A Winter Road Trip, Part 2 (California Dreamin’ at the Gamble Garden)

Several weeks after my Winter Road Trip Part 1, I headed west – far west – to visit my younger son who is in college in northern California. Before leaving I decided that I would spend some of his class time visiting some gardens within easy driving distance. First stop, the day I arrived: the Elizabeth Gamble Community Garden in Palo Alto.

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

A topiary bunny near the garden shed

The Gamble Garden is a non-profit community horticultural foundation, with two and a half acres of gardens for strolling and enjoyment. It’s tucked away in a residential neighbhorhood – not surprising, since it was once the private residence of Miss Elizabeth Gamble. Elizabeth, whose father was a co-founder of Procter & Gamble Co., spent one year at Stanford before transferring to Wellesley for the rest of college. Having no doubt realized the error of her ways in terms of climate (!), she returned to Palo Alto after college and spent the rest of her life in the Gamble house. Her gardens became well-known and she enjoyed sharing them.

Any photographer loves to find a public garden that is open as early as you can get there, because of better light in the early morning and late afternoon hours. The Gamble Garden is one of those, and admission is free, with access for disabled persons. In short, a wonderful gem to find. There are demonstration gardens, a gazebo, and even the occasional wedding on site!

Here’s what caught my eye the day I visited with my trusty point-and-shoot.

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

Red-hot pokers, or Kniphofia uvaria, provide stunning color in February in the Gamble Garden

Camellias were in bloom throughout the garden. Here is one of my favorites.

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

Camellia japonica 'Chie Tarumoto'

Island beds were green and surprisingly full, even in February.

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

Mixed herbs and perennials in a rectangular bed.

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

Chartreuse euphorbia blooms brighten up a sea of green shades in the garden.

Finally, there were the succulents. Agaves and sempervivums made me wish to be a California gardener – if only temporarily.

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

A hanging basket of mixed succulents, offset by Acanthus foliage below, on the workshed wall

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

An agave with glowing silver leaves in the Gamble Garden

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

A volunteer tends to part of the succulents collection, including an "apple" cactus in the background, at the Gamble Garden

So if you ever find yourself in Palo Alto, take a detour to this garden. Waverly Street, where it’s located, is full of beautiful gardens as well. I’m looking foward to visiting in another season. If winter is like this, the rest of the gardening year must be stunning indeed.

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10 Comments on “A Winter Road Trip, Part 2 (California Dreamin’ at the Gamble Garden)”

  1. Edith Hope Says:

    Dear Melissa, It is always very exciting to discover a new garden and the history relating to this one is of interest. Of course, Proctor and Gamble is known world wide as an international company but this posting gives it a personal element.

    So good that it is free and also, as you remark, that it is open from early to late. So many open gardens, particularly in the UK, do not give the public access until the afternoon.

    • Melissa Says:

      Edith, I too was surprised and interested to discover the Procter & Gamble link. Apparently Mr. Gamble and his family were living in Tennessee when he first visited Palo Alto – and promptly thereafer relocated there! Elizabeth started college at Stanford but then transferred to Wellesley, in Massachusetts. But in the end I guess she couldn’t resist the allure of the northern California area. The garden was full of friendly volunteers working away the afternoon I visited. A very sweet place to visit, and there is in fact a gazebo which I imagine figures in weddings on the site.

      Thank you for picking this post on Blotanical! It has been somewhat erratic on the server recently and hopefully the bugs will be worked out soon.

      • John Says:

        Enjoyed these posts immensely. I assume you mean “Mr. Gamble and family” in the response to Edith, although I note that the original Proctor and Gamble married sisters so that the families were intertwined.

  2. gardeningasylum Says:

    Wow – glad you had the second shot of that agave to show its size – what a bruiser! Looks like a great garden to visit.

    • Melissa Says:

      It was really huge, that’s a good point about showing it in context with other plants (something I sometimes forget when sucked in by the beauty of a plant’s shape or color). Yes, if you’re ever in the area do visit it since it’s open all the time, unlike Filoli, which I will probbly write about next.

  3. Melissa, what a wonderful garden, and lucky to find it open so early.
    I wonder if you would like to take part in a favourite photo meme. You can read about it on my blog if you are interested, no pressure.

  4. What a beautiful gem tucked in the middle of a neighborhood. The plants are beautiful and remind me of growing up in California. The summers are beautiful as well in the garden. I love the succulents and the beautiful Camellia :^)

    • Melissa Says:

      I’ve become enamoured of succulents recently and wish we could grow more here. Do you have a favorite sempervivum? I have one called ‘Red Heart’ I have been growing in a pot on the deck, although fortunately I brought it inside for the winter so the snow couldn’t decimate it.

  5. Meredith Says:

    Gorgeous, Melissa. I enjoyed my vicarious tour. 🙂

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