A Fine Day in the East Bay - The Fleming Garden

Town Mouse is very good to me. Knowing I tend to be a stay-at-home little mouse, nibbling incessantly on grasses and weeds, she encourages me to get out a little and see the world. So on Sunday (actually "yesterday" for two more hours as I write) I drove over the mountain to Mr and Ms Town Mouse's lovely garden and residence - gasped at the beautiful phacelia in the front yard (see above) - and then headed up to Berkeley, and the Bringing Back the Natives garden tour. We fought the navigation system all the way there. She kept patiently and pleasantly telling us to leave the freeway at every exit (Till I banished her) - I must have set a no-freeway option unknowingly. Then she led us on a winding tour of many charming Berkeley hills neighborhoods before depositing us at our first stop: the Fleming Garden.

The Fleming garden is well known among native plant gardening aficionados in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was my first time there and I was captivated. It is a 50-plus-year old garden, sloping up, as do so many homes in those steep hills, both behind and in front of the house. Here's a shot looking up towards the house.

And here's a shot looking up from the back of the house.

The pool gathers water that tumbles prettily down the hill and is recirculated back to the top. A visitor found a tiny snake near the pool and was handling him for a few minutes before releasing him. i think he's a baby Pacific ring neck snake, Diadophis punctatus amabilis. He did have an orange belly. He was slimmer than a pencil.

The paths were rocky, with solid steps and sturdy hand rails. I really want some very solid hand rails and steps leading down into the flatter lower area of the chaparral slope here, to make that area more accessible.

(Those are Town Mouse's back paws we see - she was a nicely color co-ordinated mouse, as usual.)

The Fleming garden filled us with oohs and aahs, in a quiet, rich, green, restful way. There were flowers of all sorts, and maybe Town Mouse got some photos to share. But they were accents rather than massed bands of color. The foliage itself held my interest certainly. Here is an arctostaphylos aglow.

And here is a shot from above of a stunning bunch grass meadow on a mound, topped with lupines, and sprinkled with poppies and all kinds of delicious smaller flowers - and surrounded by admirers. Rather hard to capture in a photograph.

If only I could do something like that with our local Nassella lepida, foothill needle grass - very similar to Nassella pulchra, purple needle grass, the one used here.

But oh, the bunnies! They would think they'd died and gone to bunny heaven. It would never work without a fence.

There was even a river of grass, with Douglas irises intermingled. It looks like Festuca idahoensis, Siskiyou Blue but I'm not sure.

And a small swimming pool, edged with rocks.

And beyond the pool there is - quite a view!

That's Berkeley spreading out below, and San Francisco across the bay.

If you want to see more pictures and read a little more info on this garden, click here. Garden designer Luke Hass who maintains this lovely garden was on hand and was answering questions non-stop. His portfolio is also worth a look.

Before moving on to the next garden, we bought a couple of home made cookies from a pair of cheerful young teenage girls and sat down and soaked it all in. The sun was warm and gladdening after our chilly wet spring days.

Also enjoying a sit in the garden was the estimable Helen Popper, who is writing a book on native garden maintenance month by month, to be published by U.C. Press. She says she is making great progress, but there is a lot of detail work to be done yet, getting permissions for photos and so on. I can't wait! I'm excited for her, too.

I'm sure Town Mouse has more to share about the gardens we toured - she particularly wanted to see the Bee Garden, quite a different enterprise from the Fleming Garden to be sure.

Oh, I also have a greenhouse update - the roof is on!!


Brad said…
The Fleming garden is spectacular. Not something easily emulated since it now has a live-in full-time garden, but definitely inspiring. I didn't have time to see it this year. I'm glad you did.
Anonymous said…
What a place, CM! The garden is incredible and the view is priceless! Seeing how the steep slope was treated helps give inspiration to my own property. Handrails, I never would have thought about it but oh so helpful! I have just been thinking about my friend Gail of Clay and Limestone and me, how she is the Town Mouse and I am the Country Mouse. Just like you guys! :-)
Very nice! I love that blue grass! Nothing can beat the views...
I think I gasped when I saw the Phacelia, it's beautiful! The Fleming garden looks just lovely, I've never been. I like the shot fo the Pacific Ring Neck snake, we seem to have quite a few of them here. Such a stunning view to soak in while you rest a while too. Congrats on the shed roof, can't wait to see an update on what Mr. Woodrat has been up to!
Chandramouli S said…
Thank you for the great tour, Country Mouse! That snake looks beautiful and I admire the gall of the person who handled it. I'd have freaked out if I'd seen that and attracted the entire mass! LOL! The Fleming Garden looks wonderful.
We didn't get to very many gardens, but enjoyed Idell's garden in El Sobrante, and the bee garden. I've got a killer photo from the bee garden on my blog, but haven't sorted through the rest of my pictures.

I wonder if we were standing next to each other, and didn't know it. I had a huge black sunhat, and Robb uses a walking stick.
ryan said…
The Fleming garden sets the standard for gardens in the area. Luke deserves a lot of credit for continuing to keep it at that level.
Love that phacelia, and what a great garden!

It makes me wonder: Is Southern California--and especially my sleepy little San Diego--so that far behind the rest of the state? Not only does my town not have a native garden tour (hopefully to be rectified next year) but it seems like most of the native plant book authors live mostly to the north. Maybe that's why we're trying to grow so many north-adapted plants down here instead of what really would do well. Still I wish Helen Popper all the best in producing a great book, since each author brings something unique and fresh to the topic. I look forward to it.
Country Mouse said…
Thanks as ever for visiting and do pardon my skimpy presence in your bloggerhoods lately - still on a 60 hr work week for another few weeks. James, the book "Care and Maintenance of Southern California Native Plant Gardens" is the only one on my shelf that relates to Southern Cal. I haven't used that book so much but now I pick it up I find I want to browse in it! It does not have propagation, which is too bad. Helen specifically mentioned she would be covering propagation tasks through the year, which should be very useful indeed. faireG - good to know you and Gail are a pair o bloggers too - We've made actual - non-virtual - contact with a few lovely local bloggers through the blogs - the whole blogging experience has been quite a happy surprise to me in many ways!
Brent said…
How very nice that visit must have been.

On the meadow grass - I'm surprised that it's Nasella pulchra since I don't get that emerald green from my Nasella in S. Ca. I could use Festuca rubra to get that color, but that doesn't dance in the garden like Nasella.
wiseacre said…
Every now and then I turn green with envy when I see something I can't have. That phacelia is fabulous.