Justin's and Max's Oakland garden: the front

Last weekend, I finally had the opportunity to visit the garden of my friends Justin and Max in Oakland. I'd long followed the garden's evolution—and its plant and animal inhabitants—on Max's and Justin's Instagram pages. Seeing their garden in person was a bit like déjà vu, but there were still plenty of surprises.

The biggest was how mature the plantings were, considering the garden is only 3 years old. There is no automatic irrigation system so everything is hand-watered; Max says even that isn't as regular as it could or should be. The mild Oakland climate definitely helps speed things along!

Max is a professional horticulturist working for a large landscape construction company, and his and Justin's garden masterfully combines their personal favorites. As I was driving down their street, I knew immediately which property was theirs since no other house had a garden like theirs. (Their next-door neighbor gave them permission to plant up their front yard so soon two lots on their street will have standout gardens.)

I took so many photos that I've split my post into two parts. This one installment is about the front garden. Part 2 is about the back garden.

The photos from this angle were taken from the neighbor's driveway. The planting strip you see in the photo above and below separates the two properties. Along the left side of Justin's and Max's house is a hidden shade garden; you'll see it in a little bit.

Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream' is ever-blooming

Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream' 

View towards the houses on the other side of the street

Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata var. aztecorum)

 Ricinus communis 'Carmencita'

Yes, Ricinus communis 'Carmencita' is invasive and has poisonous seeds, but it's oh-so-alluring. As you can see from the number of photos I took, I fell hard (again).

Justin pulled a handful of volunteer seedlings for me, so soon I'll have my own 'Carmencita' to drool over—or curse, as the case may be.

On we go.

Euphorbia mauritanica

Aloidendron 'Hercules' in the corner of the front garden. The driveway in on the right.

From a different angle

Beautifully pruned Acacia pendula underplanted with Centaurea gymnocarpa and Aeonium 'Zwartkop'

Second Aloidendron 'Hercules'

×Mangave 'Crazy Cowlick' and Lomandra confertifolia 'Seascape' 

Lomandra confertifolia 'Seascape', Aloe brevifolia, and Dymondia margaretae as the perfect filler for the spaces between the stone slabs

First Aloidendron 'Hercules' again

Flowering ×Mangave hybrid created by Brian Kemble, curator of the Ruth Bancroft Garden

×Mangave 'Lavender Lady'

×Mangave 'Spotty Dotty' and Agave bracteosa in a clay pipe

Tree daisy (Podochaenium eminens)

Next to the tree daisy (Podochaenium eminens) is a small hidden garden

Moss boulders...

... with ferns tucked in between them

The slender trunks belong to brugmansias planted from 4" pots three years ago

A stone basin adds a Japanese touch to this shady spot

Passiflora sanguinolenta from Ecuador

Passiflora sanguinolenta doesn't have the large complex flowers of other species, but it's a beauty in its own right

A panel by noted Oakland steel artist Mark Bulwinkle adorns the landing at the front door:

Agave bracteosa in a pot, and Aloidendron 'Hercules' in the ground

One final shot of the front garden:

Aloidendron 'Hercules', Yucca rostrata, and Agave desmettiana 'Joe Hoak' next to the house, with Justin inspecting something in the ground

There's a lot more to discover in the back garden. Click here to see for yourself!


  Justin and Max's Oakland garden: the back

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  1. This post is such a treat! And I think I've met what's needed at the east fence, that amazing giant tree daisy. Very energizing post!

  2. A great way to start this dreary cloudy day. Those Aloidendron provide great vertical interest in the front garden. Looking forward to part 2

    1. I have a 'Hercules' as well, but mine's a gangly runt compared to these stately specimens!

  3. Beautiful! So many cool plants in what seems like a very small space. How big is the front garden would you say?

  4. Its a wonderful "hidden garden", cobble stones and all. It looks to me like a fern table on a massive scale. Magical.

    1. "Fern table on a massive scale" - that's a great way to put it!

  5. There's a lot to love here. 'Hercules' looks spectacular surrounded by ornamental grasses. I was impressed by the moss-covered rocks mixed with ferns too, although they made it clear just how different the Oakland climate is from my own. That tree daisy (which isn't at all like the Olearia tree daisy I recently purchased) caught my attention immediately and made me very covetous.

  6. Wow they did so much so fast in a modest space. Very impressive.

  7. Neither rain nor sleet nor COVID! Will be back after dinner to see the back.


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