And Now For A Bunch Of Things That Are Completely Different

So the Garden Bloggers’ Fling started in earnest on Friday. I’ve gotta say we have been seeing some jaw-dropping gardens. Not just creative and visually stunning, but also very different from what I normally associate with the word “garden”.

Gil Sculpture Garden

Mat Gil’s Sculpture Garden is built up against a rock face below a highway overpass in an industrial part of San Francisco. The artist lives and works here with his wife, Lesa Porche. The garden was designed and is maintained by Dan Carlson of Wigglestem Gardens.

Strolling over to the Gil Sculpture Garden. Urban enough for ya?

A deck overlooking the garden features containers with succulents and grasses.

Gil Sculpture Garden

The designers found niches for plants all the way up the rock. The flora must tolerate the tough conditions or die. They are either natives or well-adapted exotics.

Gil Sculpture Garden

Planting in rock
Plants holding on to the rock face for dear life.

Gil Sculpture Garden

This garden was the beginning of my crash course in the very exotic world of West Coast plants, so I often caught only the Genus name. You’ll have to bear with me. The tree with the red leaves at the top is a Leucadendron.


There were plenty of Agaves. If this is an Agave. UPDATE: Thanks to Hoov from Piece of Eden, I now know this is an Aloe arborescens.


The thing that looks like walking Martian artichokes is a Protea. I was kind of fascinated by this plant.

Protea – or walking Martian artichokes?

It’s a sculpture garden, so there are sculptures. Gil’s studio is on ground level.

Gil Sculpture Garden

In a shadier spot, some bamboo and a water feature. The grill is for keeping out raccoons.

2013-06-28 12.11.52

Here is the ground level entrance to the garden.

Gil Sculpture Garden

If I weren’t so tired I would try to say more about this garden. I’ll just conclude by noting that the garden amazed me in three ways. First, it seemed to fit in a remarkably natural way into what I would consider an extremely unnatural place for a garden. Second, it had such a fully three-dimensional feel – it was a garden with a verticality that seized your attention, drawing you to views from above, below, and across. Finally, it was a space that felt very enclosed and at the same time exciting and inviting.

45 Comments on “And Now For A Bunch Of Things That Are Completely Different

  1. Groovy garden! It’s so much fun to see what others noticed! I haven’t even looked at my pictures yet! (lazy & tired)

    • I agree, I’m curious to see what others took away from that garden. In other words, get off your duff and write a post! It was groovy, though, as you say.

  2. This is fascinating – I’ve never seen such an “urban” garden before and I love it! The plants blend perfectly with the surroundings and it’s good to see that the gardener is working with nature and not against it. Thank you very much for sharing with us! It’s a lesson to me!

  3. I enjoy getting your thoughts and your perspective on the gardens, looking forward to more posts. A lot of these plants are fairly new to me too. I love your description of the Protea as a walking Martian artichoke, that fits it perfectly. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it!

  4. I can relate to your dilemma of learning a whole new realm of plants. I moved from Southern California (Zone 10) to North Dakota (Zone 4) and had to relearn everything. At first it was a bit frustrating, but it became a fun challenge.

    • That is a very big move! I used to travel to North Dakota (mostly Bismarck) pretty frequently. Hope you are enjoying your new life in the northern prairie.

  5. It is a completely different world out there, I agree. I always enjoy seeing how people manage to beautify an otherwise gritty setting. Love those Martian artichokes. Now that IS something completely different.

  6. What a lovely garden. Only if CA didn’t have those earthquakes and forest fires; I would have gone there to do gardening year around.

    • I like the seasons and softer landscape and flora of the Midwest, but I was fascinated by what they have in California.

  7. Having just visited the High Line I can appreciate the beauty and value in incongruous garden settings. I guess the moral of the story is when it comes to making a garden when there’s a will there’s a way. Great shots!

  8. Nice post, I love that protea, I haven’t seen this one before the flowers are pretty and the leaves are beautiful, I like the way you captured this plant.

    • Thanks! I thought we would go back upstairs to go out, and I’d love to have gotten a couple more overview shots from up there. The space was almost overwhelming in its drama and contrast with the street. It was great to meet you also! What a fun time!

  9. I’m always amazed at plants that can grow in the tiniest cracks of rocks, with seemingly no soil and little water! My husband calls it “the tenacity of nature.”

    Those Martian Artichokes are great!

    • And they didn’t create planting pockets or use top soil – they basically just broke up the rock and put the plants in that.

  10. That 3-fold summary seems appropriate for the little bit I was able to see of this uniquely positioned garden via your photos. Wow!

  11. Well somebody is on the ball with posting! I may never get around to it, but I loved reading your take on it. I was impressed by that garden…it’s so unlike anything else I’ve seen. The location made it such a surprise, which was especially delightful.

  12. You got much better photos than I did, and excellent comments. I also really enjoyed that garden. The think-its-an-agave is Aloe arborescens.

    I don’t think I got to meet you there, but with so much going on and such a whirlwind of activity it rather overwhelmed me.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts on the other gardens1

  13. I so appreciate seeing the great photos of our garden (Matt Gil Sculpture Garden) and your well-expressed descriptions. We had a great time meeting all the fun garden bloggers!

  14. That was incredible… You are giving me way to many ideas!

  15. Here in the middle of England I find all these dry plants fascinating,it really does make me appreciate our wet summer last year…. even this year we have had extremes,now we have a heat wave along side torrential thunder storms…but hey we can all complain about our weather…so we try to adapt …and enjoy our plots…..

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