A league of its own: Casper's and Daryl's garden in Oakland (part 1)

 All of us occasionally hear talk of very special gardens almost too good to be true. 

“Have you been to so-and-so's garden? It's really something!”

“You haven't seen so-and-so's garden? You must go!”

“I can't believe you haven't visited so-and-so's garden. It's unreal!”

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit one of these gardens thanks to my friend Mat McGrath. He introduced me to Casper Curto who created the garden with his partner Daryl Ducharme. As it turns out, Casper and Daryl live just a few miles from my friends Justin and Max, and they all know each other (we went over to Justin's and Max's garden afterwards). Proof that it's a small world and that there's quite a network of gardeners and plant enthusiasts in the Bay Area.

Justin, Max, and Casper in front of Casper and Daryl's Oakland house

Casper and Daryl live in a hilly part of Oakland, and their property slopes up from the house. I had assumed that their lot was city-sized, somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet. Boy, was I mistaken!

Casper met Justin, Max, and me in front of the house, and we began our tour on the far side of the house where a steep set of stairs leads to the back garden. In the photo below, the stairs on the right are Casper's. Presumably, the planting strip in the middle is shared by both neighbors, but it's clear that Casper and Daryl have taken it under their wings.

My eyes immediately when to this elephant planter. Casper got it at Gardensia in Berkeley, a store that sells stone, metal and wood items from Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

When I saw the plants in this strip, I knew I was really going to like Casper's garden!

Bromeliads and succulents, what's not to like!

Long tresses of Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) hanging from a Japanese maple

Neoregelias in the same tree

The bromeliad magic continues at the top of the stairs...

...and in the garden itself:

The stairs are behind the lattice divider

Deuterocohnia brevifolia

The covered porch is full of treasures, most of them bromeliads that prefer a fairly shady spot:

A raised deck is the focal point of the flat portion of the back garden:

×Sincoregelia 'Galactic Warrior'. ×Sincoregelia are hybrids between the genera Sincoraea and Neoregelia. They were known as ×Neophytum (Neoregelia + Orthophytum) until 2016 when 11 Orthophytum species were transferred to the newly resurrected genus Sincoraea (named after the Serra do Sincorá, a mountain ridge in northeastern Brazil where these 11 species occur).

Agave ×leopoldii 'Hammer Time'

Euphorbia eburneum

In an “ordinary” garden, the fence would be just fence. No so here!

One of several staghorn ferns (Platycerium sp.)

Granite statues bought at Gardensia

Look back at the deck and the house

The set of stairs we climbed to enter the back garden has a matching set on the other side of the house. Again, every square inch of planting space is utilized:

And space for potted plants is created seemingly out of thin air:

Casper is not just a passionate plant collector, he's also a prolific propagator:

Flats upon flats of succulent offsets occupy any available space near the top of the staircase (above) and on top of a storage shed under the covered porch (below):

Casper propagates many of these succulents for local plant sales

This is a brilliant example of maximizing the use of space that might otherwise be wasted!

Dioscorea elephantipes next to the fence

Aloes in one of the sunniest spots in the flat portion of the back garden

Looking back at the potted bromeliads on the fence

The flat part of the back garden is quite limited. Behind the deck (and the bed with the three aloes) the terrain begins to climb—perfect for clumping bromeliads...

...and all kinds of other plants that might overrun a smaller space:

I'm a sucker for “lost” art in gardens

Phormiums and cordylines, too

Looking into the neighbor's garden from part way up the slope

My favorite statue in this part of the garden

Almost at the top, looking down

If this had been the extent of Casper's and Daryl's garden, it would have been a very satisfying visit. As it turned out, it was just the appetizer. The main course was still to come. The property is ¾ acre, and the crown jewel of the garden is the area at the top of the hill. Check it out in part 2!


  A league of its own: Casper's and Daryl's garden in Oakland (part 2)

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  1. Now that's awesome. And..there's more!??!!?

  2. To say I admire how well they've used that steep space would be a vast understatement. I felt like I was looking at a nursery at times - a VERY nice nursery! I can't imagine caring for that many pots but perhaps the Oakland climate is more forgiving of benign neglect.

    1. The Oakland climate is very gentle for the most part, but it still takes a ton of work to keep a garden as clean and pristine as this one!

  3. dear god that is incredible. To think I can't keep my potting area tidy -- tackling that today! Thanks for the inspo.

    1. I know exactly what you mean! If Casper and Daryl ever come to my garden, I hope it's after dark so they can't see all the clutter I have! :-)

  4. Yay! I love when a garden unfolds and proves itself to be much larger that it looked at first glance.

  5. Wow, what a garden! I'm enamored with Dioscorea elephantipes. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it, but I must say, it resembles a tortoise shell more than an elephant hide (although its probably a references to it's size...).
    I love much about this garden: the Japanese maple with it's embellishments, the fence glowing with potted bromeliads, and the large number of cycad throughout. And what is that massive tree? It has a wonderful trunk.

    1. You're 100% right about D. elephantipes. The caudex totally looks like a tortoise shell! I hope mine will one day look like that.

      I don't what exactly the tree is, but it looks like an oak.

  6. So unique and just amazing. Can't wait for part 2!

    1. I honestly can't remember ever visiting a garden quite like this one!

  7. Love the water feature and so many beautiful potted broms and succulents.

    1. The work that goes into maintaining this garden must be off the charts! Everything is so meticulously kept.

  8. I have two very different looking (to me at least) large agaves, one blue grey the other definitely green. Got them as "pups" from a yard that was throwing them away. Large and beautiful now, but I don't know what they are. One neighbor says both are Agave americanus. Is there a reference book or an expert I could consult to identify them?
    BTW save all your posts so I can go back and look some more. Thanks for sharing your plant adventures.


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