Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fall Photos From The Ruth Bancroft Garden

 Back in September , I attended a photography workshop conducted by John Ricca at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. I had attended another class of Johns back in 2013 and that led to a 3 day Yosemite National Park workshop with John and Keith Walklet that completely changed the way I approached taking photos.Though I have been taking photos now for several years, I'm by no stretch an expert and no matter the difficulty level of a class I always learn something useful. This particular class was described as for beginners,but the opportunity to get into the garden at 8am was compelling and I expected this would be casual, with those needing more help getting valuable one on one assistance while more experienced photographers could work on their own and obtain Johns' advice and counsel when needed.Our friend Gerhard of Succulents and More was in attendance as well, and he shared some of his photos from that morning here. On January 28th, another 8am workshop will be held, and I have signed up for that as well, hoping for some blooming Aloes and good winter light conditions.

 I took almost 300 photos that morning in September, and am sharing here some of those I liked the best.
  The backlit Agaves displayed an inner glow that was fun to capture, one of the great benefits of early access to the garden.

 I love this area of the garden and usually take many photos here .

Some Aloes were blooming and some were bloomed out, nevertheless they are beautiful in any season.

  My Aloe-naming skills are horrible, but I'm very fond of the red toothy-action on this one.

 The garden also features a collection of Eucalyptus .

Wider views of sections of the garden.

Plant portraits

 Even the expiring Agaves are worth a photo.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

In The Rear View Mirror-Spring Visit to Marcia Donahues Garden.

 I like to look back on gardens visited as the year-end draws near. I'm already done with winter even though it just started today, after a particularly nice fall. We've had an encouraging amount of rain thus far here in wine country (between 9 and 10 inches  depending on your location in the valley) and the frost arrived this week with temperatures dipping into the high 20's. I recognize that my version of cold is pretty tame compared to friends that live on the east coast and midwest, but as I rush around moving plants into the garage and covering those that are marginal,  I am aware that I can drive less than an hour and be in a place like Berkeley that has an enviable, perfect frost-free, heat -free climate.
 Artist Marcia Donahues' garden in Berkeley was on Garden Conservancy Open Days in April , and I visited with my friend Gerhard of the excellent Succulents and More . It had be a few years since I visited Marcias' garden and have  blogged about it here. Gerhard produced a really nice post about our visit here; as is his custom he is detailed and will give the reader much more background information than I present in this post.
 As often happens to me when I get into gardens that speak to me in a strong way, I become distracted and take a whole bunch of really bad photos. These weren't too awful , but I have  resolved to visit again in 2017 with a more attentive approach.

Front garden...

Back garden...

Both are magic. Really magic.

On your way to the back you  see the neighbors'  wall, accommodatingly painted to provide a nice color background to the plants in this narrow side yard .Here lives the famous bowling ball mulch.

 Art can be an awkward addition to a garden if it's not done well, and at Marcias' the pieces blend quite seamlessly into the mature plantings and enhance the scene before you.

Many of the pieces are plant based with a deeply organic color palette that compliments both the architecture of the house and  the jungly vibe that surrounds you in the garden.

See how the ceramic beads (tennis ball size) meld effortlessly with the tree that hosts them.

Because the garden is so densely planted and mature , the winding paths create a sense of mystery and anticipation for what lies just beyond.

 Maybe it's this...

 Or this...

Or this ...

 The light filtering down into the garden is compelling , and creates a sense of peace and tranquility. I recall observing Marcia sitting with a garden visitor; the visitor had one of the chickens on her lap , stroking the feathers as one would a cat. They were quietly chatting about the garden , and the moment was so serene I never considered taking a photo, feeling that it would have been intrusive. The image has remained in my mind , evocative of this garden.

The chickens are extremely friendly .

If you look up from inside the garden you might see this.

Passing through a shady thicket you might come across this at eye level.

  And the hell strip..

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Sunday Morning at Cornerstone

 Cornerstone Sonoma is located on  busy highway 121, a well traveled back road that brings visitors into the wine country and connects Sonoma and Napa County . Cornerstone is a  unique venue, featuring upscale shops with an emphasis on outdoor living, restaurants, wine tasting, art installations, display gardens and event spaces. This year the iconic west coast publication Sunset Magazine moved its' outdoor test kitchen and display gardens to Cornerstone from their campus in Menlo park, a 7 acre site they have occupied since 1951. Though Sunsets' magazine  content has dwindled over the last several years, I still subscribe as I have since the 70's. I could do a whole post on Sunset and its decades long  influence on west coast gardeners .

 Several of the gardens at Cornerstone were removed to make way for both the Sunset test gardens, the large outdoor kitchen space and the event area which has enlarged significantly since the last time I was there. Some of the remaining gardens could use a refresh, and some open areas hinted at new gardens to come.

  John Greenlees' garden has always been one of my favorites, but the morning was overcast and the grasses were not in their magical back-lit mode.

 White Cloud by Andy Cao and Xavier Perot is another I enjoy. It's not  anything I would replicate in my garden, it is in fact an art installation, not a garden per se.. More sun is really needed to view this at it's best.

 The Van Sweden-Sheilah Brady 'Garden of Contrast ' has matured perhaps a bit too much. The Olive trees that were small and ornamental when the garden was newly installed have become large and dense -deep shade is not too far off. The Agaves have grown  and  are starting to overwhelm the space  and I can certainly speak to what happens with Rosemary-it is vigorous in our climate.

 The Raiche-McCrory Garden is a prime example of the Berkeley-East Bay garden style for which I hold unattractive envy. I would have given them twice the space, for this is  another garden that is being overcome by shade.

 The Sunset Gardens were well done, and hopefully set up to evolve. This photo looks from the Cocktail Garden (now we're talkin) into the Edible Garden with it's pavilion anchor. In the foreground is the most gigantic stand of African Blue Basil I have ever seen.

 The compost bin, with Bamboo Muhly (I have murdered this one twice) and Muhlenbergia capillaris.

 Not much chance I would ever have the space for something this cool in my garden .

 The gardens were themed by use--this is the flower test garden.

On the left, a wall of peppermint scented Pelargonium.

 This garden is the Gathering Space , and what great plant combinations are featured here ! I hope this is dynamic; subject to change and redesign.

The test kitchen event space 

Peeking into the wedding prep..