Friday, May 20, 2022

An astonishing garden

There are gardens one has to visit to believe. Jon Kaplan and Julie Billings extravaganza in the Berkeley hills (well south of Berkeley however) is precisely one such. Astonishingly, Jon avers he really didn't start gardening here until just the last ten you scroll down and seen the amazing range of trees, shrubs and perennials that fill the garden beds, it will strain your credence. The structure of the home and garden were created over 100 years ago by Willis Polk (I believe) who also designed the grounds at Filoli in a similar Georgian Revival style. Like Filoli, this garden dazzles!

I should have made note of the plants: but there were too many! The weather was perfect for garden viewing and visiting (as it often is in the East Bay). And the garden speaks for won't be subjected to too much of my Greek chorus commentary as you scroll down.

That's Kiamara Ludwig, our Cicerone who set up the tour of three utterly amazing gardens last Monday. She works at the botanical garden at the Berkeley Regional Parks ("Tilden") as well as leading the local Bryological society, spearheading the propagation volunteers at Merritt Lake botanical garden and she was just elected to the Board of the North American Rock Garden Society. To top it off, she's great fun and God granted her a double or triple dose of the Life Force, and a treasured new friend of mine!

Yes, a full scale rose garden

Our gracious host accompanied us all the way, despite being in the throes of preparing for a long road trip to Oregon later that day!

Watsonia and purple Senecio self-sowed all over the garden, and the fragrance of Brugmansia wafted from enormous tree-sized specimens here and there...

And lots of irises and kangaroo paws too..

The wild combinations were somehow complemented with the trim boxwood hedging...

Oh yes, the grove of enormous Coast redwoods was filled with woodlanders....

Disporum cantoniense 'Night Heron'

There were several generous colonies of this, one of Dan Hinkley's many classic introductions that have become indispensable garden plants.

Adiantum microphyllum looks much like A. smithii I've seen in China.

A wide bank of Pteris cretica

Beyond the redwoods is a xeric garden full of Yuccas, agaves and other succulents...

Campanula poscharskyana twined along many of the paths...

We just missed seeing this Brunsvigia in full bloom.

Strobilanthes gossypinum

One of my favorite plants in the garden was this shimmering Acanthaceae from India.

Giant cousins to our native Mayapple (Dysosma) in many forms were here and there throughout the garden.

I have a fondness for Lord Ganesh...

The garden had a number of tree ferns, this (Sphaeropteris medullaris) was my favorite.

I kept trying to photograph the emerging crozier...

Finally got it!

ferns galore...

Another wild tree fern--this one red.

We were astonished to see Watsonias growing in quite deep shade. John informed us they antedated his involvement in the garden--he was obviously building on very strong bones!

Bart O'Brien also helped design the trips we took visiting gardens and nature during my visit. He's CEO of the Berkeley Regional Parks' botanical garden (affectionately dubbed "Tilden" by everyone)--one of my very favorite gardens anywhere. Bart was awarded the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award this year: richly merited.

Apparently this was a vegetable garden a few months ago--now designed for outdoor parties.

I believe this is the work of Marsha Donahue, the famous nearby artist whose work graces so many extraordinary gardens.

Hmmm...I may not be the only one with a thing about Lord Ganesh...he certainly smiled upon a magical visit to an astonishing garden!



  1. Fabulous! Thank you for sharing.

  2. What fun this tour was! It just so happens I met Jon on that trip he was making to Oregon and he visited my garden. Sadly it was still in it's winter clothing then.

  3. Love your pictures and comments. :)

  4. I enjoy your Greek Chorus commentary. This garden is outstanding. Love all of those ferns.

  5. What a spectacular garden. Drudges up all sorts of envious emotions.


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