Without question, May is the unofficial month of garden tours. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the busiest times for designers, not to mention a prime month to schedule speaking engagements and book signings. Sadly, I’ll be missing most of the tours this year. Fortunately for me, I recently enjoyed a charming afternoon filled with champagne, food and plenty of garden chat with my friends Maureen and Jean Michel Decombe in their sunny, urban garden. My contribution to the opening of tour season is a mini-tour of what Maureen calls her working garden.
Located in hilly Point Richmond, slightly northeast of San Francisco and Berkeley, their neighborhood has the same quaint craftsman charm found throughout this part of the Bay Area. When I design a garden for a client, we generally tackle the whole thing at once, but I’ve noticed most designers (including myself) take a much longer view when playing in their own gardens, preferring to tinker around indefinitely. Maureen is no exception.
The previous owner of a fine gardening maintenance company, Maureen has maintained several large scale edible gardens around the Bay Area, including estate gardens designed by Rosalind Creasy. Her passion for edibles is evident in her own garden, though she takes a much more casual approach.
The majority of Maureen’s small front yard is ornamentals, and year round color from the mix of flowering shrubs, like creeping croposma, phormium and carex. Perennials, mostly purchased from nearby Annie’s Annuals, are mixed in. Something new is blooming every time I visit here.
A believer in mixing edibles and ornamentals before it was fashionable, not only have dwarf fruit trees been added to the front, but the unused driveway has been transformed into a vegetable garden, complete with bags of lettuce, trellises with peas and espaliered fruit trees.
In the back is a tiny strawberry patch. I was told firmly that the fruit was not yet ripe, but as you can see from the photo, that was a big, fat lie. I suspect my host and hostess simply weren't in the mood to share.
Fortunately, Maureen was more generous over dinner. We started our meal with lettuce from the garden, dressed simply with vinaigrette and shaved parmesan, a modest preparation inspired byThe Edible Front Yard author Ivette Soler, who recommends ceding the starring role to sweet and juicy spring lettuce this time of year.
After dinner, Maureen walked out into the garden to gather handfuls of lemon verbena and mint, then steeped them in hot water at the table to create a delicious tisane.
A chicken coup was recently added, although Maureen and Jean Michel have yet to decide on a breed, so chicken lovers, feel free to chime in with your suggestions.
But not everything in the garden is there to accomplish a task. I love this simple tableau
Not to mention the lovely containers that dot the deck, including one hiding one of the cheekiest little gnomes I’ve seen in a while.
Thank you, Maureen and Jean Michel, for hosting such a lovely get together and thank YOU everyone for joining me on my little tour.