Friday, August 12, 2016

Mediterranean Delight…with lots of succulents

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.

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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?

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In spite of the exuberant perennial color in the backyard, I had a hard time finding anything Mediterranean about Mediterranean Delight. Kangaroo paws are from Australia, rudbeckias from the American prairie, and cannas from Central and South America. Even lemons originated on the Indian subcontinent. But that’s picking nits; I’m sure the moniker is a reference to gardening in a Mediterranean climate rather than gardening with Mediterranean plants.

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I found the flowering plants near the house to be irresistibly cheery.

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Who doesn’t love lemons!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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I’m a sucker for face sculptures and I want something like this in my own backyard!

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One last look at the painted fence, and a couple of stools that looked faintly Moroccan:

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And one last look at the kangaroo paws and the back side of the house:

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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.

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Look what I found in the planting strip along the driveway! My friend Leucadendron ‘Ebony’!

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Looking toward the house from the sidewalk in front of the neighbor’s garage:

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Yes, that’s a very nice Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ in the side strip. And check out the plant markers! What a great touch.

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Now let’s check out the front yard. For me, that’s where the real magic was.

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I couldn’t decide what I liked better: the stonework or the plantings.

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Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’

This is what a REAL carpet of Dymondia margaretae looks like. I wish ours would hurry up and form a mat.

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I need to research drought-tolerant ferns

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Everywhere I looked, I saw immaculately grown succulents:

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Echeveria ‘Doris Taylor’, I presume?

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Sedum × rubrotinctum

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The agave here looks like Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’

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Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’

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Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’

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Aloe polyphylla

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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:

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I couldn’t help noticing that the neighboring front yards were featuring succulents as well. That’s contagion of the good kind!

6 comments:

  1. I need to split up my kangaroo paws so they can look like that again. And I think I detect some burn on their 'Ivory Curls' too, which confirms my suspicion that this agave is ornery as far as the right amount of sun/shade. So appreciate your chronicling tours!

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  2. Yep the front garden is where it's at! Simply gorgeous. The back and side gardens held little appeal to me, too many silly flowers!

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  3. The kangaroo paws with the Echinacea is a winning combination and that face fitted into the rock wall is a brilliant idea I'm going to give some thought to stealing. But I really got excited about the succulent beds in the front area. I've been planning to haul in some rock to shore up the sloped area in my own front garden to support a more robust selection of succulents and other xeric plants. This garden shows just how effective that can be. If we weren't at the start of a new heatwave, I might well be headed to the rock yard right now.

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  4. The stones add a good contrast to a slope full of succulents. Like Kris, I think I need to add some also, but yeah, not during another heat wave. Must be fairly mild conditions there if A. polyphylla is that happy.

    The fence looks more appropriate to a day care center, but the Anigozanthos are glorious.

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  5. OK - this place is wonderfully clever, great mix of texture and color and maintained to the max......now, where can I get one of those cute gals soaking her feet in the bird bath????? Just darling!!!

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  6. Fantastic blog! Folks like me on the east coast are able to live vicariously through your travels and plantings. Thanks for taking the time and effort to do this.

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