For four years the Marin Art & Garden Center has partnered with the Garden Conservancy to present the Marin Open Day. This yearly program draws hundreds of garden-lovers from across the Bay Area to visit and explore private gardens in our neighborhoods. In the past three years we have featured extraordinary gardens from Ross, Kentfield, Tiburon, Mill Valley and San Rafael. This year, we were looking forward to hosting “Historic Gardens of the Ross Valley,” which was to take place last coming Sunday, June 7th. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we have decided to postpone this event. It was meant to be a day to celebrate these wonderful gardens and their owners who have spent many hours creating their personal oases. It was also going to be a time to acknowledge our own anniversary and the role that the Marin Art & Garden Center has played in the promotion of green space in the Ross Valley for the last 75 years.
When we began this partnership with the Garden Conservancy in 2017, we knew that we would need some assistance identifying outstanding gardens and willing hosts. We turned to the Marin Garden Club and its former president, Pam Scott. Pam eagerly jumped in and identified several other members of the Garden Club to create a committee to assist with the planning. Our Open Day committee now includes Anne Campodonico, Stephanie Evans, Barbara Gaffney, Nena Hart, and Janey Kuhl. They have been crucial in identifying hosts, coordinating volunteers, and marketing locally for the event. We truly could not accomplish this day without them, and we thank them sincerely for their work toward our 2020 Open Day, despite its postponement. We’d also like to thank all of our garden hosts who enthusiastically agreed to open their gates for this event!
We plan to return to Historic Gardens of the Ross Valley in 2021. In the meantime, we wanted to share with you the descriptions and photos from the gardens we planned to feature this year. We hope you find some inspiration from them now and will come see them in person next spring!
The Norwood Garden in Ross offers the visitor an opportunity to wander through a space owned and tended by three generations of family gardeners. The garden was redesigned in 2006 and a pool was added in 2018. This woodland garden pays homage to previous generations’ embrace of classic, Japanese, and naturalistic styles, with the most recent plantings around the house utilizing water wise plants. The mature canopy of trees lining the perimeter of the garden—redwoods, oak, spruce and dogwoods—offer a dramatic backdrop to the woodland setting. As a former flower designer, the owner wanted a plant palette that spans the seasons and offers cutting flowers throughout the year. Also featured is a circle cutting garden enclosed by a split rail fence and boxwood, where bird, butterfly and bee attractants grow with abandon.
Old Oak Hill
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A three-acre garden on a ‘hog back’ surrounds the carefully placed 1905 Bernard Maybeck designed house. Vintage native oaks frame views of Mt. Tamalpais. Two coast-live oaks are particularly grand and are named (by the owner) ‘General Fremont’ and ‘Mrs. Fremont’. They are surrounded by Chasmanthe plants and when they are in bloom (red-orange), it is hummingbird heaven. After the S.O.D. pathogen destroyed many oaks in Marin County and notably in this garden, the owner took the opportunity to create new vignettes, always trying not to stress the remaining oaks. Now winding paths lead to ponds, a waterfall, a golf pitch, climbing roses (including the famous ‘Kiftsgate’), a succulent garden, a beehive and a micro-farm that generates produce for a chef-daughter.
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A little southern charm in Kentfield! Follow the sweeping stone paths past old roses, hydrangeas, and dogwoods. Venerable oaks and Japanese maples shade the property, providing a peaceful sanctuary for the owners to enjoy. An antique foundation and bricks from a foundry near New Orleans serve as further homage to southern memories.
Over an impressive stone wall, passers-by on this leafy thoroughfare can glimpse just the top of a massive magnolia tree and the whimsical fairy tale turret of this 1878 Victorian mansion. Enter through a shady alee of Chinese elm trees and the scale of this fabled Ross estate reveals itself before you in breathtaking fashion. Follow the path towards a cluster of six classic Craftsman cottages, originally built on a neighboring estate, finished in deeply lustrous polished cedar shingles. These are among the many skillful and highly personal works in this property’s lengthy restoration since the owners moved into the house in 1984.
Much of the masterful handiwork was done by the husband, a respected architect, builder and author. To the side of the guesthouses, the couple faithfully tend to their planting beds, abundant with squash, zucchini, tomatoes and giant pumpkins. A large cistern lies beneath one of the smaller cottages, which, along with an aquifer, provides nearly all of the water for the gardens, including the expansive lawns.
Pass the fountain sculpture, designed and imported from France by artist Jan de Luz, and the sweetly decorative garage, through a garden of hydrangeas and lilacs to another unexpected corner of the gardens, this one a favorite of the wife for its tranquility and magnificent display of roses. As you pass the vintage greenhouse and the grandchildren’s turreted play structure, take in the view of the pool, flanked by a dozen fountain
spouts. Take in this inviting spot for entertaining with its chandelier made of antique wine barrels and an imposing fireplace. Exit this garden like Alice in Wonderland, through a secret, diminutive door you might have never noticed from the outside.
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Inspired by the Mediterranean, this garden is a casual blend of modern form and lush plantings that focus on being waterwise and fauna friendly. The front garden was designed in 2018 by Katharine Webster MLA and its principal kept an open, inviting friendly neighborhood garden while providing privacy and gorgeous focal points from both inside and outside of the home. The plantings include a mixture of textures and forms including arbutus marina, cypress sempervirens, magnolia little gems, laurus nobilis, teucrium, thymus gold, salvia snow hill, achillea millefolum terra cotta, artichoke agave, eurphorbia, santolina, little ollies and more. The back garden is a play area with vegetable beds and cutting gardens as well as areas of relaxation under olives and a little nook for the owner’s beehive.