Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gardening splendor on two acres in the country


I often wish I had more room for gardening. I routinely dream of having acreage to play with—5 acres has a nice ring to it. But I’m not picky. I’ll take anything that’s larger than our lot, which is just 8,100 square feet, i.e. 1/5 of an acre. At the same time I know that we’ll never be able to afford a larger property here in Davis. I’d have to move far out into the boonies to make my dream come true—or to another part of the state.

My dream of owning acreage had new life breathed into it last Sunday when I saw first hand what an avid gardener can do on two acres in the country just outside of the Davis city limits. I joined the California Horticultural Society (Cal Hort) for a tour of three Davis gardens, led by Ernesto Sandoval, collections manager of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory. The first garden was the kind of country property I had always imagined owning: a main house, a guest house, and lots of space for all kinds of things—above all gardens.

Even though my country property would look quite different, I found a lot to like here as you will see below. The annuals (mainly California poppies) were at the end of their peak, but they were going out in a blaze of glory. The perennials were getting ready to take over as the center of attention, and fruit trees were heavy with ripening fruit.

As wonderful as it all was, what I liked even more was the fact this garden was not 100% pristine. There were weeds, plentiful in some areas, and unfinished projects. Like mine, this is a garden in progress—a working garden, not a perfectly manicured showpiece. That’s why I felt so comfortable there.

Arbor on the west side of the garden


Columns behind the arbor. We were speculating if something will go on top of these columns, but apparently this is the look the owner envisioned.

One of the nicest guest houses I've ever seen

The area in front of the guest house is a large sunken garden. The soil that was excavated here was to used to create a berm along the road to create more privacy. 

Looking back toward the guest house

Nobody was able to ID these grasses but they looked gorgeous as a center strip in the sunken garden

Overlooking the sunken garden

Pops of color wherever you look

Unfortunately no ID on the Kniphofia on the left or on the large-leafed plant on the right but this is a killer combo

One of the best-looking Kniphofia cultivars I've seen in a long time

The wide stairs going down to the sunken garden--there were at least four sets--were one of the my favorite features. The California poppies growing in the cracks were pure magic.

Top of the berm along the side of the road. As I mentioned above, this berm was created with the soil excavated from the sunken garden.

View of the guest house from the far end of the sunken garden

Lap pool (with cover on). The guest house is on the left, the main house on the right.

Sea of flowering annuals

I loved the wild look the annuals gave the garden


Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoenia) and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)

Yellow-flowering California poppy

One of several whimsical statues I spotted throughout the garden. Look closer, the lady is holding a garden hose.

There's that orange Kniphofia again


California poppies and barberry

Lavender getting ready to bloom

Cherry time is here!

Shed near the main house



Giraffe statue in front of the main house

Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana). The petals are edible; they have a surprisingly sweet taste.

Deck of main house

Another statue hiding under a tree

Cape balsam (Bulbine frutescens), both yellow and orange form, and Agave americana along the driveway near the entrance

Agave americana is not my favorite agave by a long shot but there's plenty of room here so no problem

Gate with grapes--maybe a nod to the burgeoning grape-growing and wine industry in our area (varietals that love the heat, like syrah, petite sirah, tempranillo and malbec, thrive here)

19 comments:

  1. Wow! My photos were so bad from this garden. Just could not deal with the light. Seeing your photos confirm my own impressions of how wonderful is this garden. Hope you don't mind my sharing it to the Calhort Fb page. I'd like to share to the Hortisexual page too.

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    1. Of course! Please feel free to share anywhere you like.

      Thank you for making this tour possible!

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  2. Thank you for the nice pictures and blog. I am so glad you liked it. You are welcome anytime

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    1. So nice of you! I'd love to see your garden again in the fall.

      Thank you for allowing us to tour your garden. As you can see, people loved it!

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  3. Well, I missed he boat on this tour , I guess I better pay attention what Calhort is up to in the future! As I looked through your photos I wondered if the garden owners are affiandos of Gary Ratway (Digging Dog)gardens-there were several things here that reminded me of his gardens. The plantings between steps, the columns (the private garden at DD which opens occasionally features rammed-earth columns very similar to these)the repeated use of Knifofia and Nepeta, and the container at the intersection of paths.
    Oh that mural on the shed is so so fabulous. I bet this garden is fantastic in fall.

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    1. That's a very interesting observation. I've never seen Gary Ratway's garden but I wouldn't be surprised if there was some cross-fertilization.

      I agree, the mural is awesome.

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  4. That is 1 really nice garden! Very California, too. I love the sense of a wide space--the luxury of space in a world getting too crowded. Thank you for the tour.

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    1. The luxury of space--very well put. Yes, I could feel I could breathe. And even with 23 people in our group, it never felt crowded. Put 23 people in my garden and you end up stepping on each other's toes.

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  5. I loved it! The plants growing between the stairs and that wonderful shed were my favorite elements. I've got a little over half an acre but I still don't feel it's enough to give some plants the room they need. I always said I wanted at least 2 acres (hard to come by in SoCal without winning the lottery) but the truth is that even supporting half an acre takes most of my free time.

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    1. Your 1/2 acre is very well used. I hope to see your garden in person someday. Gotta plan a trip to SoCal!

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  6. What a great garden you got to tour...I'm kind of lusting after it myself.

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    1. This garden has a fantastic backbone--and there's still so much room left for more plants.

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  7. Really nice mix of formal and natural elements! Wonder how it looks later in summer once things stop blooming? (Five acres would kill you -- it's not easy filling big spaces or maintaining them. We can dream though, right?)

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    1. I know, 5 acres would be overkill. We rented a house on 5 acres once, but much of it was brush (and there was a horse corral, too, even though we didn't have horses). Turning it all into a garden would have been a Herculean endeavor.

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  8. Please come back in the fall.

    And Yes! This is a Gary Ratway design. I have sent him your blog.

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    1. Pamela, thank you so much for the invite. I'll be in touch so we can set something up.

      On a related note, I've been trying to figure out how to add a few columns to my own garden. They look so cool :-).

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    2. How about that ? So maybe you can bring a guest when you visit in fall ??

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  9. Very astute observations by Kathy and great to see them confirmed by Pamela. Thanks to owners/Cal Hort for letting us see this great garden and to you, Gerhard, for documenting the tour. I hope you get invited back for fall!

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    1. Kathy is totally plugged in. I love hanging out with her :-).

      Pamela, the owner, has invited me to come back in the fall. I'll have an update then.

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