Artist/Photographer Don Worth created a paradise garden in Mill Valley, California. Soon you’ll have a rare opportunity to experience the garden’s tropical splendor: On Saturday, June 16th, 2012 .. The Garden Conservancy Open Days Program allows visitors access to this beguiling landscape.
In 1964 Worth bought the property in Mill Valley and began the work of making a garden. When I walked through the landscape with Don in 2004, he remembered thinking of all the photographs he would take. “It became a laboratory for me,” he said, “… a never-ending source of subject matter.”
Don passed away not long ago, but his garden remains a testament to an individual’s stunning artistic vision. You’d never know the setting had been overgrown with poison oak, French broom, wild blackberries, and as Don told me, “more different kinds of weeds than one can imagine.”
Bit by bit, Don cleared the area and planted tree ferns. Over time, Monterey pines that were reaching the end of their normal life span were removed. Today the half-acre garden emerges from the lot’s hilly terrain like a tropical oasis. Don’s amazing attention to detail sets the garden apart, along with beautifully cultivated communities of plants and a vast collection of palm trees.
Numerous kinds of palms are planted, among them cane and Guadalupe, fishtail and queen palms. Most are subtropical species.
The towering architectural stature of the trees combines with the textural qualities of their trunks to endow every part of the garden with character, while the understory presents voluptuous compositions in which specimen plants accent complementary groupings of succulents and bromeliads. Strapping philodendrons provide maximum impact. Contrasting succulent displays are arranged in a tapestry of color and form.
An entire realm of echeverias appears. In the greenhouse, Worth has produced numerous Echeveria hybrids through crossing various species. Tender varieties ‘Morning Sun’ and ‘Morning Star’ exhibit gemlike colors; their pale blue leaves seem to glow from within, and a sharp pink edge delineates each leaf.
On a hillside, visitors encounter a host of succulents in subtle variations of green. Aloes, agaves with cool hues and black-tipped leaves, and blue-gray cycads play off Aeonium arboreum ‘Garnet,’ a colorful new variety.
This special opening of Worth’s treasure of a gardenscape is reason enough to plan to be in the Bay Area on June 16th. When you can delight in the breathtaking sight of luxuriant, mature black-stemmed tree ferns indigenous to New Zealand. Plants that Don had once been astonished to find had self-sown in 1994! As he once wrote, the spores of this rare species, Cyathea medullaris then “drifted to the lower garden and .. germinated.”
Today, the exquisite tree ferns are but one of the highlights of Worth’s Paradise.