Archive for September 2012

A Knot Garden at Filoli

September 22, 2012

When I was in the Palo Alto area in June this year, I visited Filoli again (as well as the Elizabeth Gamble Garden). It was blazingly hot, and I wasn’t sure I would get any good images because of the sun and time of day. So today’s post is sort of an ode to my B&W circular polarizing filter, as you’ll see.

I knew Filoli’s gardens were formal, for the most part. But on my prior trip I hadn’t ventured far enough to discover its Knot Garden. Located just beyond its rose garden area, this was no ordinary knot garden. All the knot gardens I had seen before were clipped boxwood shapes. The one at Broughton Castle was clipped and had roses inside the spaces.

Broughton Castle, Ladies Garden, English gardens

The walled knot garden on the south side of the castle, known as the Ladies’ Garden, was established in the 1880s on the site of the sixteenth century kitchen. The fleur de lys beds are planted with Rose ‘Heritage’ and Rose ‘Gruss an Aachen’.

Oh so tidy and veddy British, don’t you think? Closer to home, I’ve seen a knot garden at the National Arboretum, with its edging plants somewhat more loosely clipped.

National Arboretum, Knot Garden

A knot garden in the National Arboretum in Washington, DC

So at Fioli, I was delighted to come across a knot garden composed of barberry, lavender, santolina, and little rosemary balls trimmed like lollipops – all viewed against a hedge of copper beech. Originally planted in 2007 by a local garden club or two, I’m not sure its shape is as tidy as the original plan, but I absolutely loved the sweeps of lavender, just coming into bloom.

Filoli Garden, lavender, knot garden

A rosemary standard is silhouetted against a copper beech hedge and provides a formal contrast to masses of Angustifolia lavandula ‘Hidcote.’

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any elevation when shooting so the shape of the knot garden isn’t that evident from my photos. And the sun glared off the barberry leaves mercilessly.

Filoli, knot garden

Here you can get an idea of the sweeps of barberry, santolina and other plants used in the Knot Garden at Filoli, with the copper beech hedge in the distance. The sun’s glare on the barberry leaves is very evident.

Filoli, knot garden

A more tightly-cropped view of the same scene, with three of the rosemary standards visible from left to right, ending at an opening in the hedge.

Finally, I brought out the polarizer for my 24-120mm lens, and used it to cut the glare on the barberry shrubs. Here’s the result.

Filoli, knot garden, circular polarizer

Now the barberry leaves, while a deeper red due to the polarizer’s effect, have lost their glare. And I like the line of the plantings as they lead your eye back to that little rosemary standard.

For more information on Filoli’s Knot Garden, click here. I have to say I didn’t experience the layout as two separate shapes as shown in this description, but gardens change over time. And I loved seeing the concept updated for a California climate!

The Gamble Garden, Redux

September 7, 2012

In mid-June, I found myself back in Palo Alto for my younger son’s graduation weekend. Since my body was on East Coast time the day after I arrived, I decided to head for the Elizabeth Gamble Garden, which I’d last visited in February several years back. I’d loved the garden’s “bones” and its topiary bunny, as well as its impressive collection of succulents, which can get through Palo Alto winters easily.

This time the area was awash in unusual heat, reaching up into the mid-90’s, but the garden looked beautiful and didn’t appear to be suffering. The bunny was still there.

Gamble Garden, Palo Alto, topiary bunny

A sunflower admires the topiary rabbit in the Gamble Garden in June.

Even though it was only a little after 8 a.m., the sun was already very bright, so I chose my shots carefully. Verbena bonariensis, scattered throughout the garden, looked especially nice in the rim lighting.

Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens, Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis, acting as a see-through scrim in the Gamble Garden with pink Agastache behind it.

Moving away from the harshest light, I found some other great plant combinations. The first one was a contrast of Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’ (my thanks to the thoughtful volunteers who had labled it) combined with a blue-purple annual verbena. I loved the pop of the colors.

Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens

Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’ and purple annual verbena in the Gamble Garden, contrasting nicely with a broader-leaved perennial in the upper right corner.

In the “let’s do monochrome” category, I liked the way some pink alstroemaria had been planted in front of red barberries.

Gamble Garden, Palo Alto gardens, Alstroemaria

Pink alstroemaria (variety unknown) in the foreground of a planting of red Berberis thunbergii.

In the end, one of my favorite images ended up being this one, where all the colors, despite their differences, seemed to work together. The small path light on the left works to balance the smoke bush on the upper right, I hope.

Gamble Garden, Palo Alto Gardens

A path through the Gamble Garden in the early morning light.

And though my son doesn’t go to college here any more, I hope my travels will bring me back to revisit this garden in the future. Do see it if you’re in the area.


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