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..

14 comments:

  1. I so know that feeling of being overwhelmed that documentary efforts go by the wayside. But clearly you recovered -- you got plenty of great photos, Kathy. I'm trying to think what other garden has purchased Marcia's tree beads -- I know I've seen them somewhere else.

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    1. Yes, I figure if I make more frequent visits I can focus ! I feel as though there is a small string of those beads at the Raiche McCrory installation at cornerstone. They also spent a summer at the Bancroft.

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  2. "a whole bunch of really bad photos. These weren't too awful"...what? These were fabulous! You succinctly communicated the magic that is this garden. Thank you for the bright spot in a grey December day.

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    1. Aw shucks Loree, thanks ! It's a challenge -the garden is so atmospheric and the light seems to shift constantly.

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  3. That's gorgeous--if your photos are "bad", how much more wonderful must the garden be? A treat to see these vignettes of art and flora, thank you!

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    1. Such a beautiful place and it's really not that big either, but it seems so much larger than it is and there is so much to look at !

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  4. Thanks so much for sharing your great photos. I'd love to visit this garden some day. I wish I knew where to get a piece of her art, I love it.

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    1. You can buy pieces of her work there at the garden Alison, some of the smaller things are pretty reasonably priced. But I've never really seen them for sale anywhere else . I hope you get a chance to visit there someday !

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  5. I love any opportunity to see this garden and I think you did a marvelous job of documentation with your photos. The garden looks huge here but I vaguely recall reading elsewhere that it's not. I remember seeing the bowling ball mulch in other reports but not the potted bowling balls arranged along what I'm guessing is a stairway - simple but clever!

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    1. The stairway is the main entrance to the house Kris, I looked back at my original post and was surprised that I didn't include the photo I took of the entire front entrance. I'll make sure to include it the next time I post about this garden.

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  6. Kathy, your photos are fantastic! I truly mean that! They totally capture the spirit of Marcia's garden. I, too, would love to visit again--mainly to take the kinds of close-ups you do so well!

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    1. Thank you Gerhard ! I see that the GC has already published some open days for 2017, and East Bay is on the schedule for April 22nd.I'm keeping my calendar clear for that day just in case.

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  7. These pictures don't look bad to me! I'm always in awe of what you left coasters can grow and when.

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    1. Guess I'm my own worst critic Sue . The downside of our nearly year round growing season is the explosion of weeds that occurs in fall after the first significant rains. I'm expecting that mulching season will be early this year.

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