Spring Tour 2019 Sneak Peek: A Sheep in Palo Alto?

Spring Tour 2019, photo by Nadine Priestly

Gamble Garden’s Spring Tour will be held on April 26 & 27, 2019. Purchase tour tickets to visit this garden and four others: A Feast for the SensesEast Meets WestParadise in a Meadow, Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

The homeowners love a full house and wanted a garden to entertain 5 people as easily as 50, while also keeping ample play space for three active children. After ten years of living in the space, the family recently completed a remodel, including a full redesign of the garden. This included an enlarged patio and a French door to replace bay windows, creating a natural flow from inside to out. The homeowner has a keen sense of style, chic and formal without being fussy, feminine and playful, qualities she has in common with the designer she hired for this project, Dorrit Kingsbury. Now bi-coastal, Kingsbury has designed elegant gardens throughout the Peninsula and the two women enjoyed a creative chemistry.

The formal entry garden blends harmoniously with the style of the house. Its boxwood hedge and white tree roses set a stately note while the white Adirondack swing on the front porch promises fun and relaxation. The family takes advantage of abundant sunshine in front to grow food in sleek white planting boxes. Their clean modern lines match the style of the glossy black metal gate nearby. You enter the back garden through a large sunny patch on the side of the house. Citrus trees against a backdrop of Thuja flourish here. Boxwood edging and gravel paths shape the space. A pair of boxwood topiaries that Kingsbury transplanted and nurtured in pots during the garden remodel add a touch of whimsy to this garden. Another whimsical note is the charming black sheep made of fiberglass for a focal point for the view from a living room window. The homeowner found the sculpture on 1st Dibs, one of her go-to sites for online treasure hunting.

The grove of redwoods in back add a sense of grandeur to the space. Removing their lower limbs to a height of about 25 feet makes their lofty pinnacles visible from below. It also bathes the back garden in diffused atmospheric forest light but leaves plenty of sky visible in all directions. Pruned this way the redwoods retain their power to awe without overwhelming the space. A string of festive lights woven among the trees has to be loosened every five years to accommodate their rapid growth. When I visited the garden last fall, a pair of bright orange mid-century chairs in one of the gardens caught my eye. The homeowner bought them from Design Within Reach many years ago and Kingsbury immediately spotted them as a must have for somewhere in the garden. They provide a pop of color amidst the serene, mostly green and white palette.

The homeowner had initial reservations when Kingsbury proposed the use of man-made turf to carpet the shady garden, but she’s become a big fan and says her kids love it. The lawn, manufactured by Southwest Greens, unifies the space and makes it usable in all seasons. Boxwood hedges define the garden rooms and flower beds, punctuated by curvaceous boxwood globes, pruned low to provide both enclosure and a sense of openness. The homeowner loves her hydrangeas, but it’s the architecture of her garden and the tactile tapestry of differing leaf textures, geometric shapes and varying hues of green that please her most. This is a hallmark of Kingsbury’s style. In the widened driveway Kingsbury intersperses tall narrow Thujas in an English laurel hedge, juxtaposing the golden green color and feathery texture of the Thujas against the glossy dark green of English laurels. Kingsbury supplies the homeowner with fertilizer that supports the healthy glow of the plants throughout the garden.

Today the garden in back contains a ping pong table, a trampoline on a gravel floor, and soccer goals on the expansive lawn. A small guest cottage was added in the back corner, housing a powder room for outdoor guests. Comfortable chairs nearby offer a place for forest bathing or for kids taking turns on the trampoline. A gently curving brick patio added nearly a thousand square feet of space. It includes an outdoor living room area enclosed on one side by a cream-colored curtain that softens the afternoon light. On the afternoon of my visit an air of serenity reigned. The genius of this garden is how it offers a splendid setting for everything from a simple tete-a-tete to the eldest child’s Bar Mitzvah, and the frequent Shabbat dinners the family loves to host on Friday nights.

Spring Tour 2019, photo by Nadine Priestly