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Poppies in Paradise: A Garden Visit in Healdsburg, California

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Poppies in Paradise: A Garden Visit in Healdsburg, California

July 26, 2017

“I’m planning a new garden because a house is going to be dropped down on my existing beds,” a friend wrote, attaching a site plan to the email. “What do you think?”

This was in 2013, soon after my friend and her husband had decided to build a new two-story house on their property in Healdsburg, California (which they had purchased with an existing swimming pool, a small guest house, and a fenced garden plot).

The garden plan by Arterra Landscape Architects showed a neat row of six raised beds, a deer-proof fence, and a sturdy metal gate with an arbor for grapevines. “I have to say, working with a really good landscape architect makes such a difference,” my friend wrote. “They took my sketches that I was so proud of (but now think that they are pathetic childlike drawings) and completely designed a beautiful garden in the same space.  It’s amazing how they can see the space in three dimensions.”

Fast forward four years. The new house—designed by Feldman Architecture—is beautiful, a glass jewel box with a wall of windows overlooking the pool and distant hills. As for the garden? Plans changed; instead of moving the old garden, the landscape architects made the old one bigger. It’s crammed with raised beds, nothing neat about them, and my friend these days tends a rambling colorful chaos of flowers and edible plants. Here’s how it looks when the late afternoon sun hits:

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

A glass box, the house overlooks the swimming pool and was sited to take advantage of sweeping ridge views. Off to the right, you can see the garden&#8
Above: A glass box, the house overlooks the swimming pool and was sited to take advantage of sweeping ridge views. Off to the right, you can see the garden’s gate and arbor.

Every year my friend, who is a devotee of Annie’s Annuals in Richmond, California, adds new varieties of poppies to her collection. The flowers sow themselves and pop up wherever they like the following year.

Arterra designed a sturdy hog wire fence (take that, deer) and a double gate, crowned with an arbor for grapevines.
Above: Arterra designed a sturdy hog wire fence (take that, deer) and a double gate, crowned with an arbor for grapevines.
It is not really possible to go wrong with poppies, whether you plant fringed, double, or velvety lipstick-pink varieties such as Cupcake or Poppy of Troy, both among the dozens of varieties available seasonally for from $4.95 to $5.95 for a 4-inch pot from Annie&#8
Above: It is not really possible to go wrong with poppies, whether you plant fringed, double, or velvety lipstick-pink varieties such as Cupcake or Poppy of Troy, both among the dozens of varieties available seasonally for from $4.95 to $5.95 for a 4-inch pot from Annie’s Annuals.
Viewed from the house, the guest house (at Right) at the edge of the pool creates a sense of intimacy and human scale in a dramatic landscape.
Above: Viewed from the house, the guest house (at Right) at the edge of the pool creates a sense of intimacy and human scale in a dramatic landscape.
After poppies drop their petals, you can harvest their pods. My friend leaves them out to dry in the sun and then harvests the seeds.
Above: After poppies drop their petals, you can harvest their pods. My friend leaves them out to dry in the sun and then harvests the seeds.
Each poppy pod is like a tiny salt shaker, with holes from which you can shake out dozens of seeds.
Above: Each poppy pod is like a tiny salt shaker, with holes from which you can shake out dozens of seeds.
Inside the hog wire fence are purple sweet peas, raised beds, and laundry on a clothesline: a perfect complement to the modern house, thanks to the simple, strong lines of the fence and gate. Those hardscape elements create a visual transition to connect a sleek facade to a rustic raised-bed garden.
Above: Inside the hog wire fence are purple sweet peas, raised beds, and laundry on a clothesline: a perfect complement to the modern house, thanks to the simple, strong lines of the fence and gate. Those hardscape elements create a visual transition to connect a sleek facade to a rustic raised-bed garden.
Inside the fence, shrub and climbing roses contribute to the chaos.
Above: Inside the fence, shrub and climbing roses contribute to the chaos.
In a bed of edible plants, an unglazed terra cotta irrigation pot is porous, keeping roots moist during the week if the homeowners are away. A similar Watering Pot is $.95 from Home Depot.
Above: In a bed of edible plants, an unglazed terra cotta irrigation pot is porous, keeping roots moist during the week if the homeowners are away. A similar Watering Pot is $29.95 from Home Depot.
My friend &#8
Above: My friend “crammed in” more plants by adding some triangular raised beds as well as rectangular planting beds.
Made of simple wooden boards, the raised beds weather to a silvery gray and do not distract from the colorful plants.
Above: Made of simple wooden boards, the raised beds weather to a silvery gray and do not distract from the colorful plants.
A journal which documents where everything is planted and what performs well is a tool to plan next year&#8
Above: A journal which documents where everything is planted and what performs well is a tool to plan next year’s garden design.
Delphinium, meet Queen Anne&#8
Above: Delphinium, meet Queen Anne’s lace. Fast friends.
A triple bin composter sits unobtrusively in the corner of the garden.
Above: A triple bin composter sits unobtrusively in the corner of the garden.

N.B.: For more of our favorite Northern California landscapes, see:

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