April 30, 2011
Photos and text by Mark Delepine.
(originally published on http://www.thegardengeek.com)
Yesterday we got to see five gardens belonging to fellow members of Cal Hort, all of them east of the Caldecot tunnel in the Eastbay. Beryl, Patrick and myself drove through the tunnel to Diane and David’s garden in Orinda. We started at this large, hilltop garden with coffee. It must haven taken my camera a little longer to wake up as I was disappointed to find very few photos from here when I downloaded them today. There are many formal elements to this garden which nicely frame the view, as well as many wonderful collectors plants to drool over.
This odd facsiated Echium may have been what finally woke my shutter finger.
The second garden was in Lafayette where the Gary Gragg – who runs a palm nursery near where I live – and his architect wife have created a home and garden on 9 acres on a south-facing slope, above the valley where his great grandfather ran a dairy long ago. Most of my photos come from the newly planted south slope, behind the house. The areas nearer the house are stupendous but there is no accounting for what makes our cameras choose what they will.
The third garden took us to Martinez to see Kathy Echol’s Midhill Farms, a 10 acre piece of land with over 3 acres in gardens. A collectors dream with many plants I recognized as prized for sure and many more I didn’t know at all but instantly wanted to. The planting opportunity afforded by the long driveway was not wasted, and this acacia in bloom was the biggest star.
The fourth garden, in Alamo, represents almost 30 years of creative effort by Carl. His is a large suburban garden on which not one square inch has been allowed to go to waste. After sniffing through the more than 300 varieties of roses and gawking my way around this beautiful garden a couple of times I mellowed out and took a breather. The garden has a lot of comfortable seating and one suspects this is where Carl prefers to entertain.
Last stop, Danville for Jan’s moderate sized garden with a view to die for of Mount Diablo. They long ago had the house built and then put in two streams and many waterfalls emptying into a large pond at the bottom/back of the garden. There is a pavilion at the bottom to allow you to sit in comfort and look back up the slope at Jan’s enormous collection of interesting plants and to listen to the sound of falling water. My shutter finger got its second wind here.
Member and past president of Cal Hort Kristin Yanker-Hansen took it on herself to organize and coordinate the tour as well as to tell us something about each garden and answer loads of questions. THANK YOU SO MUCH! Kristin also worked with Jan in the last garden to renew the plantings not so long ago. She says she was inspired by the Harland Hand garden in El Cerrito and I felt much of what I felt for that garden rekindled here. If you ever get a chance to see Cal Hort gardens, clear your calender!