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:
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.
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.
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.
Art is everywhere in this garden.
Under the trees…
In the trees…
On the ground…
In the ivy…
On the patio…
At the pool…
The slippers were actually a metal sculpture
Next to and behind the pool house…
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.
- 2014 East Bay Open Garden Day: Garden of Art
- 2014 East Bay Open Garden Day: Rancho Diablo, part 1
- 2014 East Bay Open Garden Day: Rancho Diablo, part 2
- 2014 East Bay Open Garden Day: Potomac Waterworks
OTHER ARTICLES ON THIS GARDEN: