Cevan Forristt

My timid approach to incorporating a bit of the exotic in the garden got me thinking about gardens that boldly embrace the exotic, gardens that become a country wholly unlike the one in which they nominally reside. There’s always a moderating influence that kicks in before I take anything too far. But what if you’re not governed by moderation? What if your compass spins in any direction your heart desires, and the country you inhabit can’t be found on any map?

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What immediately comes to mind is the work of garden designer Cevan Forristt in Northern California, a long-standing, card-carrying, flag-waving member of the fabled Bay Area Hortisexuals, “a ragtag band of truly possessed horticulturalists” as Richard Ward, owner of The Dry Garden nursery, describes the group of old friends. (The Dry Garden in Oakland is where I finally found the fabulous Mathiasella bupleuroides, which didn’t last long in my garden.) I was fairly certain that MB Maher had paid a visit to Cevan’s garden a few years ago, so I rang him up. Did he still have the photos? He did.

I got some [pre-1906]-earthquake stone – some Italian people in San Francisco five generations ago had piles of this stone. I got 800 tons from the old Grace Cathedral rectory. I brought back 100 tons from China. Some stuff I buy is ethnically anonymous: You wouldn’t know where it came from.” — Cevan Forristt, “Garden art that rocks,” The Christian Science Monitor, August 2008

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You want to place statuary so it isn’t in the middle of the gardens like the Europeans do – like, ‘ta-da!’ I do it so it looks unearthed, so it’s more of a surprise.”

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If every garden is a dream, many of those dreams are about order, control. Some like Cevan’s dream about lost worlds, new worlds, unmapped countries.

All photos by MB Maher.

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13 Responses to Cevan Forristt

  1. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I’m crazy about this garden/these images. I could happily get lost in this country!

  2. Annette says:

    I absolutely absolutely love love love the charm and romance of this worldly garden!!! If I ever ever got the chance to visit it I would never be able to leave! Thank you for sharing these photos.

  3. kathy says:

    How beautiful this is, and great photos by Mitch as usual..I see things like this and feel so limited by the architecture (or lack there-of) of my house. A garden like this would look frankly ridiculous set against the traditional/tract elevation here. I’ll continue to admire these sorts of gardens from afar.

  4. Hoov says:

    Much more hardscape than plants–but so well disguised one is distracted from noticing. Great eye for stuff, love the metalwork on his gate, a little creepy, like a cemetery is multiple heads emerging from the ground. His own country, indeed.

  5. Denise says:

    @Peter, me too. There’s not a lot of photos of Cevan’s garden around, so I was glad Mitch had these.
    @Annette, it does cast quite a spell, doesn’t it?
    @Kathy, if his garden ever shows up on a tour, you must go!
    @Hoov, yes, a love for stone as much as plants.

  6. Heather says:

    I’m a sucker for anything with even a whiff of gothic rot. I LOVE this garden!

  7. Denise says:

    Heather, wish I knew the phrase “gothic rot” before I posted 😉

  8. Noooooooooooo, don’t tell me you both did visit his garden !! I’m totally jealous !!! this is really the style that i love. How enchanting its is. Merci, merci Denise et Mitch.

  9. Pam/Digging says:

    Wow, what an incredible vibe and tantalizing look to this garden. Love the images!

  10. David Feix says:

    Cevan is such an extraordinary local talent, definitely doing gardens that stand as both landscapes as well as high art. He is also a great host, and throws such great parties at his home and garden. His friends know how blessed we are to have him amongst us mere mortals.

  11. Denise says:

    @Delphine, cheer up! I did not personally visit, only Mitch!
    @Pam, isn’t that a photogenic garden?
    @David, thanks for your note. It adds another dimension to know that this is not meant for a recluse.

  12. i’ve never seen this garden before [thanks david feix] and i can’t stop looking at photos of it. it’s really, really special! at first, it reminded me of Greg Ross’s ‘Albion Ridge Nursery’, but this is truly amazing! i collect architectural fragments, but feel very humble looking at these photos!

  13. Michelle D says:

    Transportive works of environmental art.

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