13 May Secret Gardens of the East Bay (2007)
ENTER. GATHER. DREAM. CHILL.
1607 Lincoln Street, Berkeley
An innovative house remodel set the wheels in motion for the creation of a new garden. What was once a lush backyard of a classic bungalow is now an elegant, private hideaway, artfully integrated with a modernist perspective by landscape designer Bernardo Lopez. “Enter. Gather. Dream. Chill.” These words Lopez uses to capture the experiences he elicits in his gardens are here an invitation to enjoy with limited space a compound he has created for himself and his family.
ENTER through a large gate that separates the street from a place he calls “Mexico on a sunny day.” The decomposed granite surface absorbs heat when warmed by the sun and is an ideal habitat for his “unusual plants”: Cacti, banksias, eryngium and the velvety succulent, kalanchoe. A dining table crafted by Lopez from a massive slab of granite invites one to GATHER with friends and family, a favorite happening. It also relates to gathering the fruits or flowers from the “orchard” of nine fruit trees, just beyond.
A concrete slab dramatically separates the dry garden from it’s greener counterpart and its steps double as seating. Not one inch of this place is taken for granted. It is common to see the ping-pong table set up here, just as horseshoes are played on the long, formal path in back. “It was the first thing to go in,” Bernardo exclaims. “Everything else was designed around it!” A vegetable garden is now planted at one end with artichokes, beets, carrots, chard and herbs. Plums, cherries and apples line the rectilinear lawn creating a green canopy of shade and gentle movement, and passion fruit grows vigorously on the extensive arbor. A total of 26 trees are planted on this property offering not only their bounty but also privacy from neighboring homes. A hammock has been thoughtfully placed near a fountain, whose sound reminds Bernardo of his mother washing clothes on a stone washboard in his native Colombia. “There was water running for hours. It is a soothing memory for me,” Bernardo recalls.
Around the bend, water trickles from another stone fountain surrounded by shade-loving hellebores, baby tears and ferns in the most private part of the yard, the meditation garden. It is quiet and secluded here, yet another place to DREAM and reflect, or CHILL.