Coffee in the Garden of Ellen Frank, with Two Bonus Gardens

Coffee in the Garden of Ellen Frank, with Two Bonus Gardens

October 21, 2018
Cal Hort members wishing to register for this event should contact Mark Delepine.  To join Cal Hort see here.  Coffee in the Martinez garden of Cal Hort member and former Cal Hort president, Ellen Frank, who described her home and garden this way:

“I’m looking forward to sharing the garden with everyone.  I am looking for suggestions and ideas to keep it evolving.  A garden is never complete and is ever changing. As Barrie commented as we were arranging the event, ‘our garden is winding down in October.  The best month for us would be April but that’s the best month for everyone’s garden, isn’t it?’   I loved that, and so for mine as well expect an 11 o’clock garden on the brink of sleepiness.
“I’ve been in my house almost eleven years and working piecemeal to its present state.  It originally had Pfizer junipers all in the front with a narrow race track path around the house.   Inside the courtyard (front yard/backyard) was a lawn next to the racetrack path with a straight wood retaining wall keeping my uphill neighbor’s yard from spilling into my space.  The house was stained wood which I loved  (unfortunately, not anymore) and the view and the architecture of the house is what sold me.  It was just as prices were starting to drop at the end of 2017, so I could actually afford it.  Troy, whose garden is next up, gave me a consultation early on.  I had an idea to put the cement L-shaped bench out front, but in my mind, I had it facing the driveway.  He turned it around — wow, what a revelation! — sometimes it helps to have someone give a different perspective:  Troy gave me some real good ideas.
“My lot is small, something in the neighborhood of 5,000 square feet.  Today the garden is a mish-mash of plants, but mainly a tropical dry climate fusion (kind of an oxymoron and that is why I have such a problem watering).  You can’t confine a plant person to one type of plant, and I’ve gone through my phases of plant collecting, but at the moment, I have succulents, bromeliads, a little collection of begonias (mainly taking over the kitchen), and my dry collection by the street with South African bulbs and some California natives.”

The first bonus garden, also in Martinez, belongs to Troy McGregor, a licensed landscape contractor and formerly the nursery manager of the Ruth Bancroft Garden.  Troy described his garden this way:

“The garden is an ever-evolving experiment but the biggest change occurred about 10 or so years ago when the lawn came out and plants started to come in. The front yard began as a native garden and is divided into two areas by a poured concrete wall that winds its way from the house to the street. The garden is anchored by a beautiful Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp aspleniifolius. Along with two manzanitas and a few perennials, it’s all that remain of the natives. In their place is a mixture of Australian, South African, South American shrubs and grasses as well as a good number of succulents.”
The backyard is anchored by a redwood that was planted in a location which probably seemed like a good idea all those years ago. The backyard is our retreat and where we spend most of our time. It’s a juxtaposition of lush plantings and an succulent rock garden. While loosely designed, it’s mostly where we play with plants that have caught our attention.”

The second bonus garden is thirty minutes north by I-680 in Green Valley, just past the junction with I-80.  It is the garden of legendary arborist and Cal Hort member, Barrie Coate and his horticulturalist wife Carol.  The two of them have been coming to most of our coffee events.  I knew he was well known because of the way all the people I respect in horticulture just beam when they see him.  So I did some sleuthing and found this description of this couple and their former garden in an online Pacific Horticulture resource:

Carol and Barrie Coate are a dynamic husband and wife team of horticulturists. Barrie worked for many years for the Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation and is now a highly respected arborist in private practice. Carol continues to serve on the board of directors of the Foundation. Together, they have created a stunning garden in the mountains southwest of San Jose, California.

Mark Delepine, Garden Visit Director