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Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
Thu, Dec 15, 11 at 15:55

This year's fall color as the year ends has provided some interesting contrasts. Although this photo was taken a few years ago, the Smoke bush, Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' has again retained foliage into mid December while the Bougainvillea 'Barbara Karst' is still in full bloom. The feathery Papyrus and succulent Coral Aloes and Sunburst Aeoniums provide the winter foliage color and interest once the reds and burgundies are gone with the cold and winter rains.

I feel truly fortunate to be able to design with a climate that does have some seasonal changes, yet allows for plant growth and visual interest all through the winter. It would be hard to imagine gardening in a climate where the growing season is already over, and frozen soil and snow is the norm...

Here is a link that might be useful: Christmas time in a northern California garden


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

  • Posted by jkom51 Z9 CA/Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 15, 11 at 16:03

David, I LOVE your work. Stunning!


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

Beautiful! I love that splashy red in the vine.

You certainly live in an entirely different world :-) It has been an unusually mild Nov. and Dec. here this year - no snow; no frozen ground; the grass is still very green - although there are lots of sodden browns in view too.


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

Does any of that stuff get beaten down with the snow David?


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 15, 11 at 17:20

Tony, it only threatened to snow once here in the 6 years this garden has existed, and fortunately the elevation below 1000 feet was sufficient to keep it away. A friend's garden at 1100 feet did get a couple of inches of snow while he was off in Thailand. Suffice to say that neither his garden full of subtropicals, succulents and bromeliads, or this one, would be very happy if it did actually snow on a regular basis. Neither would I, as a matter of fact. Days with temps below 55F, I prefer to work indoors rather than outside. Fortunately most days warm up to at least 50F degrees even in January and February here, and brief snowfall maybe an inch once every 30 years or so, just to keep us on our toes. I design most of my gardens here in Berkeley as if this is a reliable zone 10 climate; 9 out of 10 years it generally is.

On the other hand, when it does freeze hard here, it wouldn't be pretty to look out, all these succulents would turn to mush. It would be safer to design with only zone 9 hardy plants, but a lot less fun... Some winters the papyrus stays evergreen, some years it gets chopped back to the ground, but always lives over regardless.

So thankful to live somewhere we can appreciate Bougainvillea vines as true garden troopers, can't beat it for that Mediterranean climate color boost for 8 to 9 months out of the year.


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

I know David. It was another gray day here and sales of those artificial sun lamps must have done well plus I was yanking your chain but you knew that.


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

Always such beauty and inspiration.

hope to see you and some of your bromeliads ( wink wink ) at the annual S.F. Bromeliad Society holiday party tonight.


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

During this bleak season, it would be nice to look outside and see cheerful colour. The vine-which-I-won't-even-try-to-spell is lovely.
And especially for this being California, the lack of triffids makes this garden particularly pleasant to my Northern eyes.
Cousin It posing proudly in the garden does not bother me much at all :)

One question though. There is an attractive raised solid stone patio built around a tree. That tree's canopy looks to be about
the same diameter as the patio itself - so how does the root system get it's water and nutrients?

Woodyoak, we're sharing the same unusual weather - no snow, no real cold but lots and lots of wind.
I hope we can still end up with a white winter...


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 16, 11 at 14:42

JKOM, thanks for the complements on the garden!

Adrienne, what appears to be a solid patio of stone is in fact a cantilevered wood structure support deck with waterproofing membrane and large sized travertine tile which spans the undisturbed slope around the pre-existing Maytenus boaria(Mayten Tree) that is all that remains from the "before" garden prior to my design. The tree canopy is in fact about the same size as the terrace below. This did require building a 2 foot tall reinforced concrete perimeter wall on the uphill side of the tree/edge of terrace to span and support the terrace and allow filling against at the uphill side to create a level lawn area. No tree roots were cut, the majority of existing slope around the tree was undisturbed, and the tree has roots all over the yard so that it doesn't need any direct rain/irrigation immediately adjacent the trunk. A raised deck is often a great solution for creating a level patio/terrace/deck around an existing tree, and making it solid is often a better solution for easy maintenance than a wood deck which traps debris between the deck boards and eventually rots out. I've often used this type of raised deck with solid tile for new gardens, even when they were flat and didn't technically need them, to raise up levels to better capture a view or create a special spot within a garden.

Six years later the tree is perfectly happy and healthy still, and makes a superb anchor tree for this terrace, although Mayten trees are notorious for constant leaf litter drop. Mayten trees are a moderately slow growing evergreen from Chile that make great substitutes for a weeping willow sort of look, but are definitely only appropriate for zone 9/10 climates.

As to no "triffids", sorry to disappoint; while this garden didn't originally start off with any palms, adjacent the terrace there is a rarely seen Trevesia palmata/Snowflake tree from Burma which definitely looks palm-like with branching. I've since added new smaller understory palms within the garden for the owners who purchased this spec-built home/garden 6 years ago now. I planted a Shaving Brush palm, Rhopalostylis bauriei cheesemanii and several clumping Bamboo palms, Chamaedorea micropadix and Chamaedorea tepelijote in an extra large pot at the terrace in the back yard, and also added two Windmill palms, Trachycarpus fortunei in the front garden. You should realize by now, that the "triffids" are everywhere here, there is no turning back :)! I can't say that I have ever encountered a new design client here in northern California who didn't appreciate the appeal of palms in a garden setting, especially when one avoids the problematic and too large growing types that are so much more prevalent here.

This fall, I also added a recessed jacuzzi and leveled the previous sloped flagstone terrace at the upper garden for my clients, along with an outdoor shower off the tool shed/play house which is screened behind that wall with the Bougainvillea vine.


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 16, 11 at 18:18

Adrienne, here's the photo of tree and patio which I think you are referring to, showing the context for others looking at this post and not browsing the entire set of Flickr photos of this garden. Tell me if that Burmese Snowflake tree, Trevesia palmata is also a scary "triffid' in your view...

Here is a link that might be useful: Reverse view of same garden


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RE: Christmas time in a Berkeley garden

Yup, that's the gorgeous patio and tree I was referring to. I really like your work (even when I'm teasing you),
especially the masterly painting with succulents and layered textures.

As to the question of triffids, the Burmese Snowflake tree is cool. It looks rather primeval, as if it may have
been munched on by a triceratops instead of an alien.


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