Noe Valley Voice May 2008

Third Annual Garden Tour Flowers in May

By Olivia Boler

For the third year in a row, neighborhood gardeners will show off their beautiful back yards and front terraces at the Noe Valley Garden Tour, on Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Produced by the residents group Friends of Noe Valley, the tour will feature six gardens, including five in neighborhood homes. The cost of the tour is $12 for adults, and children are free. Proceeds from the tour will benefit the flowers and street trees that the Noe Valley Community Benefit District has been planting along 24th Street.

Richard May of Friends says tour-goers will be delighted with this year's lineup. "You'll see beautiful things and can steal an idea or two for your garden," he says.

One garden you won't want to miss is Richard Anderson's home on Elizabeth Street. "Richard's garden will amaze you," says May. "First, that he did all the work himself and, second, the wonderful effect of the results." The garden provides a series of urban vistas. "You climb four levels from street to house, and you can stop at each to sit and enjoy the view." Temple bamboo and Japanese maple are the unifying plants, and a rose garden sits on the highest plateau.

Playwright Terry Baum's garden on Douglass Street is a lush "garden among friends," says May. A huge pineapple-sage wall separates a towering cactus from the Australian geraniums and other favorite clippings from Baum's friends, grown to mature plants. "Found" statues poke up through the garden landscape, and a birdbath completes the idyllic picture. Baum's home was once an Italian bakery, and bricks from the pizza oven have become part of a curving walkway.

In just four years Ron Saltmarsh has transformed his back yard from an inherited weed patch with a few struggling survivor plants into a classic English garden with brick walkways and extensive plantings of flowering perennials. Eleven-foot Italian buckthorn fences line the sides. A full arbor separates the front garden from a raised lily pond. Saltmarsh's goal was "to have something beautiful to look at from any angle," May says. "It's gorgeous."

Two of the gardens in this year's tour were designed by landscape companies. Noe Valley's Janet Moyer Landscaping is presenting the garden of Naoko and John Rechsteiner, featuring red tea trees, weeping fuchsias, abutilons (flowering maples), and a sprinkling of Santa Barbara daisies. Entered via a narrow alley, the small terraced space is an oasis of symmetry and peace.

John Steuernagel of Sculpt Gardens is showing a "sound and senses" garden he created for a home where one of the owners is blind. Visitors can walk on crunching gravel walkways lined with stone and listen to a burbling watercourse framed by two waterfalls. There is also a gnarled tree trunk incorporated into the fence separating yards.

Finally, tour-goers can stroll through the abundant half-acre garden behind the 30th Street Senior Center. Visitors take an elevator to the third-floor garden, where they'll discover meandering paths surrounded by flowering fruit trees, organically grown vegetables, and blossoms every color of the rainbow. Seniors and volunteers will be on hand to identify plants and maybe even sell you one of the garden's stock of starters.

May says the tour's "gold sponsor" this year is Zephyr Real Estate. Other sponsors include Janet Moyer Landscaping, Sloat Gardens, B.J. Droubi/Coldwell Banker, and Sculpt Gardens.

Tickets and a guide to the Noe Valley Garden Tour are available through Friends board members and at several local stores, including Cover to Cover, Just for Fun, Ladybug Ladybug, Noe Valley Bakery, Small Frys, Urban Nest, and Video Wave. For more information, e-mail Richard May at