In a daze in Denver…lessons from a cocktail napkin

THE GARDEN OF ROB PROCTOR AND DAVID MACKE IN DENVER

A few months ago my husband outlined the inspirational message he was to give at our youngest son’s wedding to his long-time love on a polka dotted cocktail napkin–you can actually see the napkin in his hand in the photos taken of him with the bride and groom at the altar. In the garden notes about Rob Proctor and David Macke’s phenomenal  garden, I learned that 25 years ago Rob drew a layout of the garden on a cocktail napkin  as he and David celebrated the closing on their new home. The cocktail napkin’s role in new beginnings and big decisions is starting to take on new meaning for me!

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Rob and David invited us to enter their back garden through their 1905 brick home which displays an eclectic collection of David’s antiques and Rob’s watercolors. Rob Proctor is part of Denver’s horticultural royalty. He is a past Director of Horticulture for Denver Botanic Gardens and has written sixteen gardening books on topics from cutting gardens to how to create beautiful gardens on a shoestring budget. Rob has written for the Denver Post and is the resident gardening expert for Denver KUSA-TV. He is also a noted botanic illustrator and watercolor artist. This garden has been featured in many books and magazines and is open annually in August (at its peak bloom) for the Proctor’s Garden tour which benefits a local nonprofit community-based animal shelter/humane society.

A Denver Garden Bloggers Fling would not be complete without a chance to see Rob’s garden. Caveats to this post which simply does not do the garden justice, even in its first few weeks of the season; you get the light you get based on the time of day we are scheduled to be in any given garden and MY photography skills can’t do much to alter that; we have about 35 minutes in any single garden to not just take it all in but also photograph it. If you are a YouTube viewer, there are multiple videos over several years of this garden, several including interviews with Rob. Especially engaging is a June 18, 2019 YouTube upload set to music by fellow Flinger Janet Davis who blogs at The Paintbox Garden–unfortunately my platform doesn’t support links to video but any of the videos can be found by Googling.  Your search engine will also offer you a series of Rob’s own video clips at http://www.9news.com on a variety of gardening topics. All of these are worth watching.

On with the show…

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The brick patio opens to a series of very long and lush perennial borders within a formal structure “walls” provided by brick columns and lathe fencing. The garden’s folly is the visual focus from the seating area and draws the eye to the into to the depths of the garden.

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Flower filled intimate seating spot just a step or two away from the kitchen door
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Turf plays the role of pathway between the borders
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The lathe supports vines and climbing roses, the columns offer another location for containers
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A spot to relax on the way to the herb garden

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The parterre herb garden as viewed from several angles. Again, Rob has used formal structure but let the plants fill it in a blowsy, live and let live fashion. The herb beds are actually sunk below grade to collect water in a technique employed by the Native Peoples which Rob describes as the way a waffle collects syrup.

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This climbing rose anchors the center of the parterre

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Cobalt cushioned seating along the fence line overlooking the herb garden
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A pair of potted clematis flank the loveseat

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The gravel allee is actually the old driveway, now transformed into a long border completely composed of pots. This is perhaps a good place to note that this garden is home to over 600 planted pots. that’s 6-0-0! They are small and large, tall and squat, mostly but not all blue or terra-cotta. Holy moly–I’m doing well to not let the ivy left behind in last year’s abandoned container croak over the winter…

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Rob and Dave snuck this red seating area in to see if we were paying attention
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Lots of crimson and chartreuse in these terra cotta pots
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A little peachier here

The next border over–they all extend from the back of the home sort of like tines from a fork–is quite shady due to the tree cover directly behind the herb parterre but chock full of emerging perennials. Pots of color are placed in the borders to add pops of interest at strategic spots.

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Succulents planted in hypertufa boxes rest on a wooden bench at the base of a large shade tree
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One type of pot, one type of plant= big impact
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Looking down the border

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This magnificent plant that is sited on both sides of the border at its sunnier end (look to the very end of the lawn strip in the next to last photo for the billowy clouds of white) was the subject of much interest to many of us–finally identified as Crambe cordifolia, sometimes referred to as giant sea kale. It sort of looks like airborne baby’s breath floating six feet in the air. Even in a smallish garden it could be used as the backdrop for other more colorful perennials and annuals.

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The white lathe folly at the end of the center border is filled a variety of containers potted up with succulents, ferns, tropicals and houseplants needing a little protection.

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Cobalt blue pots are again prominent, many with yellowy-chartreuse foliage
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Matched hanging baskets of a huge coral hued begonia flank the folly’s doorway
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Another cluster of blue pots are nestled at the base of a spiral staircase

Remembering that this garden is just now in its opening weeks of Denver’s relatively short growing season, I am not sure I can imagine all 600 of the pots bursting with blooms at the peak of the season.

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The central border is alive with bright and dark foliage colors and many blooms. While more is not yet quite blooming than is, the overall effect is staggering. Another plant drawing a bit of attention is this huge leafed perennial which is present is all the borders in various stages of maturity. Several Midwest gardeners recognized it right away and referred to it ask hogweed, cautioning unwitting novices like me not to touch it! David Macke identified it for us as Heracleum maximum, commonly called cow parsnip. It is a genus of about 60 species of perennial herbs in the carrot family. Apparently it can deliver a nasty rash if you handle it and then the affected areas are exposed to sunlight.

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The umbels on this cow parsnip tower least 8 feet in the air
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Another favorite in this sunny border Kashmir sage, Phlomis cashmeriana

The most Westerly border ends in an arbor leading to the vegetable garden which spans the entire back of the property, mostly shielded from the view of the more ornamental borders.

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A huge weigela is an explosion of blooms
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Clematis recta billows at the base of the arbor
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Things get a little wilder  as you approach the veggie area.
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A little potting up space
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Once again having structure and organization firmly in place allows for freedom within the planting beds
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The “waffle” scheme is repeated here, allowing valuable water to flow into the below grade planting square
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Each square of edibles has a terra cotta potted succulent centerpiece–art in its own right
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Malva sylvestris, zebra mallow snuggles up against the base of a bench
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Clary sage pops out of the gravel in abandon
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Creative succulent containers abound

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I am practically on a dead run from the far back veggies to the house as last call for the bus is made-fortunately I am not alone!

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Looking back to main patio from central border path
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Blue pots explode with pansies, succulents and more
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How could I have missed this patio water feature–hidden amongst the myriad of pots!
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Rob bids us good-bye

The lush back garden Rob and David have planted, nourished and nurtured over 25 years after its initial plan was rendered on a cocktail napkin was beautiful on June 18th, the day of my visit. I expect that each day of its season, while different, is equally as stunning. Layer upon layer of plants will come and go through out the borders, beds and pots, rewarding anyone who is lucky enough to spend even 35 minutes amongst them. The “bones” and fundamental framework planned out on that cocktail napkin have made it possible for diverse plant materials to flourish in both contrast and harmony with one another–bits of interesting chaos resting safely in the arms of the garden’s structure. The message David delivered to the soon-to-be newlyweds was one of building a framework of confidence in one another through caring and communication. The goal being a relationship in which both can flourish individually and as partners, in times of contrast and harmony, but always in a safe space. Didn’t think you could get all that on a cocktail napkin, did you? A huge thank you to Rob and David for their generosity in sharing their garden with us on this day.

 

 

In a daze near Denver…tough plants, easy smiles

THE GARDEN OF JEAN MORGAN IN LOUISVILLE

Jean Morgan’s garden doesn’t take itself too seriously. She strives to offer food, water and refuge for butterflies in all their life stages (including the eating your plants to a naked stem phase) and rest plus a sip of water for her bird visitors within a native landscape that can get by when it needs to with virtually no supplemental water.

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A raucous clump of huge, bright orange poppies greeted us as we got off our bus just around the corner from Jean’s home

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Jean is standing at the ready to greet us but most of us have stopped to take in the shallow plant filled front yard which runs the length of her cottage.

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While there are quite a few permanent plantings, including this rose, the overwhelming sense of this front bed is that of masses of freely seeding wildflowers. Blue love-in-a-mist is everywhere, including cracks in the asphalt surface of the street. There are large colonies of both pink evening primrose and yellow sundrops–both of the genus Oenothera.  Although Jean has both natives and non-natives, she admits that in a conflict where one must go–the natives win every time.

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From the Denver postcards–this chocolate guardian angel watches over the yellow flowered Berlandiera lyrata, chocolate flower. The flower heads of this plants were used by native Americans to flavor their foods. Jean shares that passersby often pick up the Hershey’s wrappers she has used to highlight the plant’s fragrance and bring them to her with apologies for the actions of a careless litterer.

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Jean’s home is one of Louisville’s historic miner’s cabins. The left photo shows its original size and the right photo is of the miner who built the cabin. Jean has lived and gardened here since 1972 when her passion started with a few hens-and-chicks given to her by a neighbor.

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Jean’s love of found objects is obvious–especially those with a vintage Colorado feel
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Ants “mine” for crystal near a swath of cranesbill
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Colorado’s state cactus Echinocereus triglochiadiatus, or claret cup cactus
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Every nook and cranny has something growing out of it
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Stanleya pinnata or desert prince’s plume puts on a show of yellow blooms
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Jean identified this hardy geranium as the North American species G. fremontii AKA  G. caespitosum fremontii, or Fremont’s geranium 
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Bloggers are pretty much shoulder to shoulder in the rock garden between the cabin and its garage
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This old tub planted with succulents is called Barney Bazooka De Chomp III–I wonder what happened to I and II?
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The paths are narrow and there are few places to step without crushing some small vignette
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Jean IDs plants and answers questions–she has prepared reference sheets because she knows we’re going to want the names for everything
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The back garden’s focal point is a whimsical pond
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Bubbles the hippo peeks up from the water
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Tiny and tight succulents fill the rocky crevices
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Jean welcomes all to visit her garden, then come back again and again

Jean believes that every garden belongs to the gardener who tends and loves it. She clearly enjoys her garden every day and revels in seeing the birds and butterflies who make it their home. She is active in community causes including the preservation of other miner’s cabins in danger of demolition. Jean is also involved in annual Boulder County butterfly inventories conducted by Jan Chu, author of Butterflies of the Colorado Front Range. Her cabin and very personal outdoor space shines in a small, clearly aging neighborhood only a block from the railroad tracks–the only thing brighter I saw was her enthusiasm for sharing her garden with us.

 

 

 

 

Doing the West Coast whack…

One of the most satisfying things about participating in the Garden Bloggers Fling the last several years has been the opportunity to meet gardeners from all over the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. We are all proud of what we grow but there is no denying that we all lament over what we just can’t get to perform well (or even stay alive til season’s end) given our region’s cultural conditions.

When I lived in the deep south our hydrangeas were big, blue and fabulous and spring days were awash in color from the winter’s remaining camellias, azaleas of all colors and blooming ornamental cherry trees. I could not, however, grow a decent rose that wasn’t covered in blackspot by the time it formed buds. At the Capitol Region Fling in 2017, gardeners with massed blooming perennials and annuals mourned their lack of gardenias as evergreen shrubs rather than annuals lost to cold each year. Clematis and peonies are always wept over by those of us whose fate they are not while I’m pretty sure they grow unattended in fields in the Midwest. A fellow blogger mooned over a single agapanthus in a Denver garden as if it was the second coming; in Southern California we grew those by the freeways. Don’t get me wrong–all of us have gotten a round peg in a square hole with enough effort but more and more gardeners are concentrating on growing well what grows best in their garden’s natural culture.

There is also a lot of time to cuss and discuss various the cultural practices we use to get the most from what we’ve got. In front of an amsonia standing very tall in a Denver garden I commented that I had planted one in my Georgia garden but could never get it not to flop. UK blogger Michelle Chapman asked, “Do you Chelsea chop?” I was momentarily without words. She went on to explain that cutting the amsonia, along with many other herbaceous perennials, back at a certain point to encourage branching would produce a sturdier plant less likely to flop. Michelle gardens in Chippenham, England and blogs at Veg Plotting. For her area that optimal spring cutback takes place around the time of the famed Chelsea Flower Show–hence it is called the Chelsea chop. As I enjoy a longer growing season, my perennials generally have been blooming for 2+ months by May when CFS takes place. My early spring cutback to encourage branching is more like early to mid-February but I have no equally descriptive name for it. My Central Valley’s commonly 8 month growing season does benefit from a mid-summer cutback of most herbaceous and woody perennials. After they take a brief rest, I am rewarded with another full bloom cycle which carries my garden through fall. I’ve decided I’m going to call my early July cutback the West Coast whack! There is always more than binds gardeners together than that separates them–we are pretty good world ambassadors, I think.

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Salvia ‘Mesa Azure’ is ubiquitous in my garden and so is rarely the center of any photo!

As we are spending next week in the cool of the Sierra Mountains and my plants are ready even if I am not, this is my week to whack. In years past, I have spent more time laboriously making the perfect cut on each stem but life has gotten too short for that and many of the twiggier plant groups like the Salvia greggii, of which I have many selections, seem to respond just as well with a less precision prune. Roses are getting another mass dead heading also–not much escapes this mid-summer madness.

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The iris is finished and the salvias whacked!

It will take me the rest of the week, working in the cooler early morning hours, to cut back the salvias, agastache, penstemon and shrub roses. Other perennials can be dead headed and tidied up as time permits. We’ll take a rest from the garden next week as the garden starts its summer afternoon nap.

 

In a daze near Denver…600 tons and what do you get?

THE GARDEN OF TATIANA MAXWELL IN BOULDER

Six hundred tons is the tally for the Colorado sandstone used to build the walls, ponds and waterfalls in the garden of Tatiana Maxwell. This post will be photo rich–every time I went through the 75+ pictures I took of this beautiful and peaceful property trying to decide what I could eliminate…well, you get the idea!

The Maxwell home is on about 1/2 acre corner lot in the Old North Boulder neighborhood and was completed in 2010. Tatiana’s original vision for her garden was a more traditional English cottage garden but brainstorming with a friend, Thea Alvin of myEarthwork and local permaculturalist Marco Lam opened her eyes to more possibilities. Even after reading a bit about permaculture I am still not sure what its principles are but here’s how I’m going to sum it up: using perfect plants for the climate and only what works in the local environment and cultural conditions rather than starting your design process with the plants you want to use and trying to adapt your site and cultural habits to them.

We started our ramble on the driveway. I will admit I had been in the garden for almost 30 minutes before I realized there actually was a front door. I thought she had no back garden even as I was actually already in it. Let’s just walk right up the driveway which runs from street to property line near the back of one side of the lot.

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A sunny raised veggie bed is the front garden for the Maxwell guest house
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Guest house patio
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Attached to the guest house is Tatiana’s greenhouse/sauna
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More refuge than potting up spot-the sauna is in the back left corner
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This beautiful swing is one of many pieces of Indonesian influence throughout
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A little succulent color brightens up the sauna’s exterior wall

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Between the guest house/greenhouse and the fenced vegetable garden is the family’s handy bike storage. Tatiana’s plan was to create an urban oasis where she would be “cocooned in nature.”

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The two vegetable gardens produce a broad array of vegetables through three seasons. There are also fruit trees and berry bushes plus a couple of fig trees which live in the greenhouse.

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Catmint softens the edge where the stacked stone wall meets the gravel floor for the strip west of the driveway
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Raised beds have drip irrigation and pots for color–warm season veggie gardening is just getting started here
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A cold frame provides space to start seeds earlier than they could be directly sown
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Colorful perennials massed at the north end fill in at the feet of trellised vines

The garage is tucked on the east side of the driveway with a detached studio then nestled between the house and the driveway, a narrow walkway separating the two. As with the greenhouse and gardens no detail was spared on this charming little building.

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These galvanized gutters are like wall art

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This colorful trio lights adds interest to a very narrow planting space between the studio and the driveway. I believe the upper left is a contorted filbert, Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’; upper right is one of the lime leafed barberries; below them is a red hot poker plant.

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The front door of the studio is protected by a unique glass and iron awning. The door frame has this southwestern influenced tile work and the same rustic wood found on the window frames.

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A small walkway and ample tree cover makes it hard to distinguish the studio from the house
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A purple clematis scrambles up the gutter

Yes, it’s true that I’ve been basically hanging out on the driveway til now. Let’s dive deep into the garden!

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Approaching the garden secret entrance from the driveway–you just know you want to be in there!
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This unbelievable rock pond is a natural watering hole for pollinators
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Lots of plantings, like this Euphorbia, soften the junction of the driveway surface and the massive rock walls

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Neither the first nor the last clematis envy I experienced in Colorado
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We’re going in!
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A quick left turn allows visitors to step underneath the huge slab of rock forming the base of the waterfall
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Stepping out into a path which circles the pond offers a different perspective of the greenhouse…
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…and a up-close view of the pond’s impressive rock structure, depth and waterfall
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Back through the rock tunnel and I step out into the expanse of the garden

Tatiana Maxwell wanted to have a garden space in which she could host events for causes she is passionate about and the broad lawn provides ample space several hundred people to be seated.

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Red rose climbing up the side of the pond wall
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Another contorted filbert–‘Harrry Lauder’s Walking Stick’

The entire south side of the lot is enclosed with a massive very high stacked stone wall which turns the corners on both the east and west sides, allowing for several elevations of planting places on the interior of the walls. These beds are lushly panted with a variety of foliage colors, shapes, sizes and textures.

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A fringe tree in bloom

I literally stood mid-lawn and turned 180 degrees right to left to photograph the interior borders. They are well kept but not fussy–looks to me like a gardener who likes to be out in her garden snipping and picking here and there.

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Looking back toward the home, a shady patio is a wonderful place from which to observe the garden goings on
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Iron hardware supports the arbor
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Rustic bell shaped light fixtures on both the home and studio
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Looking back at the pond
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Looking back at the patio from the east lawn

It was not until I had walked out far enough to take this photo that I recognized that this patio was not the front of the home–that we had actually entered at the back of the property.

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Around the corner from the driveway and looking back into the garden–really the only side open to street view
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Found the front door!
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Tatiana’s green roof through the tree branches

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I love this somewhat understated front entrance into a home which I’m sure is very large and beautifully appointed. It says to me that this home is about Tatiana’s connection to her family, garden, neighbors and friends rather than that she needs a “grand entrance” to make a statement about who she is to those who don’t know her. Again, old world and international details set the tone.

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Lovely tracery of the vine on the stucco wall
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Just north of the front door is an almost hidden entrance to a walled secret garden
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Subtle water sounds
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Bold Indonesian lanterns flank French doors leading to? I would want it to be the master bedroom!
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A mix of colorful foliage
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These steps make a statement–I think they are basement access

It’s time to walk back to our buses, still parked by the driveway. Now I get to see what I would have normally taken in first on any garden tour–the street view. Behind its stacked sandstone walls, Tatiana’s home is virtually invisible except for a the space open to the lawn on the east side.

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The raised beds resume and round the corner
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The set back raised beds in front of the higher walls result in three planting levels–this is the point where the two streets of the corner lot meet
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Flowering trees, shrubs and perennials fill all levels–this lemon yellow pine leafed penstemon contrasts brightly with the catmint and lily-of the-Nile
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Corner of the street and the driveway–I’ve come full circle (square?)

I found both this home and its garden very appealing. I have never seen so much rock in any other garden anywhere but many lush plantings soften it throughout. Equally suited to a young family or empty-nesters, this property could meet most everyone’s desire’s for ornamentals and edibles plus a wide swathe of lawn. Gardens that look so casually beautiful are not without maintenance but the permaculture nature lends itself to the need for less water, less fertilizer and lower energy requirements. Every garden requires maintenance and I think working in this one would be a great pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a daze near Denver…art and experimentation

THE GARDEN OF CAROL AND RANDY SHINN IN FT. COLLINS

Newcomers in 2006 to the Front Range, Carol and Randy Shinn retired to Ft. Collins and have been experimenting in their garden ever since. Both are artistic by nature, Carol in the visual arts and Randy in musical composition. It was not until the next day that I became aware that this was the garden of THE Carol Shinn–a rock star in the art quilting world who is internationally known for her photo-based free motion machine stitched images.

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Their new Colorado home came with an outdated lawn, uninteresting flower borders and juniper everywhere, including block the front windows. The new garden has a small puddle of lawn and now the perennials, conifers and collection of ground covers winding through and tucked amongst the rock paths and large rock outcroppings are the stars of the show.

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A small stream bed runs left to right under the rock path
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Bearded iris are an important feature in the garden
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View from the driveway
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View from the street side
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View from the street side near the property line
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Wow!
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The same poppies from a different vantage point
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Color and textures weave through the diverse plant materials
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Greeting visitors near the front door
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One of several peonies in the garden–this one softens the front walk

Rock gardening has become Carol’s passion after adding the first granite and sandstone boulders to anchor her developing beds. She says the growth of the garden has been organic rather than that of a rigid structure based on a plan. Her experimentation with a bed of horizontal layers of sandstone, then later a bed of vertical basalt has cemented her love of crevice gardening–no pun intended.

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The largest of the crevice gardens as viewed from several angles.

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Another crevice garden with a bright lavender aster peeking out
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A little wider view of that crevice garden

All of the crevice gardens are anchored with conifers which will, in time, provide more vertical interest. A wide variety of alpine ground covers and perennials are tucked in all the crevices. Colorado natives make their presence known everywhere. So much of this plant material is unfamiliar to me but I’m sure if I’d had a decent alpine/steppe plant reference book I could make sense of it. This was not the only garden we visited that compelled me to text my husband the message, “I need more rocks!”–by the end of the Fling I was texting simply, “What I said before, DITTO.”

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This most recently planted crevice garden was designed by Kenton Seton, a rising star in this gardening style. Along with this bed Carol is developing a collection of miniature conifers. Central California gardeners tend to have conifer lust and so it’s unimaginable to me being able to grow both full-sized and miniature selections–other than a few pines, our dry air just crisps most conifers to brown sticks.

Carol’s gardening goals have grown organically also. Their pick of Ft. Collins as their retirement home was, in part, due to the belief that water was more plentiful here than other nearby cities. Her original garden goal was to create the beautiful and lush perennial garden we all covet in magazines and garden catalogs. Many of her original plantings, including a huge collection of daylilies from Randy’s father, remain but are gradually being replaced as needed with more xeric plants.

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A rose scrambles over an arbor topped gate leading into the back garden
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This beautiful burgundy clematis is tucked in the corner where the fence meets the house
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A small flowered white climbing rose distracts from the basement window well

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A narrow brick path leads into the back garden which has more traditional elements, especially in the shaded areas like this one along the fence line. Hostas, hardy geraniums and hellebores are seen here.

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On the opposite side of the path, creative pots combined with diverse foliage colors light up the shade.

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Look back down the garden path

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As the tree cover gives way to open sky another arch forms the perfect frame for the Shinn’s rusted iron water feature.

This island of plantings buffer the house from the lawn and sunnier garden areas.

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In the open and sunny center, conifers and sun loving perennials thrive. Multiple paths using a variety of hardscape materials give the garden floor interest and easy access to working beds many vantage points.

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A crevice garden in the works

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A vegetable garden occupies the back corner of the garden, mostly obscured from the view from the house and main patio area.

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The rose bed
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Runaway chives in the rose bed

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This large raised bed runs almost the length of the back of the house, allowing for trees and shrubs to become garden walls. We had a sudden rainstorm a few minutes after this photo was taken and I was sitting at the far end where you can see fellow blogger Noelle already resting–we did not get a drop of rain through the tree cover while other standing on the back patio were soaked.

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The same bed as viewed from the sunny lawn side
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Stately bearded iris in full bloom
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The backside of the same bed is adjacent the patio and perfect siting for this subdued pond

This garden is the one of the best looking works in progress I have ever seen. There is tremendous plant diversity–running the gamut from peonies to cacti and everything in between. It all is working well together supported by an eclectic group of year round structural elements including a diverse selections of conifers and a few deciduous trees.

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The stress that goes along with making your garden ready for a tour was not borne by this little copper haired neighbor–a budding entrepreneur who had set up a lemonade stand (plus cookies) hoping for thirsty garden bloggers. We gave her lots of business and I’m sure she was sad to see us go!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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

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A lovely open sunny spot.

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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.

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My next chauffeur is going to want a balcony after reading this post
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The grape leaf ivy has had its way with the stucco walls and softens what is a really majestic facade for garage
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View from the car park
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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pergola hanging lanterns

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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View from the koi pond through the pergola to the shady seating enjoyed by garden visitors

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

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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.

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

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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.

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Sturdy stone steps were cut in to allow access to the hillside

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

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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!

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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.

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Heading up the path
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Nasturtiums meander around an artichoke right off the path

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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.

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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.

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

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

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So many artful presentations…
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…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.

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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!