The project was chosen as a finalist by guest judge Erica Tanov, who said: “I like the use of natural structural materials in this prolific edible garden—especially the willow arches and bamboo tepees, which are easily accessible, highly renewable, and beautiful, giving the garden a graceful, relaxed character.”
N.B.: This is the fifth of six posts spotlighting the winners of the 2018 Gardenista Considered Design Awards. Go to this year’s Considered Design Awards page to see all the entries, finalists, and winners, and to have a look at the Remodelista Considered Design Awards.
Galleron Vegetable Garden Design Statement: “Located in Napa Valley, this organic vegetable garden supplies a year-round bounty of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The vegetable garden is composed of 16 vegetable beds, four large pots with figs and strawberries, and several citrus trees bordering the garden. This spring, a living yellow willow arbor was planted to add garden structure and create a year-round arbor. In the winter, the bare bones of the yellow willow are quite beautiful when the leaves drop.”
Gardenista: What does your firm specialize in?
Gemme Von Knopka, Lou Penning Landscapes’ Vegetable Garden Manager: Lou Penning Landscapes is a local, family-owned business, which specializes in high-end residential landscape installation and maintenance. We create and maintain everything from raised vegetable beds to elaborate landscapes for both business and residential properties.
GD: Who worked on the winning project?
GVK: Gemme Von Knopka, vegetable garden manager. The original landscape design for the property was done by landscape architect Ron Herman in 2000.
GD: What were your practical goals for the project?
GVK: To create a productive and beautiful vegetable garden. In addition, to provide a year-round focal point in the vegetable garden.
GD: What solutions did you find to your design problems?
GVK: I knew I wanted to make an arbor out of willow—I was just was not sure how I would design it. The willow controlled the design. I thought long and hard about how I wanted it to look, but it just wasn’t working. It was challenging to make an even-looking arbor. I have built arbors in years past from fruitless mulberry branches, which are a bit stiffer, but the problem is that they don’t last longer than one gardening season. In the end, I went back to my tried-and-true design and it just started to flow. I ended up building two separate arbors with 11-foot pieces of willow, working quickly to make sure the willow would root before the rain arrived that week. This arbor was built in about two-and-a-half days using my bare hands, a five-gallon bucket, tie wire, tie tape, Felcos, and wire cutters.
GD: What are your favorite features of the project?
GVK: I love the arbor as well as the tomato tepees in the summer. Visually, it’s a nice combination of angular and rounded shapes. The mix of herbs, annuals, and perennials at the edge of each bed and along the arbor walkway soften the garden.
GD: What were the hardest lessons you learned along the way?
GVK: It’s hard to come across a consistent source of bulk compost and soil. I learned to adapt to new sources and the plants needs.
I’m still deciding how wild or trained I want the arbor to look. I have pruned the arbor on the lower sides so one can see through and harvest the vegetables and flowers. I also don’t want it to feel closed in while walking through the vegetable garden.
GD: What advice do you have for someone undertaking a similar project?
GVK: Garden plan. Great source of soil, compost, and amendments. Good source of plants and seeds. Lots of love. I put my heart and soul into gardening. A source of yellow willow, and cutting and planting it at the right time. I experimented at home with a small arbor first to see how well the willow would hold up.
GD: What was your biggest splurge?
GVK: I wouldn’t call it a splurge, but plant material and labor cost the most for this project. I purchased 200 pieces of rooted yellow willow from The Apple Farm in Philo, California. It all took beautifully.
GD: If your project were a celebrity, who would it be?
GVK: A mashup of Penelope Hobhouse and Isadora Duncan.
GD: Which garden designers, gardeners, or landscape architects do you admire?
GVK: Karen Bates, Bill Hoffman, Debra Montalbano, Flora Grubb, Colby Eirman, Noel Leopore, Tucker Taylor, Annie from Annie’s Annuals, Piet Oudolf, Penelope Hobhouse.
See more of the winners in our 2018 Considered Design Awards, including: