Harmony in the Garden Blog

Opposites Attract in the garden

I love all gardens. I don’t think there’s a single style that I don’t appreciate.   And that’s part of the charm of gardeners – we’re all so different yet we all appreciate one another’s passion.  Sometimes the differences are subtle, sometimes they’re as opposite as night and day. But either way, part of the fun of discovering a garden is learning about the gardener who created it.

This is the case with two gardens I had the pleasure of visiting this past weekend as part of a self-guided Santa Cruz garden tour.  While the gardens were about as polar opposite as you can get, the gardeners themselves were actually quite similar.  As I strolled the gardens with them, you could tell they were genuine friends with a mutual respect for one another’s creative talent.

The first garden is lovingly tended to by Bill and Dale Pollard. Immediately, I could tell this was a plant collector’s garden, as there was barely room enough to walk, let alone stride down the pathway arm-in-arm with someone!

Flowers upon flowers upon flowers.  If you love flowers, this is your paradise. This is surely the happiest and most welcoming garden I’ve seen in a long time.  As I slowed down to take in each particular bed, I’d notice that many of the varieties were those I hadn’t seen before – very impressive!  But unlike many plant collectors, this garden wasn’t a mish-mash of every plant under the sun thrown any ‘ol place, but there was thoughtful design behind everything. Yes, it might’ve been a little crowded.  But sometimes crowded, exuberant gardens reflect the souls of the owners, crowded with memories and love.

As we chatted I learned that Dale lived in Vermont for many years and owned Rocky Dale Gardens, a place known for rare and unusual plants.  And get this – he was good friends with Wayne Winterrowd, one of my favorite garden writers of all time!   Ahhh… the things you learn about a person while strolling through their garden!

I especially loved the personal touch that was woven throughout.  The hand-made trellises, the brightly painted doors and walls with color combinations so vibrant they’d make you break out in a smile.  And if you want to smile even more, read all about Bill and how he was bitten by the gardening bug here.

The next garden across the street belongs to Dan Sweet.  Yes, our names are the same, and yes we’re related (sort of).  Dan’s my ex-husband and a very close friend of mine.  Our mutual love of our daughter and gardening has supported our friendship through thick and thin.

Over the years, I’ve watched Dan’s succulent garden grow from teeny-tiny cuttings into a spectacular tapestry of lush and layered textures.  And because his garden focuses on foliage rather than flowers, it looks beautiful every day of the year.  But today it was particularly stunning as the succulents were in their prime,  flaunting their blooms for all.

As you walk into Dan’s courtyard, you’re suddenly transported to another world, one filled with odd plants and kitchy art. You realize you’re definitely in a personal garden, one that reflects the soul of the gardener.  Dan’s a landscape and graphic designer, and it shows.  Everywhere you look, artful vignettes stop you in your tracks.  To see more of his inspiring artwork and gardens, click here.

The giant Draecena perfumed the air with its giant plumes of feathery white flowers – I had no idea they smelled so delicious!  While the Phormium sent up its spikes of airy yellow flowers (something that happens only occasionally around here).

With the setting sun, the plants glowed as if lit from within, their final ‘goodbye’ to the last of us on the garden tour.

If you’re in the mood for more garden tours (this time in a beach town down south) check out Laguna Dirt’s blog – she’s got some amazing photos of some even more amazing gardens!



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  • I agree–you can get something out of any kind of garden you visit, even if it isn’t exactly your taste. But a gardener’s garden is always the most delightful to visit. Lucky you to see two of these in one day.

    • I wholeheartedly agree, Pam! It always feels like a privilege to take a peek into someone’s ‘soul’, doesn’t it?

  • Wow! I just went through a very colorful walk-through of two gardens. ‘Twas like being there myself. Thanks for the amazing photos and candid descriptions.

  • Fun tour ! Thanks for introducing us to two nice gardens.
    Tis the season for garden tours and parties.
    If you’re in the Novato neighborhood please stop by on May 14 for the Marin Eco garden tour or better yet, after 4 pm , when the public is gone, I’m having a few people over for drinks and munchies.
    It would be great to see you.

    • Thanks, Michelle! If I can clear my afternoon I just might take you up on that offer! I’d love to see your garden again (it’s been WAY too long) and to have a drink with you, toasting spring’s arrival!

    • Thanks Loree! I’m glad you stopped by – I just finished Laguna Dirt’s garden tour and MAN, those are some amazing gardens!!!


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