Vintage California: Stunning Display Garden

Tuesday night I attended a preview of the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. This year’s show features 16 display gardens in addition to plants, seeds and other garden wares for sale.

Vintage California won several awards and it’s easy to see why. Designed by Brian Koch of Terra Ferma Landscapes, the garden features an enormous orb built with discarded grape vines. I felt like a kid in a fort.

The structure is both ethereal and substantial, a bit reminiscent of a nest.  I’m picturing birds swooping in and out of the branches while I sip my crisp glass of wine, below.

From the show’s site, Vintage California:

is a response to the wine country landscape and the periodic clearing of vines that have lost favor or popularity. This removal of vines is a process where large excavators scrape the landscape clean of the vines, posts and wires and then pile them up to be burned. Witnessing this take place while visiting wine regions has left a strong and lasting memory with us. The rustic beauty of the region and the interdependence of the winegrowers, the vines and, now, the natural ecosystems are what inspire us. The vine orb, which is the centerpiece of the design, is constructed of old vines that have outlived their value to the vineyards.

Vintage California

Vintage California
Terra Ferma Landscapes
Brian Koch, designer

I don’t know if it was intentional, but the row of grasses, planted on a gentle slope, are reminiscent of rolling hills of grapes. My in-laws had a small vineyard in Calistoga before they passed. I think they would have enjoyed this.

Underneath the vine orb

Underneath the vine orb

Inside the orb a low rock wall flanked both sides, with a small fountain between stones.

centered under the vine orb

Centered under the vine orb

A clever use of sea glass and discarded wine bottles forms the floor of the garden. I was a bit tentative walking on it, but it proved substantial. Isn’t it pretty?

plant markers

Clever markers, hand-stamped on scraps of wood

Throughout the garden, plant-markers sported hand-stamped descriptions on what looks like small scraps of wood. It added to the vintage vibe.

garden exit

Exiting the garden

The garden, planted with greens and purple hues and the incredibly fragrant Jasmine is restful. Congratulations to the designer and his team.


If you live in the Bay Area, there’s still time to attend the show. It runs through Sunday, March 23rd.  Tickets and info here.

Opening Night: San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

at the show

With my friend Candace wearing our beautiful Hawaiian leis.

Last night was great fun.  I attended the opening night celebration of the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.

We were ravenous when we first arrived, so we took a cursory look, then found the buffet.  Sated, wine glass in hand, we sat near the podium where they announced the winners.  Then we were off.

She showcase gardens are incredible works of art, combining plants and trees with hard-scaping. The effort it takes to install one of these gardens is monumental, but by the time we arrived, all was in place and looking fabulous.  These shows are always crowded, so one of the best parts of attending last night was the smaller gathering of people. The downside is that we missed the commerce portion of the show, vendors selling garden-related fare as well as plants and seeds.  I don’t *need* a thing, but it’s always fun to look.

There are 16 gardens displayed this year.  American Community Garden Association created one of the designs.  Three colleges, including  Academy of Art University, Arizona State University and Foothill College presented collaborative efforts.  The rest of the garden creators are professional landscapers and designers.  They were all beautiful and incredibly diverse.

Here are a few (Note: the photos are mine, the descriptions come from the show program).

Sanctuary Steppes

Remember how excited you got as a kid when you used Mom’s bed sheet to make a tent in the backyard? You and your buddies thought it was the coolest thing ever. Yurts will have that effect on kids. As adults, our needs are more. Imagine a garden sanctuary where you enter a realm that soothes and calms. The healing plants or herbs are not just ornamental. Inside the yurt you touch the earth. You can even gaze at the stars through that opening. The paths are for walking meditation. The open courtyard and fire pit are for story telling late into the night. Other sculptural elements awaken us to be mindful of many things.

garden yurt
Sanctuary Steppes
Garden Hortica, Jeffery Lim
Healing Spirit Plants, Richard Koenig
Village Yurts

The idea of a yurt in the middle of a garden sure sounds like fun. I love the surrounding paths and the beautiful plants.


We are Inspired by the boatyards of the Northern California coastline. Like these yards, we use materials that are readily available, practical, and that we can find at low-cost. These materials include discarded decks, arbors, play structures, tailings, and concrete forms, and many, many fence boards. We bind these materials with metal fasteners and use them in new ways to create space, pattern and texture in our garden. Inspired by marine spirit, practical materials and modern lines, our garden introduces a refreshing style to the Bay Area garden.

McKenna Landscape Leslie McKenna

Anchored: McKenna Landscape
Leslie McKenna

garden bench

Anchored: Trying on the garden for comfort


Anchored: the long view

There were so many clever ideas in this garden. The top of the outdoor bar incorporated nautical rope under a piece of glass (see photo collage, bottom right). They used anchors and seashells throughout the design and beautiful reclaimed wood. The garden was warm and comfortable.

Days Gone By

Days Gone By demonstrates how a garden can embody the unique character of a place’s heritage while incorporating modern details that evolve and enliven it. All details were selected with functionality in mind. The paving in the garden is original cobble used in San Francisco streets in the 1800s, evoking a feeling of wandering through the city in humbler days.

We both took a turn on the garden swing and loved the cozy appeal. Everything in the garden is edible, including the cat grass planted beneath the swing.

Days Gone By

Days Gone By
Hortisculpture Landscape, Rebecca Pollon
Extol Construction, Edwin Moriarty

Days Gone By: Espaliered fruit trees

Days Gone By: Espaliered fruit trees

I have more to share, so please stop by again soon. Meanwhile, what do you think so far? Can you picture yourself in one of these gardens?

Early Bird Special: Catch the 4:02 to the Vernal Equinox

DSC_0033It’s here.  Well, almost here.  The first day of spring. The day we gardeners dream about.

If you live on the west coast of North America like I do, spring officially arrives at 4:02 am. When I worked full-time, I used to try to take the first few days of spring off so I could start a garden. This year, I’ve rearranged my schedule to attend the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. I am so excited.

The show opens tomorrow, March 20th and runs through Sunday.  It’s exciting to be among the first to arrive when everything is still fresh. This year’s theme is Gardens Make the World Go Around.  Frankly, I couldn’t agree more!

I’ll be taking photos galore to share with you later in the week. And…guess what?  It’s raining!  (Shhhhhh….we don’t want it to stop).

Ah, spring, how I love you so.


What is a Vernal Equinox?

An equinox occurs twice a year (around 20 March and 22 September), when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator. The term equinox can also be used in a broader sense, meaning the date when such a passage happens. The name “equinox” is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are about equal length.

At an equinox the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator (i.e. declination 0) and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: classically, the vernal point (RA = 00h 00m 00s and longitude = 0º) and the autumnal point (RA = 12h 00m 00s and longitude = 180º). By extension, the term equinox may denote an equinoctial point.

The equinoxes are the only times when the sub-solar point is on the Equator. The sub-solar point (the place on the Earth’s surface where the center of the Sun is exactly overhead) crosses the Equator moving northward at the March equinox and moving southward at the September equinox. (Since the sun’s ecliptic latitude isn’t exactly zero it isn’t exactly above the equator at the moment of the equinox, but the two events usually occur less than 30 seconds apart.) – Read more at Wikipedia