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Garden Visit: A Vibrant, Multifunctional Landscape in Oakland, CA, by Pine House Edible Gardens

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Garden Visit: A Vibrant, Multifunctional Landscape in Oakland, CA, by Pine House Edible Gardens

January 24, 2023

Every time I see a Pine House Edible Gardens project, I smile. Simply put: They’re joyful—bursting with lush plantings, colorful blooms, and lots of organic fruits and vegetables ripe for the picking. “We jam pack our gardens with reasons for our clients to be in them,” says Holly Kuljian, landscape architect and principal of the San Francisco Bay area-based landscape design firm. “We want them to interact with their gardens throughout every season.”

For a home in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, Kuljian and team created a bountiful garden that beckons their clients to harvest produce for meals, snip flowers for arrangements, and stroll through the verdant wonderland before stopping to relax and take it all in. They terraced the previously unusable (ie. extremely steep) backyard, building out distinct areas, including an orchard, kitchen garden, and firepit. To make a “dry tropical” feel, they emphasized foliage over blooms, mixing plants in different hues and textures, and tucking in edibles throughout the property. The result is a drought-tolerant and highly productive landscape that is a feast for the senses.

Every project by Pine House Edible Gardens includes a fee to support Black Sanctuary Gardens, an initiative started by the firm’s founder Leslie Bennett to make “a series of garden spaces created in collaboration with Black women and Black communities in and around Oakland, CA,” because “creating places of respite and beauty that celebrate our Black communities is essential as we work to grow a more beautiful and equitable world together.”

Photography by Caitlin Atkinson, courtesy of Pine House Edible Gardens.

A pathway lined with concrete pavers and a carpet of drought-tolerant South African groundcover Dymondia margaretae takes you from the house to the vegetable garden. The area contains several fruit trees: a Fuyu persimmon, pomegranate ‘Wonderful’, and pineapple guava. Hot pink Salvia chiapensis, orange kangaroo paws, bright coral Russelia equisetiformis add bursts of vibrant color.
Above: A pathway lined with concrete pavers and a carpet of drought-tolerant South African groundcover Dymondia margaretae takes you from the house to the vegetable garden. The area contains several fruit trees: a Fuyu persimmon, pomegranate ‘Wonderful’, and pineapple guava. Hot pink Salvia chiapensis, orange kangaroo paws, bright coral Russelia equisetiformis add bursts of vibrant color.
Kuljian created a cozy nook for a firepit with a mix of foliage in various textures and colors like the low-growing succulent Graptoveria &#8\2\16;Fred Ives&#8\2\17;, bright orange &#8\2\16;Amber Velvet&#8\2\17; kangaroo paws, and large bronzy Canna ‘Intrigue’. A fine-leafed Acacia vestita tree grows to the right. The stumps were repurposed from a diseased cedar tree that had to be taken down on the property.
Above: Kuljian created a cozy nook for a firepit with a mix of foliage in various textures and colors like the low-growing succulent Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’, bright orange ‘Amber Velvet’ kangaroo paws, and large bronzy Canna ‘Intrigue’. A fine-leafed Acacia vestita tree grows to the right. The stumps were repurposed from a diseased cedar tree that had to be taken down on the property.
Kuljian accentuated a wood retaining wall that borders the orchard with cane berries (thornless blackberry, golden raspberry &#8\2\16;Fall Gold&#8\2\17;, and raspberry &#8\2\16;Willamette Red&#8\2\17;), underplanting them with silvery-blue Senecio mandraliscae. They drilled holes into metal posts and fed cables through them for the berries to climb.
Above: Kuljian accentuated a wood retaining wall that borders the orchard with cane berries (thornless blackberry, golden raspberry ‘Fall Gold’, and raspberry ‘Willamette Red’), underplanting them with silvery-blue Senecio mandraliscae. They drilled holes into metal posts and fed cables through them for the berries to climb.
You won’t find a thirsty monoculture lawn here. The front yard is a sea of colorful, drought-tolerant plants, including many which bloom in the winter, like the pollinator-loving Aloe, Leucospermum, and bright orange Kniphofia. But the yard doesn’t rely strictly on blooms for interest. Kuljian added plants with different foliage colors: dark burgundy Leucadendron ‘Ebony’, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’, smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) to complement chartreuse, sword-like Cordyline &#8\2\16;Torbay Dazzler&#8\2\17; and Coleonema &#8\2\16;Sunset Gold&#8\2\17;.
Above: You won’t find a thirsty monoculture lawn here. The front yard is a sea of colorful, drought-tolerant plants, including many which bloom in the winter, like the pollinator-loving Aloe, Leucospermum, and bright orange Kniphofia. But the yard doesn’t rely strictly on blooms for interest. Kuljian added plants with different foliage colors: dark burgundy Leucadendron ‘Ebony’, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’, smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) to complement chartreuse, sword-like Cordyline ‘Torbay Dazzler’ and Coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’.
For the strip along the driveway, Kuljian grouped plants together to create swathes of colors for a cohesive look that lines of the driveway. For instance, she echoed the shape and color of the tall blade-like Cordyline &#8\2\16;Torbay Dazzler&#8\2\17; with the low-growing Beschorneria &#8\2\16;Flamingo Glow&#8\2\17;. Rosettes of bronze Aeonium grow in clusters along both sides of the narrow bed.
Above: For the strip along the driveway, Kuljian grouped plants together to create swathes of colors for a cohesive look that lines of the driveway. For instance, she echoed the shape and color of the tall blade-like Cordyline ‘Torbay Dazzler’ with the low-growing Beschorneria ‘Flamingo Glow’. Rosettes of bronze Aeonium grow in clusters along both sides of the narrow bed.
Kuljian filled the concrete terraced beds that lead to the kitchen garden with combination of ornamentals, such as slivery-blue Senecio vitalis, bright coral Russelia equisetiformis, graphic Aloe ‘Hercules’, and tasty edibles, like the large-leaf banana (Musa acuminata ‘Blue Java’), turmeric, rosemary, kale, and Citrus &#8\2\16;Pink Lemonade&#8\2\17;. Cherry tomatoes climb the entry archway to the vegetable garden.
Above: Kuljian filled the concrete terraced beds that lead to the kitchen garden with combination of ornamentals, such as slivery-blue Senecio vitalis, bright coral Russelia equisetiformis, graphic Aloe ‘Hercules’, and tasty edibles, like the large-leaf banana (Musa acuminata ‘Blue Java’), turmeric, rosemary, kale, and Citrus ‘Pink Lemonade’. Cherry tomatoes climb the entry archway to the vegetable garden.
To dress up an unremarkable fence around the property, the team stained it a teal-slate, which makes the plants growing near it, like bougainvillea and passionfruit vine &#8\2\16;Fredrick&#8\2\17;, really pop. Growing in the bed with the large leafed giant bird of paradise are several fruit trees, including a finger lime and Fuyu persimmon (which turns a brilliant orange in fall), and pear.
Above: To dress up an unremarkable fence around the property, the team stained it a teal-slate, which makes the plants growing near it, like bougainvillea and passionfruit vine ‘Fredrick’, really pop. Growing in the bed with the large leafed giant bird of paradise are several fruit trees, including a finger lime and Fuyu persimmon (which turns a brilliant orange in fall), and pear.
“This path, packed with colorful plants, feels both wild and really coordinated at the same time,” says Kuljian. “Paths are probably the most important garden element, not only because of their function, but also because they visually organize a space, telling the visitor where to go, which spaces are most important, and where your eye should wander.”
Above: “This path, packed with colorful plants, feels both wild and really coordinated at the same time,” says Kuljian. “Paths are probably the most important garden element, not only because of their function, but also because they visually organize a space, telling the visitor where to go, which spaces are most important, and where your eye should wander.”
Above: A detail from the front yard. Low sprays of lavender Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ mingle with spiky Yucca rostrata and chartreuse Coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’ and native Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’ along the edge.
Above: In the backyard, shaggy Acacia ‘Cousin Itt’ mixes with ‘Sunshine Blue’ blueberry, silvery blue Senecio vitalis, black Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’, and a tall Aloe ‘Hercules’. Kuljian added dots of magenta Salvia chiapensis and Calandrinia. The small tree is pomegranate ‘Wonderful’.

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