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More Lessons from the Gardens of San Francisco

Just one more – I promise.  But looking at these photos has me questioning my own garden – Is it too tame?  And other nagging questions, plus lots of fun ideas.

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In the home garden of designer/author Rebecca Sweet, I appreciate the calming effect of a perfect circle of lawn.  Yes, I rant against excessive amounts of lawn with little else in the yard, but this is a nice balance between lawn and borders.

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Here’s another smart use of lawn – edged with a brick path that widens to become a seating area.

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Rebecca creates interest where you least expect it using materials and combinations I’d never dream of using myself.  From this arrangement my primary take-away, though hardly exciting, is the idea of keeping my gardening clogs in an open basket.  Yes, where to keep our clogs is one of the many challenges we gardeners face.

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Above you see a key focus of envy for visitors, including yours truly.  The garage-size garden shed is charming from the outside and wow, look at the interior!  What’s even more charming is the shed’s back story.  It was once the playhouse that Rebecca and her friends enjoyed when she was a kid.  Having grown up here, she did leave home for many years but eventually bought the house from her parents and with her husband, is here to stay.

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The garden of artist Keeyla Meadows is a wowzer, and one that many of us would hesitate to duplicate in our own gardens, even if we could pull it off.  But lessons that can be taken home abound.  Like the use of color on the house and other hardscape elements.  Paint is quick and relatively easy.

Speaking of paint on houses, I learned that the term “painted lady,” which is applied to many of San Francisco’s most famous homes, is reserved for structures painted in at least three colors.  There may be architectural limitations, too.  Maybe just for Victorians and bungalows? Hard to imagine a modern home being called a painted lady.

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In the photo above notice the total privacy and almost total screening of the next-door neighbor’s house by using layers of elevated plants.  No fences or screening hedges to be found.

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Even us Easterners can achieve dramatic effect by growing hardy bananas in borders, among the masses of perennials and annuals.

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In another garden, this one in Oakland, I learned (left) that rills don’t have to be straight, and chairs don’t really have to be for sitting on.  (See the plant growing out of the seat back?)   And notice on the right that the rill and the seating were created in a narrow side yard dominated by stairs.

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Above, in another tiny water feature, the grill work protecting the fish from predators is a work of art.

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Another form of artwork that could fit into almost any garden is a mural, with a mirror inset.

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Above, two high-drama accents I wish I could grow.  On the left is a bromeliad but the aloe on the right jut might survive here, in a protected spot.  I want!

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Finally, the view from the gardener’s kitchen window, though I could have chosen the view from any window in her home to illustrate the point – that views from indoors matter.

Photos and text by Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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