4. Hands on landscape design

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February 5, 2013 by missionazul

In our design class, we love to cooperate with others in order to create gardens.

There is a great biology department at City College; the faculty are passionate and knowledgeable.  Best of all, they take students into the field and let nature resonate LOUD and CLEAR.  In this project, they asked us to design a teaching garden right outside the classroom filled with native plants of the local Bay Area.  Here was one of the student entries:2 bio garden

The instructors and students of Biology took the plan and planted with it.  The garden showcases the plants of the dunes, the coastal scrub, and the rocky outcrops.  Here are our friends Elderberry (good for making flutes) and California fuchsia.

3 Yarrow (named for the war hero Achilles) is in the foreground.  In the back are rushes and bunch grasses, and the laughing orange flowers of the Mimulus Sticky Monkey.

4 Okay!  Let’s have a test of your knowledge of ancient plant communities!  Which plant here is named for Artemis the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt?  Which one is Douglas iris?  What kind of rock is this?


Leslie Simon of the Women’s Studies Department requested a plan to go with her Reading Garden.  She shared with us a vision of poetry in bronze, zig zagging through a dry riverbed beneath the Eucalyptus trees.  These were some of the entries.



This plan was my favorite.  It entailed cutting off the tops of the iron bark Eucalyptus and painting them blue.  But that was a little too avant-garde for this particular spot…


The Metal Arts department created and installed the sculpture.


Leslie and her husband brought in many rocks to line the edges of the dry creek.  Changes were made to the design and plant palette over time.  Constraints at the site include heavy clay soils; eucalyptus shade, leaf litter, and chemicals; minimal maintenance; and a windy hilltop plaza. This project remains a work in progress – learning to garden with nature…


We got involved with another landscaping project thanks to Lia Smith of CCSF.  It was an island at the entrance to the Portola neighborhood, across the street from the Alemany Farmer’s Market.  The site was defined by highways above and around, hard compacted dirt fill, and a barrenness so complete that even weeds hardly grew there.


We met with Lia and a few neighbors, and a representative from the Department of Public Works.  We were asked to design a garden with low maintenance, drought tolerant, and beautiful plants; and provide a welcoming gateway to local neighborhoods and markets.  This was one of the plans by Noriko Dukor of Seaweed Landscape Design:



A student, Davery Yim, was chosen as the designer.  This was her vision of the site:


Since then, the mural starring the Mission Blue butterfly and the San Francisco garter snake has been painted, and the garden will be planted…..soon.  Working within the beaurocracy is a process that takes time.  About two to three years is about right from start to finish, we’ll see…

four mural

On the department level, we are located in the north of the Ocean/Phelan campus.  New students quickly learn that floristry is on one side of the building, horticulture on the other.  There is one head house, two lath houses, four greenhouses, and five soil bins.  Maybe a map drawn by design students can be helpful?

Scan 1

Scan 2

Come on by and take a class!


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