Photos and text by Mark Delepine
(originally published on thegardengeek.com)
One Saturday earlier this month, Lia and I went to Bolinas to see a garden new to us but hardly new. Over the years, Sally would fill out her garden but when most of us would concede to the limitations of our lot, she just annexed adjacent lots. Sally’s is now a very large garden of about an acre. Sally is a well-known watercolorist whose garden is her subject matter. The bottom floor of her house is made up of her sunny studio and a B&B suite with its own entrance. Here courtesy of google earth is an overview of her garden. The bottom of the photo is the road from which you enter the house and garden. So north would be up in this photo.
We entered through a gate to the right of the house and circled it counterclockwise. In the near right corner east of the house, the plantings are lower in the center, becoming taller toward the boundaries. I found many less common plants to admire and others new to me to inquire about. In the center of this space, a fountain bubbles over, seeming to spill continually into the surrounding rock and gravel. There was shade to be found on this sunny day beneath the whimsically pruned Monterey Cypresses that surround this part of the garden but which would otherwise render it all a shade garden.
Beyond the house, in the far right corner there is a gravel covered area with several tables and chairs all surrounded by more beds of interesting plants. There is a wall fountain on the far side. To get here you pass under an ornate rose arbor, fittingly home to ‘Sally Holmes’ roses.
From here the ground slopes down gradually to the west, passing first through an interesting collection of succulents.
Eventually, toward the back left corner, the pathways lead back south and to the large pond. In the pond, there are large koi that Sally knows by name. There is a table with chairs and other, more comfortable seating nearby. Here we sat a while and talked with Sally about her garden and current favorite plants.
Past the pond one arrives at the western side of the house where Sally’s studio opens out onto more horticultural treasures. In the front, left corner is an area where the trunks of what appears to be native trees snake along the ground. Sprouting up from these horizontal trunks branches are sent up vertically to form a canopy of 8 to 12 feet. The shade beneath is welcoming on a warm day but not oppressively dark and there are a couple of Adirondack chairs that encourage you to seek a way in. The ground in this area is kept open except for a light layer of fallen leaves. This area is divided by a low seasonal creek bed which continues along the western side of the property, behind the pond and on to the northern fence. This corner, though simple, was probably my favorite part of the garden. Sadly I wasn’t able to get a successful photo of it but you can just see the beginning of it in the photo below.
To learn more about Sally Robertson’s paintings and other creations, her garden; and the B&B suite check out her website: www.sallyrobertson.com.