Last fall, Sahoko Yui began a year long artist in residency at Blake Garden. Sahoko has a Ph.D. in Geography and has taught landscape architecture courses at both UC-Berkeley and at UC-Davis. We are very excited to follow her year long process exploring the garden.
"I want to celebrate the colors and the plant variety in Blake Garden. Using colors extracted from plants in the garden, I examine the histories and narratives that lie within them. I also use materials to be composted such as plant trimmings and food waste. Hues are extracted under various natural and created conditions. Altering the conditions of how color is extracted, manipulated, and used is a way of questioning our perception of colors of the landscape. This work explores the intersection of perception, color, and untold stories of the garden."
This summer the garden provided a study site for designing and building birdhouses and hosted students from the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design summer program, Embarc,. While collaborating with a local chapter of the Audubon Society the students educated themselves about birds of this area and what kind of boxes they would choose to nest in. The garden received three of the nest boxes and we installed them recently in several places in the garden.
Recently we got several loads of mulch from an arborist working in the neighborhood. Mulch is made of trees or branches chipped into small pieces and spread over paths or flower beds. There are many benefits of doing this. Mulch holds moisture in the soil preventing evaporation and mulch prevents weeds from sprouting. It also breaks down over time turing into organic matter that provides other benefits to the soil. This mulch is from pine trees and smells really good!
We cut down the native bulrush, Tule in the constructed wetland to make way for new sprouts of tule and cattails. A teacher from an area school called us to ask if we had any materials to build a large nest. Her student are studying birds and bird nests and wanted to construct a large one in their school garden. We loaded up her truck.coming
Keiko Nelson is a Bay Area artist and neighbor of Blake Garden. This year she participated in the Lake Merritt Festival of Lights with a sculpture made from bamboo that we had given her from the garden. After the festival she installed the sculpture temporarily in our reflection pool. The title is 17 Layer-the wishes of Peace. Part of the peace dove project. Steve Kapper is the engineer.
The garden serves as a habitat for many creatures and as a landscape laboratory for the U.C. Berkeley Landscape Architecture Department. It is a quiet place for learning and enjoyment.
Recently we made and posted signs on the driveway that read “Respect”, “Quiet” and “Beauty”: three concepts to consider while in the garden. With more visitors there are more pressures on the garden and we are asking visitors to be mindful of these three powerful words. Respect Quiet Beauty while touring our wonderful garden.
Students from the embARC summer program, a program for high school students who are interested in college for architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning were here last week with their families for graduation and an exhibition of bird nest boxes they have designed and built on campus during the program. Some will be installed at Blake to support our birdlife.
We have been collecting rainwater from the roof into a small cistern. After 1/3 of an inch of rain, the water over flows down a bamboo aquaduct into the greenhouse to water the few remaining plants. Not watering tropical plants in the green house has been one of the strategies for saving water during the drought. The water collected is also used in the nursery out behind the greenhouse. We have done many things to conserve water: installing low flow toilets and metered faucets in our bathrooms; capturing grey water from the kitchen sink and using it to water beds in front of the greenhouse; installing new low flow irrigation systems through out the garden; building the soil and its water holding capicity by mulching and composting most garden beds; reducing the size of our large event lawn; capturing water flowing from a underground spring and using it in areas where we have no irrigation; reducing overgrowth and weeding out the undergrowth; and replacing thirsty plants with drought tolerant plants and native California plants. Many of our pools are low and grassy areas are brown as we wait for fall rain. According to East Bay Municipal Utlities District current report we are now using 45% of the water allocated to us.
Many thanks to local photographer Geoffrey Agrons who visited the garden recently and photographed the aqueduct in action. Three of these photographs or "melancholigraphs" from his "California Drought Series" are featured in this post. Over the years Geoffery has also photographed the LEAP student's intervention projects at Blake. You can enjoy the photographs here.
Recently we have been pruning trees and taking down the dead trees. A leaning Black acacia was taken down near the creek. We are processing the downed log to make lumber for tables and will be giving some to local artisans to make bowls. A volunteer and a workstudy student decided to try using an old method, and used a bucksaw to cut the log in half.
Kids for the Bay, a summer camp for area kids came to the garden for a tour and then worked in the Create with Nature Zone with artist Zach Pine. Later a San Rafael wildlife group came and gave a talk and demonstration with live birds & snakes and along with other educational materials.