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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Great benches everywhere!

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Close-up of the Acanthus bloom
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Residents of the Tree Room

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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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.

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Looking back to the main house as we leave the Pool Garden

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Next up…

THE DAVIS GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK

LA cruising…terrific terraces

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

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

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

THE MEADOW LANE GARDEN IN HANCOCK PARK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The staircase railing disappears into the vines draping it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Gamble Garden Spring Tour 2019…the last two gardens

EAST MEETS WEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A vine covered arbor..

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FEAST FOR THE SENSES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Gamble ramble…

Enter the Garden is the theme for the 34th Annual Gamble Garden Spring Tour. Five homeowners graciously opened their gardens to give garden lovers a peek into Palo Alto’s historic neighborhood surrounding the Gamble Garden and just a short drive from Stanford University. I am an unashamed garden tour junkie and this event is right at the top of my favorites list. The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden is a precious community resource and is supported solely by memberships and donations, receiving no funding from the city, state, or any other government entity. This annual tour provides valuable funding needed to keep the garden open to the public every day of the year. Please look back at my posts Gather in the garden… and You can Gamble on this spring tour… to learn more about the historic Gamble property and see gardens from the 2017 and 2016 tours.

A SHEEP IN PALO ALTO

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The clean and classic lines of this New England flavored family home are enhanced by the front garden’s simple elegance, featuring formally clipped boxwood hedges and white tree roses.

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Glossy black shutters and sparkling white woodwork play off the warm toned brick porch set in a herringbone pattern. The pair of Adirondack styled swings invite visitors to stay awhile.

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A sunny spot as you enter the side yard offers a place to grow a few veggies. Notice the herringbone brick ‘stepping stones’, carrying the porch floor theme into the back garden.

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The simple black metal gate echoes the home’s shutters and provides privacy for the family’s personal spaces. The coniferous Thuja trees (seen behind the planters above and on either side of the gate) are used as bright green backdrops throughout the garden.

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This black sheep welcomes you to the back garden and was an online find by the owner.

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This side yard provides visitors with their first full height view of the back garden’s small grove of mature redwoods.

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A beautifully appointed outdoor sitting room offers a spot from which to enjoy the garden–the use of herringbone patterned brick is repeated here.

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Artificial turf provides open play space for a busy family and the ability to host large gatherings. The garden’s green and white palette gets a pop of color from the orange mid-century modern chairs tucked in a spot perfect for viewing outdoor ping pong tournaments. Formal boxwood hedges and globes enclosing beds planted with white azaleas, ferns and New Guinea impatiens feel cool and chic with a Southern ambience.

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The redwoods’ trunks and roots dictate the bed elevations and the stair step plantings make the beds feel very full even though a good circle of air space protects each tree’s base. The redwoods have been limbed up to a height of 25 feet. This allows them to provide almost a forest like atmosphere without overwhelming the space. Lights have been woven among the trees and they need to be adjusted every few years to accommodate the trunk’s changing girth.

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Looking back from the grass to the home offers a view of the gorgeous second story deck which spans the width of the home and is outfitted with lounges and greenery in bright white cans.

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The outdoor dining room graces a small brick patio and is partially screened from the neighboring property by Thuja.

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This small guest house was added in a recent remodel and its patio offers space for the outdoor kitchen plus a powder room for guests.

As you exit the back garden by the side yard an out of the way, but easily accessed, nook has been created for the family’s bikes. Even the family dog has a stylish pad, including his own sun screen.

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The small space between the driveway and the property line fence is outfitted in keeping with the home’s formal front garden–including its own Adirondack loungers…

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…and a Little Free Library in case you need a good book while enjoying the garden!

PARADISE IN A MEADOW

I like to start a garden post with a street shot–sort of a curb appeal intro to what the garden is all about. The Palo Alto neighborhood surrounding the Gamble Garden has homes of all styles and sizes set on smallish to moderate sized lots by California semi-urban standards. Real estate here is purchased possibly by the square inch and even a tear down property is priced in the multi-millions. Homes may be very close to the street and shielded from view by walls or hedges. Mansions on huge lots with expansive gardens are rare but very large homes on small lots are not, especially if the current home is not the original one built on the parcel.

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This historic Victorian home (photographed from the neighbor’s front walk) rises above its totally enclosed modern meadow garden inspired by New York City’s High Line, a naturalistic garden established on an unused spur of the city’s elevated train. Check out http://www.thehighline.org if you are not familiar with this unique garden offering trails and a killer NYC view.

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As you enter the shallow but heavily planted area you are greeted by a fawn sized moss topiary grazing on its planted partners. Access to the open meadow is narrow and with a steady line of tour goers it is not possible to even step aside to identify or photograph individual plants.

Mixed plantings of shrubs, perennials, grasses, bulbs and ferns fill this small space, including many plants selected for their popularity in Victorian gardens–such as the Bear’s Breeches in the upper left and the Queen’s palm in the upper right.

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The meadow is reached through a tunnel arbor planted thickly with sweet peas and other flowering annuals. Artistic accents are welcome surprises around each curve.

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Entering the sunny meadow we walk along a single person wide path–a profusion of flowering trees and shrubs, bamboo, grasses, bulbs and perennials mingle in happy abandon.

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The path follows the outside curve of the sunny center allowing us to walk in shade looking back over the meadow to the home’s porch.

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The death of a massive oak last year offered the opportunity to plant two Chinese silk floss trees, one of which you see in front of the group of visitors. The tree’s trunk sports huge thorns and it will bear pink hibiscus like flowers in late summer through fall.

This eye-catching Albuca batteniana is tucked among the path’s green backdrop. This is a rarish South African perennial bulb related to Orthinogalum and will eventually have white starry flowers. The leaves were a yard long and the immature flower stalk rose over my head. I would think it a winner even if it never bloomed!

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This beautiful vine draped arbor along the back of the garden was the space’s standout for me, offering a shady space to relax, dine and enjoy the garden.

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The front half of the arbor has metal roofing in addition to the vines but the back half is open as you can see by the shade lines. Comfy outdoor furniture invites visitors to rest a bit while they admire one of several beautiful flower arrangement made from flowers, branches and foliage cut from the meadow.

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View of the garden from the outdoor seating area under the arbor.

The more shaded end of the arbor is shielded from the street and the home’s parking by a double gate made from the same materials. These gorgeous custom iron handles and latches grace the double gate and adjacent pedestrian gate.

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Looking back from the cobbled parking pad to the gates and arbor–who says functional can’t be also charming?

These first two gardens on the 2019 Gamble Garden Tour could not be more different from one another. The meadow garden, carefully planned and executed, results in a look of wild and natural abandon–anything goes! The classic, clean lines and limited palette of the first offer traditional garden beauty while not limiting the family’s use of the space for parties and play.

With such an inspiring start to this year’s tour I can’t wait to for you to see what’s next. This year I will spread the gardens over a few posts to give you as many photos and details as possible. Keep your eyes open for more gardens coming up soon–right now I am off to the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden’s spring plant sale!!