Archive for the ‘public gardens’ Category
Happy Bloom Day. This is an unusual bloom day for me because I have mixed feelings about seeing my plants in bloom. I haven’t mentioned it on this blog before, but I’m doing a display garden in the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show next month and a lot of the plants in bloom are things I want to still have in bloom four weeks from now for the show. A few are long-bloomers that I expect to keep going, but a couple are in danger of finishing too early. The biggest question is probably my two native annuals, Meadowfoam and Tidy Tips. Both of them began blooming a month ago, so I have been pinching off all of the flowers as soon as they appear. So far it seems to be working, but two months is a long time to suppress their bloom.
These are a couple of meadowfoam plants that I have given up on and am letting bloom unchecked. I have other meadowfoam plants that aren’t as far along, and the slowest ones are probably going to be the best at show time. My biggest concern is to make sure they also keep producing foliage as well as flowers.
The Tidy Tips is actually looking a lot better because of all the pinching. I decided to let this leggy specimen bloom, but most of the others are nice bushy little plants that will bloom as soon as I let them. I think the flowers will be smaller from all of the pinching, but there should be a lot of them. I keep telling them to wait; hopefully they won’t give up on me.
Other plants in the garden are doing well. Sidalcea is blooming nicely; I think it will keep going until show time. I deadheaded a Solanum today, the first time I’ve ever bothered to deadhead one of them; it should be prime in another month. Asarum caudatum is blooming, but with all respect to them, there is no way their brownish flowers will show up under the strange garden show lighting, so it doesn’t matter if they bloom or not. Mahonia repens will probably finish too early, but they’re left over from a project rather than something I intended for the show. Non-natives like the Hellebore and the Daffodils aren’t earmarked for the show, so I have no mixed feelings about seeing them in bloom. I’m not deliberately trying to exclude non-natives from the display garden, but I do want to make sure that the natives are well represented and that’s mostly what I’m growing for the show. Back in the fall when I agreed to do the show, I looked back at several years of March bloom day posts from here and from other California bloggers like Town Mouse and Country Mouse. Natives always look really good in March; even when they aren’t blooming yet, their foliage is usually at its best. This has been such a strange year, though, that I’m not confident that I know what will be happening a month from now. It feels a little ridiculous to worry about plants finishing before mid-March, but it’s better than the usual problem of speeding them up to get them ready for the show. Strange year.
I’m not sure what I have to say about doing the garden show itself. Anita and I did it once before, in 2008, though at the time we had never actually been to the show and really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves in for. We got plenty of work afterwards, so in that respect it was a success, but we finished with the feeling that we could have been smarter about it if we’d had a better idea what to expect. It’s such a strange artificial creation, and we could have done it more smoothly and efficiently if we had understood the differences between show gardens and real ones. We’ll see in another month if I actually manage to be smarter, smoother, and more efficient, but so far I’d say I’m having more fun this time. I’ve also lined up final homes for most of the plants and materials we’re using in the show, so there shouldn’t be much waste involved, though a few things like the annuals will get discarded after the show and some of the bulbs won’t be usable until next year.
The show has new owners this year who want to shift the focus of the show more towards sustainability. Partly as a result of that, we decided to conceive of the garden as a lawn conversion project. Lawn conversions are something we do pretty often, and with the crazy drought this year, a lawn to garden display seems even more appropriate than ever. It’s a little contrived to make a garden that is supposedly built on top of a lawn that never existed, but we’re going to have a sheet-mulch demonstration that should be interesting. People are often confused and intrigued when they see us covering a lawn with newspaper mulch as if we’re doing some sort of crazy landscape paper maché, so it should be fun to talk about.
The garden plan shows the concept we submitted to the jury, though the final design will end up somewhat different. I created the original concept with a partner who decided to drop out due to time constraints. I’m now doing it with a different partner, Sha-Khan Starks of Deep Rootz Design, so some of the elements designed with my initial partner are going to change as Sha-Khan and I move forward and actually build the garden. Essentially, the yoga/meditation deck and the walk-thru reflecting pool were the domain of my first partner, so now that he is out of the picture, we’re changing the big water feature into a smaller stone/water element that is more water-conserving and closer to what we personally tend to do in gardens. There are also a few other stone elements that I’m fabricating on my weekends. I’ll probably post about them fairly soon. I don’t know how interesting the garden show is to people, but it will be dominating a lot of my attention and probably this blog as well for the next month or so. In the meantime, check out May Dreams Gardens for lots of proper bloom day posts full of flowers. I have a list of what’s in bloom in my garden below.
I was one of the many judges yesterday at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. It was a great chance to see the gardens without the crowds and I took photos after my group finished judging. I liked a lot of the gardens this year, though scrutinizing the gardens as a judge made it hard to get a sense of the show overall. My favorite was Glade by Mariposa Gardening and Design and John Greenlee. The stonework and plants (mostly natives) are beautiful. The nicest touch was the spotlight on the Needle Grass in the meadow. Grasses are most beautiful when they catch the light, so it was great to see that effect created indoors. Needle Grass doesn’t have the conventional appeal of more traditional garden plants, so I really appreciated that it was a focal point of the garden.
The Goldsworthy-esque egg was well built, and the diagonal walls have become a Mariposa trademark at this point.
The big award winner was Inside Out by the students from Arizona State. One of the walls did nice double duty, showcasing a giant ceramic art piece on one side and a yucca on the other, with the cast shadow of the yucca creating another great lighting affect like the spotlight on the meadow.
I liked the paving and all of the design details in the garden by Arterra. The gardens at the show all reference a specific country, but the one by Arterra is inspired by Wonderland.
The plants in the Thai garden were mostly California natives. The plants weren’t really the focus of the design, so they didn’t register for me right away, but I appreciated that it was different from what you usually see or envision with California natives.
I loved the Philippine garden. You can sort of see in the photo that there are rusting metal bits, shelves holding old bottles and other assorted items, and laundry hanging to dry. The aesthetic is closer to my own garden than I would like to admit, but at the same time, when I sat under the awning it felt like a space that would be loved by its owner so maybe I’m okay with the similarities.
A slab of rock turned into a divan in the Icelandic garden by McKenna Landscape.
The show has the world’s largest succulent globe by the same grower who provided the plants for the Succulent Borg Cube three years ago. It has a diameter of 10 feet, it weighs 2,800 pounds, and it spins. There are 30,000 cuttings of 11 different species: Echeverias, Sedums, Crassula, and Sempervivum. The globe is tilted at the same 23° angle as the earth, which made the Southern Hemisphere more prominent, a nice change from the usual top-down, northern-biased perspective I usually have. Even just the globe on its own was worth the trip to see the show.
The last of the botanical gardens I visited on my trip was Rancho Santa Ana. Quite different from the Huntington, but it still has a Los Angeles sense of scale. It felt huge to me, three times the size of the Tilden native garden, with some huge specimens and the biggest clumps I’ve ever seen of a number of plants like Heuchera, Dudleya, Snowberry, and many of the chaparral plants. I had big expectations for the famed Rancho Santa Ana native garden, and it didn’t let me down.
I’d like to see this patch in bloom.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dudleya used as a groundcover.
Great Deer Grass meadow. I’ve seen photos of the garden’s annual meadow, but it was still dormant when I was there.
The chaparral plantings made a big impression. The mounding form and small texture of the plants was kept the same, and then the color of the foliage provided the contrast. Really effective how it all flowed together. Probably the best chaparral plantings I’ve seen.
The built forms are nice too. I liked this grape arbor above, I liked the canopy below, and I liked the sculptures throughout the garden.
Because I was gone for much of January and busy right before and after, I missed a lot of the peak manzanita bloom. But Rancho Santa Ana has so many nice ones, I still got a good dose. Now I just I have to make it back there in the springtime for peak bloom of the wildflowers. It’s a great garden.
On my trip I also spent a few days in Los Angeles visiting a friend and went with him to the Huntington. Strikingly different succulent plantings compared to the Desert Museum and the natural areas around Tucson. It felt like the desert on steroids. Really cool, but in sort of an over-the-top body-builder way. I liked it, but was sort of overwhelmed and didn’t take many photos.
Instead I made my friend slow down and wait for me in the Japanese garden. Really nice stone detailing. I realized I’ve had a blog named DryStoneGarden for over four years without ever showing a photo of a literal ‘dry stone garden’ which is another one of the names for a zen garden. That wasn’t the reason I chose the name and no one has ever mentioned it, so perhaps I’m the only one who thinks of that alternate meaning. We used to sometimes have clients who wanted Japanese detailing and we incorporated elements of the dry stone garden in a couple of designs, so maybe I’ll go back and get photos of one of them some day. I would have liked to spend longer there at the Huntington zen garden, but I had to keep up with my friend.
The rock weighting the branch above the cluster of stones is a great detail.
The garden was displaying several suiseki, also known as scholar rocks or viewing stones. I’ve really liked these on the few occasions I’ve seen them, and I wish I knew more about the whole tradition. The vein of white quartz on this one is meant to resemble a waterfall. There’s a post about the Huntington’s Suiseki collector Bob Watson at Capital Bonsai. Beautiful stones.
There was also a number of bonsai. I’m not a big bonsai aficionado, but the Huntington has some great ones.
I wish I knew more about the genres of bonsai that involve rocks.
And the last photos I took, the entry paving to the teahouse and the river stones beneath the drip line of the roof. I went through the other areas of the garden even more quickly than I had gone through the succulent garden. I realize Southern California gardeners must know the Huntington quite well, but it was new to me. Quite an impressive garden. I really was overwhelmed with the size of it, and the size of some of the specimens and mass plantings, and all of the care and effort and resources put into the garden. Quite a place.
A highlight of my trip was the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It’s a botanical garden/zoo/aquarium/museum. Really great. Basically, it’s a botanical garden showcasing the different plant communities associated with the Sonoran desert, but it’s combined with a zoo of Sonoran animals, plus a reptile house and a couple of aviaries, plus a great display of the different minerals found in Arizona, plus a new aquarium, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. The aquarium isn’t especially big and takes only about a half an hour to see, but it has some nice salt water tanks with things from the Sea of Cortez and some fresh water tanks with less showy species from the riparian areas of the desert. The zoo has a porcupine, fox, cougar and bighorn sheep, not the most exotic animals I’ve ever seen in a zoo, but still pretty interesting and the garden setting kept away that negative vibe that zoos sometimes collect. It made me wonder why humans ever made zoos and botanical gardens separate in the first place. I was hugely impressed.
The garden has some nice plantings, including ones with desert plants set against concrete walls in that style southwest designers do so well. Tucson, in general, seems to have the native Sonoran plants well integrated into the landscaping, and then the Desert Museum does a good job of taking those plantings to the next level.
Nighttime lows were in the teens when I went to the Desert Museum, so plants from areas to the south were bundled with various things to protect them from the cold. I always find improvised frost protection kind of charming. The styrofoam cups on the cactus make it look like the garden had hosted a frat party.
The garden has a few Boojum trees, including one tall specimen. I would love to see the Boojum forests down in Baja. Anita and I were just a little too far south when we were down there a couple of years ago. Going back to see them is just about the highest thing on my horticultural ‘to do’ list.
Palo Brea, Parkinsonia praecox, was a new one for me. Really beautiful. The garden also has beautiful Palo Verde, Palo Blanco, and Ironwood specimens, including a semi-circle of Ironwoods as shade trees for a patio.
Has anyone seen a Palo Blanco growing in the Bay Area? I don’t think I have, but it seems like it should be possible to grow one out in Contra Costa.
These photos just scratch the surface. It’s one of the best botanical gardens I’ve ever visited. Really great, highly recommended.
This week, soon after my visit to Blake Garden, I went to Filoli down on the peninsula. Most people interested in gardens around here seem to know it, and I’d heard a lot about it and seen a number of blogposts. Chuck B at MyBack40(feet) has done a lot of posts over the years, this being the one I remember best, TownMouse posted about a visit, and a number of other bloggers have posted about it too. But I’d never seen it in person.
Coming right after a visit to Blake, I found there was sort of an interesting contrast. Like Blake, Filoli was set up with a formal design at about the same time period, 1917 to Blake’s 1922. But unlike Blake, which has changed significantly over the years and has sort of a wild and free collection of plants, Filoli still has the formal, carefully controlled aesthetic. And while Blake feels sort of like the forgotten garden up in the hills, Filoli is still in its heyday. There were tour buses in the parking lot and more visitors than I ever see in any of the botanical gardens. It felt immaculate and beloved.
I was a little late to see some of the big floral shows like the spring bulbs, the wisterias, or the camperdown elm. This time of year, the roses and the mediterranean border are probably the highlights, plus of course the formal design. Does anyone know, is it the biggest formal garden in the Bay Area? I can’t think of a bigger one.
This is probably the most successful knot garden I’ve seen. There’s the standard view, where you can see that someone made an elaborate shape with the plants, but it’s also nice when you stand a little closer and just see the repetition of purple foliage.
The purple hedge is a southern Beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropurpurea’ and I think the big tree in the background is the same. Makes me feel sad for the poor little hedged ones.
Lots of plants hedged into architecture. But also lots of great specimen trees like the oak tree towering over the garden house.
Shame on me that I had never been here before. It’s quite the garden, and I definitely want to go back some time earlier in the year when the classic spring bloomers are at their peak. This first visit just begins to scratch the surface.
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