Easing into the East Bay…aging gracefully

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.

GC EB hart 70

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

GC EB hart 1

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!

GC EB hart 3

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.

GC EB hart 6

Classic  boxwood globes enclose a spot filled with calla lilies, bergenia and oak leaf hydrangeas.

GC EB hart 2

A lovely open sunny spot.

GC EB hart 7

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.

GC EB hart 8
My next chauffeur is going to want a balcony after reading this post
GC EB hart 5
The grape leaf ivy has had its way with the stucco walls and softens what is a really majestic facade for garage
GC EB hart 9
View from the car park
GC EB hart 4
Looking at the stairs straight on–note the reddish brown foliage of a mature copper beech

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.

GC EB hart 10

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.

GC EB hart 12

An interesting iron gate leads marks the stairway to the upper garden entrance.

GC EB hart 11

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.

GC EB 14
Wisteria trails off the restored porte cochere

The next terrace runs fully across the garden and is home to another original garden feature-the pergola.

GC EB hart 19

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.

GC EB hart 13
Pergola hanging lanterns

GC EB hart 27

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.

GC EB hart 16

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.

GC EB hart 28

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.

GC EB hart 17
One of many interesting potted combinations
GC EB hart 18
Really good view of the restored porte-cochere from the pergola
GC EB hart 20
Would have loved to see the vista from this roof top balcony

GC EB hart 40

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.

GC EB hart 41

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.

GC EB hart 43
View from the koi pond through the pergola to the shady seating enjoyed by garden visitors

GC EB hart 39

Clipped boxwood hedges and tall, pale roses soften yet another retaining wall holding back the significant slope.

GC EB hart 38

GC EB hart 31

GC EB hart 42

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.

GC EB hart 32

Out of the shade of the trees the slope plantings become more eclectic and more waterwise/sun tolerant.

GC EB hart 37

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.

GC EB hart 36
Sturdy stone steps were cut in to allow access to the hillside

GC EB hart 33

At the garden’s opposite, end bistro seating is placed in front of a small stone fireplace.

GC EB hart 35

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!

GC EB hart 45

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.

GC EB hart 47
Heading up the path
GC EB hart 49
Nasturtiums meander around an artichoke right off the path

GC EB hart 59

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.

GC EB hart 51

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.

GC EB hart 52
Succulents are pocket planted amongst the piles rock wall
GC EB hart 58
Looking back where I have already been and moving into the more shade side of the garden
GC EB hart 56
View of the garage turned dream home from the garden northwestern most corner filled with pale pink roses doing just fine in lower light
GC EB hart 60
Looking down on the property line end of the koi pond
GC EB hart 64
Leafy koi pond shade cover has plenty of space to add in shady annuals and ground cover
GC EB hart 62
Perfect home for a cymbidium orchid
GC EB hart 63
Surrounding ground cover obscures the pot
GC EB hart 65
Shade again gives way to sunshine 
GC EB hart 48
Roses and perennials meander companionably with succulents and edibles
GC EB hart 46
Pittosporum makes another appearance as an edging plant
GC EB hart 68
As close as I could get to the upper floor living space–significant remodeling included period appropriate windows and doors

GC EB hart 66

I am just about back to where I started my wandering adventure.

GC EB hart 26
So many artful presentations…
GC EB hart 29
…and arrangements

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!

Need to know anything about the Garden Conservancy and its work? Go to http://www.gardenconservancy.org or just Google Garden Conservancy.

GC EB hart 69

As I walked the narrow street back to my car I noticed this tiny arched door on the southeast corner of the HART GARAGE–another mystery I look forward to solving!

 

 

 

First glimpse…’Lavender Tonic’

Those of you who read my post Purple reigns… know that I have been anxiously awaiting the first blooms on a new addition to my small cache of daylilies. In my former Georgia garden I had a massive collection–over 150 named varieties–all in the apricot, orange, gold and coral palette. Finding daylilies that work in my Central Valley’s predominantly lavender, blue, pink and purple palette has been a challenge. Most pinks seem to lean to orange rather than the blue, and the purples tend to fade out in our strong summer sun. Last year I added Hemerocallis ‘Pink Perfection’ and, although beautiful, its coral hue stuck out like a sore thumb. They are now happily settled into my fellow daylily aficionado Ann’s garden. Last fall I replaced those first season clumps with a grouping of H. ‘Lavender Tonic’ and her first blooms are indeed a tonic for my daylily longings.

first glimpse 1
Hemerocallis ‘Lavender Tonic’

Ok, I’m still having to stretch my concept of lavender but, regardless of what she’s called, the mauve-y rose tone works well with not only the cool blues but also the more purple leaning pinks. This one is a keeper. Ann is also trialing a few purples this year so hopefully once our successful ones clump up nicely we’ll be able to pass them back and forth over the proverbial garden fence.

Ann is blessed to have a horticulturist daughter who recently gave her the lowdown on a Ventura County grower called Greenwood Daylily Gardens. Located in the small community of Somis, they are open for retail sales only on Saturday in the months of April through June–so…we’re making an early June road trip to check it out. Their website http://www.greenwoodgarden.com has a wealth of cultural information including the tidbit that all daylilies have some underlying yellow pigment. It tends to come out after planting the scapes in a new location or experiencing other stressful circumstances–thus the pink ones looking so peachy or salmon toned and the lavenders looking muddy. The message was to give the plants a few seasons to acclimate and the more desired (and hybridized) color should emerge. What a revelation and I can’t wait for this visit! So just as we patiently wait while new perennials sleep and creep for their first couple of years before we are rewarded with the LEAP we so desire we must let our daylilies settle in before they offer their true colors.

Greenwood also grows irises, pelargoniums, clivia and cannas–something for every garden. I’ve got my eye on dark red (almost black) Pelargonium ‘Queen of Hearts’ PPAF, one of several bred specifically for California gardens by SoCal local hybridizer Jay Kapac. Wish us luck on our quest and I’ll be sure to report back to you what we bring home!

P.S. Thanks to Ann for providing the inspiration for this post’s title–it was her subject line on a recent e-mail bearing a photo of one of her new selection’s first blooms.

 

LA cruising…taming the tea tree

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.

GC LA tea 39

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.

GC LA tea 1

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.

GC LA tea 2

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.

GC LA tea 3

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.

GC LA tea 4

Wide cobbled steps were added leading visitors gracefully to the home. On the mid right you see the tea tree’s pom pom again.

GC LA tea 6

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?

GC LA tea 5

This attractive facade was invisible from the street until the staircase and cozy courtyard was added.

GC LA tea 8

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.

GC LA tea 9

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.

GC LA tea 7

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!

GC LA tea 35

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.

GC LA tea 11

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.

GC LA tea 15

The decomposed granite “floor” enhances the Mediterranean feel and provides a great base for easy walking.

GC LA tea 14

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.

GC LA tea 16
Great benches everywhere!

Formerly a solid wall, two new gates in the shadow of blooming yellow brugmansias now connect front garden to back.

GC LA tea 22

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.

GC LA tea 34

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.

GC LA tea 17

Still moving toward the back of the property paths on either side of the next room lead you through shady, predominantly bright green plantings.

GC LA tea 23

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.

GC LA tea 24

This massive tree contributes to the deep shade, encouraging a number of large ferns to thrive on the room’s perimeter.

GC LA tea 25

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!

GC LA tea 26

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.

GC LA tea 27

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!

GC LA tea 28

GC LA tea 29

A twin to the seating area pergola provides shade for a table and chairs to seat ten and a compact outdoor kitchen.

GC LA tea 33

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.

GC LA tea 38

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.

 

 

 

LA cruising… a tantalizing tapestry

One of the greatest gardening pleasures of living in Southern California is the ability to grow a great diversity of plants successfully. Being virtually frost-free in winter and having a significant coastal cooling influences in summer seems to be the best of both worlds. Tropicals and subtropical live companionably with perennials often pegged as “English cottage garden” and no one seems any worse for wear.

THE BRILLIANT GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK

GC LA tropical 1

Barely a car’s length away from a very busy 4 lane thoroughfare, the garden of this two story Spanish bungalow was created to provide and escape from the fast pace of the city. Indeed, having parked on the opposite of the street with multiple blocks to a traffic light in either direction, only the wide grassy median gave us (and other garden visitors) a bit of breathing room in the middle as we gauged the traffic and made the mad dash!

GC LA tropical 2

The hard surfaces of the paver driveway, the courtyard’s pillars and wrought iron gate were softened  by multiple pots of hot hued pelargoniums and bold back aeoniums accented by lighter hued succulent rosettes. Remember this is me writing and I can identify probably 2 out of the thousands of succulent we are all so crazy about now!

GC LA tropical 7

You all know how I love a good courtyard and this one has a couple of the best elements–a Mediterranean-styled fountain and lots of pots to play with throughout the year.

GC LA tropical 4

In a very narrow planting strip up against the house is the interesting combination of a vigorous Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’ and and what was originally identified to me (and subsequently by me in an earlier draft of this post) by the designer as pair of eastern redbuds, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. A savy reader alerted me that they looked like Euphorbia cotinifolia, common name Caribbean copper plant. I did a little Googling and found a foliage close-up on a trusted host site that is a dead ringer for mine below.

GC LA tropical 5

GC LA tropical 6

Bougainvillea makes an immediate Southern California connection for me. They clamber all over the walls of homes, large and small, and of all architectural styles. The pink and red flowered varieties probably can be seen from space.!

GC LA tropical 21

Nothing screams Spanish bungalow like a bougainvillea gracing a second story railing. The soft green trim on the home really allowed the color to stand out without competition.

GC LA tropical 8

The garden is home to many Melaleuca trees, this one of which clearly had squatter’s rights when this trelliswork was added to the courtyard’s tall wall on the property line. The soft green from the bungalow’s trim is carried through in the garden structures throughout. Peak back at the photo of the fountain and you’ll see this tree right above the gate into the side garden.

Through the gate is a cool, leafy path to the back garden. The photo on the right is the view looking back toward the gate.

GC LA tropical 10

There are many species of Melaleuca, a tree of Australian origins. They all have narrow, sometimes needlelike leaves and bear clusters of flowers with prominent stamens, sometimes confused with bottlebrush. Many have bark that peels off in thick, papery layers. I’m hoping my reader, horticulturalist Tony, will identify this one for me!

GC LA tropical 20

As the shady path opens into the back patio and pool I can see that these same trees form a screen at the back, hmm…unfortunately right under the power lines…I’m not sure how this serious trimming affects their natural shape.

GC LA tropical 18

A partially shaded and cozy sitting area in front of the guest house (or office?) has attracted some weary garden visitors.

GC LA tropical 11

The stone patio carries through to the pool’s edge and provides space for the garden’s sunny dining area. The garden designer set up a notebook with before and after pictures from the relatively recent pool installation.

GC LA tropical 14

I thought the pool’s shape and size was appropriate to the era of the home and very appealing to jump right in on what had become a hotter than expected afternoon. Although beautifully executed, the stacked stone facing on the curved wall at the end was a little bit disconnected. That type of stone facing is not used elsewhere in the garden that I saw.

GC LA tropical 13

The loosely trimmed screening hedge was an interesting use of Polygala grandiflora, commonly called sweet pea shrub. This is a plant I’ve contemplated adding to my own garden but until today, never seen except in a gallon can at the garden center. It was really good to see the actual scale of the mature shrub in place. The taller screen might also have been Melaleuca based on the look of the trunk but the foliage seemed to be a little different. This small backyard had a wonderful sense of enclosure and there was much less traffic noise than I expected.

GC LA tropical 15
Another resting spot with a nice view of the sunny pool
GC LA tropical 16
Happy oakleaf hydrangea in a shady back corner
GC LA tropical 17
Looking back toward the home
GC LA tropical 12
A hot orange bougainvillea is headed up to the waiting trellis with Pentas ‘Nova Pink’ as its base

GC LA tropical 22

It was not until we had left the back garden that I noticed this group of ‘Forest Pansy’ redbuds, looking more as they should, planted in the small front garden adjacent the paver driveway. Note: given my edit to the information about the other burgundy leafed plant earlier in this post I am not at all sure about this ID! Readers–any thoughts?

GC LA tropical 3

A tiny bright green island of lawn with a slightly raised bed border is planted with roses, foxgloves, impatiens and other annuals and perennials with the romantic cottage garden vibe. Yes, gardeners just have it all in Southern California. Except the peonies–they just can’t do the peonies…ha!!

Last stop cruising LA is THE ZABEL GARDEN IN WINDSOR SQUARE–see you there.

 

 

 

LA cruising…trendy and topical

Outdoor living and entertaining has never been a hotter trend–especially in Southern California where the temperate climate keeps folks in their gardens year-round.

THE DAVIS GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK

GC LA trendy 1

The fairly typical turf-centric front landscape of this 1918 Italian Renaissance villa gives way to modern backyard outdoor living, playing and dining spaces completed in a 2017-18 extensive garden renovation which reflects the needs of the homeowners’ grown-up family.

GC LA trendy 2

The backyard is approached through the home’s original porte-cochere. Homes of this era in Hancock Park typically have their garages placed far back on the property away from street view. Don’t we all long for the times when garages were not the focal point of our home’s facade? Except for the sloped driveway in front of the home which remains concrete, the balance of the hard surfaced approach was replaced with smallish round river rock–maybe the 1″-1-1/2″ range. Unlike pea gravel or decomposed granite, I found this surface very hard to walk on and can’t imagine having to negotiate it on a daily basis. When we had finally walked the depth of this substantial home, a state of the art outdoor kitchen came into view. The original back of the lot garage was removed and replaced with a modern indoor-outdoor playroom, complete with comfy couches and an extensive entertainment system. I guess it is a testament to my point of view that I never photographed the inside of this room–you can see it was a great hit from the crowd gathered at the entrance.

GC LA trendy 3

The new room was all about the trellises for me. Clean-lined, modern ladder trellises were installed on both the front and pool view facades of the room.

GC LA trendy 7

On the pool side the rose-covered trellis provided the backdrop for a cozy seating arrangement around a fire feature. The dark glazed glass doors of the outdoor room would have a perfect pool vista.

GC LA trendy 4

The corner where the two trellis were closest to each other was a flurry of pale pink.

GC LA trendy 5

Reminding me that having a garden doesn’t necessarily make one a gardener, this bevy of smallish blooms making their way up and over these lovely trellises were identified in the tour directory as ‘Eden’ roses. I am guessing they are actually the classic French bred polyantha climbing rose ‘Cecile Brunner’ but regardless of what you call them they were the garden’s horticultural star.

GC LA trendy 8

A tall stand of bamboo and other greenery provided a simple backdrop on two side for the rectangular pool. The dramatic new pergola seen past the pool is the star attraction of the landscape remodel.

GC LA trendy 6

Providing cover for living, dining and food preparation this modern structure is beautifully lit, has multiple heaters integrated into the design and certainly fits the fresh, modern design aesthetic the homeowners desired.

GC LA trendy 9

Stylish and comfortable outdoor sofas and chairs provide plentiful seating in a living room atmosphere complete with its own fireplace and coffee table. The tall bamboo acts as the room’s wall and a modern rug softens the floor.

Simple and predominately green potted plants and a few reading materials complete the decor.

GC LA trendy 12

This petite meditation garden is tucked between the pergola’s living room and the main house. Geometric and simply planted is has a slightly Asian feel.

GC LA trendy 11

The little garden as seen from the walkway between the home and the outdoor entertaining spaces.

GC LA trendy 13

A dining table for twelve is centrally located for easy access from either the cook working in the outdoor kitchen or the guests relaxing in front of the fireplace. This is probably the best accidental view you’ll get of the interior of the new room which replaced the garage.

This backyard entertaining space is beautifully outfitted with high quality finishes and furnishings. It will surely be a space enjoyed by these homeowners’ family and friends for years to come. These types of spaces always look beautiful in magazines and on tours but I constantly wonder about their ability to stand up to the everyday rigors of just being outside. The tables, chairs and chaises I have in my own garden are perennially covered with pollen, leafy junk from the surrounding trees and shrubbery–and, lest I’ve blocked it out–handfuls of cat hair left from the neighborhood felines who think my garden is their personal paradise. It seems as though I spend more time and effort trying to keep these furnishing clean and accessible for family and friends than I do actually entertaining those same people. If anyone out there has worked out this tricky dynamic, I am waiting to hear from you!

The actual garden part of this space plays only a supporting role but is nicely done–not everyone is, or wants to be, a hands on everyday gardener. The goal must be to make whatever space you have meet your personal desires for its use and I think this renovation has certainly done that for the Davis family.

Another neighborhood garden extra–there are several Italian Renaissance style homes lined up in a row on this street.  This one is right next door!

GC LA trendy 15

Next up…a petite oasis on a busy street

THE BRILLIANT GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK

 

LA cruising…traditional and timeless

If you have not read LA cruising…terrific terraces please take a quick look at it to get details about this Los Angeles garden tour. I’m recapping these fabulous residential gardens one at a time–each one is deserving of its own post!

THE RHEINSTEIN GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK

The garden rooms of this beautiful traditional Georgian red brick home were designed by LA garden designer Judy M. Horton. Both the home and its serene, predominantly green and white palette are reminiscent of many homes in the historic Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta.

GC LA trad 1

GC LA trad 2

We entered the back gardens via the long driveway to the left of the front door. A wide sidewalk offers approach for visitors from the street side and they are welcomed by a pair of clipped boxwoods in beautiful traditional greenish-black planters. An almost hidden herringbone pattern brick walk is adjacent to the driveway, its opening marked by an identical pair of stately square planters bearing twin trimmed boxwoods.  This walkway is shielded from street view by a tightly clipped boxwood hedge.

GC LA trad 3

A Southern magnolia is loosely espaliered on the driveway end of the house–a feature very commonly seen in Atlanta landscapes. Note the working shutters on this historic home, sized and hung correctly to actually be closed and latched over each window if desired.

GC LA trad 4

The view as the shaded driveway opens into the first of several garden rooms was beautifully calm and peaceful as well as welcoming.

GC LA trad 6

Looking back toward the driveway reveals the true perspective of the hedge of Podocarpus gracillior which delineates the property line. Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’ rambles and scrambles the brick wall.

GC LA trad 7

There are multiple varieties of climbing roses in this garden–virtually all are either white or white tinged with pale pink. While the designer provided visitors with a plant list including the rose identities most were too high up the walls for me to tell one from the other. This home had exquisite exterior woodwork and wonderful attention to detail and repetition of classic elements.

GC LA trad 8

I loved this beautifully furnished porch complete with comfy sofas, a rocker and a small table with a pair of chairs. The interesting garden art piece on the wall merited a close-up photo–I have often seen old garden tools used in this way but never the entire grouping then painted out and antiqued. Its style fit perfectly with this classically clipped and planted garden room. Note that the porch ceiling is painted a pale blue which Southerners universally refer to as ‘haint blue’, believed to keep bad spirits at bay.

GC LA trad 9

Yet another pale climber headed up the brick wall to the second story. These roses were magical. Even my husband who has an irrational phobia about plant material attached to any permanent surface of our home, admired them. Clusters of pots contained clipped globe boxwoods of various sizes.

GC LA trad 10

GC LA trad 33

On the porch steps, these massed pots of salmony hued Pelargonium stellata  played off the brick work at their feet.

GC LA trad 13

Looking across the geometric lawn from the porch is a petite lawn level pool with a quiet bubbler. You can see the opening to what the homeowners call the Tree Room.

GC LA trad 12

Home to a huge Chinese elm, this room’s wall are formed by a Ligustrum texanum japonica (privet) hedge and its gravel floor a perfect spot for more pots with specimen plants interesting to the homeowners.

GC LA trad 11

Today’s blue sky and puffy white clouds are almost art through the airy canopy of the elm.

GC LA trad 16

A robust Acanthus mollis stands as a sentry to the room’s entry–possibly the best looking specimen of this plant I have ever seen.

GC LA trad 34
Close-up of the Acanthus bloom
GC LA trad 15
Residents of the Tree Room

GC LA trad 17

This Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ (purple pineapple lily) stood out as a spot of color surrounded by cool greens.

GC LA trad 14

Looking almost like a chessboard whose pieces were in motion, this veritable bevy of trimmed and shaped shrubs is a crossroads between the Pool Garden and the Secret Garden. Which way to go?

GC LA trad 18

We chose the Pool Garden, all but hidden from sight behind beautiful painted lattice fences fronted by greenery. Much of the home’s trim and all the exterior fencework is a color at first glance appearing to be black but actually I think what we called Charleston Green in the south–a green so dark that it appears black in some light. Geometric clipped low boxwood add symmetry to a not so symmetrical entry. You can see the facade and roofline of a to die for family living area which also houses a bath for the use of pool goers.

GC LA trad 19

The long rectangular pool is surrounded by bluestone paving, The back of the property has another very tall podocarpus hedge at whose base sit several lovely traditional English garden benches.

GC LA trad 20

At the far end of the pool a piece of statuary depicting a young man standing on his head seems almost to act as a trunk for the ‘Gold Nugget’ loquat tree. This tree, however desirable for the fruit, was the first element of this exquisite garden which gave me pause.  Sited almost overhanging the pool, its crop was mostly on the bottom of the pool!

GC LA trad 35

A pineapple guava tree near the loquat was bursting with colorful blooms.

GC LA trad 23

These great looking chaises lounges are the envy of any pool owner–including me.

GC LA trad 22

Looking back over the pool’s leafy walls I caught sight of this retracted wide awning on the home’s upstair’s patio area–fashioned from the same fabric as the pool chaise cushions.

The well-appointed family living area was accessible to the pool through two sets of french doors and was open for us to walk through. The family had requested no photos  taken to include this area but you will be able to see the back of the building from our next stop, the Secret Garden.

GC LA trad 21
Looking back to the main house as we leave the Pool Garden

GC LA trad 24

A ‘Black Mission’ fig is espaliered on the outside lattice of the porch and provides a leafy lane to the Secret Garden.

GC LA trad 26

The Secret Garden is a courtyard created by the main house, the side of the living area off the pool (the back of which is seen here), and the property’s fence line. If you were to enter this door you would be in a tiny kitchen equipped for flower arranging and potting up indoor plants which is located directly behind the living area which opens to the pool. I suspect this building to have originally a guest house or possibly servant’s quarters.

GC LA trad 30

Several kinds of germander are clipped as low hedges in the parterre style garden. The beds overflow casually with perennials, annuals and bulbs, plus a few veggies.

GC LA trad 27

The frame of an old Turkish tent is covered seasonally in annual vines. Everywhere in this cheerful space you see the continuation of brick paths as flooring and simple clay pots as are used elsewhere in the garden rooms. The tall backdrop is the property line with the next home. Then sense of enclosure throughout this garden is amazing. The extremely tall screening hedges on three sides block out the view of any surrounding homes or structures and you feel as if you are out in the country rather than in downtown Los Angeles.

GC LA trad 28

My Secret Garden favorite were the abundant clumps of Nicotiana sylvestris, an old fashioned annual known as flowering tobacco.

GC LA trad 29

We ended our visit to this amazing garden out the small side yard where the homeowner had tucked in a variety of red clay pots, breaking up the very tall expanse of leafy wall.

This home and garden were classically beautiful and exceedingly welcoming to the eye. It must be a delight to spend time, both quiet and active, within the serenity of the garden’s high green walls, rocking on the porch or enjoying a tall, cool drink with friends. I would live here in a heartbeat–the only caveat would be the need for a full-time gardener to assist in its maintenance. The garden’s feel is casual and relaxed, not fussy or buttoned-up but I imagine the hedge trimming alone to be a career, not to mention all the shaped potted boxwoods and roses requiring ladders to tend to them. My sun hat is off to both the designer of this garden of delights and to those who keep it looking as if it takes care of itself.

One of the bonuses of tours with gardens in close proximity is strolling from one to the next and seeing what other beautiful homes and gardens are on the way…this lovely Spanish influenced home was just across the street and its very wide parking strip was bursting with succulents and color.

GC LA trad 31

Next up…

THE DAVIS 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.

Adamah 1

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.

Adamah 13

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.

Adamah 20

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.”

Adamah 21
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.

Adamah 25

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

Adamah 24

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.

Adamah 26

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.

Adamah 27

adamah-30.jpg

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.

Adamah 31

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.

Adamah 34

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.

Adamah 33
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.

Adamah 68
A little closer look at the beehive end. Notice the enormous Verbena ‘De La Mina’!
Adamah 35
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.

Adamah 37
Looking back as we wander the Urban Swale
Adamah 36
Fledgling bee colony
Adamah 11
Looking across the farm from the Urban Swale end

Adamah 10

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.

Adamah 12

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.

Adamah 32

Adamah 8

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).

Adamah 38

Adamah 6

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.

Adamah 39

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.

Adamah 42

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.

Adamah 44

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!

Adamah 41

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

Adamah 43

Adamah 46
A surprisingly unafraid hummingbird

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

Adamah 48

Adamah 64

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!

Adamah 54

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.

Adamah 57
One of several young fig trees on the farm
Adamah 56
Pomegranate in the background–in the foreground is Etrog, a yellow citrus used during the Jewish holiday Sukkot
Adamah 58
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.

Adamah 60
A fresh dressing was made…
Adamah 62
Our table was set…

Adamah 61

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.

Adamah 63

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

Adamah 2