Archive for the ‘public gardens’ Category
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.
“A garden is a creation in space and time and must be planned as an ever-changing composition in which human beings at any moment can become the central figures.” Geraldine Knight Scott
I feel like I haven’t been photographing gardens much this spring, so I went up to Blake Garden to take some pictures this week. The garden is only a couple of miles from our house and has an interesting backstory, so I’m not sure why I haven’t posted about it before. I first went there eight years ago, when Anita graduated from CAL; the landscape department owns and runs the garden and holds its graduation ceremony there. Since then I’ve gone a few times. This time I did a little research on the garden before I went, reading a short book about the garden that some of Anita’s classmates worked on and looking through the oral history and the historic photos on the garden’s website. It added quite a bit to my appreciation of the garden.
The garden goes back to the 1920′s. There’s a big house which is the official residence of the president of UC Berkeley, though it’s currently empty (don’t tell the Gill Tract Occupiers). Mrs. Blake was a gardener and her sister was a landscape architect, so they went all out on the landscape. The sister made a formal, Beaux Arts style design, and then over a span of thirty years, they added a ton of plants, apparently getting up to about 2,500 species at one point. Plant ID classes from the university would go up to the garden to study the plant collection, and some of the faculty befriended Mrs. Blake, so when she passed away the property was donated to the UC Berkeley landscape architecture department with the understanding that the university could do what it wanted with the house but that the garden would be maintained at a high level and used as a teaching resource for the students.
Geraldine Knight Scott, who was teaching at Cal at that time, made a plan for the garden that kept the core of the Beaux Arts-style design in place around the house, but adapted the rest of the landscape to a more modern layout, with parking for the public and a new gate and some changes so that the president of the university could live there and host events. From what I can tell, not everything in Scott’s design was implemented — one of the main things she did was just editing, serval people in the oral history say the garden had become a s jungle, and Scott said she spent three years just taking out plants to make space — but the big thing is that the garden became a place for the students to study and work and try stuff out, which continues to this day. Plant ID classes still go up there, students in the construction classes build things there, and there have been student design competitions for trellises and so forth. When you walk around, you get a sense that there’s several layers of the garden — the formal elements from the twenties, the plant collecting begun by Mrs. Blake, the mid-century modern layout by Scott, and the scattered student projects. So it’s a historic garden, but not really rooted in a single time period, and it’s still changing and evolving. I seem to find something different every time I go.
This is the formal area from the 1920′s and the part that has changed the least.
Throughout the garden, you can see some of the more formal 1920′s elements juxtaposed with some of the mid-century elements from Scott’s redesign, like here where there are two entrances, the original entrance with classic 1920′s-era Berkeley stonework and the second entrance from when they made it a public garden.
There are a lot of nice trees, especially oaks. This wall is from Scott’s redesign, separating the formal part of the garden from the more modern section.
Scott made a big curvy lawn for hosting events. It was reduced in size recently to save water, but it still vies with the reflecting pool to be the central point of the garden. Anita’s ceremony was held around the reflecting pool; this year the landscape department’s ceremony was here on the lawn.
More photos are below. (more…)
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