Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

10 great pictures: berkeley gardens


“One cannot create beauty; One can only create circumstances favorable to it.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke-



Last time I posted I was waxing nostalgic about the delights of my home-state, but no ode to California would have been complete without mentioning the fantastic garden style of the Bay Area. In fact, I planned to include something about it among my ‘Postcards‘.  I already had my whole spiel about the front-yard gardens of Berkeley all written up when, for the sake of editorial clarity, I decided to cut it.

Here’s what happened:

During a recent visit to my Dad’s house I went for a meandering walk through his North Berkeley neighborhood , studying the front-yard gardens as I went. The gardens there are lush, restrained, riotous with life, trees heavy with fruit and recycled art-displays, yards neglected into weeds. It’s all there in one city block, and it all adds up to a totally unique garden environment. But alas, here I was walking around the block feasting on the beauty, and with no camera.

Bloggers dilemma: How could I describe the magical quality of these gardens without pictures?

But then my awesome dad, Ross Powers who is an accomplished photographer and Berkeley gardener, saved the day. He responded to my last-minute request for “any good pictures of this garden style” with an email entitled : “10 great pictures”.

And they were.

Looking through his images I was struck with the way in which they capture the ephemeral, funky, spontaneous aesthetic that is ‘the Berkeley garden’, in both their subject and  composition.  Some of these pictures are of my dad’s own garden, moments of passing beauty and favorable circumstances, caught on film.

They were the perfect representation of this thing I wanted to describe: that the essence of unique style is a creative eye, translating a beautiful place.

I decided that my dad’s 10 great pictures needed to be a blog entry of their own.

And so, here they are.

(all photos courtesy of  Ross Powers)

by Ross Powers

by Ross Powers

by Ross Powers

by Ross Powers

by Ross Powers

by Ross Powers

by Ross Powers

by Ross Powers

These last series of shots were taken at what I call the ‘junk art place’ in Berkeley. It’s a house near my Dad’s on Colusa (between Monterey and Sonoma) where the owner/artist -in-residence, Mark Oliver, has transformed his front yard into a scuplture garden made from re-purposed beach trash and detrius. Read more about his creations here and visit his website here.

(Oh, and readers, do you have any pictures of your favorite garden, in your favorite town? I’d love to see them and start a little collection. Who knows? Maybe if one day the circumstances are favorable to it, we’ll make something beautiful! )



7 Responses to “10 great pictures: berkeley gardens”

  1. Norman Ross Powers

    It’s a treat for me to see these shots “en bloc” here on my favorite
    Web Log. Thank you! As a clarification, the email title “10 Great Pictures” is a default which iPhoto choses every time I export images on our Mac. I usually substitute a more modest description when forewarding shots, but this time I must have been in a hurry. Also, West Twin, your thoughts on “Berkeley” gardens are intriguing. I’ve always noticed Berkeley’s characteristic houses– the Maybecks, the Craftsman bungalows, ect.–
    but I never realized that there’s a hometown garden look also. Your observant insider/outsider eye was a help in picking up on that, I think.

    • ruchapowers

      Hey Pop! I think it occurred to me somewhere along the line that “10 great photos” might have been a default title but it was so accurate that I kept it! You deserve the accolades! Also I know this ‘Berkeley front -yard garden style’ must be a legitimate thing because it was featured in none other than Martha Stewart online:
      I’m being slightly ironic of course because any of us who grew up in Berkeley know that there is a unique and eclectic look to the neighborhood gardens that can’t be found any where else. Of course, the thing that I notice these days is that “newbies” (transplants to Berkeley who can afford the homes and cost of living) are now hiring landscape architects to install an instant “Berkeley garden” in the front, so as to to fit in with their neighbors. These gardens, gorgeous in their own right, are always just a little more formal, a little less spontaneous-looking in their design and don’t seem to have the same magic of the gardens that have come about authentically and organically over the years. But of course, I’m biased.

    • Mia

      Nice pictures Ross, I especially like the table and leaves, makes me excited for Fall.

  2. ursula

    i love walking through berkeley neighborhoods, gawking at the old craftsmans and lush overgrown gardens. nice pics !

  3. Jacquelyn Marie

    Lovely to see your Dad’s photos again and your creative word magic!

  4. oami powers

    I didn’t realize until recently how completely I had absorbed the Berkeley garden as my preferred garden aesthetic, and probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate it that way unless you had put your finger on it. But it’s one of the things I miss about living in the Bay Area. Here you are more likely to see a more formal presentation of lawn with trees and bushes, but far fewer gardens of this type, which I so love.

  5. Norman Ross Powers

    Once again, you’ve blown me away with your insight and wonderment about your life! Go Rucha- you are incredible! xoxo, Michela


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: