Monday, December 23, 2019

Salesforce Park & The High Line: a study in redevelopment


The High Line Railway in New York City was a true diamond in the rough.  Its redevelopment galvanized a larger movement in cities to reclaim underutilized infrastructure and reimagine them as public space.  This ‘High Line Network’ includes projects throughout the US.  Unfortunately, Salesforce Park is not on the list. 

At its core, the Salesforce Park is a reimagining of the top of an old transit center.  Designers saw an opportunity to transform a turnstile for buses into a lush green oasis in the heart of SF.  With lofty ambitions comes high expectations.  Examining how people interact with the space will ultimately tell the story of the park.

Nothing is more important to using a park, then getting to it.  Salesforce Park has two main elevators at either end, two main escalators, and a gondola.  No stairs.  Stairs level the playing field for everyone.  People can pause on stairs, meet on stairs, go at their own pace.  The High Line has wide stairways that accommodate the thousands of people that visit it every year.  At Salesforce Park, machines throttle the flow of people.  One rarely hears “let’s get in the elevator” and “let’s go to the park” in the same sentence.  Machines are great for security and keeping out the homeless but bad for access.

Access is hot topic for green spaces and redevelopment in general.  Ideally, all walks of life are encouraged to use parks and enjoy nature equally.  To that end, The Friends of The High Line operates the NYC park.  The name just sounds happy and fluffy, like a wagging Newfoundland. Sure, Friends of The High Line has received its share of criticism about park programming.  That’s New York and that’s healthy.  Biederman Redevelopment Ventures operates Salesforce Park.  They transformed New York's Bryant Park into a safe vibrant place.  They’re organizing a whole host of free activities in the park. Let’s see how they do.
Ned Kahn's dormant water feature

In the name of art, a 1,000 ft water sculpture lines one edge of Salesforce Park.  The designers built a 5’ deep bed for drought tolerant plants alongside the fountain.  They shield the plants from view [and excess water] with 5’ tall plexiglass panels.  Moms encourage their kids to stay out of the fountain zone so they don’t get wet.  That’s 10,000 square feet of space where space is at a premium.

There is more to the park than the fountain.  Lots of no mow, low water grass with signs to stay off.  Lots of domes – a la the California Academy of Sciences – where people are off limits.  The planting is similar to museum exhibits; groupings of plants with master signs and big railings to keep viewers back.

Salesforce Park feels like a museum that opened a long time ago.  Like a place that has the Hope Diamond on display, with security cameras, people queuing up to get in, and VIP receptions.  Except New York has the real crown jewel of raised parks.


Monday, December 9, 2019

A 2019 Highlight


Our Spring collaboration with Karl The Store in Sausalito was a big undertaking for Wildwood.


The opportunity to design indoor and outdoor spaces with a midcentury modern flair was a huge draw.  Moving from the wide open vistas in Sonoma to a small store footprint was an exercise in curating a plant palette.  We brought the Wildwood philosophy to Sausalito – showcasing rare and unusual plants that love California.


People responded. We heard “this reminds me of LA” and “you should open in France” more than once! Everyone loved the bonsai collection.   Look for us on the Champs-Elysees next year;)


We left with so many insights.  The warmer climate expanded possibilities for plant combinations.  Table top displays are great conversation starters with beginning gardeners.  Pedestrians appreciate the detail in sidewalk curb appeal versus our ‘loud’ display for drivers at highway speeds on Route 12. 


Keep pushing your gardening boundaries in 2020!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Gardening With Evergreen Content


A long time ago [relative to the speed of tech], marketing professionals coined the phrase ‘evergreen content’.  They say the inspiration for the phrase comes from evergreen plants “which retain their leaves over the seasons”.  Content refers to the language and story in the marketing material.


Ironically, writing about evergreens might not be evergreen content.  Evergreens are most popular in the winter when everything else looks dead.  Of course, in the context of a formal garden, they would be evergreen content because evergreen hedges anchor the design throughout the year.


In a garden design with nuance, evergreens can be a complimentary backdrop, or foil, to splashy spring and summer color.  A row of bright burgundy Fringe Flowers are a great contrast to yellow daylilies or orange dahlias.  Glossy green Sasanqua Camellias compliment Coral Bark Maples and other lime green foliage.


Are your evergreens relevant all year?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Gardening Teamwork

What do you get when a lawyer, world traveler, plantsman, and surf photographer walk into a garden?  A fountain.  No joke.  Here's how it unfolds.

During our 4th Annual Garden Party, a husband [lawyer] and wife [world traveler] stated their goal of planning a garden next to their new barn. They liked using plants from Wildwood within the limitations of zero shade and heavy deer traffic.  Before they started planting, they wanted to build a  fountain.  Did we have any ideas?

I suggested two local statuary stores. In my mind, the word fountain conjures up images of tall, formal, tiered, classic water features.  They frowned, mumbled and the wife asked about something a little more in tune with a California aesthetic.  I asked for an example and the husband pointed out a stone water feature we have at Wildwood.  Visual examples are an important part of establishing a concept.

The Wildwood water feature gets its name from the 300lb centerpiece.  I harvested this rock from the fields around the nursery and drilled a 5/8" hole in the center.  Jon [the surf photographer] stretched out a pond liner and we lowered the rock onto blocks.  Jon used more blocks to create a triangular wall, filled it with water, and plugged in a pump that spills water over the sides of the centerpiece.  The level of the rock is such that half the rock is wet and half is dry.  The Yin Yang Fountain.  Trust a surf photographer to know water.

This story motivated the lawyer to get on his tractor and harvest rocks from his hillside.  I visited the property for a rock consultation.  Of course, they wanted a bigger fountain than the Ying Yang Fountain.  They wanted to drill vertically through 36" rocks to create a taller spillover effect.  That would be easy for Rio Tinto to do at one of their mines but not in a backyard.  The lawyer suggested sandwiching a pipe between two matching rocks to create an illusion.

However, rocks don't match. If you find two twin rocks, buy a lottery ticket.  The final centerpiece is the result of lots of cutting and underwater blocking.  There are actually five rocks that make up a six foot wide and four foot tall centerpiece.  Water plants complete the disguise.

The wife decided an irregular shaped exterior wall would look better than a formal square or oval.  Containing water is tricky because it looks for weak spots.  Framing and fortifying an organic edge requires the flexibility of cinder blocks and bender board to hold concrete.  The surf photographer created a half oval, concave teardrop shaped wall that is pure genius.

The world traveler found a reddish brown thin flagstone that matches the rock from their property.   The flagstone cap is the only flat linear surface on the entire fountain.  It simultaneously frames the centerpiece and the dry stack rock wall while paralleling the water level.

The fountain could stand on its own with no embellishment.  Plants are the feather in the cap for the whole project.  A tall thin papyrus, wide leafed Tropicanna Canna, and low grasses break up some of the 'weight' of all the stone.  They play nicely with the plants that are outside the fountain.

Teamwork is like gardening.  It's not what plants one decides to grow.  It is the combination of plants that creates a garden. A lawyer, world traveler, surf photographer, and plantsman make a pretty cool combination.


Monday, October 21, 2019

When Power's Out, Get Out[side]

What do you do on a beautiful fall day in Sonoma when there's a light breeze and temps are in the high 70s?

If you're PG&E, you turn off the power.

If you're a gardener, you go outside.

Plants love this time of year.  The soil's still warm and the sun is less intense so a little irrigation does wonders.  Puttering around and tending to your plants is very relaxing.  Maybe you'll make a plan for some changes in 2020!

Monday, September 16, 2019

4th Annual Garden Party

Thank you to everyone who came to our party on Saturday!

The mercury was a bit higher than expected but we had plenty of ice cold drinks and shade for people to cool off in.  Lots of great hits from the 70's and 80's on the turntables too.

Many plants went to new homes!

30% off plants is ongoing...

Monday, September 9, 2019

Planning A Party

Getting a party started requires a little bit of hype.  Daya Ceglia whipped up a snazzy poster to send to friends of Wildwood.  For the past two weeks they've appeared on windows, light posts, and in newsprint.

Building the playlist is another preparty must.  Expect vinyl from the 70's and 80's with some serious wattage moving the airwaves.  We're democratizing the dj responsibilities by letting partygoers select records.

We're adding seating areas and benches to enjoy refreshments on day forecast to hit the low 90s.  The spaces are a mix of old growth log benches and more ergonomic chairs.

Oh, be on the look out for butterflies!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Nursery Entrance

Last year, we built a ranch style fence at the entrance to the nursery on highway 12.  It's actually a dark purple ranch style fence.  The color works well with the Mystic Spires Sage and red Guara lindheimeri planted nearby.

Now there are two new additions:  oversized monarch butterflies.  They are Benjamin Moore's Citrus Orange so they are quite bright as well.

Soon there will be dark purple Crape Myrtles along the fence line.  With pink flowers.  Gardening is all about experimenting, right?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Behind The Birth Of Butterflies

Primed butterflies before patterns
The larger than life butterflies at Wildwood are the product of many attempts to shape the liveliest look-a-like.

Cutting out a foam board wing template took several attempts.  Tracing the outline onto wood is fairly quick.  Using a jigsaw to cut away the shape takes some patience.

The most difficult part is hand sketching the colorful wing patterns.  We use monarchs as inspiration.

Perhaps the easiest way to add butterflies is to plant flowers.  Wildwood now has a selection of butterfly friendly plants.  These plants have been known to attract humans too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Observation Post

Paying attention is the most important part of gardening.

Sometimes it helps to take a fresh look at a space.  That can mean taking [a short] time off or viewing from a different angle.  This photo is from high up in the century old oak in the middle of the nursery.  The patchwork of greens, yellows, reds and whites comes to life in the dappled sunlight.

You can see there's plenty to prune, repot, and stake.  Happy gardening this spring!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Popup Opens In Sausalito

Today is the first day of Wildwood’s Popup in Sausalito. We thought it was time to try an urban location with different gardening challenges.

There’s quite a few maples like one might expect. Also a more coastal selection of plants that could be unexpected. Proteas, aeoniums, ferns, indoor plants, and very cool bonsai.

The space is small so the displays will change daily. Stop by and see what’s growing in Marin

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Top 7 Maples For Spring

Fall isn't the only season for leaf color.  Here's seven great maples for Spring color.

Katsura: One of the first maples to leaf out. Orange gold leaves are already open at Wildwood.

Sharp's Pygmy: Dwarfs are always the  first group to open.  Cute green leaves with red tips.

Corallinum:  Bright shrimp pink foliage is a knockout.

Ryusen:  Early to open.  A cascade of light green leaves is a contrast to all other upright greens.

Autumn Moon:  Enjoy fall oranges and golds in Spring.

Hana Matoi:  A combination of light pink and red on delicate lacey leafs.

Shindeshojo:  Fire engine red color is like New England in fall.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Daffodils on Display

The dawn of spring at Wildwood starts with the Daffodils.

They jump out of the ground and pop open with oranges, yellows and creamy flower bursts.  They're a much needed shot in the arm when everything else is still sleeping.  Once they open, we know it's only a matter of weeks before the floodgates of spring open.

Stop by the nursery, pick a bouquet and daydream about spring!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Rolling Out Green Carpet

In preparation for this Spring's star studded plant line up, we're rolling out artificial grass in a new display area!

Today's artificial grass is more life like than ever.  The lawn look a like is maintenance free [some occasional vacuuming] and provides a cooling contrast to hardscapes.  Our rolls come from a football field in San Jose so they're also staying out of the landfill.

Weighing in at 3,300 pounds, the 7' x 50' rolls will be tough to maneuver.  We have confidence they'll be in place for your Spring visit though.