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San Francisco Flower Show 2009

"Sustainable Spaces Beautiful Places" was the theme of this year's SF Garden Show. Beautiful places are a matter of taste; some of the gardens did not meet my personal aesthetic.

Of the eighteen gardens (excluding the Container Gardens and the Chateau la Vieille Barrique du Vin which I did not find), six were explicitly designed for sustainability: The Urban Garden (UCB Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning); Serenity Now! (Tierra Seca Landscape Design; Sky's the Limit (Rebecca Cole Design); Actinomycetes, Worms, and Fungi, OH MY! (San Mateo County RecycleWorks); !Sing! (Mariposa Gardening and Design); and The Sustainable Garden ( Coincidentally, these were among my favorite gardens at the show.

Sky's the Limit and The Urban Garden were set in the city; each intended to maximize the often limited open and living spaces found in cities like New York and San Francisco. Rebecca Cole writes of her garden:
As our cities become more populated, space becomes more limited, and out desire to be more "green" flourishes, the roof emerges as the pasture for a gardening revolution. Maximizing the limited space for living, gardening, and venting, this high-rise roof top garden, 20 stories up, merges indoor/outdoor living, al fresco dining and energy saving building technologies with a passion for sustainable gardening.
Cole's sentiments were echoed by students from the UCB Dept. of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, though differently executed.

The city of the future is crowded: open space is rare and valuable. Faced with re-densification, every plane has potential as a planting surface. The San Francisco backyard of the future utilizes the walls, roof, and furniture to create a green oasis. Because space is limited, the garden must serve a variety of functions....
For example, the walls were planters and the seats sprouted grass.

Particularly creative in the UCB garden were the movable planters and garden walls! I think the components of the UCB garden could either be replicated by DIY types or manufactured affordably. However, replicating Cole's garden experience could be costly.

More suburban or less space-constrained garden designs also showcased sustainable elements. Serenity Now! was "a mash-up of contemporary design with wild nature" shown above The latter was provided by Bay Natives of San Francisco and included Carex pansa and Penstemon azareus shown below.

Still in California, but closer to home, was Mariposa Gardening and Design's !Sing!. In fact, the garden was so reminiscent of Berkeley that one viewer remarked, "It's got that Berkeleyite thing going on." The garden is composed of, amomg other elements, native plants that provide songbird habitat and forage.

The form of the arched stone wall in the garden reminded me of the Ice Wall in Teardrop Park in New York.

The Sustainable Garden is "about gardening with plants that are happiest in the local climate and soil." Tony lives in the mountains outside Los Gatos, California so I assume the "Lily of the Nile, pittosporum, Indian Hawthorn, and the rest" mentioned in the garden's description are happy in Los Gatos. In any case, i enjoyed several of the elements in this garden: the 25-foot tall windmill which "represents the old-fashioned way of pumping water out of the ground," the solar panels, and the rainwater catchment roof system which supports goldfish!

The !Sing! garden featured "an edible plant guild" but Actinomycetes, Worms, and Fungi, OH MY! was all about food gardening. The designers, San Mateo County RecycleWorks and Garden of Eden Landscapes, developed several forms in which to grow vegetables: in rows, up a trellis, in a mound, and in a raised bed. The garden also highlighted rainwater collection.

The soul also requires sustenance and the 11:44 am, Friday garden does the job well. G. Anders Gardens with Terra Natura and Laural Landscapes designed "a therapeutic space of growth, hope, and beauty for anyone in need of an enabling and high sensory garden experience." This garden was created specifically "to honor our disabled veterans." The first thing I noticed about the garden was its smell; lavender (Lavandula stoeches 'Otto Quast'), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Ken Taylor') and jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) filled the air around the garden. The form of the garden was very welcoming and the designers were clever in their naming by taking advantage of the vernal equinox (Happy Belated start of Spring).


Anonymous said…
I've been out of the loop and have catching up to do here! I love that the SF show actually featured more in the way of actual sustainability. In Seattle, it was sadly lacking. I would have fainted with joy seeing that "Berkeleyite" garden here! And the veggiescapes. Really a missed opportunity, so many here are so interested in this stuff. That Cole garden was fun to look at but I think it belonged in an art gallery more than a plant show! Expensive as all get-out to install and maintain even a small portion of it - not too sustainable!
Anonymous said…
Karen, I agree with you re: the cost of the Cole garden. It's sustainable design for more affluent folks. Also, the amount of "stuff" in the garden begs the question: were the garden products themselves harvested, produced, and shipped in a sustain-able manner?
Ellen Zachos said…
I, too, thought the sustainable gardens were most interesting. It was such a relief to see something other than the usual forced, entirely impossible, staged gardens.