Friday, November 6, 2009

Sunset Gardens in Menlo Park

A flowing connection between the indoor and outdoor areas.

Sitting here, looking at my garden through the pouring rain, I remembered that I forgot to write about one of the gardens we visited in California last August. The pictures of Sunset Gardens in Menlo Park, some 15 miles South from San Francisco, were just what I needed to feel a bit warmer in this chilly, grey weather. This is a corporate garden and home of the the Sunset Magazine, a lifestyle publication for the West from California to British Columbia. This magazine started actually as a promotional tool in 1898 to spur travellers to visit the West, and the name came from the Sunset Limited, a train that still runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The Sunset Magazine is practically unknown to people outside the area (well, at least for us from Europe), but here in the "West" it has a great following with over 6 million readers who are interested about where to travel, what to eat and so on. A bit middle aged, yes, but still quite a nice read... and a good travel guide for these areas. (Am I sounding too promotional? Well, no-one is actually paying me for this.)

From the patio to the garden.

Agave stricta in the Southwest desert garden.
The Sunset Gardens is quite a celebration of the American style of the mid-1900's. The house was designed by Cliff May, who has been called the father of the California ranch-style home. The gardens were designed by Thomas Church, whose achievements within garden design do not need any further presentations, but they were renovated in 2000, so only trees and shrubs remain from the original design. The indoor and outdoor areas merge here effortlessly together and allow a continuous flow of vistas to be enjoyed both from the house and in the garden.

Central Californian parts of the garden.

On the way to the Northwest...

A winding path takes the visitor through the garden and its five different areas designated to the different climate zones of the Western North America. For example, there is an area of desert vegetation suited to arid conditions, another area dedicated to central Californian growing conditions, complete with huge coast redwoods and pines and area with plants suited for the wet and cold winters of the Pacific Northwest. Amazingly, they all seem to thrive here, even if some of them clearly are outside their most preferred growing areas. There is also an editorial test garden for the magazine's photo shoots, cooking articles and other projects; it was a strange experience to see many of the pots and other props from the pages of the Sunset Magazine neatly tucked together in this small area on the backside of the house.

The editorial test garden.

Thriving artichokes in the kitchen garden.

I wanted to visit the Sunset Gardens as my garden guide book advertised it as "one of Church's best preserved gardens". Obviously, this is not completely true any more, but I still found the visit very much worthwhile. A very friendly receptionist took time to show the building to us, and told us about the history (the framed first page from the Sunset Magazine that was published directly after the earth quake of 1906 was especially memorable). I also enjoyed seeing such an pleasant environment for working, as the building still houses the staff of the Sunset Magazine. The gardens are a great testament to American design from the middle of last century, which sadly now are all too often torn down and replaced with something more "up-to-date". Even if not private and on a large scale, these gardens are an inspiration to many builders and designers even today.



Sunita Mohan said...

I love that flowing feel in the first photo too.
If that garden has plants thriving in all the different zones, maybe they should be listing the name of the gardener in the magazine too along with that of editor, publisher, etc. What an achievement!

nilla|utanpunkt said...

Fabtastiskt med en sådan arbetsplatsträdgård! VIlka underbara lunch breaks de måste ha!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Sunita, I totally agree with you! But they publish a lot of gardening articles and books too, so the gardeners might get acknowledged in them, I should check...

Camellia, min första tanke var att de borde nog ha en bra trädgårdsbloggare med där... och om jag skulle bo närmare, skulle jag nog erbjudit mina tjänster :-) Även om jag är nog inte ensam om det. Synd att det är så långt till Californien!

Unknown said...

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