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April 08, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, April 08, 2005

Green and grand Green and grand (April 08, 2005)

Four large Atherton gardens are on symphony tour

by Carol Blitzer

A large horseshoe-shaped gravel driveway used to lead you to Toni Heren's front door in Lindenwood. But when she and her husband remodeled their home in 1988, they moved the entry and created a garden room off the kitchen/great room. A few years later, she got rid of the large front lawn and created a formal, parterre rose garden.

Visitors to the Symphony in Flowers XVI Garden Tour on April 22 and 23, a benefit for the San Francisco Symphony, will have a chance to explore all the changes Heren, of Toni Heren Garden Design, has made to her one-acre property. For starters, she has created a series of garden rooms, beginning with the parterre, which consists of four sections of equal size and shape. Each section has a crab apple tree, with boxwood around the edges. More than 200 roses thrive in this garden, and many are in bloom now.

"I hate it in January," Heren said, acknowledging that cutting them back is quite a chore.

But by fall, the whole front area is completely grown in. "It's almost naked now, compared to fall, with salvias and verbenas that come up later," she added.

By ripping out the asphalt and lawn, Heren gained a "huge chunk" of a sunny, planting area. She fenced in parts and created seating areas, with wooden benches nearby for appreciating the new garden.

Recently she added wooden obelisks to add more vertical architectural elements. Another sits by the garage. Eventually, plants will climb up the towers, disguising the frames.

She's also incorporated koi ponds in her garden, one at the side of the house, and another in front, with a metal fish fountain in the center. Her biggest challenge is discouraging the egrets who like to swoop down and snatch the koi.

Around the back, after passing Heren's working potting shed, one enters a large grassy area, with a rectangular pool and spa, surrounded by a brick deck that extends from the patio. A large gleditsia (honey-burst locust) tree dominates the yard.

"To break up the back, I've created paths around the perimeter of the property, creating a woodland garden in the back, accessible by a path," Heren said. One can enter the woodland garden through a large arch, soon to be covered in summer-blooming clematis, surrounded by roses. The seating area boasts a birdbath, and bright orange clivia kind of sneaks up on you.

Sprinkled throughout Heren's front and back gardens are whimsical animals -- ducks, rabbits and frogs -- that she's collected over time. One frog used to belong to her grandmother. "It's fun to have something from another generation," she said.

Maintaining an acre of densely planted garden is no small task. Heren noted that two men come every Saturday to put in four hours' work, usually joined by herself. "My husband helps too. ... Because I plant so tightly, I don't have weeds. It's keeping up with the deadheading," she said.

Speakers at Heren's home, which is called "Garden Enchantment" on the tour, include Marianne Partlett, a teacher and floral designer, and floral designer Mary Rita McKay on "There's Music in Floral Design" (April 22, 3 p.m.); Frank Niccoli, of the California Landscape Contractors Association, on "What's Bugging Your Garden?" (April 23, 11:30 a.m.) and garden designer Cevan Forristt on "Garden Water Features and Water Creatures" (April 23, 3 p.m.). Heren will stroll the garden with visitors from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, and 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Three additional large gardens are included in this year's tour:

** "Sculptured Elegance," a Walsh Road garden that features sculptures by Archie Held. Speakers at that site include Weegie Caughlan, an American Orchid Society judge, on "Living with Orchids" (April 22, 11:30 a.m.); horticultural consultant Ed Holm on "The 10 Most Challenging Gardening Problems on the Peninsula" (April 22, 1:30 p.m.; April 23, 10:30 a.m.); and floral designer Grace Murata on "East Meets West in Floral Design" (April 23, 1:30 p.m.). Table setting will be by the Peninsula Orchid Society;

** "Botanical Inspirations," a Hawthorne Drive garden designed by Jim Dixon of Kensington. Stroll the garden between 2 and 4 p.m. with Dixon. Table setting is by San Francisco Peninsula Camellia Society. Refreshments and the symphony store are available here.

** "Design Perfection to a Tee," a Selby Lane garden designed by Toni Heren. Herbalist and horticulturalist Darren Huckle will speak on "Growing and Using Plants for Health" (April 22, 10:30 a.m.). Table setting is by the Peninsula Rose Society. A catered lunch is available both days, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. ($20, reservations required before April 15).

The garden tour is sponsored by the Mid-Peninsula League of the San Francisco Symphony, and benefits the San Francisco Symphony and its educational outreach programs.

Assistant editor Carol Blitzer can be reached at [email protected]

What: Symphony in Flowers XVI Garden Tour.
When: Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. rain or shine.
Where: Begin at 283 Selby Lane, Atherton.
Cost: $25 before April 15 (check to Mid-Peninsula League of SFS (MPL/SFS), 875 University Drive, Menlo Park, CA 94025), $30 at the Garden Gate on Selby Lane.
Info: E-mail [email protected] or call (650) 329-8187.
Note: Wear comfortable walking shoes; some gardens have uneven surfaces. No cameras.

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