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

As I said in part 1 of this post, Casper and Daryl's hillside garden in Oakland would be impressive enough if it only consisted of the lower portion. But there was a lot more to come. 

As I was climbing the stairs, I had no clear idea what I would see. Frankly, that's my favorite way of experiencing a garden I'm visiting for the first time: with no expectations and no preconceived ideas. The less I know ahead of time, the more exciting it becomes; there's always time to find out more later on.

On that note, let's start a few steps up from where part 1 left off:

As you know, I'm not biggest fan of Agave americana, but this specimen is magnificent. It might be the variety expansa, the largest of the species.

See the orange-flowering shrub in the next couple of photos? I had no idea what it was, but the color is so vibrant that I immediately thought it might be something tropical. 

I was right. It's a tropical shrub. Specifically, a vireya. That still didn't mean anything to me until Casper explained that vireyas are tropical rhododendrons. Mind blown! I had no idea such a thing existed. It turns out that rhododendrons in the section Vireya are native to southeast Asia; some are even epiphytic, i.e. they grow attached to trees, on fallen logs, etc. 

As a group, they're very tender so not suited for our climate. That would explain why I've never seen them in our nurseries. For a sane person, that would be enough of a deterrent, but a) I'm rarely sane when it comes to plants and b) I do like a challenge. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Yes, I ordered some vireyas to try in our own garden. They're hard to find in the US (their popularity seems to be confined to Australia and New Zealand, as well as decidedly tropical locales), but the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington had quite a few vireyas listed in their online store, and they were still taking orders (the order window is now closed until next spring). I ordered four vireyas, including a hardy species (it can take temperatures down to 5°F). They'll spend the winter in the backyard; I'll report back in the spring how my little experiment went!

Vireya rhododendron (Casper couldn't remember the hybrid/cultivar name) planted in the ground

Climbing out of the vireya rabbit hole and moving on...

Cool metal sculpture in front of a Zamia furfuracea, a semi-tropical cycad from the Mexican state of Vera Cruz

Main path in the upper garden

One of many Japanese elements

Bromeliad arbor and pergola

Looking back towards the lower garden (down below the oak tree)

Main patio in the upper garden

Aloidendron dichotomum

Massive Furcraea selloa 'Marginata' on the left, with a bromeliad lath house behind it

The garden contains many semi-hidden elements like this small water feature attached to the fence. They're easy to miss if you don't pay close attention.

Inside the bromeliad lath house you saw behind the Furcraea

Isn't this the most luxuriant Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides)!?

Neoregelia 'Razzberry Ripple'

Vriesea sp.

Vriesea sp.

More of that lovely Spanish moss

And even more Spanish moss in a smaller greenhouse

Back at the main patio...

Justin, Max, and Casper

Cycads from the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

Bromeliad-studded pergola—going up is the way to go when you have to many plants

Rhipsalis (red) and tillandsia

In the very back you can see the Agave americana from the first photo

Tillandsias make it easy to garden vertically!

Often I didn't even know what to focus on, there was so much to see

I'm terrible with orchid names so no ID for this one

Billbergia and plumeria

Cordylines towering over the pergola

Wider view with yet another small greenhouse on the left (I think there's a total of five green/lath houses)

I think green cordylines are vastly underused. En masse, they look stunning!

Looking back towards downtown Oakland (and the lower garden below)

While the upper garden is bromeliad-heavy, there are some succulents, including this Agave schidigera

The sheer number of plants, in the ground as well as in pots, was overwhelming

A particularly striking combination: Plumeria, Graptopetalum, and Encephalartos

Yes, bamboo, too...

...and foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers')

Lath house with subtle Japanese styling

Great foliage contrast thanks to Encephalartos lehmannii

Even the paving is special

Looking towards the patio standing in front of the lath house, with another greenhouse on the right

Different greenhouse on the left (it's the same one you saw earlier in the photo with the green cordylines)

Any of these views could/should be in a book!

Continuing on across the arching bridge you see behind the statue

Is it a warrior or a sage?

Bridge from the other side

The “it” plant here is this black tree fern, Sphaeropteris medullaris (earlier classified as Cyathea medullaris). It's endemic to New Zealand (where it's called “mamaku”) and across the southwest Pacific. 

I'd never seen one before, and I tend to think that it's a very uncommon sight in California

I have a weakness for tree ferns anyway, intensified by the fact that I simply can't grow them (I've tried several Cyathea and Dicksonia species)

I'm glad I got to see such a magnificent specimen in Casper's garden!

The last greenhouse we peeked into (the one you first saw in the cordyline photo). It seems to be used primarily for propagation.

Notice the orchid cactus hanging from a redwood branch

A massive staghorn fern attached to a native redwood tree

The area in front of the redwood trees is home to quite a few cycads, ranging from Mexican ceratozamias to Australian macrozamias

Almost the same scene as the first photo in this post, just from the far side against the fence (the redwood trees are behind me on the right)

A few last photos taken on the way back down to the lower garden:

Variegated ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata), still uncommon in gardens

The lower portion of the steps that lead to the upper garden

And finally two photos I forgot to include in part 1. They're too good to leave out.

Swoopy Tillandsia sp.

Bristly Tephrocactus paediophilus

Needless to say, a garden of this caliber doesn't happen overnight. Casper and Daryl have been working on it for 20+ years. It's a labor of love, in the purest sense of the word. The two of them have created something extraordinary that is bigger than the sum of its parts and takes what a private garden can be to a higher level. A truly extraordinary space!


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

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  1. Wildly, magnificently exuberant and packed with treasures! I love it all! Thank you for taking us on your visit.

    1. It's definitely a "more is more" garden. I wouldn't be surprised if Casper and Daryl regularly rediscover plants they'd forgotten they had!

  2. It's hard to over state how magnificent this garden is, "extraordinary" will have to do. It flows from one area to the next effortlessly. That tree fern and massive staghorn fern on redwood tree are amazing and I love the many benches spread around, for rest and contemplation. You are so lucky to have seen this place. I'd need multiple days to take it all in.
    I hope you'll make time to stop at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden next time you head north on I-5.

  3. Wow! Overwhelming in it's diversity of plantings, levels and pots. The type of garden you could spend hours in just studying the many different plant species. The thought of gardening with all those stairs those gives one pause though. No need for the gym.

  4. Well now, that's pretty darn fabulous. I need a bromeliad arbor!!!

  5. That's a true collector's garden. I think I'll follow their example and move some of my (handful) of bromeliads to my lath house, where they'll get more protection from the sun than they currently receive. Over the years, I've received repeated recommendations to try Vireya rhododendrons here and I even went so far as to check the same Washington organization you ordered from. There's a San Pedro gardener who reportedly gets his plants shipped from Hawaii but the material available online about that nursery is spare - I think you have to know what you want in advance.

  6. "I'm terrible with orchid names so no ID for this one." Thunbergia mysorensis.


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