Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dry Creek Garden

A few weeks ago I wrote about the garden at the Alameda residence of architect Henry H. Meyers. The Meyers family also owned property in the Alvarado – Niles district, now a part of Union City. Henry designed a craftsman-style cottage at the site for the family’s use. There is a secluded swimming pool and a garden designed by one of his three daughters, Jeannette. The family used this oasis as their personal summer retreat and also made it available to a number of philanthropic groups who held events at the garden for many years.

When Jeannette died in 1993, the garden became overgrown from lack of regular maintenance. Fortunately, the property was acquired by the East Bay Regional Park (EBRP) District and they, along with a dedicated group of volunteer gardeners have been maintaining and restoring the gardens since. Dry Creek – so named because of the frequently dry creek that traverses the property – is now part of Garin Park, part of the EPRP system. The site recently was opened to the general public on a limited schedule.

In 2008, my firm PGAdesign was hired to prepare a long-term garden restoration and maintenance plan. EBRP had obtained a set of historic family photographs, from the City of Alameda, when the city acquired the family residence. Many of these photographs depicted the garden at Dry Creek.

This image of the Beagle in the garden is one of the photographs aquired by EBRP. In it one can identify different colors of Alyssum - an easily grown annual. Provided by EBRP.

PGA was asked to study these photographs to identify the species of plants shown in the photos, and to prepare a plan for restoring the plantings at Dry Creek, based on the photographs. Sounds easy …. but it wasn’t. Many of the photos had been provided to us reversed making it difficult to figure out what portion of the garden was depicted in a particular photo, until we realized what was amiss. Many of the photos were taken from a distance and were not clear – making plant identification challenging.

Fortunately, there were several photos and by studying the group we were able to piece together the puzzle of most of what had been planted by Jeanette, and from that prepare a planting plan showing what should be planted in each bed to be historically accurate.

EBRP also wanted recommendations on how to reduce water use and maintenance at the garden. In consultation with their staff we defined a hierarchy of garden zones. Areas close to the cottage and along the main entry path would be more intensively planted while areas further from these areas would be planted with larger shrubs, more broadly spaced needing less irrigation and less maintenance.

The process of studying the group of historic photos was much like the “History Detective” – a challenge and great fun. In time, by implementing the recommendations from our report Dry Creek garden will not only be restored to reflect the original design, it will use less water and other resources, and will require less maintenance.

Above, by Mother, Lottie Pattillo and I visited the garden in 2008 for an opening event.

The garden at Dry Creek is a hidden secret for you to discover. It is also available for special events.

The Meyers had several garden ornaments including this bird bath surrounded by stone paving and a boxwood hedge. In the background is one of the well-crafted woooden bridges that crosses the creek

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful piece on the house up the street! Thanks Chris!