Cool Green Gardens

Another Definition of Vertical Gardening – Marcia Donahue


I took so many fun pics of Berkeley sculptor and ceramacist Marcia Donahue’s garden when I was in the Bay Area recently, I was perplexed about how to turn them into an article for this blog. I’m done pondering. Here goes…

Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle, or you’ve been pelunking the Vrtoglavica Caves of Slovenia for the past few years, you couldn’t miss the garden world’s clamor about vertical gardening: succulents packed into honeycombs mounted on walls, Patrick Blanc’s Chia-Pet-on-steroids flights of fantasy, and at a slightly less grand but far more practical scale, Susan Morrison’s and Rebecca Sweet’s new book, Garden Up!But it was Marcia Donahue’s garden that made my eyes and imagination reach skyward. It seemed that everywhere I looked around her garden something was pointing up: the gables of her two-story Victorian, bamboo and vines slathered on fences, and a series of cylindrical and round “beads” threaded over poles and slinking into trees.Marcia has managed to pack a bundle of charm, whimsy, and wonderment into her garden, while also cultivating an abundantly productive urban farm. Amid the art and horticultural thrills, chickens roam, veggies overflow planters, and hives buzz with honeybees.

Marcia’s sense of fun populates every nook and cranny of her garden. Everything she touches turns into art. Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick

That’s Marcia! Big, beautiful, beaming smile, sly sense of humor, and a work of art in her own right. She’s also amazingly generous with her garden, which is open to the public every Sunday afternoon (3017 Wheeler St. Berkeley CA – Google Maps), although she reserves the right to take the occasional day off.

The high point of the garden sits near the back of the site: a raised pool enveloped in every shade of green and surrounded by forms born in Marcia’s imagination, all animated by an impressive collection of living kinetic sculptures commonly known as kio carp.
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  1. LastAngel 05/18/2011

    nice very nice

  2. soilgoil 05/18/2011

    This artist's garden is fabulous,a whimsical wonderland that leaves me yearning to see it in person. I'll be in the Bay Area later this year, and will definitely plan to visit Marcia's masterpiece. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. najoe 05/18/2011

    Simply stunning. maybe before I leave this earth I can see something like that. Thank you for sharing.

  4. RachelleK 05/18/2011

    How perfectly enchanting! This is a yard I could get lost in. Very nice!

  5. sheilaschultz 05/18/2011

    Oh Billy... once again you have brought magic to my life. Marcia's whimsical vision of beauty and humor is such a gift. Thanks for finding the words and pics to bring her gardens to those of us that aren't in the area... but want a bit of the enchantment.

  6. BillyGoodnick 05/19/2011

    For all who've left comments so far: I'm thrilled that you're all enjoying this post and finding it inspirational. I had about 80 photos, but there's only so much I can handle in a blog without overloading my brain and everyone's attention span. I've got another art-related post in the works, also from the same day during my March trip to the Bay Area -- Cornerstone Sonoma is guaranteed to knock your socks off. Stay tuned.

    And I sure hope some of you will make it to one (or both -- I'm greedy) of my talks in SF this summer. They'll be fun and educational (my stealth teaching method).

  7. lakegardener 05/27/2011

    Absolutely inspiring! How could you possibly have a bad day in this garden of delight!

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