Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The garden of Marcia Donahue

Last September, after visiting The Dry Garden, my next stop was the personal garden of artist Marcia Donahue.

I'd done my research and knew where her garden was and what days/hours she was open for visitors.

Or so I thought. As I approached a fellow came out of the house headed for a car out front. He saw my camera and said "Marcia's not here, the garden isn't open today"...

But...but...I started to cry. Ha, no, not really. But I'm sure I looked pretty sad as I muttered "but I'm here from Portland, I won't be here next week. I really wanted to see her garden ...(sniff)"

He barely hesitated a second before saying, "oh go ahead, but be careful - Marcia usually cleans up after the chickens and pens them before the garden is open, we haven't done that." Not a problem!

Do you know Marcia's work? I can't remember where I first heard of her, but I am familiar with what she does from one of the gardens at Cornerstone, John Greenlee's garden at a San Francisco Flower & Garden Show and pieces worked into Portland's Floramagoria.

This is very reminiscent of what you see at Floramagoria...

Plant shapes and bowling balls, it works somehow.

The chickens! I'd seen "evidence" of their moving around the garden but this was the first I saw of them.

Which way to go? Follow that path off to my left or keep moving straight?

I went straight.

Her studio I'm presuming? No I didn't peek inside, I wanted to, but just didn't feel right doing so when I was already in the garden on the kindness of another.

I had mixed emotions the entire time I was wandering. I would have loved to meet Marcia, to hear about the development of her garden, and her work. Then again I had this very magical place all to myself. No expectations, as much time as I wanted to stand there and soak it up, and see it for what it meant to me.

The garden is small, and very densely planted. It's personal, but not so much that I didn't instantly feel at home there.

I think I've seen these same bulbs in Sean Hogan's home...

I was not expecting this...

It was fabulous.

And I was reminded, from time to time, that I was not completely alone.

As I uploaded my photos for this post I realized how many I took which were oriented vertically. Usually I lean towards the horizontal. I think I went vertical simply because of how the space felt like it was closing in on me from the sides. Not a bad thing!

Something else I realized while standing here, soaking it all in. While I've been rather vocal about my dislike of "ART" in the garden, I love artists gardens! Shirley Watts, Keeyla Meadows - two other ladies with intense gardens that I loved. I could go on and on about this aha moment but I'm sure it's much more fascinating to me than to you.

Logs with lichens?

Of course not, well sort of.

This may have been the plant that grabbed me the most, I decided right then and there that I must plant one in my garden.

I later visited East Bay Nursery where I saw a similar bloom. I think it may be Michelia champaca 'Alba'...intensely fragrant and hardy to Zone 11. Damn.

Looking back at where I was when I had to choose which path to follow (ya, there's something deep in that sentence...)

And back at where I'd just been.

Wow!

Great edging.

I think I'm building up to a begonia crush...

Look familiar? If you've been reading regularly it must (from this, and this)

Now I'm backtracking. There was a side gate but I wasn't sure I should open it.

Back out front, about to leave but looking at the side garden.

Metal trunks mixed with the real thing. I hope you hung in there until the very end (which is now), I know this has been a long and photo heavy post, but I just couldn't edit my 170 photos down any further than this. What a garden!

All material © 2009-2015 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

52 comments:

  1. Sooooper Dooooper! Excellent balance of art/objects with plants--neither too much of one or the other. It must have been wonderful, too, wandering it with only hens for company.

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  2. Glad it was a long post, a wow garden that's is just full of character and beauty. It also somehow transported me back to how it felt like being in Portland. She'd be delighted that you've featured her garden I can just imagine :)

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    1. Glad you didn't mind all the photos, I just couldn't imagine eliminating even one!

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing your photos and thoughts while wandering this very personal and art-filled garden. Peter wanted so badly to go here during the Fling, but it just didn't happen. I regret not jumping at the chance now. I love those ceramic lichens/fungi, and the logs. And the metal tree trunks. That semi-circular bed edging is great too. I think maybe a ceramic Sarracenia is the only way I'll be able to keep one "alive" in my garden. So much to love about this fabulous place.

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    1. I'd hoped to visit the day after the Fling, if not for the pesky transit strike. Ah well, I think it was better this way. I just hope Peter gets a chance!

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  4. Fantastic garden, had me scrolling back up to the top for another trip or two around. So many good art pieces and ideas like the roof tile edging.

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  5. WOW. I have to go through this post a couple more times to absorb it all. There's so much to look at, it's insane! And I'm sure in person it was even more intense. I've got to see when her garden is usually open. I'd love to visit it myself.

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    1. Sundays Gerhard, and you should you really should!

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  6. The garden and the art - AMAAAY wait for it.... ZING!!!

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  7. Pictures of Marcia's garden have been an inspiration to me for many years! It's interesting to see how it's evolved over time. (The pond is relatively new.) Jungle fever has a set of pictures of this garden from the 90's hanging on a bulletin board and it's quite different now. Must admit to being a little jealous that you got to tour this garden but am delighted that you shared the great images! This made my day!

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    1. Yay! Happy to share, and I do hope you'll get to visit one day soon.

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  8. Whew. What a rollercoaster ride of color and texture and form. I can see how you ended up with 170 photos. I loved the lily pond. And the lichens and rosettes - simply amazing. How lucky you were able to venture in.

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    1. So lucky. I was humbled by the trust placed in just letting me wander.

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  9. I second Hoover! Nice balance of art/objects with plants. It helps that I love most of the art pieces. I think my favorites are the wooden(?) Sarracenia. The plants are all fantastic. I love the lush weeping trees and that bamboo with the rainbow colored culms!

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    1. I think they're clay/pottery. Although I didn't touch them I do believe, like the rest of her work, that's what they're made of. The mature plants certainly do take the garden to another level!

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  10. I've actually been to this garden in Berkeley many years ago. I love her sculptures and have seen them in Bay Area and Portland gardens. But HOW do you purchase them? Do you have to go to Berkeley and catch Marcia when she's home? I can't find anything on the Internet. Any ideas?

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    1. Good question! I do remember when Pam Penick visited after the fling she was able to make a purchase there at the garden. Certainly there must be a gallery or shop representing her somewhere in the area?

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  11. fantastic garden! wow! nice selection of graphics plants and very nice art pieces

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    1. And it all works so well together.

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  12. yeah, big difference between decorative stuff in gardens and artists' gardens. Marcia's garden would be the conduit of such revelations! The photo with the dasylirion and the chickens might be my favorite. It's such a familiar garden through books/magazines that I feel I must've visited on her open Sundays and actually did a blog search -- nope, never have. I think at one time there was a bowling ball pyramid? What a garden to have to yourself!

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    1. You will visit though, right? And certainly decorative "stuff" vs. the work of an artist...very different results!

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  13. There is so much about this garden that I love, but surprisingly, the multicolored mulch (are some of the colors from broken ceramics?) might be my favorite thing. I need more gravel paths in my garden I think (and by "more" I mean at least one). So glad you shared!

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    1. Yes indeed, at least some of the mulch was broken bits of ceramics, or maybe even bits created exactly for that purpose?

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  14. I remember her from a little book about artists' gardens, but what a long way she has come since then. At that time her art consisted almost solely of the disembodied faces (I caught a glimpse of just one of those in this post) I was wondering how this fit in with your stance on garden art. Do you think the difference might be that an artist's garden and art are all of a piece...integrated, and springing from a single source? I guess Denise said pretty much the same thing in a slightly different way.

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    1. I think that's exactly what the difference is rickii. Although Shirley Watt's garden was more a mixture of different things it still fell under the umbrella of an artist's eye. Speaking of - will you be at her talk for the HPSO?

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  15. What a great opportunity! I felt as though I was right there with you (and a little like a trespasser too). It's such a personal garden. The artwork doesn't stand out and say "look at me" as is the case with so much art and decoration in gardens - it melds with the plants and flowers so it's not clear where one starts and the other stops. I love that pot of sprouting bulbs and the moth perched on the bamboo-like poles and the clay edging and and and...Your post sent me looking for books with chapters on her garden from my collection - I've found 2 so far but I think I have at least 1 more somewhere.

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    1. I'm curious what those titles might be? I unknowingly started reading one just last night!

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  16. Loree, so glad you got the chance to see this garden, I have always loved it.The last time I was there she had bee hives way in the back. And of course, you can grow just about anything in Berkeley dammit. Because artists are well, artists , I think they have a more discerning eye when placing art in the garden.And if it all is their art it lends some consistency to the look.

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    1. Yes and yes! Berkeley = plant paradise! And the consistency of art definitely plays a big part in my appreciation. Gardens that jump from thrift store glass, to colorful ceramics and wooden signs are just too too too much!

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  17. Very interesting!! I´m happy to know the garden of the person who makes those bulbs!! I saw them in Floramagoria and loved them!! There are so many beautiful details!

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    1. So many details! And yet not overwhelming but rather calming. I think it's her palette of colors.

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  18. So, so great! I especially love how the organic and manmade shapes blend and are often indistinguishable until you look closely, and how they continually echo each other throughout the space -- it allows so much to be going on simultaneously without overwhelm. So inspirational!

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    1. Yes! You described the calm, not overwhelming, thing much better than I could.

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  19. Ummmm....anyone else see a gold penis?
    Loved this garden visit (not just coz of the penis!).

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  20. I don't want to admit how many times I've looked at this post. And as usual with a garden that I fall in love with I immediately took a stroll around my own yard, even though it's a cold and rainy day, to see how I could incorporate some of these features, though I know it's not possible. Not only is the art and how it's used wonderful, but the natural elements like mature trees and plants with their twists and turns are gorgeous. Do artists have the will to make things grow like that? I think they must ... :-)

    Thank you for your wonderful photographs!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed them Ragna! And yes, artists have a way...even with plants!

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  21. Wow - totally speechless... That was AWESOME! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'd made a mental note to forward you a link if you didn't comment. I was pretty sure you'd love this.

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  22. Marcia's garden is definitely one of a kind, and has helped establish Berkeley as a creative hub for gardens and art.She and Mark Bulwinkle were at one time partners, and both have strong links with Richard Ward of The Dry Garden Nursery. It's a bit incestuous around here...

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    1. I just read that last night (The Collector's Garden - Ken Druse), that they were once together. Interesting since I love what they both do. As for the incestuousness I think it's par for the course anytime you've got a passionate group of people all with similar focus. Not a bad thing, as long as everyone remains friends!

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  23. I think I saw this garden ages ago on an old episode of the Victory Garden (or some other PBS show). I've been on the lookout for discarded bowling balls ever since.

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    1. And how many have you found?

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    2. Unfortunately few. However, I think this brief bit of video marked a change in the way I thought about what did and did not belong in a garden.

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  24. I find it quite interesting that you have an affinity for art-packed artists' gardens, when you shun most art objects in your own garden. I wonder why that is...? Certainly it's a deeply personal garden, which anyone who loves gardens would respond to. I remember being surprised, when I visited with Jean and Melissa after the San Fran Fling, by its jungly-ness. I felt like Dr. Livingston exploring all the mysteriously winding paths. Aren't they fabulous? I'm in love with those bulbs on the tray. I bought three of her acorns when I visited -- they were all I could afford. It astonishes me to know that she and her family allow strangers to have the run of the place, with no one there. So generous and so trusting! If anyone wants another view, here's my post about the garden: http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=22854

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