Stunning San Francisco Fling garden tour of my dream garden...

The San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling was an amazing adventure into a myriad of unique and beautiful gardens and micro climates.  I expected the weather in San Francisco to be cool and comfortable.  Not so.  As is often the case when I've traveled to the annual garden flings, they were having an uncharacteristic heat wave.  (The Texas bloggers have a theory that we bring the beat with us - a tradition we'd love to put an end to!) 

San Francisco was tolerable, though as we ventured further out from the city, it was hotter (103 one day walking through the gardens) and drier.  Of course the beauty of the micro climates is that it enabled us to tour a wonderful variety of gardens, all within driving distance. 

On the last day, we visited the Ann Nichols Garden in Oakland.  This was my favorite garden by far, filled with mysterious paths, babbling water features, unique artwork and an intricate garden of tropical plants and desert plants mixed with traditional plants.  (I have a soft spot for tropicals and I garden in the scorching heat of the southwest in Austin, Texas.)

As you arrive, the garden rises from the street in a succulent-lovers hillside of hot with the tropical colors of agaves, yuccas, phormium and cannas. 
Everyone ooohed and ahhhhed over this intricate spiral agave.  It can't take our arid heat, so I won't be searching for one to plant in my garden.
I finally tore myself away from the hillside to follow a delicate, almost-hidden path up to the house.  Lined with papyrus, aloes, ground cover and cannas, it led me to my ultimate destination -- a stunning brugmansia, its bell-shaped blooms dripping over the path to envelop garden visitors in an apricot  canopy.
Winding on the other side of the house is another path, filled with ground cover, succulents and grasses, that leads you up into the back garden.

Along the property line is a fence/trellis/jungle creation that hosts bromeliads, tillandsias ferns and other exotic

But unlike so many side gardens that are just an avenue for reaching another area, this was a mystical garden of its own.  Flanked by layers upon layers of plants, the steps lead through a series of unique, artistic ponds that are part of a larger waterway system and all connected. 

 The water runs through channels from the upper lever water feature down to the other ponds.

Here's a garden blogger capturing a photo in the'll laugh at this one.  I was trying to remember who this was and I remember that I was wearing a peach blouse that day, wondering who else did.  Then I realize this is a mirror that was hanging on the fence and that's ME in the picture!  Working on a creative photo shot, I captured myself and then promptly forgot about it.  In any case, the mirror, tucked behind a treasure trove of plants, was a delightful find for garden visitors.
Next to the gate at the top of the stone steps, a tile mural covers the wall as a backdrop for the pond.  Notice the cat in the mural - you'll see him again in more art in the back garden.

Now onto the back garden.  There are 3 levels in the back garden.  Through the gate and continuing up the stairs, you pass another water feature as you're drawn to another gate.

But wait, that's a door, or is it.  No, it's a gate... It's a door to a building, painted to look like the gate, with our friend the cat perched on top and his friend waiting for him at the bottom.  So clever and entertaining.  (And there's another brugmansia to the left...sigh...)

And then it's off to the right and up another set of steps, flanked by glorious loropetalums in pots, and up onto the small patch of lawn.  In this lush setting, the grass itself is a focal point.

It was also a perfect gathering spot for the garden bloggers to share their thoughts on this amazing garden.  Ann Nichols even invited a few of us inside the house to view the back garden from upstairs, which is the perch from which I shot this photo.
 Then it's up the stairs once more, through this Dr. Seuss-like allee of weeping sequoia, tied together and leading you on to the last gate of the garden, a replica of the first gate and the painted gate.

 There are several delightful seating areas in the upper garden, which is filled with fragrant roses, succulents and phormium.
And the look back down the hill, framed by the sequoias, to the back of the house and our friends enjoying refreshments and good company.

The back of the house is flanked by a lower-level patio area, filled with pots of suculents and a rock lined retaining wall filled with hot colors and wonderful textures.

You can see why I fell in love with this garden.  I'm sure I could have spent the entire day there and still not seen everything it has to offer,

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