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    Members and their Gardens


Gail's garden is in the the San Francisco Peninsula, in Sunset zone 16. Having spent several years in South Africa she fell in love with the wonderful variety of plants to be found there and decided to duplicate some of this flora in her own California garden.

Photographs by Gail Klein

In her own words;

A Fynbos Garden

Gardens always reflect their owners, whether owners are aware of it or not. But those owned by gardeners are more likely to reflect their personality and interests, since gardeners put themselves into their gardens.

What does your own garden say?


 Protea and leucadendron on berm, fronted by bunch grass and gazania.

 Euryops, ericas and chasmanthe surrounded by bunch grass

 My own front yard/garden reflects......  
Landscapes that I care about and just happen to fit together; the fynbos in the Western Cape of South Africa -- 15,000 miles from my house -- and the grassy California foothills -- 1 mile from my house.
  An interest in design. The original idea was a coastal atmosphere, with crescent shaped dunes surrounded by grassy swales.
  and a fairly laissez-faire attitude toward gardening.


  Leucospermum cordifolium, which can have over 100 flowers per specimen


Fynbos (pronounced Fanebos) dominates the mostly sunny area in front of our house.

The Fynbos Biome is the Mediterranean-climate belt at the south west coast of Africa stretching east and north of Cape Town.

This "fine bush" vegetation, like our own chaparral, has many fine leaved plants suited to long hot summers.

Yet there are enough broad textures to add design interest. Proteaceae (protea, leucospermum and leucadendron species), ericas and restios are the hallmark fynbos plants.

It is a natural, yet eye-catching look.

My take is from botanizing around the Cape, but anyone can appreciate their unique flowers, easy care and interest in dull winter times.

 Fine-leaved leucadendron salignum 'Perry's Red'with Muhlenbergia rigens across the sidewalk  

 I try to put plants where they are happiest.

Most fynbos plants prefer nutrient -poor, well-drained soils. So, our ericas and proteacae grow on sand mounds with drip irrigation.

Reed-like restios and calla lilies settle in seasonally wetter, native clay-loam swales and flats that surround these berms, irrigated by MP rotators.

Corms (watsonia, babiana, ixia, sparaxis, velthemia and chasmanthe) pop up in the swales and flats in winter and spring, amaryllis belladonna in late summer. They weave through carpets of the California native grasses; festuca idahoensis and deschampsia caespitosa.

   Sand Mounds with drip irrigation





  For example sand berms provide;
  Excellent drainage and soil conditions....even some cold-mediating height for the plants.
  Privacy.... I confess it tickles me to listen to passersby talk completely unaware I am there.

   I rarely go to the garden to tend it (it no doubt shows) though I do intend to improve its structure and function. The makeshift outlines are there; a few flagstones under a tree for a place to sit and some paths to walk through planted areas.
  Plants benefit from the greater attention to what ís under my nose when I am sitting out there.There ís not a doubt in my mind that the closer they are, the better they fare.
  Enjoyment. Like many of you, I have sun in half the garden, shade in the other. Here I see the sunshine, work, read, and watch the birds jumping around the bird bath and warming themselves on the berms.


No garden is complete without challenges. In my mind, gardens are to keep our brains alive, not just to relax in.

FROST. Proteaceae is something people in this area are wary of and with good reason. Until proteaceae, especially the lovely pincushions, are established, they are vulnerable. Yet, one-gallons came through this past winter even when planted last November!
The Solution: I often counter cold nights around Christmas by throwing reemay fabric and/or Christmas lights over the proteaceae. I think that the tiny lights swathed in filmy fabric make our nighttime landscape seasonally apt. The strange, billowing translucent fabric also looks a bit ghostly wafting in the morning breeze. Only a few shrubs have frozen, but I can replace them.
IRRIGATION. Overspray created a moist Phytophera-loving environment on one of the berms recently.
The Solution: I will try to shorten the rotator's radius, plant something in front of that part of the berm here or just reshape it!
ANIMALS. Grasses luxuriant and dense attract all kinds. Voles, moles, gophers, rats, ground squirrels even use each others tunnels. Despite their usefulness as soil aerators , they have to be stopped.....!
The Solution: keep monitoring and correcting, disturb the soil a little and trap. Use baskets when planting proteaceae, big arctotis, gazania and baskets or shaved mica on bulbs. The animals do not bother the grasses at all but they have wiped out hundreds of freesias.
DIFFERENT CONDITIONS. In nature, a few fynbos plants grow next to hillside seeps.
The Solution. When I must have these plants, I change their microclimates -- more water by snaking a drip from a nearby berm to supplement the light rotator spray. I may also put a plant on the north or east side of a larger one to shade it from the afternoon sun,



  One of the first things my contractor said during installation was "Don't buy any more plants" .
  Now, I ask Western Hort Society members, "How realistic is that ?"
  However I restrained myself because too many types of plants clutter the design and crowding blocks air circulation and provides homes for animal pests

Nasella/stipa tenuissima , the native Mexican Nasella appeared briefly one year for a dune grass effect.

 Protea neriifolia, the easiest to grow. In full bloom.


Gail Klein is a landscape designer and a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD).

Her fynbos plants are asterisked in the South African plants list at her website


Western Horticulture Society
PO Box 166, Mountain View, CA 94042
(650) 948-4614 or (650) 941-6136