LA cruising…terrific terraces

It’s Garden Conservancy Open Days time again! If you’ve not read any of my previous Open Days posts (I’ll add their links at the end of this first 2019 post) let me tell you a bit about the program. Open Days is a nationwide community of gardeners with a passion for teaching and inspiring each other. Since 1995 Open Days has welcomed more than a million visitors to noteworthy private gardens in 41 states, all under the umbrella of the non-profit Garden Conservancy’s mission “to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public.”

As a Garden Conservancy member I receive a directory each spring listing, state by state, the gardens and landscapes included in the year’s Open Days offering. As a rule, the California gardens are amongst the earliest of the season although in the last few years a Bay Area day has been scheduled in the fall. Some years I barely have received my directory before I have to get on the road to see as many as I can fit in my schedule. All of the information is also available on the Garden Conservancy’s website http://www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays along with more details about their Garden Extras and Digging Deeper events and their local partners. The directory itself is great resource and I keep mine from year to year.

California’s first Open Days event took place this past weekend and showcased five gardens in the Hancock Park and Windsor Square neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The drive from my San Joaquin Valley home requires a crack of dawn departure to ensure I am ready and waiting at the garden I have designated as first on my route to ensure that I get to see them all by 4 pm closing. This year’s Los Angeles selections are all quite close to each other so there is at least a possibility of finding time for lunch. My husband has opted in so I might even catch a nap on the way down. The morning air was cool and crisp as we navigated off a busy urban street to a small neighborhood where most of the homes were shaded by the canopies of mature trees. I think it’s going to be a great day!

THE MEADOW LANE GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK

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This 1907 painted shingle historic home sits a stone’s throw away from very busy Wilshire Avenue but feels as it it is miles away. The front garden is simple and snuggled up against the large covered porch draped in wisteria.

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

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I’ll take any corrections on the tree identification–my guess is based on the smooth slightly mottled bark. I simply could not back out into the street far enough to capture the actual height of this tree which offered shade to a large part of the home’s facade.

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A petite, wooden playhouse sits just outside the back garden’s vine covered entrance, along with a few pots and an old-fashioned rocking chair.

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The garden is very narrow and falls off to the back in a steep slope which has been extensively terraced to offer level ground at several elevations as you descend. The brick path leading you into the garden is set in gravel and curves around another huge tree. You are seeing the full width of the garden at this point.

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A couple of steps up to the house level reveals a wooden deck (again built around another very large tree) with a casual dining area screened from the neighbors yard with trellis and lattice work.

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The brick path opens into a small terrace of the same material with a shaded dining area. I have purposefully not adjusted the exposure on any of these photos to give the a true sense of the intimacy and sense of enclosure these very large trees offer in this long narrow garden. The masses of greenery, both in the ground and potted, effectively disguise how close the property line fencing is to this cozy space.

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A small utility space is hidden between the garage and a foliage covered lattice screen which is also seen in the far right of the photo just before this one–again an indication of the garden’s size.

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The ornate iron chairs on the right mark the end of the brick terrace level but the slope down is again camouflaged by the abundance of plant material in the ground and in pots.

Looking down into the lowest part of the garden from the brick terrace.

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The staircase railing disappears into the vines draping it.

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A few steps down the wooden staircase offers another level to sit and enjoy the garden from a slightly different vantage point. A small fountain gurgles in the background and pops of color  stand out amongst the primarily green landscape.

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

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Looking back uphill from the small Carex meadow to the back of the garage. Not easily visible are the several extra terraces created by piles stone and broken concrete which step the plantings up giving them more depth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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View from the furthest point of the garden back uphill to the tree canopy. This charming garden warmed my heart with the attention to detail and its frowsy country charm. It is clear evidence of homeowners who not only love but also live in their garden. I think the basic geography of this lot would have scared off many of us as being just too much to deal with but these homeowners have created a garden with classic, yet casual style, using the elevation challenges to their advantage in creating very useable space.

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

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

 

 

Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…

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

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Urban Adamah was founded in 2010 by Adam Berman as the first urban Jewish community farm in the United States.  The farm’s seeds are rooted in a Connecticut farm-based residential leadership program. Adam envisioned an urban farm that would provide a fellowship program, offer Jewish agriculturally based experiential programs for youth and families, and contribute to food security in the East Bay. The farm moved in 2016 to its permanent home near Codornices Creek in Northwest Berkeley after  five years in a temporary location. The word adamah in Biblical Hebrew means ground or earth.

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A little hard to decipher as the metal sign over the entrance has aged–it reads “Love…all the rest is commentary”.

Berkeley artist and landscape designer Keeyla Meadows was brought in to design a city required swale when the 2.2 acre parcel was a blank slate. She went on to design the Pollinator Garden, the Children’s Garden and work with staff as other parts of the garden have been developed. Keeyla (on the left below) and Emily, the Urban Adamah Landscape Coordinator were our guides.

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We gathered in the center of a large circular planting bed to learn a bit about the farm’s history and philosophy. The core tenants of Urban Adamah are stated in this Mission Statement: “Urban Adamah seeks to build a more loving, just and sustainable world. We ground and connect people-to themselves, to others, and to the natural world. We do this by providing farm based, community building experiences that integrate Jewish tradition, mindfulness, sustainable agriculture and social action.”

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

Keeyla points out that almost every area of the farm has a central open area designed for small groups of people to meet and build relationships. This was a specific request made by Urban Adamah’s founder–places to gather as a community must be plentiful, welcoming and comfortable. The farm is open to the public most week days and is a lovely environment in which to enjoy the outdoors and observe nature at work–plus volunteer workers are welcome! We will explore most of the farm’s major areas, stopping to observe the plantings and ask questions as Keeyla and Emily share the design philosophy and challenges in developing this very young garden.

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

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Without sharp eyes you might miss the ring of blueberries planted around the meeting circle, nestled amongst freely self sowing California poppies. Several native penstemons, blue-eyed grass and salvia also make their home here along with many Douglas iris.

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Gardeners are good multi-taskers. As Keeyla describe the soil building and design process for this area, one of our group pulls weeds as she listens. The farm is organic and weeding is a never ending task, especially in areas where self-sowers are allowed to have their way.

The Blueberry Meeting Circle is a charming front garden to the Aquaponic House where four levels of plants are stacked, producing lettuces, basil and other leafy greens.

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This buttery lettuce is planted with only a small amount of bark like material and its roots reaching down into the water below.

The bottom trays now hold a variety of plants being grown for their leaves textural experience, such as the gigantic Gunnera leaf and the surprising soft, almost furry, leaf of its neighbor.

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This tank is home to fish whose waste provides the natural fish emulsion nutrients to the plant via the circulation system of pipes.

We circle out of the Aquaponics House and return to the Blueberry Meeting Circle, a great vantage point to see the full length of the Urban Swale. the farm is adjacent to Codornices Creek which is in the midst of a civic restoration plan. The city of Berkeley required the installation of a swale on the farm’s property to prevent runoff of both rainwater and farm waste water into the creek.

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The Urban Swale, planted entirely in California natives runs from just beside the Blueberry Meeting Circle and along the farm’s front fence line almost to the entry gate.

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Hummingbird Sage

Hooker Creek boulders and Sonoma stone were brought in to form the bank stabilizing structure of the swale. Plantings were designed in repeating color bursts to keep your eye moving down the length of the swale. Keeyla calls this ‘weaving color’ throughout a space. Native plants requiring more moisture are planted lower on the bank while the more drought tolerate plants are higher up. The shape of the swale allows accumulated water to percolate slowly back into the ground. Keeyla’s choice of native plantings in part was to relate the swale to the creek and to honor the area’s indigenous peoples and their stewardship of the land.

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

Several varieties of California poppies were included in the original sowing of reseeding annuals. Subsequent seasons have produced some interesting color variations as the result of natural hybridization.

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

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As we walk to the far side of the farm to see the Pollinator Garden, Emily shares that this Administration Building was the first permanent structure built on the site; a great accomplishment after five years of a trailer office. The passionflower vines on the office trellises (and on the fences in the Urban Swale) were a concession to a former farm colleague who was instrumental in the early planning days. He loves passionflowers and would regularly harvest the fruit for use in tea and other edibles.

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Urban Adamah gives away 90% of the food it grows. The remainder is used on the farm for events and for use by residents of the farm. They host a weekly farmer’s market for anyone who needs food. Local grocery stores, including Whole Foods, contribute goods not yet produced on the farm. At any given times throughout the year they will produce all kinds of vegetables, herbs, stone and pomme fruits, potatoes, onions, eggs and milk.

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Crops are rotated regularly–vetch, Fava beans and crimson clover are planted as nitrogen fixing cover crops to be tilled back into the ground (after bean harvest, of course).

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The Pollinator Garden is our next stop–a melange of seasonal veggies surrounded by plants chosen specifically for their attraction of certain pollinators. Emily worked closely with Keeyla on the implementation of the design and credits this garden as awakening her desire to not only plant, but also be a designer. As we visit not much is in prime bloom. Emily explains what different shapes and colors are attractive to specific kinds of pollinators–tubular for the hummers vs flat for the butterflies, etc.–and the importance of having something for everyone if you want to maximize pollination.

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The Children’s Garden entrance is home to arbor seating–I haven’t been counting seating areas but I’m sure there at least 10. A young vine is on its way up to give visitors some shade while they get to know each other.

Urban Adamah has a full schedule of family friendly activities, including summer camp. The goals for children are the same as for adults; to build community; to foster Jewish traditions; to learn and practice sustainable agriculture and living.

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The Children’s Garden is only a stone’s throw from the creek and has its own swale to serve the same purpose as the first built Urban Swale. Keeyla also designed this garden and the swale is similar in planting with the exception of possibly more native wildflowers–sowing seeds is a popular activity on this side of the farm. Here you can see the swale emerging from under the bridge to the Earthbench meeting place.

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With the guidance of an educator from the Peace on Earthbench Movement (POEM) children built this garden gathering space using plastic bottles and other recycled materials over several camp sessions. Locally based POEM’s international mission is to encourage youth to turn plastic waste into artistic community gathering places. This is a project I would want to participate in–what fun!

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

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A surprisingly unafraid hummingbird

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

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As yet unplanted, the arbor will be home to several grape varieties (you can see the barrels just outside the fence awaiting the vines) for a nascent partnership with the kosher winery directly across the street. The structure was built by local Eagle Scouts–notice every section has seating for several people.

We make a quick detour to the goat pen to meet Lev and Ivy and give them a snack pulled right from the field–and right in front of the Do Not Feed the Goats sign.

These two clearly recognize Emily and know she comes with goodies. They will not let her out of their sight!

On our way to talk about the Seven Sacred Species Garden we stop for a brief art activity. Keeyla has provided us with paper, colored pencils and markers, and string and asks us each to make a wish or a prayer to hang on the farm’s olive tree, telling us our thoughts will be released into the wind. The olive tree is the farm’s focal point, visible as soon as you enter the gate. A universal symbol of peace and one of the Seven Sacred Species, this tree was 42 years old when it was selected for the farm 18 months ago and the variety is one preferred for its oil. It actually sits mounded high because the farm’s electrical and water utilities are underneath it. Rocks were added to stabilize the raised planting area. I’m not sure how much of an olive oil crop you can get from one tree but I’m giving the farm extra credit for covering all the bases.

Had to make a quick trip back to the goat pen to retrieve an errant paper prayer from Ivy!

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The Seven Sacred Species are plants which deeply link spiritual beliefs to the natural world and play prominent roles in the Bible. They are olive, fig, date, wheat, barley, grapes and pomegranate. It was important to the farm’s founder to include these species on the farm and at this writing they have 6 of the seven, lacking only barley.

Several are represented around the entry gate.

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

There is a lone date palm near the Blueberry Meeting Circle and wheat planted in the crop beds. It is fitting that these species closely linked with the Bible would be at home in this place deeply rooted in Jewish traditions.

Our group had thinned a bit by now–many, including me, did not know the extent of the experience and had planned for less time. Those of us remaining took a break to gather fresh herbs, berries, greens and edible flowers to add to salad ingredients Keeyla had provided.

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A fresh dressing was made…
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Our table was set…

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Keeyla had made grape leaf dolma stuffed with barley and currents, polenta, small white pastries with dates, and a blueberry tart. A wonderful challah was the highlight for me–delicious.

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We filled our plates and gathered at a circle of benches to break bread and get to know each other a little better–exactly what Urban Adamah founder Adam Berman would have wanted.

This day was a wonderful experience and I would encourage anyone in the vicinity of Urban Adamah to take a few minutes to see the farm. I will close with a few more photos and several websites for you to get more information if you desire.

Here we go–

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

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

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

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

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Gamble Garden Spring Tour 2019…the last two gardens

EAST MEETS WEST

The owner of this historic Professorville cottage in Palo Alto wanted a garden to honor his father’s garden in the family’s native Vietnam. The result is an eclectic mix of tropical and traditional plants nestled amongst paths, gates and art pieces fashioned from driftwood and salvaged antique bricks.

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The fully enclosed front garden is a potpourri of shrubs and vines nestled underneath a canopy of mature oaks.

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The first of many unique driftwood creations crafted by the homeowner greets visitors near the front gate.

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Mature rhododendrons grace the front walk–the only ones I saw on the tour this year.

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The piece of driftwood perched atop this gate’s frame is reminiscent of a bird stopped for a rest on its daily travels.

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Multi-colored antique bricks laid were laid in sand to make this rustic path.

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A vine covered arbor..

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…and another driftwood gate open onto a brick path to the back garden.

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The back garden features a brick floor with accents of stone and driftwood. The single sunny spot in the garden is home to a raised planter with its own ‘found wood’ fence.

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A raised gazebo is dressed in driftwood style and its comfy couch offers a great view of the garden.

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A huge orchid in bloom,  Dendrobium  kingianum, is perched atop a waist high stump.

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A rock waterfall, once part of a koi pond whose inhabitants sheltered under the raised platform of the gazebo, is home now to tropicals and ferns. The pond itself is now a brick floor, a bit of which you can see in the lower right corner.

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A neat stack of materials stands at the ready for future projects! The beauty of this garden for me was the homeowner’s obvious affinity for the space and enjoyment in creating his garden with his own hands.

A FEAST FOR THE SENSES

As much as I admire landscapes with sophisticated green and white palettes, perfectly poised pots, and every detail dedicated to the theme; I am at heart a gardening girl who loves a riot of color and texture, prefers her shrubs in naturalistic shapes and adds things to the garden just because I want to try them out rather than that they fit some prescribed color or category. This last garden of my day on the tour spoke to me in terms I not only understand but see as achievable and possible to maintain in my slightly messy, do what you will vibe.

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My dream home and garden would be an authentic Spanish bungalow tucked behind wonderful courtyard walls–a little bit of public garden street side and the rest of it  nestled privately inside where I could play to my heart’s content in raised beds reached by stone and ground cover paths. Although the garden of this third generation landscape professional is very visible from the street side, it checked almost all my design boxes.

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Red brick walks are the front garden’s floor and series of geometric beds harbor most pf the plants. The raised beds are capped with red brick and are perfect sitting walls. I love a good sitting wall!

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The beds have a definite East coast influence is throughout and are densely planted with a mixture of roses perennials coming in and out of bloom amongst a formal structure of evergreen shrubs.

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This neighborhood has sidewalks and wide parking strips (called something different everywhere-the area between the sidewalk and the curb)–masses of agapanthus and daylilies and other strap leafed perennials will make this the prettiest ‘hell strip’ in town when they are in full bloom.

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A mature tree canopy provides dappled shade to the front walk.

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The homeowner enjoys flower arranging and makes use of many blooms from her own garden. The front plantings were originally designed to serve as a demonstration garden for her clients.

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A narrow planting strip along the driveway offers vertical gardening opportunities, both softening the look of the property line fence and providing additional privacy.

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The driveway as seen from the garage which is placed far back on the lot. The combination of brickwork adds interest and just feels softer and cooler than concrete.

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A small guest house with a pergola whose columns mimic those on the home’s front facade separates the back garden into rooms. I thought this little sitting area was one of the most charming I saw on the tour and I know I would be relaxing out there every day.

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The red brick fountain tucked next to the sitting area is presided over by a Korean acolyte sculpture the homeowner has named Yoda. The glass balls are meant to deter raccoons from fishing in the pond!

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Green Goddess calla lilies share the spotlight with papyrus and other water plants in the pond.

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Raised beds and pots in the sitting area are massed with nasturtiums and other edible flowers.

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The sitting area and pergola provide a lovely view of the rectangular lawn with its wide compacted gravel walkway–the original brick walkway was replaced after the homeowner’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in preparation for a time when a wheelchair path might be needed. Railings were also added to any areas having even a step or two.

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The lawn leads to a raised patio from which to dine and enjoy the garden. Kiwi vines cover the the arbor and abundant roses are within reach of the house for easy cutting.

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A brick walkway between the guest house and the garage draws visitors back–anxious to see what other delights they will find.

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The lot is remarkably deep and easy to walk compacted gravel paths wind around beds filled with annuals, bulbs, perennials and herbs. A green screen along the back property line offers the sense of being all alone in the city.

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Ornamentals give way to edibles in raised beds. I could sooo…live in this garden. It feels cool and colorful without being fussy or overly regimented. This is a gardener’s garden.

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So ends this year’s Gamble Garden Spring Tour. The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden deserves a post of its own and I’ll save that for the dog days of the summer when my spring travel is over and my own garden looks like scorched earth.