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Portola District Garden Tour

This past Saturday I had the great pleasure of going on an annual garden tour in the Portola District of San Francisco. The Portola Garden Tour is put on by members of the neighborhood every Fall. Proceeds from ticket sales go towards funding scholarships in the Environmental Horticulture and Floristry department of CCSF. Last Spring, my friend Noriko and I were the honored recipients of the scholarships, so we went on the tour together this year. What a treat it was for both of us!

The Portola District Garden Tour Committee at the scholarship awards ceremony. I’m in the Hawaiian shirt, back right, and Noriko is right in front of me in white…

This was the neighborhood’s sixth annual tour, and it gets bigger each time. There were 22 gardens this year! It’s a self-guided tour where you get a map with your ticket and you’re off at your own pace to explore the gardens.

A remnant of the neighborhood’s heyday of nurseries: a block of abandoned greenhouses slowly collapses in the Portola.

The Portola (pronounced “PORT-uh-luh”, not “por-TO-la” as would traditionally be the case) neighborhood was, historically, San Francisco’s growing grounds and garden district before it became cheaper to do this stuff in the suburbs. Back in the 1920’s there were 19 nurseries out here. The neighborhood boasts sunny and warm temperatures like what you’d find along the rest of the Bay shore along the Peninsula, so it was naturally a good fit. The fog that blasts daily through the Alemany corridor sticks just blocks north of this neighborhood. Now primarily a working-class neighborhood of great diversity, the efforts have begun to revitalize the gardening efforts.

A couple of years ago in Landscape Design class, Noriko and I were both top-three finalists in designing a planting for a Cal-Trans owned triangular island at Alemany and San Bruno. The neighborhood had installed a “Welcome to the Portola Garden District” granite monument on the island and wanted a more presentable entrance to the ‘hood. The winner’s design so far has resulted in the freeway support column in the island getting a mural, and I can’t wait to see her design planted!

What I really love about this tour is the sheer variety of gardens and gardening styles. This tour is all about home gardens, and most of them done by the homeowners. I love working in a high design-focused bubble at Flora Grubb Gardens, but that helps make it all the more refreshing to experience such a range of styles. There was one that had been done for/by an HGTV show (I didn’t get the details on that) with old windows as wind breaks, there was a strictly formal with central axis and everything in matched pairs, there were outdoor gathering spots surrounded by masses of plants, there were shady fern enclaves to retreat from the sun, there were strictly utilitarian edible gardens, there were view-focused seating areas, there were terraces, lawns, fake lawns, bare dirt, you name it. All had come together to share what they have, for the social aspect and for the charity of the fundraising. A neighborhood effort to be applauded. Makes me want to start a Eureka Valley garden tour…

Of course, me with a nice camera on hand and all, I couldn’t limit pix to just the gardens on the tour. I came across a really nifty little scavenged-item garden on a staircase, and some other plants of interest along the way. 🙂 I didn’t get pictures from every garden I visited, unfortunately, and didn’t record what was where on the map, but got plenty of photos nonetheless! Click ’em for larger versions…

Started off at a familiar house of friends Dan and Val. Stone owls are a recurring theme in this tour…

Beautifully flowering hibiscus.

Love this sharing of the neighbor’s rose! Built the fence around it, they did…

Macro detail of a eucalyptus…

Nice little seating area skilfully tucked away from the deck right behind it.

Wowza! I gotta learn more about grasses. There were some stunners on this tour.

Beautiful jewelbox succulent planting.

A sidewalk garden on the tour. Very drought-tolerant!

Fantastic! A friend, Ray, who works for Dirty Hoe Landscaping (I interned with them a few summers ago) has this detail in his garden. His partner collected branded bricks over the years…

Another recurring theme in many smaller gardens was mirrors. Nice one here…

Voluptuous entrance. This is the place that was done by HGTV, but I’m not sure if the front was part of that. Nice plants!

Windows as wind screening for this outdoor seating area.

I recognize the vertical succulent panels from Flora Grubb Gardens! And another owl keeping up the recurring theme…

Owlie!

Another sculpture in the garden…

Echeveria imbricata lookin’ gorgeous…

Nice color on a Graptoveria.

I love clusters of pots! Nice textural composition.

Likin’ a lichen-covered roof on a shed next door.

Echeveria elegans…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway… Wino Xing! 🙂

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random scavenged-item garden on a public stairway…

Random plant along the way. I’m obsessed with blue as a garden background lately. Actually working up a post about the color blue. Love how it sets off this Fremontodendron.

A Euphorbia that’s cresting!

Isn’t that a trip? Don’t know what triggers a crest on a Euphorbia. Do you?

A stray gigantic anchor near McLaren Park.

Part of the tour was this refurbished plaza at McLaren Park.

Nice. Nice.

A little color play detail…

Fantastic idea! LOVE this.

Color!

I’ve never seen this Passiflora before. Damn pretty little lanterns.

Macro cactus detail.

Plant-o-riffic entry!

Love scarecrows! Very minimalist… 🙂

The owl theme ongoing…

A fascinating curly tree.

The flowers…

… and the fruit!

Large mirror in a shady corner of the formal garden.

More mirrors in the back corner of the formal garden.

A shady rest in the formal garden.

The formal garden’s focus at the end of the axis. That a full-size Agave americana up there, for sake of scale!

Nice sedum flower detail.

Rose in the formal garden.

Like this use of horsetail as a column-hider. It’s wrapped with thin fishing line or wire to keep it so rigidly vertical.

Playful colors under the garden’s overhang.

Woven-gem “stained glass” is a really nice way to repeat the colors of all the flowers in this shady nook.

Dahlias galore! I’ve never seen so many varieties in one place before. Gives the Dahlia Garden at Golden Gate Park a run for the money!

That’s the gardener’s head peeking over the dahlias in the background. 🙂

A dahlia macro…

A dahlia macro…

A dahlia macro…

A dahlia macro…

A dahlia macro…

A dahlia macro…

A dahlia macro…

A dahlia macro…

In front of Dahlia Guy’s house…

Nice cactus!

I love these random SF moments, like this abandoned barn from the 1800’s.

Clever mulch in a kitchen!

This was not part of the tour. Testament to survival.

Lichen!

A cute doggy along the way! Love your brows, dude.

Echeveria elegans with Sedum ‘Pork and Beans’…

Grevillea glory!

Did I mention I love clusters of pots? Fun splash o’ color! Right up my alley…

Cuteness!

And lastly, a sweet retriever with a Flora Grubb Gardens Aerium on his house! Stylin’…

Whew! You just made it through nearly 80 pix! Next year I should give a heads-up before the tour happens, to drum up some new guests. Now, there’s a thought. 🙂

3 responses to “Portola District Garden Tour

  1. Pingback: Talking a Blue Streak | boZannical Gardens

  2. Pingback: Urban Hike: McLaren Park | boZannical Gardens

  3. Pingback: Portola Garden District Tour 2013 | boZannical Gardens

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