At the Garden Conservancy’s East Bay Open Day on July 30, I visited two gardens. The first one, Casa de Sueños, was a tropicalesque fantasy on a 1-acre lot in the Oakland Hills. The second one, only 15 minutes away in Piedmont, was very different both in size and style.
Dubbed Mediterranean Delight in the Open Days Directory, this garden:
displays the owners' sense of whimsical design with a beautiful variety of plant color and texture in a layout that invites exploration. […] The front and rear laws were removed many years ago. Now, with rustic stone work, gravel paths, large pots and an interesting water feature, the beautiful Mediterranean style house looks at home. Plantings range from a large collection of succulents, kangaroo paws, salvias and woodland plants. With its open spaces and private nooks the garden is truly a creative endeavor. The owners collaborated with Sherry Merciari, a local landscape designer to develop the garden. (1)
Sherry Merciari, coincidentally, is the owner of and creative mind behind Casa de Sueños.
I started my tour in the backyard. I was immediately drawn to the potted succulents next to the house. I wonder why the stairs below (right) are not in use anymore. Or maybe the pots were there only for the garden tour?
I found the flowering plants near the house to be irresistibly cheery.
Who doesn’t love lemons!
The standouts for me were these kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos sp.), almost 6 ft. in height. This is what kangaroo paws should look like: tall, stately, covered with flowers. I’ve tried, and failed, a handful of times growing Anigozanthos. One of these days I will uncover their secret and try again.
Behind the sunny central section of the backyard is a shaded slope that leads to a lower area. The plantings on the slope looked fairly recent; I’m sure over time they will live up to their potential.
When I first saw the brightly painted wooden fence that borders the property I thought it was completely out of place. But now that I’ve looked at my photos several times, I’m beginning to warm up to it. The light blue of the fence itself, and the vibrant colors of the painted figures, do provide a nice pop of color in an otherwise uniform sea of green.
I don’t even know what to call this (a grotto?), but this creation in the far corner of the lower area was a big surprise:
I’m a sucker for face sculptures and I want something like this in my own backyard!
One last look at the painted fence, and a couple of stools that looked faintly Moroccan:
And one last look at the kangaroo paws and the back side of the house:
This attractive potted plant next to the garage, Agapetes serpens, was new to me. It turns out it came from Annie’s Annuals. Not a big surprise; I overheard the homeowner, Stuart, saying that his wife is very fond of Annie’s Annuals. I can relate, being a member of the Annie’s fan club myself.
Look what I found in the planting strip along the driveway! My friend Leucadendron ‘Ebony’!
Looking toward the house from the sidewalk in front of the neighbor’s garage:
Yes, that’s a very nice Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ in the side strip. And check out the plant markers! What a great touch.
Now let’s check out the front yard. For me, that’s where the real magic was.
I couldn’t decide what I liked better: the stonework or the plantings.
Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’
This is what a REAL carpet of Dymondia margaretae looks like. I wish ours would hurry up and form a mat.
I need to research drought-tolerant ferns
Everywhere I looked, I saw immaculately grown succulents:
Echeveria ‘Doris Taylor’, I presume?
Sedum × rubrotinctum
The agave here looks like Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’
Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’
Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’
This front yard is a perfect illustration of how to create maximum impact with succulents. The range of colors and textures assembled here is so eye-catching that I’m sure many people walking by on the sidewalk stop to take a closer look.
A few more photos for good measure:
I couldn’t help noticing that the neighboring front yards were featuring succulents as well. That’s contagion of the good kind!