Monday, June 2, 2014

2014 East Bay Open Garden Day: Garden of Art

On Saturday I toured three gardens in the East Bay as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program. I find garden tours to be a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of private spaces that would otherwise remain closed to me. While we have many fantastic public gardens here in the West, I believe that the most creative garden design happens in residential gardens.

In previous years (1 2) I’d done the Open Days tours myself, but this time I went with three fellow gardeners: Anna Zakaria of 4 Surya Garden, Laura Balaoro of Design with Diversity, and Laura’s friend Carol Duren. It was great fun sharing opinions and comparing notes on what we liked and didn’t like. I find it very valuable hearing what others have to say and understanding my own response to specific aspects of a garden.

The East Bay tour included three gardens of widely different sizes: one was 1 acre (43,000 sq.ft.), one was 5 acres (202,000 sq.ft.) and one just 6,700 sq.ft. We started at the Garden of Art, located in the wealthy community of Lafayette just a few miles from Walnut Creek, home of the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

When this is the first thing you see as you approach the property, you know it’s not a small suburban garden:

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Garden of Art is a 1 acre sanctuary that can be described in one word: green. Almost the entire property is shaded by trees, and the walls and fences closer to the house are overgrown with vines.

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The central area of the property—the role played by the back yard in a more traditional property—is a meadow mostly comprised of maiden hair grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’). I’ve never seen so much miscanthus in one garden before.

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Many of the clumps were a good 5 ft. tall. At first this made me feel somewhat claustrophobic, but that gave way to a sense of mystery as I was beginning to spot sculptures hidden in the grasses.

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Art is everywhere in this garden.

Under the trees…

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In the trees…

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On the ground…

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In the ivy…

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On the patio…

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At the pool…

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The slippers were actually a metal sculpture

Next to and behind the pool house…

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This garden is all about art: Its primary function is to provide exhibition space for the homeowner’s collection. Plants are just supporting characters. I found the monochromatic planting scheme to be tranquil and soothing, but after I while I think I would get bored. But then, I’m a plant collector with a wide range of horticultural interests and a tendency to cram too many plants into too small a space.

However, I love the fact that the homeowners made this garden entirely their own, creating a sanctuary for their art. Even if it’s not the garden I would have given the space and money, I walked away liking it much more than I thought I would.

And I would gladly have some of those sculptures in my own garden, especially the enigmatic one under the tree.

RELATED POSTS:

OTHER ARTICLES ON THIS GARDEN:

10 comments:

  1. Great pictures and article! I didn't take as many, so I'll just enjoy this and share it on my page. Thanks, Gerhard, it was a wonderful day.

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    1. It was great sharing this experience with you. Thank you again for driving!

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  2. The planting and the sculptures are very cohesive, the place tranquil and complemental to each other, not always an easy thing to achieve in a sculpture garden. Loving some of the seating especially!

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    1. I agree. The sculptures are an integral part of this garden rather than an afterthought.

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  3. Looks amazing, as you say I'm not sure if longer term I would find it tranquil or boring.
    I read somewhere else about plant collectors not making good garden designers as they always want too many different varieties of plants and gardens tend to be better with less varieties but lots of each.

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    1. LOL, I just read something similar in a book. I admire restraint and repetition when I see it, but I'm just not able (or even willing) to go that route in my own garden.

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  4. Thanks for your blog, as I followed your lead and went to the two open gardens in Lafayette on Sunday. It was a wonderful afternoon in all its variety.

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    1. Great! My favorite garden was Rancho Diablo. Wow, what a collection of cacti and succulents. And what a stunning location!

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  5. I like the grasses everywhere, but I certainly wouldn't have chosen Miscanthus, the angriest of all grasses (so sharp!)


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    1. Yeah, I can't imagine walking through that sea of miscanthus without body armor. But massed like that, the effect is undeniable.

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