Easing into the East Bay…Keeyla Meadows Gardens & Art

I am going to end the Garden Conservancy Open Days East Bay posts with a bang as I take you to the home and studio of renowned painter, sculptor and garden designer, Keeyla Meadows. You’ve met Keeyla and seen some of her garden design in my posts Easing into the East Bay…fearless color and Digging Deeper with Keeyla Meadows at Urban Adamah…. If you’ve not read those posts, make sure to go back to them as a chaser for this visit. I am not sure you could ever get too much of Keeyla–from her cowboy boots and headful of springy curls to her color rich garden and whimsical sculpture she revels in her life filled with art and nature.

KEEYLA MEADOWS GARDENS & ART IN ALBANY

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Keeyla makes her home and some of her art in this 1910 wood framed bungalow on a small lot in a cozy neighborhood where I imagine everyone knows everyone else and someone probably periodically drags their grill out front for a block party. There is no doubt that this colorful house is the home of an artist! Keeyla works in many mediums–bronze, paint, ceramics and of course, plants plus all the other elements which enhance gardens. Her uninhibited use of color makes her gardens giant scale works of art.

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Gardens themed with the use of saturated color are like living color paintings!

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Keeyla has changed the dynamics of her once flat front garden with huge slabs and boulders of native stone which she used to create drama and additional square footage in a small space. Rocks add stability and the varying elevations add interest. In addition to the time I spent in Keeyla’s garden on my own, I took part in her Digging Deeper presentation along with about 25 other tour goers. The walking workshop opened our eyes to her design process and how to translate our personal color preferences into tangible form in our own gardens. I’ll try to weave bits of that workshop in amongst the garden pictorial. The exuberant gardening lady above is one of many figures created by Keeyla throughout her garden.

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A bronze couple bids you welcome and marks the way to Keeyla’s back garden. This would be a good time to buckle up!

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Garden gate forged by Keeyla
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Narrow stone path takes you into the heart of the garden

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As the space opens up the raised porch leading to Keeyla’s door (she doesn’t use the front door!) is to the left and on the right this small roughly circular patio area sports an Alice in Wonderland glass table and fairytale benches for casual dining. Several of the huge boulders found in this area were originally destined for further back in the garden and if the crane man could have gotten them over the house to place them Keeyla would have been able to have the larger friends and family outdoor table and chairs she longed for. The boulders in their current placement form a sort of second story planting opportunity–taking the plant materials up in layers.

The side wall of the small garage offers a backdrop that invites this fanciful gardener to join in any group gathered around the table.

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Ceramic works grace a stone topped console
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Cast stone retaining walls work in tandem with large boulders to create the garden’s varying elevations–this vignette is adjacent to the blue ceramic fruits seen a few photos back
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One of Keeyla’s many color themed ceramic pots–this one has my name written all over it!

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Just a step away is an ornate forged arch…

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…and another of Keeyla’s fanciful bronze sculptures.

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Looking back from the arch, the checkerboard porch leads to Keeyla’s kitchen where she was preparing a special snack for her Digging Deeper participants.

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Flowing skirts are an oft-explored subject, these fashioned in metal
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Faces, purses and sunglasses, too

Let’s stop my own ramble for a moment to peek in on parts of Keeyla’s Digging Deeper workshop.

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Because our group was quite large and there were still many visitors in her small back garden Keeyla gathered us up and we stepped across the street to the driveway plant sale captained by master plant propagator Susan Ashley. She began the discussion by throwing out the question, “What function do you want your garden to serve in your life?”, and many participants voiced hopes specific to their own spaces including: respite, recreation, dining, entertaining, growing food, providing habitat for wildlife and making an appealing environment for pollinators. Keeyla used plants from the sale to make suggestions filling various roles in the garden.

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I think I’ve already convinced you that Keeyla loves a big rock–not just for defining spaces, creating visual interest and multiplying available planting space but also for a good podium from which to address us all. What is not really visible either in this shot or in similar ones at the beginning of the post is that Keeyla has placed HUGE squarish slabs of rock almost directly against the railing (or maybe wall?) of her front porch. This once very flat front yard has tremendous dimension now and is home to hundreds of plants. The curb appeal of her bungalow is not the structure itself, but the garden which almost obscures it. She is in the gradual process of changing over the plant materials in the front garden to emphasize natives and already many of the reseeding native annuals are making their presence known.

We take a few step walk to what was once her driveway, now home to many large planters of edibles which are favorites of the neighborhood children, then we take the back garden by storm! Keeyla explains that each area of her garden has a color theme and that she designs using a tool she has dubbed as a ‘color triangle’, sort of a reinvention of the traditional color wheel. Keeyla has written two books: Making Gardens Works of Art (Sasquatch Books 2002) and Fearless Color Gardens (Timber Press 2009)–it is in Fearless Color Gardens that she lays out the color triangle process as a tool to create both harmony and contrast. She challenges us to select a color–red, blue, green, yellow–and walk through the garden gathering flowers and leaves in all tones and variations of that color.

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Not the greatest photos in a small space filled with many participants (and quite dark with the red painted ceiling!) but we lay out our gatherings using red, blue and yellow as the triangle’s points, then layering in the combinations and gradations as on a color wheel. The flowers were a great visual to see how color combinations can create both harmony and drama in your garden.

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Our garden findings made a great backdrop for the lovely mixed fruit tart Keeyla had made for us along with several other healthy bites. I didn’t think to take any photos of them but we ate our shared meal on a variety of Keeyla’s one of a kind original plates in all colors and designs.

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A peak at some of Keeyla’s vibrant paintings stacked up in what would be her living room
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Back to wandering the garden–annuals, perennials and succulents all live companionably

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An exquisite forged arch dripping with delicate angel’s trumpet blooms stands in tribute to the living plant barely seen to the right. This was perhaps my favorite piece in the garden–delicate and organic. I would love to have an arch like this over my half height interior garden gate.

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The yellow angel’s trumpet–inspiration for the arch or added because of the arch?
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A little closer view of the arch
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This raspberry clematis scrambles up to meet the forged bronze flowers

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A raised path just beyond the beautiful arch leads to one entrance of Keeyla’s garden art studio and its yellow and purple themed garden.

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These last six photos from the yellow and purple garden where taken by simply standing in place and making a 360 degree circle–it is a very small area but packed with plants of all textures and sizes–each chosen for its ability to contribute to the color theme.

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The garden studio
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Several of a series of dresses-not sure if these are ceramic or real dresses which have been coated with something to allow each to stiffen as Keeyla has arranged it

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Leaving the studio through French doors which face the interior of the garden there is  a rock waterfall whose ‘banks’ are canvases for arrangements of huge filled pottery and all manner of blooming color. The pink and purple bench offers a spot to not only relax but view the design from uphill looking down.

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A wire bird perched on the studio’s roof sips nectar from a wire bloom
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Bronze figure tucked amongst the bank plantings
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Close-up taken while perched on a big boulder!
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Looking back toward the studio

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Hands down my favorite part of the garden–possibly because my color preferences tend to not be as bold as Keeyla’s and more so that she designed this pastel corner in memory of her mother who taught her about flowers and encouraged her interest in the natural world. The hues of the lavender, pink and yellow mosaic bench are echoed, in larger scale, in the mixed media floor beneath it. This garden room lies directly behind the bungalow and is visible from her kitchen window.

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A motherly angel hovers over a mosaic background
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The art installation–reminiscent of a shrine–is topped with a wild haired girl/woman
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Closer look at the mosaic
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Pinks and lavenders reign in this part of the garden but Keeyla always loves a pop of yellow

Keeyla Meadows believes that gardening is an act of gratitude–appreciation for all that nature has given us. Her reverance for the natural world and acknowledgment of how small a part each one of us plays in the whole is expressed in her garden and her art. She is young at heart, exuberant, and generous with her skills and talents. I aspire to having a piece of her work grace my garden and it would be all the more special by having spent a little bit of time with her at both Urban Adamah and in her own personal space. What could be better than a gallery in a garden?

Keeyla’s website http://www.keeylameadows.net has many close-up photos of her art in all her mediums plus gardens she has designed. I encourage you to visit it whenever you feel the need of a smile that you can’t seem to come to on your own! Contact Keeyla at keeylameadows@gmail.com if you would like to make arrangements to see her garden in person next time you are in the Berkley/Albany area. Please note this a correction for those who may have read the original post a few days ago–Keeyla’s garden is no longer open on Sunday afternoons as stated on her website.

NOTE: those of you who have been counting the Garden Conservancy Open Days East Bay posts will know I am one short, having presented only four of the five. I am going to keep the last one in reserve for a dry spell when I am not traveling anyplace interesting and my own garden is not worth writing about. Tomorrow I am off on a road trip with garden girls Ann D. and Glee M. to Greenwood Daylily Gardens in Somis, CA. Wednesday next I fly to Denver for the Garden Bloggers Fling in Denver, Colorado–three and a half days of non-stop private and public garden touring with lots of food and fellowship mixed in. Having only been stranded in the Denver airport in a blizzard and never actually in the city I’m taking an extra day before and one after to allow me to see as many sites as possible. I’m gonna be in a Denver Daze…I’m sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easing into the East Bay…aging gracefully

When the Garden Conservancy Open Days Directory arrives in the mail each April I can’t wait to read through the descriptions of the gardens included on any of the California days which I have already penciled in on my calendar. This garden preservation non-profit offers regular gardeners like you and I entre into beautiful private gardens to which we could never hope otherwise to have access. I don’t know if each garden’s preview paragraph and title are written by staff or by the homeowner but they always offer highlights not to miss and often historical information which enhances the visitor’s experience in the garden. Rarely are the profiles overstated–in the case of this third garden on my whirlwind Saturday in the East Bay–the title, at least, was understated. We all should be aging as gracefully or have lived as colorful a life as this garden has.

Having no real familiarity with Berkeley I was unaware of the the Hotel Claremont and its role in the development of the well-heeled, quiet residential streets which surround it. As I entered the area from south of the hotel I did not even see it until I had left the garden and then, having caught a glimpse as I was making a left turn, had no way to even take a quick photo for those of you who do not know it. I found this unattributed photo below to give you a flavor of its style.

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Let me briefly tell you the tale of the home which this next garden graces as a way to set the scene to view that garden as it is today.

The Claremont Hotel was built on land formerly known as the Palache and Garber Estates, high in the Berkeley Hills. The vision was for a tourist hotel surrounded by 14 acres of park-like gardens, all seen from vistas around the Bay. The surrounding gardens were to set the scene for and encourage the building of beautiful homes in the adjacent gently rolling hillsides. Train and ferry systems recently developed would connect the East Bay to San Francisco, opening the area for refined suburban living by those who could afford it without limiting their access to doing business in the city. Residential lots would be large with significant setbacks, encouraging picturesque and park influenced front gardens. Ground was broken in 1906 and the hotel largely finished in 1915 after a number of financial issues and, ultimately, its sale to another owner.

Ten subdivisions of residential lots were released between 1905 and 1907 and many palatial homes in a variety of styles were built long before the hotel itself was open. The 4th release of lots was called the Hotel Claremont Tract and Mr. Howard Hart stood ready to purchase its prime lots, #1, #2 and #3 on which he planned to build a massive home in the Spanish and Italian renaissance style. These lots lay just southeast of the hotel on a street which curves back upon itself so tightly that they had street on all sides save the southernmost. Think of the letter U laying on its side–the curve of the U faces the Claremont and it would be prominent in the views of the 43 room manse. Lot #2 & #3 would allow room for a conservatory, ample gardens and chauffeur’s quarters built over garage space. Mr. Hart had made his fortune mining gold in the Klondike and no expense would be spared in the building of his new estate.

The first structure to be built on the property was the garage and its second story apartment. Built on Lot #3 with easy access to the street via a long curving driveway, this garage and the portions of the gardens developed adjacent to it are all that remains of the grand Hart estate completed in 1912. The balance of the estate has long since been divided again into smaller lots, now having homes of their own. Additional parts of the garden have been preserved at two of these homes but are not visible from the street.

THE HART GARAGE GARDEN IN BERKELEY

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The current homeowner has characterized the property as “the ugly duckling in the neighborhood” and admits that she refused to even look at it when it came on the market. Neither the home (ok, the garage) nor the remnants of the once fabulous garden are visible from the street. There is nothing remotely translating to a “front door.” Living in an area starved for anything green and especially mature trees I knew it had to be beautiful back in there somewhere!

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As you walk up the driveway there are lovely, primarily green borders undulating amongst lawn areas. Tall trees provide shade and shadows which only enhance the almost fairytale feel.

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

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A lovely open sunny spot.

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Cool and refined–perhaps what the Claremont Hotel builders had in mind?

To the right of the very wide drive is this first peek at the sweeping staircase leading to the apartment over the garage. the Harts lived in the apartment while the main home was under construction and perhaps that is the reason for such a grand staircase entry for a living space to be used as chauffeur’s quarters. Tall spires of Acanthus mollis are nestled in a very small footprint at the base of the stairs and what I think is a Phormium with its bronzy leaves is taller than I am.

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

I believe this open space leads to what was at one time the entrance to the lower area called “the pit” where car repairs were done. Directly to the right is a large paved area with parking for multiple cars.

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A steep terraced slope filled with roses and edged in boxwood makes the transition from the concrete parking area up to the garden’s next level. The gaily black and white striped umbrella is one of several throughout the garden.

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

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From this angle you can see a bit of the arch belonging to the estate’s original porte-cochere which had been totally enclosed in an unfortunate past remodel. The current owner restored the porte cochere and cut in the wide staircase for easy garden access.

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Wisteria trails off the restored porte cochere

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

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The sweeping pergola appears to have once connected the conservatory and farthest gardens to the main house. Sturdy circular columns support crossbeams cloaked in vines and lit a night. At the end you can see the current property line. I couldn’t tell if any of the pergola remains in the adjacent garden. Parts of this walkway needed replacement and the current homeowners commissioned custom brick, including its unique beveled edge, to make the best match possible.

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Pergola hanging lanterns

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Slightly downhill from the pergola is a lovely shaded sitting and dining area carved out of the existing shrubbery beds. The homeowner removed a wide swathe of old hydrangeas, added a couple of stone steps down and a gravel floor. She shared with us that this small change is one that made the most impact on day to day life in the garden.

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The former flower bed is now home to a casual teak dining table and chairs on which she had placed welcome snacks and beautiful floral arrangements using materials from her garden.

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This was a wonderful spot to relax for several minutes and look over materials detailing the history of the home and garden and some of the most recent renovations. The lady of the house was in the garden answering questions and made sure we didn’t miss this shady haven. Thank you to her and to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association for a wonderful booklet from which I took many notes from to be able to give you the area history which lead off this post.

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

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I stepped through the pergola on the uphill side to enjoy a long and narrow koi pond built in a classic style with water softly trickling from an embedded fountain.

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A shady resting point at the far end of the koi pond shelters a marble statue which was found under layers of greenery and dirt when the garden was renovated. The black and white stripe fabric playing off bright green backdrops is a theme carried through the landscape.

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

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

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The slope on the koi pond end of the garden is more shady and more formally planted. These sculptural tree trunks and their leaf canopies shield the pond and its dual chaise lounge resting spot from the vista when you are high on the slope.

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

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There are lots of small succulents in the foreground. The plantings disguise the packed gravel and stone paths that zigzag their way up the hill.

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

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

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A peak through the gate next to the fireplace reveals a steep slope packed with agapanthus, bellflowers and cast-iron plant. A stepping stone path leads to who knows where?

I use the set of stairs closest to the fireplace to ascend the hill. Paths led both forward and to the left. Which way to go? I am going to wander my way up and across–let’s see what I find!

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Large scale phormiums and fat agapanthus clumps cover a lot of real estate near the fence. This was one of only a few places where any other house (even the roof) could be seen. The sense of enclosure and privacy was wonderful–definitely in your own little world in this garden.

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

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Reaching the uppermost cross garden terrace path I am in deep shade surrounded by acanthus, ferns, camellias and other low light classics. The home you can barely see in the background sits on a lot which was once part of this garden.

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Looking across the garden pittosporum brighten up the shade and are clearly trimmed to keep them quite low. Much of the uphill side of the path is built up even further with rocks.

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

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

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So many artful presentations…
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…and arrangements

Beautiful roses, most but not all pale in hue, are a mainstay in this garden along with many classic plants from the era the Hart Estate was built.  Many decades old shrubs, trees and perennials were refreshed adding to the mature feel of the space. The traditional mixes freely with succulents and salvias. The terracing of the slope provides ground to grow many much more plant material than if the slope were simply graded. The multiple paths spanning the entire width of the garden lead you to believe you have walk very far from home when, in fact, you are only a few feet away.

This garden is up there in my top ten private gardens I’ve seen on countless tours over a decade. The mixtures of formality and playfulness, old and new, leafy and spiny are all very appealing. Regardless of its size and complexity it feels like a manageable garden, in part due to the casual but not messy attitude of the terraced slope. The shady seating and dining housed in the reformed hydrangea bed and the serene koi pond are both perfectly done. I would have loved to have seen the restoration of the interior space; wiping out the sins of the 80’s and reforming it from garage to beloved family home over the span of seven years. I’ll be watching the Berkeley Historical Architectural website http://www.berkeleyheritage.com for any interior tours in the future. A++ on this one!

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

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

 

 

 

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.

CASA DE SUEÑOS IN OAKLAND

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.

 

 

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

 

Howdy from Austin…party at Lucinda’s

My apologies that the Austin posts have been appearing in dribs and drabs. Lots of May travel pushed my own late spring garden tasks right on in to June and I have not caught up yet. Add to that some June travel, lots of mountain cabin maintenance (when the smoke from surrounding blazes was not too bad), my husband’s retirement and too many other distractions to list. I think these are supposed to be my Golden Years…

I like to introduce posts about private gardens with a nice wide photo of the garden’s street side vista to let you take in what any walker, runner or bicyclist would enjoy as they pass by on their daily routine. This time I’m going to introduce you to the garden creator first, as she sets the stage better than any wide shot could.

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Lucinda Hutson is a cookbook author, garden and lifestyle author and lover of all things “Texican”. Lucinda is a self described tequila aficionada and the golden nectar is the focus of her latest book, Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking and Other Agave Adventures. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and has lived in and gardened on her urban Austin cottage property for over 41 years. Her website (www.lucindahutson.com) entitled Life is a Fiesta with Lucinda! is a party for both your eyes and your spirit.

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How can you not love a gardener who wears purple cowboy boots??

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We arrive at Lucinda’s casita “La Morada” (little purple house) in a dappled early morning light that only exaggerates the cottage’s whimsical, Texas style fairy tale aura. Being a girl whose own garden graces a home with a purple front door and matching trellis work, how can I not be tickled by this brightly colored bungalow? The bright white trim allows the bold colors to pop while also acting as a unifying detail. Lucinda has done what we all secretly want to do–she has painted her home to delight herself rather than for resale!

The sculptural tree trunk is that of a ginkgo tree, planted by Lucinda 36 years ago from a five gallon can. She shared that it is one of the oldest and tallest ginkgo species in Austin.

A purple house deserves a pink door in my book and the floral themed tile accents set the tone for the layer upon layer of detail the rest of the home and garden offer. Just to the left of the arch you can see Lucinda’s tiled house number leap right off its purple backdrop.

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Sancho, the resident gato, keeps a watchful eye on his garden’s visitors.

Lucinda’s garden was originally an organic herb garden, an integral part of her life as an author of books and articles about cooking and entertaining. But as many gardens do, it evolved over time into a gathering spot for friends and neighbors and a place for Lucinda to try new plants and observe the constant buzz of nature around her.

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At the time of our visit the front garden was predominantly green, some plants having finished their early spring flowering and other summer bloomers not yet at their prime. Please go to her website and take the photographic garden tour and you will see much abloom plus an great display of vining  and climbing beauties ablaze with bright flowers.

Lucinda graciously invited those who desired to go through her home to reach the back garden as a way of spreading out the traffic flow in the small space. I decided to take the gravel path, passing the shady woodland area, into the wide side courtyard.

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This side courtyard is appropriately called the Fish Pond and Mermaid Grotto and is awash (no pun intended) with all things of the sea.

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This lushly planted area abounds with a great variety of foliage and blooming plants, including many pots.

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Even the stone wall behind the pond has a fish swimming across it!

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The mermaid altar rises from a sea of copper troughs in which succulents and sansevieria are planted, as if on the sea floor.

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On the cottage side of the courtyard this Haitian mermaid and friends swim in a sea of purple.

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Colorful pots echo the purple and hot pink color theme.

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An open area with seating perfect for relaxing with a glass of iced tea separates the Pond and Mermaid Grotto from the Kitchen Garden, where the cool blues and purples of the sea give way to yellows and oranges evoking the Texican theme.

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All manner of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers grow in raised beds and containers. You can get a glimpse in both photos (near the greenhouse) of Our Lady of La Tina in her bathtub shrine keeping an eye on all that grows here.

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Lucinda unabashedly admits that her garden is both water and labor intensive. Although she has an extensive drip system many hours, especially in the hottest parts of summer, are needed with a hose in hand, making sure every little corner and pot has been covered.  Winter is not without effort as she must move many succulents and tropicals to the greenhouse or garage for protection from the cold.

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In the last three photos you can see little snippets of the numerous plates Lucinda uses to border her Kitchen Garden raised beds, a play on her “garden to plate” theme. Not to leave the cutlery out, these shiny cuties pop their heads up from the herbs and veggies.

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This unique corn themed mosaic window frame is right across from the Kitchen Garden and easily visible from Lucinda’s kitchen.

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The Interior Patio packs a lot of goings on into a compact area. As you round the end of Lucinda’s cottage she has displayed her colorful collection of wooden Mexican wicker seated chairs.

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This entrance to her collection of Latin books, artifacts and collectibles is called the Stairway to Heaven.

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I took just a peek but a few of my fellow bloggers found a lot to see!

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A potted green room divider separates the cottage from the balance of the garden. I love the unique “awning” wrapping the corner and extending across the back of the house.

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A large wood deck offers umbrella covered dining opportunities and the gateway to Lucinda’s Creative Cathedral, an aromatic cedar cabin where she does all her writing.

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The cabin offers a dark, cool haven in contrast to the brightly painted and lavishly decorated garden exteriors.

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This great spot in Lucinda’s garden is perfect for plant display or to have a bite to eat. The multitiered benches are covered with weather friendly oil cloth.

The back part of the garden houses the Tequila Cantina including a unique tequila bottle tree.

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Notice the mulch–bottle corks! No found object fitting Lucinda’s themes goes unused.

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An outdoor shower is handy just in case anyone imbibes a bit too much. An open area of flagstone patio allows Lucinda to set up her party tables, chairs and fixings in whatever style suits the to-do!

Lucinda’s garden is intimate in size and in its ability to give you a window into her life and personality. Few of us are bold enough to live life as large as this garden does.

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We admired, lingered, chatted, took pictures and notes AND I’m sure a few of us probably asked to come back again, like reading a book the second time to catch all those things you missed the first time. Lucinda’s garden is like a party everyone wants to be invited to!