Two Gardens, One Gardener

 This past weekend I attended the Garden Conservancy Open Day in Marin County. It seems as though Marin Open Days always takes place during a heat wave, and after last year I swore I was through with it-too hot, too many unmemorable gardens, horrible photo conditions. In the future, when scheduling weekend travel plans, I will wait for Marin Open Day dates to be announced ,assume there will be a heat wave, and plan a trip to the coast.
 My snubbing of this event went out the window when I saw that Robin Parers Geraniaceae was open- a legendary nursery that I have never visited. I'm not exactly sure when I first heard of Ms. Parers operation, but I do know it was a very long time ago-the 80's maybe. I know that at the time I was just learning of the existance of the 'Hardy Geranium' without any real understanding of what that meant. When I worked at the garden center in San Diego in the late 70's , it was  assumed that when a customer asked if something was "hardy" they really meant  "something easy to grow that I won't kill" ; the concept of winter hardiness seldom was an issue in zone 10. My first true Geranium purchase was G. Johnsons Blue , a plant which I still have even though it's been improved upon significantly by newer varieties.  I can't seem to bring myself to get rid of it-remembering my excitement at finding a plant I had read about in so many magazines and catalogs and had never seen in person. 
 Geraniaceae is in the decidedly upscale burg of Kentfield , perched on a hillside and terraced with shady paths leading through the property. Clearly a gardener lives here, and a collector. The plant palette was vast.

 The entry path .

 I got a Berkeley Hills vibe in this garden, I expect the two areas had much more in common back in the 60's , 70's era than they do now.

 Neatly terraced rows of Geraniums on the hillside. A smorgasbord.

 Sadly, I didn't write a single name down. Bad me.

 And a greenhouse full of them. I am told by an industry 'insider' that Ms. Parer has a growing facility in the Richmond area , where packing and shipping is done.

The light was bad for photos, but there you see tables at the back of the house , long rows of them, packed with plants.

And a magnificent stand of bamboo hugged one of the lower terraces .

Honor plant sale..I had no cash ! damn.

  Garden 2 was quite nearby, but could not have been more dissimilar. It was beautiful , cleverly designed , spotless, perfect... it was clear to me that the residents here were not gardeners . What they had was in reality an art installation made of plants and hardscape, a stage set. 

 The entry wall was a row of hedged Arbutus marina..not something you see every day . It was quite striking , but one wonders what it will look like in 5 years. 

And then, well what can you say about a specimen sized agave plopped right in the middle of a very lush, green lawn. Apparently there is some sort of underground barrier that prevents the lawn irrigation from bleeding into the Agaves territory.

Agave , lawn , water feature.  Quite striking.

 A path lined with Phormium on one side and reed on the other, leads to the back of the house. I liked the idea alot, but the Phormium was stretching.

 Once you traverse the path, you are confronted with a killer view of Mt Tamalpias. 

 This is were you sit to view the view.

The designer used Asparagus meyeri to excellent effect in this garden, a softer echo of the spiky Aloes and Agaves.

Poolside. Of course there was a poolside.



  1. There are quite a few things I like in that second "checkbook gardener" space but I really don't get the agave in the lawn. That is just freaky and wrong.

  2. I visited Robin Parer's nursery many years ago. The rows of geraniums on the hillside still look the same.

  3. Garden 1 and Garden 2 are both striking in their own right. The entry area on the first one and the walkway through the bamboo grove, wow!

  4. How interesting, love the entry path in the first garden but agree that agave in the middle of the lawn is pretty strange looking. Do love the asparagus fern though. It's a great plant

  5. Great use of bamboo down the staircase in the first garden. I've yet to make it to an Open Day this year. Sometimes the high rent zone days are more about location and hardscapes than they are about plants.

  6. Thanks for the peek at Robin Parer's garden. I've bought hardy geraniums and pelargoniums from her at the South Coast garden show for years and have ordered from her on-line a couple of times. I wondered what her own property looked like and now I know...

  7. Agreed...the first garden feels more "genuine"...the second, more like a showplace.

  8. The Agave americana in the middle of the lawn must be recent; someone will soon be grubbing out offsets monthly if not weekly. Is it just me or is an Agave in a lawn really, really weird?

  9. Well, it's easy to tell what impresses you! Marty would be staring at that view of Mt. Tam all day, and I'd be busy getting rid of that lawn...and wondering how much trouble it'd be to fill in the pool...or turn it into a bog garden...


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