In a daze in Denver…morning walkabout

Having arrived in Denver yesterday about 4 hours later than anticipated, I lost my half day exploring time to fatigue and dusk. As the 2019 Garden Bloggers Fling itinerary opens with ID badge pick up mid afternoon today followed closely by the evening welcome reception I have only a few hours this morning to wander the Lower Downtown Historic District of Denver–referred to by locals (or perhaps only the tourist maps) as LoDo.

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Denver has a wonderful public transit system–I rode in from the airport on the A-Line commuter rail then jumped on the 16th Street Mallride which took me only a block from my hotel. The Mallride runs continuously for about a mile on 16th Street which is closed to other vehicle traffic, with stops every block in both directions. My plan for the morning is to ride it back toward its terminus at Union Station to see the Millennium Bridge then walk the way back to see what’s on this street packed with shops and restaurants.

First, a quick detour to visit an immigrant from my home state of California…

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Entitled I See What You Mean but known locally as The Big Blue Bear, this iconic 40 foot bear stands peering into the wall of windows at the Denver Convention Center.

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Clearly a favorite spot for tourist photos, the big boy weighs about 10,000 pounds and cost about $425,000 to install. Artist Lawrence Argent was tasked with creating a work which would represent Colorado without the clichéd symbols such as trees and mountains. The bear was inspired by a newspaper article in which a Colorado resident relates encountering a curious bear peaking into his home, the incident being representative of the everyday interaction between humans and wildlife in Colorado.

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Is he interested in what’s inside or in his own reflection?
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Looking almost as though he is in his natural tree laden habitat

The bear, constructed in California and installed in 2005, was not always intended to be blue. The artist saw a mock up of the piece mistakenly printed in blue and the Big Blue Bear was born! Artist Lawrence Argent passed away in 2017 and is also known for two other mammoth sized creatures: a 49 foot giant panda in a Chinese Mall and a 56 foot long rabbit hopping through the Sacramento, CA airport.

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The Big Blue Bear as viewed from inside the Denver Convention Center

A quick ride on the 16th Street Mallride takes me to the base of the Millennium Bridge.

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The Denver Millennium Bridge is the world’s first cable stayed bridge built using post-tensioned structural construction. No water here–this bridge offers pedestrians and bicyclists a way across the massive railroad track system. Construction started in 1999 and the bridge opened in 2002. The white tapered steel mast rises 200 feet and is connected to the bridge deck and foundation anchored by steel cables. By the numbers the  bridge is quite small–only 131 feet long and 26 feet wide.

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View of the northwestern skyline from the bridge
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Looking back from the bridge
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Looking up at the mast and web of cables
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The mast and cables as reflected in the adjacent mirrored glass office building

First stop on my walk back will be Union Station where I arrived in Denver yesterday. It looks totally different this morning. I arrived a bit after 5 pm yesterday–rush hour AND just as the Colorado Rockies-Chicago Cubs game ended and very nearby Coors Field was spilling out its thousands of fans bound for dinner and drinks on 16th Street.

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The historic and the modern co-exist peacefully at Denver’s Union Station. Union Station was established in 1881 as the hub of Denver rail traffic and it remains so today, its historic buildings beautifully restored and surrounded by modern shade sails and gleaming highrises. The stationary car is one of the domed cars previously running on the Summit View line.

Visible in the distance from the tracks and platforms was this interesting moving piece of art sitting high over the trains. I finally found the way up to the overhead walkway which offered an up-close view.

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I wasn’t able to immediately locate any information about this piece of public art. It very much resembles a moving oil pump like those we see in California around the Bakersfield area.

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Union Station’s interior is meticulously restored–like stepping back into time, only with free wi-fi. Also within the station is the upscale Crawford Hotel which offers tours of Union Station in addition to lodging and meeting rooms.

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Train station memorabilia

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Having entered Union Station on the railroad track side I exited on the Wynkoop Street side where I found this art installation. There is no plaque or attribution but after surfing the net for a bit I located the website of the artist, Jim Sanborn. The piece is a bronze projection cylinder entitled Meridian and stands 12 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

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Unfortunately there is no information on the website specific to the piece, other than a photo and its title. This artist has done many projection cylinders–when the piece is lit from the inside at night the words project on the ground around the cylinder. In this case the wording appears to be a chronological history of the area. Notice the words at the top of the piece are in Spanish and follow the date 1776. I will definitely visit this artwork after dark to see the projection!

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A few other Denver transportation notes…wildlife apparently both ride bikes and skateboards and would like you to do so also–at least on June 26.

Yes, there are scooters…EVERYWHERE…and people, young and old, are zipping around on them. They not only ride but also take selfies and text at the same time.

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Even though I learned yesterday that the absolute best photo op for Coors Stadium, home of the Colorado Rockies, is from a moving train (and I missed it!) I’m going to see what I can see of the stadium by wandering down Wynkoop Street–I think it’s down that way somewhere! I pass the old Union Pacific Railroad building, now a trendy eatery.

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The back of the building now houses condos with easy access to the stadium on game day and a variety of dining options just a few floors down.

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I’m heading literally toward left field thinking that is all I’m going to get to see of the stadium when a worker from a massive new development being built in the stadium’s west lot approaches me, thinking I’m lost, and tells me how to get to the stadium’s main entrance.

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There were a number of these nicely shaped trees near the stadium. The leaves were two fairly distinctive colors–limey and medium green next to each other. I am sure by the end of my Denver daze I’ll know what these are.

Even without the game day activity it is an imposing building–all red brick with all its trim painted in a rich dark green which I have seen all over the historic district. Much like the blackish green known all over the south as Charleston green, I’m guessing this reminiscent of the forest green is known here as Denver green.

Denver’s got a lot going on in this part of town…

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A local craft brewery is growing hops on cables up the side of their building.

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A colorful herd of bison (buffalo??) is passing through.

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Old and new words have found homes painted on their buildings.

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Thrifty, eco-conscious drinkers have pooled their bottle caps to make cool, colorful planter boxes.

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What other city has an informational cow?

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Colorful planters are springing to life everywhere.

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There is an iconic clock tower which can be seen from both ends of the 16th Street mall.

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And a money museum at the local branch of the Federal Reserve. I wonder what you can get in the gift shop?

More to show, more to tell as our Fling itinerary is about to begin! Fling? What’s a Fling? Look back at my 2017 post Garden Bloggers Spring Fling…getting to know you! to find out what this is all about. Denver–here we come!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m calling it ‘Geranium lazarusii’…

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Geranium nodosum ‘Clos du Coudray’

Although neither our alkaline clay-ish soil nor our zero humidity screaming hot summers are friendly toward them, I have a never ending friendship with the hardy geraniums, specifically the genus Geranium, not the pelargoniums we casually call geraniums. As they are not as common in California as other parts of the US I cannot resist buying almost any one I see in my gardening travels and am guilty of not always doing my research before swiping my credit card.

Three years ago while on my first Garden Conservancy Open Days jaunt I visited Digging Dog Nursery in Albion, CA near the Mendocino coast. My post Mendocino madness…#2 will give you a glimpse of Deborah Wigham and Gary Ratway’s wonderful demonstration garden, retail and mail-order nursery flourishing in a forest near sea level in Northern California. They have great selections in small sizes so it’s easy to try a lot of different plants for not such a huge investment. One of three hardy geraniums I purchased there is Geranium nodosum ‘Clos du Coudray’, named after a famous garden in the Normandy region of France. G. nodosum spreads by underground rhizomatous roots to form medium sized mounds and is indicated to use in medium to light shade area. My reference material–which I had with me to consult as I shopped–states “At least two sources have reported G. nodosum can become very invasive and that it is very difficult to eradicate.” Well, I have made a few missteps in the past on planting things purported to be invasive–the dreaded Lippia nodiflora (AKA Lippia repens AKA Phyla nodiflora) took years out of my gardening life to finally see the last of it after I blithely planted a 4″ pot in a rose bed needing ground cover, foolishly believing I could confine it with a brick edging. It not only overtook the bed but also everything else planted in it. Hoping to not have a repeat of that messy situation I planted little ‘Clos du Coudray’ in the Secret Garden behind our outdoor pavilion where I thought it could not do lasting harm if it ran amok under the sequoias. I never saw it again until today. After its almost immediate disappearance I have periodically checked the ground near the ID tag for signs of life three or four times a year since the summer of 2016. Nothing, nada, zilch.

Like Lazarus, the little jewel has risen from the dead. It actually looks as though this might be its second bloom, albeit only a single bloom stalk (stem? whatever!) With nine leaves I think I am in no immediate danger of the area being overrun! I will keep a close watch over it though as it has had almost three full years to build up its strength.

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!

 

 

 

First glimpse…’Lavender Tonic’

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

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Hemerocallis ‘Lavender Tonic’

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

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

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

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

 

Easing into the East Bay…Casa de Sueños

I climbed high in the hills of Oakland to the Cabot Park neighborhood to find my next garden on Garden Conservancy’s East Bay Open Days itinerary–although I am sure somewhere on this property there was a killer view toward the Bay, this garden was all about the plants.

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This house of dreams has been a garden journey for the homeowner and her son for 21 years since purchasing the modern fifties-something wood ranch house on almost an acre covered in eucalyptus and ivy.

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My tour started at the bottom of a long steep driveway–I wandered the garden for almost 15 minutes before I even found the house. This rusted gate and fabulous textural tapestry of large scale plantings sets the stage for the lush tropical nature of the entire garden. Those of you who read my blog even occasionally know that my succulent and tropical knowledge doesn’t even rate a two on a scale of one to ten so it goes without saying that you are not going to see very many named plants in this post. That big spiky whopper is an agave and its almost furry neighbor to the left is a leucadendron, I think–maybe a few phormiums behind the agave?

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I’ve got this one! Cerinthe major scrambles at the feet of its giant companions

 

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At the top of the driveway I’m faced with a decision to go left or right–having no idea what lies in either direction and still with no house in sight.

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I decide on the path to the right and find myself on what was apparently additional driveway circling the house to end at the garage. this stretch is now used as a veritable nursery installation packed full of potted specimens, rooting cuttings and quirky art.

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Yup…this is a chair in a tree!

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This bloom spike (agave??) is coming from a very large specimen in a really small pot and it looks like a rocket launching against the backdrop of the tall cypress.

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I get myself turned around and head toward what I can only guess is the interior of the garden. Every inch of earth and sky seems packed with foliage and flowers.

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Piled rocks form low retaining walls and raised beds that weave in and out of sunlight.

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This tiny but detailed shrine is tucked into the crotch of a tree. This is the first of many Asian and Indonesian influences seen throughout the garden, apparently the fruits of the homeowner’s travels.

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Plants and found objects are tucked amongst the rocks. I loved this small moss-covered water bowl.

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This path eventually brings me to a large koi pond which is sited just at the end of the house.

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Rocks and logs outline the pond’s shape and all manner of plant material is tucked into every viable inch of earth. The koi pond goddess sculpture is the work of artist Vickie Jo Sewell.

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From this vantage point you can see the shade structure protecting the path at the end of the house.

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A narrow walkway circles the house, a low slung wood side rancher that blends into the landscape. This abutilon is one of several I saw and is easily the tallest one I have ever seen. It appears to rise out of this 4 foot tall urn but is actually planted behind it on the slope. Getting a little further from the vignette, the color orange runs through this grouping as it does through many in this garden.

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A cool azure pool beckons visitors as this garden touring day heats up a bit. This high up the hill feels a lot closer to the sun, especially in this open sky space.

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Fanciful ceramic blooms by artist Marcia Donohue are clustered at the pool’s far end. You might remember that I saw similar pieces by this Berkeley artist in a San Jose garden featured in Tech meets (very little) turf #2… last year. I have been told that Marcia opens her garden to the public several days a year and experiencing it is definitely on my bucket list.

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The garden has multiple paths and most have a slope component of some kind. Rock steps and retaining walls with built in places to stop for a rest are plentiful. Clivia blooms continue the hot palette even in the leafy shade.

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These remnants of broken pots are a pop of cool color amidst the greens.

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A fierce fish swims through the trees near the pool house.

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Not a clue as to what this is but it was amazing that the weight of the top does not pull the small pot holding it over on its side.

Colorful succulents are tucked in EVERYWHERE. Sometimes they are the star of the show and other time play the supporting roles.

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Back near the sunny side of the koi pond and the path to the driveway downhill is this very happy planting of Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt’, a plant I have had zero success at growing. At first glance many of the planted areas could appear to be just a jumble of whatever fit in the space. The more time I spent in the garden it was clear that the selections were clearly curated for diversity in foliage texture and color.

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Plants in the ground and in pots live happily with rocks and interesting found objects.

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Another look at the upper driveway as I left this incredible garden. Although the tropical vibe of this garden is not necessarily my personal gardening style, I could not help but admire the love and care this gardener has invested in her property over many years. The sheer volume of plantings on the property is amazing. I did not get to meet this homeowner but I am sure she has many, many plant collecting stories to tell us all.

Next up–I head back to Berkeley to see a historic garden near the Claremont Hotel  where I have a close encounter with a ring tailed garden mama.

 

 

Achillea ‘Peter Cottontail’ PPAF…

I paid a visit to an acquaintance the other day–that is, a garden center I had not shopped at in about 7 or 8 years. Sierra View Nursery on Academy Ave. is about as far east in Clovis as I am west in Fresno and almost requires me to take a canteen and pack a lunch! I had purchased a couple of Blue Point junipers there when we first started renovating our current garden but found nothing else compelling enough to make many return trips since then.  After chatting about salvias with Adam Steinkraus who does our lawn weed control, his recommendation of the nursery prompted me to take another look.

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The planted vintage pick up truck ‘driving’ through a sea of ground cover roses was worth the trip all by itself.

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The grounds have changed immeasurably since I was there years ago. My recollection is of an open air space stocked with mostly shrubs and trees plus some edibles. They now have an extensive selection of perennials and natives and it appears they grow a fair amount of their own stock.

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Yarrows, salvias, penstemons, oh my!

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I recently saw this unusual foxglove on a garden tour and was excited to be able to put a name to it: Digitalis Foxlight™ Ruby Glow, apparently one of a series of exciting new foxgloves.

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I also was excited to see a yarrow similar to one I had seen on my tour of Urban Adamah in Berkeley (Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…) which Landscape Coordinator Emily had been momentarily unable to identify. Most of my yarrow experience has been with the ferny-leafed Achillea millefolium which is available in a number of pastel and hot color shadings. New to me is Achillea ptarmica. It is native to Europe and Asia and is a more erect plant having deep green, narrow finely toothed leaves. The flower heads are born singly rather than in the flat clusters of common yarrow and are larger at about 1/2″. I think the foliage will provide some contrast to the mostly gray green plants in the new lawn free front garden areas. Above you can see one of the two I added to those beds.

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The Achillea ptarmica ‘Peter Cottontail’-ish button flower heads will add a bright white pop to my purple, blue, pink palette. Who could resist a plant which evokes the playful and whimsical feelings every cottage garden needs?

So, take time to visit someone whom you never got to know well enough to realize you have so many interests in common…even if you have to pack for a road trip.