Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Wave Garden in Point Richmond: one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area

The Wave Garden in Point Richmond may be one of the best kept secrets in the Bay Area. There seems to be some hesitation to share its exact location. Maybe it's because the Wave Garden is privately owned even though it's open to the public and meant to be enjoyed by the wider community. More on the history of this unique place a little later.

I visited the Wave Garden in February 2014 and again in May 2015 and had been wanting to go back ever since. Since it's only 15 minutes from Annie's Annuals and Perennials, I caught two birds with one stone last weekend. After spending a couple of hours shopping at Annie's, I made the short drive to Point Richmond. As on my previous visits, there was nobody else there. For an hour I enjoyed what has to be one of the most scenic and peaceful spots on the east side of San Francisco Bay.

One of several seating areas, this one overlooking the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge crossing San Pablo Bay
The owners of the Wave Garden, Jeanne and Vern Doellstedt, bought the property next to their home to prevent it from being developed. They decided to turn it into a collaborative space combining concrete walls and paths, metal gates and fences, and lush yet drought-tolerant plantings that provide visual interest and color year round. Even better, they decided to open the garden to the public to enjoy. 

The creative minds behind the Wave Garden are Victor Amador who did the concrete work (800 lineal feet of textured walls and paths), Robert Sharpe who designed the metal gates and fences, and Kellee Adams of dig-it landscape design who came up with the plant palette. Click here and scroll to the bottom to see the Wave Garden under construction (in 2006, I believe).

As you will see below, the combined efforts of Victor Amador, Robert Sharpe and Kellee Adams have resulted in something truly special.


Chondropetalum tectorum (left), Banksia spinulosa 'Schnapper Point' (right)




One of several metal sculptures by the late Douglas Purdy

Leucadendron 'Jester'

View towards San Pablo Bay

This is one of the most beautiful specimens of Leucadendron 'Jester' I've ever seen

No surprise—many members of the Proteaceae family, both from South Africa and Australia, thrive in the mild coastal climate

A perfect example of Victor Amador's concrete work, with equally perfect Echeveria elegans

Can you imagine how wonderful it must be to enjoy this view every day?



Echeveria elegans


Echeveria elegans

Echeverias, aeoniums and a silver tree (Leucadendron argenteum)

×Mangave 'Macho Mocha' in front of the owners' house

Beschorneria yuccoides 'Flamingo Glow'. The tree in the background is the same Leucadendron argenteum you saw above.

View of the house next door

Echeveria agavoides and Persicaria capitata

Another Beschorneria 'Flamingo Glow' in a one-of-a-kind planter with a pin cushion bush (Leucospermum sp.) on the left

Looking towards the top of the garden from the lower level

A good view of Victor Amador's concrete work

Agave schidigera 'Durango Delight'

Cotyledon orbiculata (front), unidentified lomandra, and Leucadendron 'Jester'

View from the bottom level of the Douglas Purdy sculpture you saw in an earlier photo

Banksia spinulosa 'Schnapper Point' again

Leucadendron 'Jester' and Banksia spinulosa 'Schnapper Point'



Echeveria agavoides (left), Cotyledon orbiculata (right)

Echeveria agavoides

Looking east towards the Doellstedt's house

Aeoniums only look this good on the coast

Looking down from two levels up. The grass-like plants are lomandras.




Adenanthos cuneatus, another beauty from Australia

 Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga 'Macrantha'

Two South African cabbage trees (Cussonia sp.)


More aeoniums and Cotyledon orbiculata (a highly variable species)

Metal fence by Robert Sharpe

Gate on the lower level

Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta'

One final look at Robert Sharpe's fence and gate and of the neighborhood beyond

Lomandra near the upper entrance

Upper entrance to the Wave Garden—no gate here

The entrance to the Wave Garden is off Grandview Court in Point Richmond. It's easy to spot on Google Maps' satellite view:



I wonder how many more (semi) secret gardens there are in the Bay Area? If you know of any, please let me know in the comment area below.

26 comments:

  1. This great post took me back to the San Francisco Fling, when we visited the Wave garden. That was such a hot day, I didn't feel like really exploring and enjoying it, although I knew it was a great garden full of distinctive plants that I might never see again. Thanks for posting your photos, especially that flowering Banksia.

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    1. It rarely gets HOT there. It was just your luck that you picked one of those days. I do remember it was a bit toasty when I met y'all at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

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  2. It's a shame you never got to see the garden of Harland Hand. It is a steep hillside garden like this, and he sculpted the concrete to look like the rounded forms of exposed granite that you see when going/coming on highway 80 to Truckee. The plantings were comparable to this garden as well. I think his garden was in Los Cerritos. If the new owners kept it up and ever open it for a charity event, you should definitely make the effort to go. Here's a link with photos of it. Sue http://www.harlandhandgarden.com/Photographers.htm

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    1. El Cerrito, I think it’s still there.

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    2. It sounds like the woman who bought the property from Harland's sister has moved on. I don't know what the status of the garden is. It should be on a Garden Conservany tour!

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    3. I've heard all that concrete he put in has created havens for gophers which no one has been able to root out. Such a shame. I feel very fortunate to have visited back when it was on GC open days. It is without a doubt my greatest influence and inspiration as a gardener.

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  3. Wow! Thank you! I’ll make sure to visit this place soon

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    1. It's easy to combine with a trip to/from the Bay Area.

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  4. One of my favorites, I feel lucky to have been here twice...but always enjoy your photos!

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    1. As with any garden, it's never quite the same. It was wonderful to see so much color in the winter.

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  5. Your photos make any garden look good and the good ones even better.

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    1. That's about the best compliment I could ever hope for. THANK YOU!.

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  6. What a gift to the community that garden is! The photos of the Banksia with Leucadendron 'Jester' and the Chondropetalum have me reconsidering my prior apprehensions about that plant. I wonder how long it takes for it to get as big as those you photographed? I believe the pink-flowered groundcover is probably Persicaria capitata.

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    1. I'm really moved by such a generous gesture. There aren't many people who would do that.

      I don't know how old those banksias are, but I'm guessing they're part of the original planting from 2006/2007.

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  7. Wish I could of gone with you, but it was getting late and I had my tire pressure warning light problem to contend with...

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    1. Next time! I want to go back in February. That's when the leucospermums were in bloom the last time. In addition, there's a corner lot not far from the Wave Garden that has dozens of grevilleas and leucadendrons. They're spectacular in flower.

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  8. Yes, Persicaria capitata. Can be aggressive.

    Such happy, happy plants in that mild climate. Magnificent 'Jester'! Plants look somewhat changed than what was there on the Fling visit but just as fabulous if not more so. And happy, happy. Saw that Banksia for sale at Village but read:

    "This plant has proven very succesful in the bay area but has been more difficult in Southern California, possibly due to water quality issues. It was also problematic in our nursery and while we love this plant, we felt it better left to the northern California growers in the program."

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    1. My first thought was persicaria but I was stuck on the species with upright flowers. Pretty yes, but I don't want to tempt fate with something that can be aggressive.

      Good info about Banksia 'Schnapper Point'! Probably not for me then. Banksia integrifolia and some others grow happily at the UC Davis Arboretum, but they're all large bushes/small trees.

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  9. I love the wave garden too and have visited many times. The last time I hosted a Calhort coffee in the garden event at my garden, I made this followed by a trip to Annie's my bonus garden. Of course Marsha Donahue makes her own garden in Berkeley available once a week on Sundays, but I'm not aware of any other private gardens which do so .. and none with an open gate policy such as they have at Wave garden.

    On a side note, my wife and her first husband lived for a couple of years at the top of Nicholl knob in an old, world war two bunker in the early 70's. The tug boat captain who rented it to them went on to donate it to help make the Miller Knox Eastbay Regional park that is there now. She remembers watching the fireworks which were set off from there out over the bay every July 4th.

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    1. Your wife lived in an old WWII bunker? That must have been an unforgettable experience. So the bunker is still there in the Miller Knox East Bay Regional Park?

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  10. Your photos are great! I loved that garden too and had no idea it was open to the public...thanks for the info...definitely making a detour next time I am at Annie's!

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    1. I believe quite a few plants at the Wave Garden originally came from Annie's.

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  11. What a stunning Leuc. argenteum -- not an easy plant to make happy, ditto for Jester. The argenteum leuc at the Huntington looks to be making size too, so that's a promising sign. The maintenance looks impeccable, not a shriveled echeveria or aeonium leaf in sight, and the shrubs look thoughtfully pruned. I wonder if dig-it still maintains it too.

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    1. It's rare to see leucadendrons this perfect away from the coast. The largest Leucadendron argenteum I've ever seen is at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. Theirs must be 25 ft. tall.

      Funny you should mention how pristine the Wave Garden looks. The same thought went through my head. I don't know who's in charge of maintenance. I'd love to meet the owners and find out more.

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  12. The plants and views are stunning...I like all the sinuous concrete work. Just don’t like the colours of the concrete, it makes me think of the Flintstones. lol

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    1. LOL, I can see that. Color is so subjective though. Personally, I'm drawn to earth tones and don't like pale blues. I do like saturated blues though. Go figure.

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