Gamble Garden Spring Tour 2019. Enter the Garden

Last week I met a few friends to attend the annual Spring Tour at Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, California. A group of us garden aficionados – friends from all over the Bay Area meet each year to attend this event.


Annual Spring Garden Tour

Every year The Gamble Garden in Old Palo Alto hosts a Spring Tour where five neighborhood gardens are chosen to show their artistic landscape creativity.  


This is the fourth year we got together to be part of this annual fundraiser where all proceeds from sales of tickets go towards the maintenance of the Gamble Garden.


Enter the Garden

This year’s theme was Enter the Garden through the garden gate. I love garden gates! They create such mystery and intrigue. One never knows what to expect when they walk through a garden gate.


My Garden Gate

In my garden this “bunny gate” called that because I installed it to keep the rabbits out creates the most romantic vantage. Walking through my bunny gate one is rewarded with a stellar show of roses and a pathway that leads to an intimate courtyard.  One of my favorite places to sit and ponder.


Spring Tour of Five private homes

Three were walkable and we were able to cover these.  However the other two homes were driving distance and we decided to skip those. Here is a look at the homes we toured and what made them unique and beautiful.  Fair Warning! This is a long post with lots of pictures of beautiful gardens!

Gamble Garden.

Before heading on our spring tour we strolled through the Gamble Garden on a gorgeous spring day.  Here is a look at the Gamble Garden in full bloom.


Walking in beautiful Old Palo Alto.

Walking in this neighborhood one comes across the most unique homes with beautiful gardens.  We couldn’t’ help but admire these charming gardens on our way to house number 1 on the tour.

A beautiful yellow house with the tallest most gorgeous peach and yellow flowers caught our eye – they were snapdragons!



This blue home looked like it belonged in an English Village.


We liked the home below for its carefrees reckless abandon type of front yard, yet it somehow looked very presentable.


House Number 1 on our Tour:  Paradise in a Meadow

“Entering a meadowland garden. Wanting a place to park her car and inspired by her visits to New York City’s High Line, this homeowner envisioned a naturalistic garden but also one with a Victorian feel to match the style of  her historic home. 

Her landscape team’s collaboration produced a meadow garden that evokes the Elysian Fields,  a stroller’s paradise that seamlessly weaves together 500 plant varieties into a harmonious whole.


The landcape architect’s vision for the garden reflects the region’s history as an oak savanna. But he also wanted to include plants grown when the house was built, such as Spirea, Weigela and the palms that became a signature plant in Victorian gardens.

The specimens in this garden include a variety of Queen palm hybridized to withstand frost. The Giant Burmese honeysuckle and roses climbing up these palms contribute to the exuberant feel throughout the garden.”


You enter the garden through a metal arbor /tunnel planted thickly with sweet peas and flowering annuals.  


Within the meadow, a profusion of flowering trees and shrubs, bamboo, grasses, bulbs and perennials mingle in happy abandon.


The arbor along the back of the garden was designed by renowned local architect Larick Alan Hill, who studied with Birge Clark. The vine and plant draped arbor accommodates both the parking space that launched the garden endeavor and a shady perch from which to enjoy the garden.

The elegance and craftsmanship of this structure can also be seen in the antique wrought iron gate and cement bench nearby, which the homeowner purchased at an antique store in Franklin, Tennessee nearly 20 years ago.”


Entering a meadowland garden. 


Walking under a sweet pea trellis on our way to the meadow.


The meoadowland garden.


Featured flowers in this garden.


Here is a funnt story. I loved this garden for it’s carefree yet manicured look. I told my husband after I came home that I want to take out our giant patch of grass in front and replace it with this low water use meadow garden, to which he promptly reminded me that it’s cheaper and easier to water and mow the lawn than to maintain hundreds and hundreds of plants 😆.

House Number 2 on our Tour.  East Meets West.

This garden was all about the driftwood sculptures that the owner himself designed, created and incorporated into his garden.

From the Gamble Garden Web Site

“Homeowner / garden designer Dean Bui wanted to wanted to create a garden like his father’s in Vietnam. He also strove to honor the style and feeling of the gardens and architecture of his Professorville neighborhood and his historic home.

The result is an artful blending of the tropical and the formal that also displays Bui’s creative talents and an enviable green thumb.

The driftwood front gate strikes an altogether different note.

With the help of an artist/handyman from Santa Cruz, Bui collected driftwood at unfrequented, local lakes and beaches, then designed, built and installed the gate by himself.

A simple sculptural piece from his driftwood collection is artfully mounted on a floor of antique salvaged bricks that meanders under the mature oak tree that towers over the front yard. This sculpture also serves as a support for a beautifully crafted wooden bird house.

The feeling is Zen, echoed by the cut leaf maple nearby that Bui prunes to perfection.

A canopy of mature oaks enclosing the entire property is pruned annually to let in sun for the fruit trees and flowers the family loves to grow.

Through another driftwood gate you enter a paradise paved in brick.

A rustic gazebo is surrounded by a lush garden with a tropical feel, composed of plants that can survive our winters. Bui’s favorite flowering tree from home did not survive the cold, but the leaf cover provided by the towering oaks creates a shelter belt in which the family can grow exotic orchids and tender ferns alongside the palms, Cannas, bamboo, and Philodendron that provide a lush green tapestry.


Bui built the rock waterfall that once fed a koi pond whose fish sheltered under the raised platform of the gazebo. Rest a moment on the gazebo’s comfortable couch, a perfect viewing platform to enjoy the many delights of the garden through the fringe of dried leaves framing the roof.


Neatly stacked driftwood rests against a charming wooden shed and the back fence lets in light through a framed window.


Boxwood in pots sound a formal note, and a row of citrus along the back of the house absorb enough reflected heat to provide large harvests of fruit despite the dappled shade.

An engineer by day, Bui built a raised planter on wheels so he can move the planter to follow the sun needed by his wife’s favorite culinary herbs. She chooses the annual flowers, mostly New Guinea impatiens in shades of pink. Vibrant and peaceful at the same time, the garden feels miles away from the city that surrounds it.”


Entering the garden of driftwood.


Using driftwood in artistic garden interpretations including plant stands, fences, gates, and even a gazebo!

Here is the owner himself talking to visitors in front of his custom made gazebo.


Pots in all shapes and sizes.  

One of my favorite features in this garden was the multitude of pots with orchids and other exotic plants.  I love pots!!  I am a big fan of container gardening. Here is a look at pots and plants shown to perfection in this garden.


The potting shed.


The backyard gate leading out to the alley.


East meets West was one of the most creative gardens we saw on our tour. Though we probably won’t be replicating any of the garden ideas here, it was great to see how creative people can get with their hobby.

House Number 3 on our Tour.   Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.

From Gamble Garden’s Web Site  

“Harboring an affinity for Japanese history, art and garden design, the homeowner is a practitioner of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging that pays special attention to balance, harmony and form.

Wanting a new garden for the 120 year old house she bought a few years ago, she brought in the designer and friend she has worked with for many years, Jarrod Baumann.

Her wish list included a Moon Gate, an iconic Asian design that has become a beloved trope in gardens around the world. She also wanted her garden to include a Japanese pine and plant material to use in her bouquets.

Baumann says his vision of the garden began with the trees he found during a visit to one of his favorite nurseries. These include a pair of weeping, corkscrew elms that flank the front entry path, with fluid lines and a sinuous shape.


Elsewhere in the garden the inky green poetry of a Japanese pine, 40 years in the making, glows jewel-like against the Devonshire cream limestone of the walls that flank the Moon Gate. A dramatic focal point, the gate is made of Ipe, the prized Brazilian walnut hardwood.


Nearby a meandering puddle of crushed limestone in the same creamy hue spreads underneath an intricate cut leaf maple which hovers less than a foot above the ground.

In Berkeley Baumann commissioned large concrete boulders that are scattered around the Japanese pine and under the redwood trees. Their color reminds me of clotted cream and their silky surface invites touch. The homeowner’s daughter likes to sit on them.

The zipper path to the front door was inspired by an ancient Kyoto garden Baumann visited recently. Its design would be at home in the minimalist modern gardens appearing throughout the Bay area.

But Baumann’s choice of Ipe and the Devonshire cream limestone to build the path sounds a softer, more romantic note. Cut in precise rectangles, the limestone is decorated with a subtly beautiful etched groove detail evoking wood grain.

The planting scheme in front is restrained without being manicured. Variegated Hakone grass and the variegated form of Dianella are massed in front, their leaves striped in shade of white, cream and green that animate the restrained color palette of the garden.

The moss so typical in moist Japanese landscapes is replaced in this garden with an Australian astroturf from Annie’s Annuals. A new dwarf form of Gingko trees with vibrant fall color grows alongside the front porch.

The influence of Japanese garden design permeates the gardens that surround this home.

For the water wall, Baumann thought it would be interesting to introduce a more modern note and he was inspired by the work of Carlos Scarpa, a Venetian architect.

The labyrinth-inspired accent on the gate is made from poured bronze. Gold leaf overlaid behind it glows when illuminated at night. Nearby a beautiful Ipe screen that hides garden equipment along the house is based on a traditional Japanese fan design.


“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci.

The homeowner did not want her garden to be too manicured or complicated. Her aesthetic is perhaps best summed up by a quote she included in one of our earliest email exchanges

Here is a look at this garden tour.


Walking through a peaceful modern Japanese garden.

A garden with sculptural details that create a Zen like feel.


House number 3 was the last garden on our tour before heading back to the Gamble Garden. On our walk back we came across the most stunning rose that we stopped to admire and take a few photos of.

Lunch at the Gamble Garden.

After a couple of hours of touring three beautiful home gardens we were ready for lunch.  We ended our spring tour with a delicious boxed lunch at the Gamble Garden.


This truly was an inspiring garden tour. Looking forward to next year’s Gamble Garden Spring Tour and continuing this annual tradition with my Friends from the Bay Area 😘❤️🌳🌺🌻!

For more information on Gamble Garden in Old Palo Alto take a look at these links. Elizabeth F Gamble Garden in Old Palo Alto California  Gamble

For a look at previous year’s Gamble Garden Spring Tour take a look at these links. Gamble Garden Spring Tour 2016. Gardens are for Living.

6 thoughts on “Gamble Garden Spring Tour 2019. Enter the Garden”

  1. How nice that you got to attend. I have not been there in many years, and the last few times I was there, was just to deliver some rhododendrons.

  2. Love this article and all the photos with it! Great event spent with friends! Looking forward to next year’s Gamble Garden tour!💐

  3. Very nice post! The garden is beautiful. Have not been there for a long time. Looks beautiful now.

    1. Thanks Basanthi! The gardens were in peak season right now and everything in the garden and the neighborhood was looking gorgeous. Glad you enjoyed this story.

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