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Marcia Donahue's Garden, 1989-2005

Owner, garden designer, and sculptor:
Donohue, Marcia
Tool, Sara
Bulwinkle, Mark 1946-
Koi pond designer:
Forristt, Cevan
Physical description:
2 folder+ 4 35mm. slides and 238 transparencies
Mixed archival materials
United States of America, California, Alameda, Berkeley
Marcia Donahue's Garden (Berkeley, California)
A 60 by 100 foot urban lot with an 1880's Victorian house has been the site of a unique artist's garden for 36 years. The garden areas in front of and behind the house are densely planted and packed with sculptures, salvage and donated articles, a life's work described by the owner as "Planting Sculpture, Sculpting Plants". Important symbols are repeated, including a wooden gate shaped like a hand and a hand-shaped koi pond with plants growing between the fingers, mythological figures that pertain to gardens, Flora and Demeter, and sculpted poles that suggest bamboo, painted in colors and inscribed with lettering to complement nearby plants. There is a poultry pavilion made from salvage for the 20 bantam chickens that freely range in the garden during the day. The dense planting succeeds because the soil was dug deeply and is amended with organic materials, from the chickens and the other compost, kept at the end of a path of discarded gravestones. The garden is tended by hand and vigorous plants are pruned back so others can thrive. The plant selection is broad and diverse, including sub-tropical varieties and since the garden is watered by hand it may evolve to feature more drought tolerant selections.
Some of the inorganic items the owner has worked into her garden design include bowling balls set in pots or piled up as mulch, reflective obelisks set among silvery leaves, old flatware planted in the soil, ceramic bulbs also planted in pots, necklaces of sculpted and carved spheres draped in trees and ceramic eggs draped on the chicken coop, and industrial cast-offs such as a giant spring used as a plant support. Artworks contributed by others include a statuesque figure known as "The Big Beauty" set among bamboo and giant horsetail and cut-out steel figures and heads suspended from trees or poles.
Marcia Donohue (owner, garden designer and sculptor, 1978- ); Sara Tool (sculptor); Cevan Forristt (koi pond designer); Mark Bulwinkle (sculptor).
The folder includes worksheets and photocopies of articles.
Garden has been featured in "Marcia's Garden: a Conversation" with Marcia Donohue and George Waters, published in Pacific Horticulture, Winter 1989; "Berkeley Sculpture Garden Constantly Changing" by Demi Bowles Lathrop, San Francisco Chronicle online, June 24, 2009
Local number:
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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