I feel like it’s been too long since I’ve really set out to write about landscapes. Despite my proclamations of settling down, I’ve decided to keep things interesting by moving yet again. I’ve also changed jobs (twice) since I last wrote. I’ve fallen in love (and not just with another plant). All very good and necessary things, but I’ve neglected to share my plant adventures here.
The pace here in the East Bay is pretty foreign to me still, after only five months of living here. I only got fleeting whiffs of it when I visited from the Sonoma area, but now that I’m immersed in it on a daily basis I notice the difference. I think I finally understand why the gardens here have a more energetic feeling; it isn’t just the fog, the lack of frost and prolonged heat, it’s also the intense pace that drives people to create sophisticated and plant-centric gardens. Perhaps I’m only speaking for myself, but dreaming of plants constantly is a wonderful salve for all my other neuroses. There couldn’t be a better time to take refuge in the garden. Often I think that the plant world has really got this life thing really figured out. If only we could all just photosynthesize and keep the peace.
Even in the plant world, there is a constant struggle. Perhaps it’s a different one than the ones we face as beings with central nervous systems, but I like to think that our problems are somewhat relatable. Then again, I do tend to project onto plants. Having said that, gardens make for lovely safe places, away from the concrete and cars, political and social drama, the stuff that can be crazy-making. Fortunately, I live in one of the best regions for horticulture. It was a few weeks ago when I stumbled across onto UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens’ events calendar. I then discovered that on certain Tuesdays the garden hours are extended until 7 PM. Wonder of wonders they also have quite an exiting array of other events, one of which my partner and I signed up for.
A few evenings ago we found ourselves sipping on various herbaceous liqueurs in the herb garden, listening to curator Jason Bonham espouse the various uses and mysticisms that certain herbs possess. He speaks passionately about his small patch of the garden and he greeted and introduced each plant like an old friend. Shortly after he finished his tour I sped off snapping as many photos as I could in the short time before it got too dark. The gardens seem to have a magical glow at that time of evening, despite the fact the fog was just beginning to wrap the trees at the edge of the canyon in its haze.
The entrance garden is probably my favorite part of the garden. While the rest of the garden (excluding the houses) is divided by region, the entrance garden is an all-you-can-eat buffet of awesome well adapted plants.
See?The variegated Arundo donax, a thug in the right conditions. Charming here where an army of well-trained gardeners can keep an eye on it.
The garden almost glows at this time of evening, and the hot colors and whites especially pop. It seemed that as the garden was nearly empty, there were more hummingbirds and rabbits than I had ever seen in one place. A sliver of the bay seen through Strawberry Canyon. Verbascum do extremely well in our summer dry climate. Perhaps some varieties a little too well. Annie’s Annuals and Perennials in Richmond carries some of the lesser seen varieties. I love seeing the blooms of these tight and tall Mediterraneans poking through a densely packed garden. The herb garden is laid out in a traditional English way. The lavender at the very front is from cuttings out of Shakespeare’s garden, according to Jason Bonham.Above, the spread where drinks were being served just out of frame to the left. Palms standing parade rest. The Puya raimondii on the right of the screen looks like its gearing up to bloom again, to my uneducated eye. This bromeliad hold the title for largest in its family (pineapple family). You can see the old bloomstalk to the left, the crispy flagpole. Glimpsing the New Desert from the fynbos of South Africa. The cabbage tree Cussonia paniculata makes for a gorgeous, if somewhat goofy, garden subject.Agave celsii albicans recovering from hail damage earlier in the season. Evidence that these tender large leaved woody lilies are not quite invincible. This agave really glows in the garden. Right by the entrance gate, Beschorneria yuccoides and Otatea acuminata aztecorum, the Mexican weeping bamboo, play off of each other quite nicely. The entrance garden is a great example of how mixing up foliage texture can create a lot of drama with flowers as accents.Yucca ‘Blue Boy’ and an agave glow near the plant deck and gift shop. I find the fuzzy flower buds of Echinopsis pachanoi both intriguing and bizarre. Maybe a little repulsive when viewed closely. Something about the smooth surface of the bud and the patchiness of the hairs give me the chills.Sarracenia leucophylla yawning and stretching, politely hinting that our time to leave was drawing near.View down the ravine into the New Desert garden. Normally when I’m here, it’s basking in the harsh afternoon glare. Refreshing to see it in the evening light.The excitement of the Arid House under lights. Our final sight of the evening before we left.