation and Parks and was originally called the San Francisco Landscape Garden Show. Twelve years later the show was acquired by an events company and given its current moniker. The famed Cow Palace was the show’s home for the next ten years until, in 2009, the San Mateo Event Center became its venue and another change of ownership occurred. Yet another event company acquired the show in 2013. 2018 marked a long awaited return to the historic Cow Palace which the event owners had hoped would be its permanent home. According to http://www.sfgardenshow.com “due to unresolved scheduling issues and the pending California State Legislature’s move to tear down or sell off the Cow Palace, the Show has found a new home at Cal Expo, in Sacramento.”

A road trip to Sacramento always offers the chance to visit a couple of good garden centers in the area so with nothing to lose and, as disconnected as it may sound, I set out on the road to our state capitol for this venerable San Francisco event! Having no previous Shows to compare it with I have no idea if the 2019 effort was typical so I am going to fall on the side of positivity and declare this to be a ‘transition year’ with hopefully more vibrant Shows to come. Let me be clear–the local Sacramento gardening community was out in force, represented by numerous specialty clubs, their community gardening organization and their Master Gardeners. Everyone was very pleasant and helpful with their well manned booths offering brochures and experts to encourage and consult. Several had make and take activities for both adults and children. My comments about the Show overall in no way diminish their efforts and participation–a good garden show starts with time and attention from its owner or promoter.

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Master Gardeners consult and advise
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The River City Food Bank’s Growing Circle highlighted the work of the local community gardening collective

Other than the awning in the first photo there was virtually NO SIGNAGE anywhere on the show floor which was one large room. There was neither an information area as you passed through the Main Entrance nor a sign directing you to an information area anywhere else in the Show. There was NO show program or brochure giving you the layout or timeline of what was happening on the two small stages. Toward the end of my visit and while I was in search of a restroom I happened on a pleasant volunteer at the very back of the space in a small booth (also without signage.) She had a pile of printed out maps of the layout attached to a schedule of events and advised me that their color brochures had never arrived. If I’d had a piece of paper, a Sharpie and some tape in my bag I would have made a sign to put by the entrance to let visitors know she was back there!!

The highlights of any flower show for me are the display gardens designed and installed by local landscape designers and contractors. They should be a cutting edge look at what’s new and upcoming in the landscape industry and have always been a source of inspiration for my own garden. The Show’s website has photos from previous years 2015 and 2016 showing 14 and 11 display gardens respectively. In 2018 it looks as though 13 were expected but only 9 appear in the digital brochure online. A preview of this year lists 14 display garden participants but there were only 7 on the floor. Only one of them inspired me to get my camera out of my bag!

A Fire Resistant Garden was the submission of Nathan Beeck from Clearwater Designs Inc. and was not only really interesting but very timely given the recent devastation in areas all over our state.

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Looking across the reflecting pond (which also serves as a water source for fire suppression) to a cosy sitting area

The designer encourages us to think outside of the box to create new California landscapes using materials and plants resistant to fire. The room was dark and the garden’s hard surfaces were also quite dark–a combination which challenged my mediocre photography skills.

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Another view of the pond and  covered structure

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The structure is predominantly steel and the wood that is used has been charred with an ancient Japanese technique called Shou sugi ban which makes it fire resistant. Dianella and ferns have been tucked into pockets to soften the hard surface.

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The pockets allow for greenery at a variety of heights

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The plantings were provided by Brent Cruz of Site One Nursery and were selected for their fire resistance. Everything was clearly labeled and a plant list was available for the taking. This display garden was definitely a winner for me!

Although flower arranging is not a particular interest of mine, flower shows often present interesting themes and challenges to those who excel at this art and I like to walk through just to see how individual flower arrangers meet the task. As with the rest of the venue there was NO signage to give visitors a clue as to what the displays parameters were to be–no statement of theme, zip, nothing. Only after I got home and went back to the website I learned that the flower arranging participants were members of the Sogetsu San Francisco Bay Area group. Maybe I would now know what ‘sogetsu’ is had there been some explanatory or educational signage provided by the show…this is not the responsibility of the participants but of those organizing the show.

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I really appreciated the skill of the bonsai artists whose works were on display. The morning of my visit a number of the contributors to this exhibit were on hand to answer questions but again,  no signage other than what the plant’s owners had provided.

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Just barely starting to leaf out!

A quick pass through the marketplace offered little of interest to me. Although there were several specialty plant vendors who seemed to be attracting interest there were far too many booths of what I consider to be non garden related goods. I have never used a Cutco knife in my garden and I think the window companies are better served at the ubiquitous ‘home and garden’ shows next to the solar companies. Here’s the best of what I saw.

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Lorena’s Edible Garden had lots of herbs and herbal products
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Dan’s Dahlias was the most colorful booth at the show!

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Now if I’d had anything resembling a brochure…I might know the names of these booths! Even after I had accidentally found the lady hidden in the back with the maps I was still in the dark as the booths were numbered on the map but there was no key nor a list of vendor names. If I had paid for a booth with the belief that guests would walk out the door with something in their hands to refer back to that had my business’s name and contact information I would probably be pretty unhappy…

My single purchase was this perky little clay armadillo. My sweet digging David’s childhood nickname was Armadillo and I’m an easy mark for any new ones I can add to my collection.

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This little guy is instantly recognizable to Fresnans as a Margaret Hudson sculpture.

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You got it–I traveled to SACRAMENTO to go to the SAN FRANCISCO Flower & Garden Show and purchased a clay sculpture from an iconic FRESNO artist’s gallery. All in all an efficient and productive day trip, don’t you think?

Generally I have taken the attitude that if I am disappointed in an event or tour I just don’t post about it. There is already enough negativity in the blogging world and no need to add more but my day at the San Francisco Flower & Garden left me with many lingering questions. This show has been listed on more than a few lists of ‘Top Ten Flower Shows’. I have many readers in the Bay Area and would love to know–has the event simply declined over the years with changes of ownership and now location? How did it seem to you compared to previous years? Am I judging too harshly given its transition to a new city and venue? Does this show have a real future in Sacramento? Love to hear your experience and insights on this event.

Origami squared…

An overnight jaunt to Southern California allowed my husband and I a brief visit to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to view their current exhibit of art in the garden entitled Origami in the Garden2 (actually the little above the line 2 as in the mathematical annotation for squared–no idea how make my keyboard do this.)

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One of two standing cranes by Kevin Box which greet visitors to the exhibit

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden spreads over 86 acres in Claremont, California and is the largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants. Its mission is grounded by a philosophy of biodiversity and the importance of bringing real world conservation applications to the public through horticultural education, scientific research and sales of native plants. This garden is yet another public resource I never had the opportunity to visit in the decade+ that I lived in Southern California and today because our arrival is already late in the day and the light waning, we will only see a small part of the grounds. Visit their website http://www.rsabg.org for all the details about the garden, its events and resources.

There are no better words to describe this exhibition, an intersection between art and nature which will remain in the garden until April 14, 2019, than those on the website: “Origami in the Garden2 is an outdoor sculpture exhibition of larger-than-life origami creations. Created by Santa Fe artists Jennifer and Kevin Box, the sculptures capture the delicate nature of Origami, a paper art form originating in Japan and celebrated around the world. Crafted in museum quality metals, the artworks each tell the story of a single piece of paper as it transforms into a soaring bird, emerging butterfly, galloping pony and many other remarkable forms. The exhibition features the Boxs’ own compositions as well as collaborations with world renowned origami artists: Tim Armijo, Te Jui Fu, Beth Johnson, Michael G. LaFosse and Robert J. Lang.”

The guide we picked up at the entrance not only contained a map of the botanic garden’s various areas but an easy-to-read as you walked along guide specific to the location of each of the 16 outdoor sculptures celebrating art and nature through the lens of origami. Super cool was an Audio Tour phone number to call on your cell phone to hear additional information from the artists. As you stopped at each sculpture you dialed the number and at the prompt entered the audio tour number listed on both the map and the artwork’s signage. It was really fun to hear the actual artists talk about their pieces and the audio content expands upon what was on the printed placards by each piece. My husband took charge of navigating our route and queuing up the audio for each piece on cell speakerphone, leaving me free to let my senses take in the garden and my camera lens to wander. Unfortunately, this freedom had no immediate effect in improving my photographic skills but I looked very professional, as if I had an assistant along to do my legwork. By the time we had seen seen and heard about each piece it was past sunset and almost dark–and 4:58 pm, only 2 minutes shy of the garden’s closing. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Crane Unfolding by Kevin Box

This sculpture is the first origami-inspired work by Kevin Box and is crafted from painted cast stainless steel on a steel base. In his words, “The origami crane is a symbol of truth, peace, beauty and long life. This crane reveals the meaning of its life as it unfolds into a star.” To him, the folded crane is a representation of what we see on the surface of life, while the unfolded crane is a representation of the beauty hidden beneath–there is more to life than what meets the eye.

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Painted Ponies, a collaboration between Kevin Box and Te Jui Fu, a Chinese origami artist

Painted Ponies frolic in Fay’s Wildflower Meadow. They are fashioned from powder coated aluminum and represent an example of an origami technique called kirigami which means cutting paper. Scissors are used to make four cuts in the paper square and these cuts enable more easily achieving the detail needed for the ponies’ legs and ears. The symbol on the red pony’s hindquarters is a nod to the collaborative nature of this piece. The Chinese character of Te Jui’s last name, Fu, is enclosed in a box representing the metal sculptor’s surname.

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Duo by Jennifer and Kevin Box

The white bird or dove is a global motif recognized as a symbol of peace and the human spirit. In nature, cranes mate for life. These painted cast stainless steel cranes symbolize that quality of pure devotion.

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Duo occupies a peaceful space at the end of a stream bed in the Percy C. Everett Memorial Garden which features examples of grouping together plant material with similar water needs. I loved this large bubbling rock!

Who Saw Who? by Kevin Box, Tim Armijo and Robert Lang stems from a sort of after the fact collaboration. The raptor and mouse in their original origami forms were each cut from single sheets of paper: the mouse by Tim Armijo and the raptor by Robert Lang. Kevin Box cast each in bronze at different times and set them aside in his studio. It was not until he caught a glimpse of them later that they appeared to be looking warily at each other–predator and prey frozen in time and metal.

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Seed Sower & Seed  by Kevin Box, Michael G. LaFosse and Beth Johnson

Seed Sower by papermaker and origami artist Michael G. LaFosse and Seed by Beth Johnson were cast in patinated bronze by Kevin Box. The duo explore the role squirrels play in the life of a healthy forest.

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Nesting Pair by Jennifer and Kevin Box

When Jennifer and Kevin Box built their home and studio together, they were reminded of two birds building a nest. The bronze casted olive branches symbolize peace and compromise and form the nest. The artwork emerged naturally at a time in their life together when they were discovering and accepting the need for compromise to build a happy marriage. The addition of the two cranes, mated for life, resting comfortably on a nest of compromise completes this beautiful and very personal piece. Thank you, Jennifer and Kevin!

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Hero’s Horse by Kevin Box and Robert J. Lang

The origami Pegasus was folded from a single uncut square of paper by physicist Robert J. Lang based on a sketch designed by Kevin Box. The artists’ collaboration eventually produced a 25 foot tall fabricated metal sculpture now found in Dallas, Texas. This smaller version was then created from painted cast aluminum on a steel base. Kevin Box shares, “Hero’s Horse is a story of hope, reminding us that who faced with impossible odds help is on the way and good will always win the day.”

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Folding Planes by Kevin Box

Seven simple folds transform a blank page into an airplane in flight. Each fold is symbolic of a choice or action to transform an invisible idea into a reality and repeats a common theme in Box’s work–the story of a piece of paper dreaming of flying.

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Selected nights throughout the run of the exhibition RSABG will be open in the evening with its pavilions and other structures festooned with luminarias  and Japanese lanterns to see the sculptures by moonlight.

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Conversation Peace by Kevin Box

The term “conversation piece” refers to an interesting or intriguing object that sparks conversation. In this interpretation of the game rock-paper-scissors, the paper has won by folding itself into a peace crane and flying just out of the scissors’ reach. This artwork represents the sculptor’s belief that conversation is the key to the peaceful resolution of serious conflicts, many of which arise from our misunderstanding of each other.

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Rising Peace by Kevin Box

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As we round the gift shop to our last sculpture we have almost totally lost the light. The Johnson Memorial Oval is a wonderful setting for Rising Peace, allowing it to be viewed from all sides. At a distance the family of cranes appear to be rising into the night sky.

Although my focus was to at least see each one of the 16 sculptures I did see many interesting plants. This time of year there is not much expectation that a California native plant garden would be awash in bloom and this one certainly displayed evidence of a long and droughty summer not long gone by.

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A single cluster of flowers on XChiranthofremontia lenzii, an intergeneric hydrid introduced by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. This was a massive tree/shrub with just this one glowing spot of golden orange, clearly the reason its common name is Fremontodendron ‘Pacific Sunset’.

If you are anywhere in the greater Los Angeles/Inland Empire area you still have plenty of time to take in this inspiring exhibition. A more in depth reading of the written materials I picked up at the entrance revealed an extensive educational program and a retail native plant nursery on site. Although this garden is a 3+ hour drive for me I’ve bookmarked their website to check back now and then so I don’t miss interesting upcoming events  I might be able to piggyback on to future SoCal trips.

P.S. Check out http://www.outsidetheboxstudio.com to learn more about metal sculptor Kevin Box, his work and collaborations with other artists!