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The Northern California Branch of the MGS

Recent Newsletters

No. 48: Autumn 2016
Forthcoming Presidio Garden visit, review of Olivier Filippi's new book and our forum about it, description of Epilobium canum (California fuchsia), and a delicious recipe for slow-roasted tomatoes.

No. 47: Spring 2016
Planned visit to San Francisco Botanical Gardens’ new Mediterranean Hill, review of January visit to East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden with Bart O'Brien, profile of Phylica plumosa, and photos of our gardens.

Winter 2015 / 2016
Planned visit to East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden with Bart O'Brien, review of visits to the Facebook roof garden and public gardens in Palo Alto, review of the 2015 AGM, and a profile of Kniphofia 'Christmas Cheer'.

No. 45: Autumn 2015
Planned visit to the Facebook roof garden and two public gardens in Palo Alto, review of Alameda garden tour, recipe for Sienese Almond Cookies (Ricciarelli), profile of Anigozanthos, update about the MGS Charter.

No. 44: Spring 2015
Planned tour of Alameda gardens, profile of Eremophila, recipe for Williamsburg orange cake.

No. 43: Winter 2014 / 2015
Planned talk on Victor Reiter's garden by Ted Kipping, review of a garden tour in Sonoma, notes from the 2014 AGM, profile of Leucadendron, recipe for persimmon bread/fruitcake.

Past events

March 2014
Santa Barbara and Ojai Garden Tour

With the Central California and Southern California branches, members of our branch visited private and public gardens and nurseries in the cities of Santa Barbara and Ojai, 5-7 hours’ drive south of the San Francisco Bay Area near the California coast. On Friday, we visited Lotusland, the justly famous garden in Montecito, toured San Marcos Growers wholesale nursery, saw a hillside residential garden in Santa Barbara's Riviera, finishing with a tour of Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens with the park's landscape architect. On Saturday we moved south to the Ojai valley, where we toured the 300 acres of a formerly public garden, followed by tours of four residential gardens and a visit to the Australian Native Plants Nursery, where we bought plants and ended a successful tour with wine and appetizers.

Acres of aloes at the large Ojai garden

Branch member Ted Kipping gave us our own Ted Talk

Ted and John examine a Calothamnus flower cluster

Entrance garden for a Santa Barbara residence

October 2013
Tour of San Franciscan landscapes by Surfacedesign

Surfacedesign is an award-winning landscape architecture firm that recently renovated public landscapes at San Francisco's Land's End Lookout and the Golden Gate Bridge Plaza. The tour was led by Surfacedesign principal Roderick Wyllie and Pacific Horticulture board member Josh Schechtel.

We visited these two landscapes, then saw a private garden designed by the same firm. Following the tour, some of us gathered for a lovely lunch at the Beach Chalet. Six MGS members attended the tour, which was offered by the Pacific Horticulture Society.

Land’s End Visitor Center in the fog

Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, with the bridge in background

April 2013
UC Davis Arboretum Visit

Twenty-eight Northern California Branch members travelled away from the coast to visit the arboretum at the University of California campus in Davis. Davis is in California's Central Valley, the large valley between the coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada range. The arboretum follows Putah Creek from downtown Davis through the university.

We began the visit with an entertaining tour of the glasshouses, led by Ernesto Sandoval. We then toured a small part of the arboretum with Director of Horticulture Ellen Zagory, enjoyed a tasty box lunch, and bought plants at the arboretum's plant sale.

Ernesto Sandoval with a Cereus flower

September 2012
Visit to Katherine Greenberg’s garden in Lafayette
Our advisory committee and some chapter members visited former MGS President Katherine Greenberg's home in Lafayette. We admired her native California garden, learned about her new edition of Marjorie Schmidt's classic reference Growing California Native Plants, enjoyed a tasty box lunch and had a great time socializing.

June 2012
Visit to Quinta Fay in Gustine

We traveled beyond the San Francisco Bay area for our late spring event this year, visiting the house and gardens of Quinta Fay near Gustine. Gustine is a farming community in the western Central Valley north of Los Baños. Carved out of the walnut orchards and cornfields that surround it, Quinta Fay - named for Fay Truitt McBride - reflects the ranching and Spanish-American heritage of the area in its architecture and landscape.

Quinta Fay courtyard and pool

Quinta Fay fountain with wisteria

Dry gardening at Quinta Fay

We met Fay’s son Beau, current owners Lenore and Peter Raffo, and their daughter Lolly, who cares for the gardens. The lunch catered by Love & Garlic of Fresno was fantastic. Thank you, Lenore and Peter, for opening your home to us, and thanks also to Kirsten Honeyman for organizing the tour!

May 2012
Mother’s Day Tour of Chris Jacobson’s Palo Alto gardens

A small group of us joined designer and member of the branch’s Advisory Board, Chris Jacobson, on a tour of three gardens he designed in Palo Alto. We also took in the public Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden, where the garden and its picnic tables under a big oak were inviting.

Front yard of an untraditional Victorian house

Aloe polyphylla plants in tumbled glass

Branch heads Bracey Tiede and Susan Bouchez in a back yard

Textural contrast with Miscanthus junceus and a concrete ball

Tromp l'oeil trellis decorates the back of a garage
Photos by Cheryl Renshaw

March 2012
San Francisco Botanical Garden and Drew School Vertical Garden

Members met at the rock garden at the entrance to San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing, and there Richard Turner began, taking us on a trip not only through the mediterranean-climate zones of the garden, but on a journey through the history of the garden. He shared anecdotes about the monastery stones found throughout the garden, stories about the trees originally planted there that have survived umpteen redesigns, tales of plantsmen from Victor Reiter and Arthur Menzies to Ron Lutsko and Bernard Trainor.

While in the South African zone, we thanked Dick for being an outstanding advisor to our MGS branch with a plaque and a year’s membership of the MGS.

Before we left the arboretum, he prepared us for seeing the vertical garden designed by Patrick Blanc for the Drew School north of Golden Gate Park. The wall is planted entirely with California native plants, from tiny ferns to Ceanothus.

January 2012
Annual Branch Meeting

A small but stalwart squad of MGS­ members met in January to hear Ted Kipping talk about the plants of southern Western Australia, one of the two mediterranean-climate zones in that continent. Through his slides, we travelled through the Esperance heath, the Warren and Jarrah woodlands, the Swan coastal plain, and up into the Darling Scarp and the Stirling Range, admiring the diverse flora found only in those areas.

June 2011
Woodside gardens
On a warm Saturday, members of the Northern California branch of the Mediterranean Garden Society assembled at the beautiful home of Sherry Perkins in Woodside, California. As a former board member of San Francisco Botanical Society and an avid plant collector, Sherry has created a garden filled with unusual specimens from the Society’s plant sales and from her personal connections with many plant nursery friends around the world. Her use of native plants merges the oaks and other large trees into beds of drought-tolerant plants. Many members were captivated by the lovely Dorycnium hirsutum - hairy canary clover - in full bloom not too far from a striking young Kashmir cypress - Cupressus cashmeriana.

From Sherry Perkins’ garden

Garden wall

From the warm valley we drove to the top of Woodside’s township on a sunny ridge to visit Betsy Clebsch’s colorful garden, also set in among some huge native oaks. Fortunately, the fog was burned off to the coast and we enjoyed perfect weather for our stroll through Betsy’s garden filled with many varieties of salvias, succulents, mahonias, poppies, grasses, roses, and more. It’s never the same when we visit – there are always enchanting and new things to see. 

Betsy’s gate

Betsy and Bracey

We enjoyed our lunches under the shade of the oaks, chatting about our visit and our own gardens. The majority of the members then proceeded down the hill to Yerba Buena Nursery which has lovely demonstration gardens and a great selection of native plants for purchase. A fine day, indeed.
Text and photos - Bracey Tiede.

January 2011
Annual Branch Meeting
This year the annual meeting was held once again at the Gardens of Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The very talented landscape architect Bernard Trainor spoke on the topic of Garden Design and a Sense of Place. He described the way he had evolved since he first arrived in California.  At the beginning he initially designed gardens that matched formal Mediterranean designs in European gardens. However, he was then drawn in by the native plants of California specific to the local microclimates; his current passion is thus designing gardens which are in harmony with the surrounding views and use mostly native plants, while at the same time providing interesting and intriguing ways to get their owners into the gardens for relaxation, play and entertainment. The photos that accompanied the talk illustrated these principles beautifully.

There was a short business meeting before the talk and some social time afterwards. The morning rain had cleared and everyone ended the afternoon with a walk through the lovely Mediterranean Garden.

September 2010
East Bay Garden Tour
We converged at the wonderful mini-botanical garden that comprises the grounds of The Blake Estate, currently the 'official residence' of the President of the University of California. No one presently inhabits the graceful mansion, but the garden is a repository of interesting plants from all over the world, arranged mostly in geographical affinity groups, and is a hands-on workshop for students in the Department of Environmental Design at the University of California at Berkeley.

Our next stop was around the corner and down the street at a garden renovated and updated by landscape architects Bobbi Feyerabend and Georgia Madden, who are MGS members, and who helped organize our day. We were delighted with Bobbi's description of the challenges she encountered, and the solutions she came up with.

Next was a charming garden in Piedmont, where we enjoyed not only delightful spaces, designed to take in views of San Francisco Bay, but also a similar description of the Before and After by Georgia. Here, with another spectacular view of the Bay, we had lunch.

After we had eaten, we visited two very interesting front gardens. One, on Arbor Drive, was a lawnless challenge to the very 'traditional' neighborhood, full of Mediterranean plants, including California natives. It is such an interesting complement to the house it accompanies that some of the neighbors have begun to adopt some of its elements. A victory for Mediterranean sense and style in a very conservative location. Hooray! The other front garden, near the Grand Lake Theater, is a connoisseur's collection of succulents and other rare unthirsty plants overseen by Brian Kemble of the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Not exactly a Mediterranean garden, but still full of ideas for the more adventurous among us.

The last stop was the lovely Mediterranean Garden in the Gardens at Lake Merritt. This garden has been in process for several years; it received financial support from the MGS in the form of the Society's annual donation, and was formally dedicated in June

January 2010
Backyard gardening in America

Those attending the January Branch Meeting in San Mateo were delighted by Chris Grampp's historical review of backyard gardening in America. With photos and information about demographic trends, Chris explained how our country emerged from an agraria
n society to become the urban and then the automobile-friendly suburban landscape of today. Did you know that the first zoning laws were enacted in Los Angles as a way of keeping Chinese laundries out of residential neighborhoods? Or that the lawn mower was invented by mistake by someone trying to make a carpet pile cutter? Chris Grampp is the author of "From Yard to Garden, the Domestication of America's Home Ground". He teaches design and construction at the Merritt College Department of Landscape Horticulture.

October 2009
Santa Cruz Garden Day

Those of you who were not able to join us on October 18 missed a glorious day in Santa Cruz and a rare opportunity to visit an outstanding nearby garden. The garden encompasses some five acres of hillside overlooking Monterey Bay. It is situated on property of a much greater size, so that to be in the garden is to have unlimited command of the marine landscape in all directions. The garden has been under development for at least sixteen years, and has had the benefit of input from some of the leading garden designers of our area as well as from its owners. Our hostess most generously guided us around the various small gardens contained within the whole. The overall effect of this horticultural tour de force is one of complete sympathy with its environment. It has the feel of having sprung full–blown from its hillside origins without major manipulation from its designers. We lunched there and then went on to visit the Cabrillo College Horticultural Center where we were met by Ernie Wasson. He gave a tour and briefed us on the lively curriculum offered by this Santa Cruz treasure, which offers so much both to its students and to the community.

Photo by Jean-Pierre Bouchez

After Cabrillo we drove on to Sierra Azul Nursery for shopping, a look at the garden sculpture display, and refreshments provided by the Rosendales: a pleasant and sociable end to a beautiful day.
Nancy Mead

June 2009
to Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, an olive ranch and Italian street painting
MGS member Ze'ev Vered presented a lively talk about mediterranean herbs at Alden Lane Nursery. We learned much about cultivation and use of herbs such as rosemary, thymes, savory, oreganos, bay, and mints. Alden Lane Nursery was a delight to browse through. We enjoyed our lunches, meeting new friends and admiring the murals on the wall of our meeting room. Following lunch we drove in a caravan to Olivina, a large olive ranch to learn about olive oil production and enjoy a tasting. The owner and his family turned out to explain the process with a tour of the pressing, cleaning and bottling facilities. To finish the day a number of us traveled to the Danville Fine Arts Faire to see Italian street painting in action by Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw. Cheryl is a member of our Executive Committee. 

May 2009
Garden and Nursery Tours in Sonoma County

We started our Mother’s Day garden tour at Western Hills Nursery and then went on to visit the Reid Garden, both in Occidental, CA. The Reids have a wonderful hilltop location with amazing garden beds; lovely colour combinations, many unusual plants, and sumptuous house. We picnicked beside the pool before driving on to Kendall-Jackson Winery. There we walked around the gardens: formal entry way, parterre beds of herbs and a large vegetable garden. To end the day we stopped at Phil van Solen’s Cal Flora Nursery to shop and have refreshments.

Reid Garden

Occidental Garden

Photos by Jean-Pierre Bouchez

January 2009
Branch members meet

The MGS members of Northern California met on January 24 at the Gardens at Lakeside Park in Oakland. Jeff Rosendale gave an exciting talk and slide show, “Art in the Mediterranean Garden” and brought some of his interesting plants to show and to sell. Nancy Swearengen and Sean O’Hara were thanked for their many years of stewardship of the branch. We are happy to report that they will stay active in Branch activities, Nancy will continue on the Executive Committee and Sean will join the Advisory Board.

Photograph by Jean-Pierre Bouchez

For more information, see this page

Bracey Tiede

"I live in San Jose, California, where the summers are hot and dry and winters are cool and, recently, not very wet. I am fortunate to live about 300 feet above the Santa Clara Valley frosty floor in a 'banana belt' which allows us to grow some tropical plants that need a bit more warmth. Something is always blooming. Our garden is the garden of a collector. After working in architecture and software programming in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, I've turned my full attention to horticultural opportunities, learning much and making many friends. Richard, my husband, shares my enthusiasm for gardening and is becoming quite a salvia connoisseur in his retirement."
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