Private Gardens of the Bay Area

Private Gardens of the Bay Area celebrates the unrivalled beauty of Northern California— the breadth of the sky, the quality of the light, the sparkle of the Bay, the shapes of the hills—that has beckoned landscape designers and gardeners for generations.

Organized geographically—starting with the San Francisco Peninsula, moving north into San Francisco itself, crossing the Bay into Berkeley and Oakland, and finishing in Marin, Napa, and Sonoma--this fascinating tour encompasses an extraordinary range of micro-climates that foster the cultivation of an equally extraordinary range of plants. The kaleidoscope of vigorous plants from five continents bursting out of an Oakland front yard is one kind of garden, the clean-lined contemporary composition of drought-tolerant natives and gravel is another, and the garden tucked into the mountain landscape of oaks, manzanitas, and ceanothus is yet another.

More than thirty-five gardens are featured, including Green Gables, where the 1911 terraced design by Greene & Greene is meticulously preserved; Big Swing, with a world-renowned collection of salvias; a vertical garden on a vertiginous site in San Francisco by Surfacedesign; and a romantic landscape of lawns, perennial beds, and stately oaks owned by noted collectors and gallerists Gretchen and John Berggruen.

Engaging and authoritative text by seasoned garden writers Susan Lowry and Nancy Berner describes the goals of each garden owner and the principles behind the design. These unique places are bought to life through lush new photography by Marion Brenner, the leading landscape photographer today.

Susan Lowry and Nancy Berner are a highly regarded garden-writing team, successfully collaborating on Gardens of the Garden State and Gardens of the Hudson Valley as well as Garden Guide to New York City. Together, they have lectured widely in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut on the subject of public and private gardens.

Marion Brenner is acknowledged as the leading landscape photographer working today. Her photographs are widely published in landscape and gardening media and she has documented the work of well-known designers including Andrea Cochran and Ron Lutsko. She is the photographer for Outstanding American Gardens: 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy and The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

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Images from the book

"From the majestic large-scale estates of the Peninsula, to the tiny, quirky gardens of urban San Francisco and the wine region’s enclaves, Lowry and Berner give us exclusive peeks into the personal landscapes of a wide variety of Bay area residents. Their undertaking is greatly enhanced by the evocative photographs of Marion Brenner, a gardener herself, who has been taking pictures of California gardens for more than two decades.

Private Gardens of the Bay Area is the fascinating result of its authors dedicated research and thoughtful selection. It offers an engrossing and informative prospective of properties mostly hidden from public view that reveals the impressive array of gardening styles in the Golden State."

- Gardenista review of PGBA

Susan and Nancy were interviewed for the Bob Tanem in the Garden show on KSFO radio - October 15, 2017. Listen to the podcast here.

San Francisco Cottages and Gardens excerpted the chapter on Elliott and Anna Brandwene’s Garden in Sebastopol with text and images from the book, in the online October 2017 edition.